Pre-game analysis – Defense in Chess
There is an old sports expression , “Offense wins games but defense wins championships.” The same is true for chess. A brute force assault on your opponent can win you games but not tournaments. Moreover, and more practically, defense is a vital part of an amateur player’s repertoire.
There is a fine line between defending threats and being paranoid. Some players spend all their time huddling their pieces around their king in anticipation of their opponents attack. Sometimes that works, but the more practical approach is using defense to implement your ongoing plan. For example, if placing your bishop on e3 is important to control d4, play h3 to defend against Ng4.
There are many games where you will be outplayed. It happens. You miss some key moves and your opponent gets the better of you. The following game is a great example of this theme. My opponent tried to steamroll me on the kingside. Initially, I scoffed at his attack but soon realized I was worse. That brings me to another point regarding defense in chess — awareness. You have to be able to accept the fact that you are worse or possibly losing, and start to defend.
Think like your opponent. The failure to be objective is what gets us in trouble during a chess game. You have to look at your opponents plans and accept the fact that you are worse. Finding counterplay is important but that is not always an option. The quicker you realize you are in a worse position, the easier it will be to defend. But let’s face it, we don’t often give our opponent enough credit. The best way to improve this is through tactics training. The more you practice, the easier it will be to see your opponents threats.
Use your King. Defense in chess involves king safety. Early in the game, I missed an opportunity to walk my King to the queenside. This is a seldom used technique that I should have played to give myself better chances to equalize.
The same is true on the offense. After trading material, the King should be brought closer to the action where it can help blockade pawn advances and help in the fight. I missed this chance as seen in the final position.
Nerves and chess psychology. Chess is a one player sport. There is no team and therefore no one to blame but yourself. That said, it’s important to remain poised when you are under assault. Accepting that your opponent is outplaying you is not an excuse to fall into a dark depression. Remember, we’re all human and we make mistakes. If you made one, so will your opponent.
So what should your mindset be if you are being outplayed and your are in a worse or lost position? Defend like iron. Make it your life’s mission to find every resource at your disposal to equalize the position. Attacking players often get discouraged when someone fights valiantly to defend their position. Unfortunately, defenders often give up too quickly because they get rattled when they miss a tactic or lose a pawn. Don’t let that be you. Hey, you made a mistake. Every chess player does. Now, you have a great learning opportunity in front of you.
Look to see the beauty of defense in chess. We spend too much time looking at crushing chess victories but how often do we appreciate a defensive effort that ends in a draw? Not too often. Learn to appreciate defense in chess!
Share your stories about defense in chess. Have you played a game where you were forced on the defensive? How did it turn out? Please comment below.