Improving your chess results – play stronger moves
Improving your chess results begins when you start to play meaningful moves. Passive play happens when you make a move that does not help your position. For example, instead of developing a piece towards the center of the board, you play a pawn move that weakens your king position. The amateur level is filled with these kinds of inefficient moves. Making too many passive moves leads to defeat. Each time you make a move, you have to ask yourself: what is the purpose of this move?
The “Loverustler” was my third opponent for round one round of the Gameknot 188th tournament Part III. You’ve got to love the creativity of his handle! Both games contain instructive themes. The first game shows how having a dominating center can overwhelm your opponent. This is especially true when his King is vulnerable.
The second game shows how to improve your endgame technique. Understanding endgame play will get you one step closer to improving your chess results. I was up two pawns in the late middlegame but had some struggles converting the win. We’ll discuss the passive move mindset and how to play more actively – even when you’re winning.
Game #19 – Building a strong center
Reti Opening [A05]
188th Gameknot tournament
2 days per move
Occupying the center is a goal of any chess player. Amateurs are taught to move their center pawns early. They do this to claim space and crowd their opponents development. It is a fundamental concept towards improving your chess results.
In this game, my opponent never contested the center. He played fringe moves. One was focused on attacking my h3 pawn. The other was designed to start a queenside minority attack. In each case, these passive moves were not enough to counter White’s strong pawn center.
Takeaways from Game #19 (Gameknot 188th tournament Part III)
Contest the center. By not playing 8…e5, Black was in store for a cramped game. Notice how many of his moves were made on the periphery. Qc8 was one example of this. That’s because center control allows piece mobility. If you don’t control the center, your pieces are less effective. Look at Black’s rook on f8. It was idle for 25 moves. The rook was later lost in an exchange sacrifice before ever participating in Black’s defensive effort.
Piece placement is worth more than a pawn. This is a personal critique for my capturing the b7 pawn. In order to improve my game, I need to understand the role that active pieces can have on a position. Playing 20. Be4 was a sublte but important nuance. The g6 square is the biggest problem in Black’s position. Piling up on that square was the correct plan for White.
Game #20 – Passive moves often help your opponent
Improving your chess results can be frustrating. We are taught to develop pieces, control the center and avoid passive play. That sounds pretty straightforward. But then we are warned about being too aggressive or overextending our pieces. So, how do we play quality chess without being guilty of some failure along the way.
The truth is, every amateur chess game has failings of some kind. Labeling a move as bad (or good) is fine so long as there is case to support such a claim. Evaluating a good or bad requires evidence. We can learn that only through analysis. We review our games and then make conclusions based on our findings.
That’s what is great about chess. Random ideas can’t be accepted on good faith. They have to be proven. And that can only happen by replaying your games.
In this next game, you’ll see how my opponents passive play helped fuel my attack.
Sicilian Defense, Smith Morra Gambit[B21]
188th Gameknot tournament
2 days per move
Takeaways from Game#20 (Gameknot 188th tournament Part III)
Even one passive move can lead to trouble. White played the passive 10. a3 Stockfish suggested 10. h3 instead. Why is a3 a passive move and not h3? As I mentioned above, a case has to be made. h3 prevents Bg4 and prepares Bf4, giving the bishop a retreat square to h2 when needed. The move a3 prepares b4 which is a mistake given the strength of Black’s dark squared bishop and does nothing to improve his position.
Active play over passive defense. My decision to protect and later liquidate the d6 pawn was not a good one. Seizing open files and breaking up th a3-b4 pawn chain was more productive.
This concludes the first round of Gameknot 188th Tournament Part III. I hope you learned something from these games and they helped you towards improving your chess results. I was fortunate to get a perfect score. Let’s see if my luck holds out in Round 2.