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is chess in the Olympics

  There is currently no chess in the Olympiad. The Chess Olympiad is a chess competition officially organized by FIDE since 1927 and takes place in even-numbered years. Before World War II the event was occasionally held every year. There was also an unofficial Chess Olympiad series that ended in 1976. Although chess is covered in the sports sections of many newspapers around the world, it is not one of the recognized sports in the Olympic Games. However, FIDE is now a member of the International Olympic Committee and follows its rules. This means that chess could one day become an Olympic event, although most knowledgeable observers say this is unlikely. The World Chess Championship is a competition held annually by the international chess organization FIDE to determine the World Champion of chess. Both men and women are eligible to participate in this championship. The World Champion does not have to be the player with the highest Elo rating: the 2006-2007 World Champion, Vladimir Kr

6 Strategic Concepts to Build Your Chess Understanding

I learned how to "play chess" when I was a kid. By that, I mean that somebody taught me how the pieces are moved and what the aim of the game is but nobody told me how to achieve that aim so I am left with my own devices to figure it out.

I actually learned how to play chess when I began to understand the mechanics of the game and the various strategic concepts of chess. 

When I started to take chess seriously through reading books and studying positions, I leaned toward tactics more and I relied on tactics so that I can win games most often but when I started to play against really advanced players and experts of chess, my game-play started to crumble as there were too many holes that I create in my position when I make a seemingly good tactical move which may actually be a positional error. 

So, I decided to improve on my strategy so that my play would be solid. However, I still do prefer to play tactically because for me, it is more exciting, as long as the tactics are not too unsound where there may be a subtle positional snag that might bite me in the rear later on in the game. 

What I enumerated here are just the very basics in strategy which might help especially those who are just starting out in chess and if you want to level up your game, then you better come to terms with how you can improve yourself in these and understand how the dynamics of chess work and what strategies you need to employ to get yourself in equal or even advantageous positions. 

Of course, some of these may only be relevant in the opening, middlegame, or endgame exclusively, however, there are aspects which go beyond just a single phase. 

1. The Center

The center, as shown here, comprises of the four squares: d4, d5, e4, and e5. Traditionally, in the opening, the goal of white is to stake his claim in the center and control the most squares in the center while the goal of black is to nullify white's advances and to achieve equality.

This main goal from the very beginning of the game led to the conception of different opening lines, variations, counterattacks, and defenses which try to achieve what is called the ideal center, as shown here, where white has superior control over the central squares through the active placement of his pieces. 

Of course, it is the job of the opposing player, usually black, to stop the other player, usually white, from achieving the ideal center which is the reason why certain moves are played in the opening. 

This is one of the reasons why the most popular opening moves are e4 and d4 because they both plant a pawn at one of those key central squares. This is also the reason why the best response for these first moves is the counterpart of each, namely e5 and d5, respectively. 

In general, the move 1 e4 results in sharp open positions while the move 1 d4 results in closed positional ones, however, this is not true for all cases since there are sharp, tactical responses to 1 d4 such as the Gruenfeld Defense and the King's Indian Defense and there are relatively closed positions with good drawing chances in 1 e4 such as the Berlin Defense of the Ruy Lopez. Considering all this definitely makes the game an exciting one.

2. Development
Developing your pieces early on in the game is very important because they provide additional support to your pawns to create anchor points in your opponent's field so that you can facilitate a strong attack. Development is also the time component of chess normally called tempo. 

When you are able to use your turn to get your pieces out without being easily attacked by one of the enemy pieces and before your opponent brings his pieces out, then you have good development. But essentially, as long as your pieces are able to find good squares where they are able to contribute to the attack then you are able to develop smoothly. 

Keep in mind that it does not matter that you get your pieces out of their starting position if they do not even do anything, however, this will be tackled in the "Piece Activity" section.

Development is important because there are cases such as the main line of the Alekhine's Defense which is the so-called Four Pawns Attack, where white is able to achieve a big center when his c, d, e, and f-pawns occupy the fourth and fifth rank controlling a huge chunk of the center. 

You might think that this is good and initially I did, however, the pawns are vulnerable to attack and black is able to chip away white's center because there are no pieces defending the key squares in the center which leaves white bare and in some cases, helpless to an onslaught whereas black is very solid and can smoothly develop his pieces to very active squares. 

Also, pushing too many pawns in the opening can leave holes that cannot easily be defended and can be good outposts for knights or bishops. So, do not neglect development unless you are very certain of what you are doing.

3. Space (Square Control)

In chess, the concept of space can be tied to the number of important squares that you control and by that, I mean if your pieces control squares that would restrict or hamper the movement or development of your opponent's pieces, then you are said to have space advantage

The illustration on the left shows that white has space advantage in the center and some parts of the kingside while black has the potential to have space advantage on the queenside. 

We can also say that whenever one of your pawns crosses to the opponent's field and has ample support to stay there, you have space advantage and you can use this as anchor points or outposts for your pieces, most commonly the knights. Simply put, the more squares that you control on your opponent's field, the better chances that you have to launch a good attack.

4. Pawn Structure

Pawn structure is also very helpful in keeping your strategy solid yet dynamic. Francois-Andre Philidor once said that the pawns are the soul of chess

At that time, he was heavily criticized for making this statement since most people considered the queen to be the most valuable piece so to the people of that time, saying the pawns are just as valuable as the queen was so ludicrous yet it is true that pawns provide such dynamism over the board since one structural change can turn the tables for either player. 

In addition, we all know that passed pawns are powerful especially in the endgame which is why there is saying, "Passed pawns need to be pushed.

Now, the question remains, "How can we distinguish a good pawn structure from a bad pawn structure?" I learned that there is one simple tip that could probably help you determine whether your pawn structure is bad or good and that is by looking at the way it is arranged. 

As shown above, you can see that if the pawns are in the shape of an inverted V such as with white, then it is a very stable pawn structure. Just by looking at the bases of the pawn chain, you can see that the bishop and the queen support them which solidifies the chain. 

While black's pawn structure is V-shaped which can be vulnerable when you put a lot of pressure at its base point and when the base point crumbles, it will be a domino effect and the whole pawn chain will fall.

Of course, this is just the simple way of looking at pawn structures since there are many more types of pawn structures like isolated pawns, doubled pawns, and backward pawns that need to be taken into consideration. 

Also, there are instances when the arrangement of pawns will be tough to crack as in the case of the Stonewall and may result in a disadvantage for those who try to directly break down this structure. In any case, pawn structures are very important and you need to take note of how you want your pawns to be placed or arranged so as to facilitate good development or a good attack.

5. King Safety
The king is the most important piece since losing the king means you lose the game. So we have to always consider the safety of our king. In general, castling is the best method to keep the king safe from harm, however, there are exceptions to this notion but we will not be looking into those yet. 

What I have encountered to be the most difficult question regarding king safety is "Where do I castle? To the kingside or to the queenside?" It depends on where the action is taking place and the relative stability or strength of your pawn structure and the mobility of your pieces as defensive resources. 

As a rule of thumb, you can still consider castling if the pawn structure is not damaged and you can castle on the side of the board where there is no pressure. But it all depends if castling will benefit you as a safety measure and as development or whether you are satisfied with just bumping your king to the second rank or tucking it behind your pawns.

6. Piece Activity
As I said a while ago, it does not matter that you get your pieces out from their starting position if they are not contributing anything to your game. So it is best to develop your pieces to the most active squares and the way to determine the most active squares is to consider targets

Hanging pieces or pieces without any defenders are viable targets especially those which are stationary or trapped. You should also consider if there are tactics available to you as you develop your pieces such as pins, forks, or double attacks. Adding pressure on a square especially one close to the king is also one way of getting your pieces active. 

Here are some tips to consider regarding piece activity:
  • Bishops are best placed on the longest diagonal and on open diagonals.

  • When considering a good bishop from a bad bishop, take note of what color are the squares your center pawns are standing on.

  • Knights are usually best placed on the squares b5, d5, e5, and g5 for white and the squares b4, d4, e4, and g4 for black.

  • A knight on the side of the board is usually useless and can easily be trapped. As the saying goes, "A knight on the rim is dim."

  • Use your queen as a double purpose piece which is to say that think of your queen as both a rook and a bishop and so it can put pressure on many directions.

  • Kings are attacking pieces too and need to be centralized in endgames. 

  • Rooks are best placed on open files or columns. Rook lifts are done so that they can also function along the ranks or rows. Doubling rooks can also be done to increase pressure along a file.


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