Skip to main content


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

7 Principles for Positional Thinking

We had a recent lecture in our chess class about some essential concepts in positional understanding using Grandmaster Igor Smirnov’s presentation as reference. My attitude toward chess strategy and positional play, in general, has shifted from indifference to piqued interest.

Since at the core of my playing style I am leaning toward tactics, I used to look upon positional training with disinterest and a lack of heart because it was boring and it required tremendous amount of patience to learn and master while learning tactics was very fun and easy to do because I only needed to remember the patterns and look for them in the position but then I faced a big dilemma as I reviewed my games: most of my play usually started to collapse during the middle game and counter-play was virtually non-existent during the endgame.

The attack that I usually had in the opening dissolved due to the liquidation of a lot of pieces by a miscalculation on my part and the solid defending prowess of many experienced players I had played against on tournaments and online chess.

While there were instances when I had a playable position but it was so dry that I had no idea how to progress while my opponents would usually just make normal moves which I sometimes considered inferior again due to my lack of positional understanding and my partiality toward attacking which are either premature or simply driven by impulse at which point the tables would suddenly turn on my opponent’s favor so that they would gain an advantage which they are able to maintain until the endgame where I would just be losing.

Due to this pattern of play that I had wherein I make multiple moves sometimes without any purpose or plan in mind; these moves I usually deem to be normal moves but in hindsight, many of those moves were made because I had nothing else to do or I had no established plan in mind. This drove me to search about positional play and learn the different positional concepts behind chess and how I can employ these in my games.

The lecture that our professor and chess coach gave us definitely helped me in formulating a good pattern of thought that masters usually follow when assessing a certain position and considering the moves that both sides would most likely make in the course of the game.

Though I once had a proclivity to go for the attack and search for tactics or mate in a certain position because they would usually give you the initiative and perhaps a material advantage, I have realized that positional thought is just as important if not paramount to the tactics because in chess strategy, you are slowly but surely accumulating static advantages that will give you benefits in the long-run and along with positional superiority will come loads of tactics.

Now, I believe that I am ready to train my mind to think strategically with regard to positional understanding and tactically as well and hopefully, this would also serve as an encouragement and a helpful guide for amateurs and other enthusiasts out there who want to learn but cannot seem to make progress. Also, I hope you would gain as much from this as I would in relaying them to you.

Let me present to you a simple flowchart that would help in improving your understanding on how to think strategically with regard to the position in chess.

This flowchart enumerates seven simple principles that will help guide you to make the right assessment of the position and to choose the best moves in any phase of the game. The term at the very top of the flowchart is activity.

Underneath almost every principle in chess is the concept of activity or acquiring as much control over as many squares with your forces as possible since in chess, the most fundamental element that both sides are actually fighting for would be squares; in other words, whoever controls the most number of squares would have a positional advantage over the other.

Under the concept of activity, we can derive two other concepts. Since we have said that activity is the process of acquiring square control, we have to know how we can take control over as much squares as possible on the board with our pieces. Let me try to illustrate the next two concepts with a few diagrams.

As you can observe in the diagram, the knight at the center of the board controls eight squares while the knight on the rim of the board controls only two squares. From this illustration, we can conclude that the knight at the center exerts much dominance over the board than does the knight on the rim just by the number of squares that it influences.

So we say that the position of the pieces affects how much activity it contributes in the game and if you noticed, when we place our pieces at the center of the board, it commands more space than it would on the rim which is why we generally should place our pieces at the center and develop toward the center.

In line with this, we must also keep in mind that we need to move our pieces forward so that we can stake our claim on the center of the board and invade the enemy camp which gives impetus for an attack later on. We see in this diagram that the White knight has moved closer to the Black king and poses a threat against the king because of its immense activity in that part of the board. Again, the two keywords for the concept of piece activity are center and forward.

In the last diagram, we see that the knight has a large control over the board when it is at the center and this principle applies to the other pieces as well but let us say we add one more knight at the center of the board.

Together, both knights exert tremendous pressure and would be forces to be reckoned with. Therefore, another important concept in our positional understanding of chess is that the more pieces that you have developed, the more space you would be able to dominate which is referred to as material.

The more pieces that are focused on a certain point would create enough pressure to force through barriers and enemy lines so that you can penetrate to the enemy king. I would consider this to be an important element in the anatomy of a successful attack against the enemy king – the more pieces taking part in the attack, the more successful your attack will be.

We have looked into the concepts of material and piece activity and their significance in the way we think about the position that we find ourselves in and the methods that we will use to progress in the game. Now, there are also concepts which can be derived from these two concepts.

 Under the concept of material, we have the principle that whenever you have the opportunity to take a piece of your opponent, you must take it. The fewer pieces there are on the board, the easier it is for one to assess the position; in other words, liquidating pieces simplifies the position and releases you from the burden of lengthy calculation of numerous variations with not much certainty of an advantage.

Of course, there would always be exceptions to the rules and there are cases when taking the piece of your opponent may lead to your quick demise because of the presence of tactics and traps. However, the general rule would be to take the piece whenever you have the chance to grab it to simplify your position and make matters easier for you.

With regard to the concept of piece activity, we have six principles under it. The three principles of maximum activity, center, and least active piece actually work hand in hand. We are able to maximize our pieces by placing them in the most influential squares on the board which is generally at the center of the board. In our assessment of a certain position, according to GM Yasser Seirawan, we have to ask our pieces what they are doing and if we find any piece that is idle and has not yet left its home square, we have to start thinking about putting that piece in the best square possible. Let us examine this example and see how these concepts play out.

In the diagram, we see that White’s light-squared bishop is the only piece that has not yet been developed and so we must move it to a square where we can make the most use of it and so we place it on the a6 square because at that square, it is exerting control over the c8 square.

This is quite important since White is already dominating the c-file with his rook and after the bishop moved to a6, it would be more difficult for Black to contend against White for the c-file so he must try to look for other ways to generate counter-play.

In this example, we have seen the principles of the least active piece which is White’s idle light-squared bishop, maximum activity by placing this bishop on a good square, and another principle, limitation. By moving that bishop to a6, not only does it prevent Black’s rook from challenging White’s rook on the c-file, it also prohibits Black’s a7-pawn from moving forward so White can then increase the pressure on that pawn until it eventually falls.

Given the same diagram, we can also observe that White also exhibits the principle of the center since its knight is posted on the e5-square where it controls many important squares around the center. 

Black, knowing that this knight is sitting on a strong square and possibly a threat, would then try to challenge this strong White knight by attacking it with his own knight, moving it from f6 to d7. This is actually the concept of neutralization where certain pieces’ control can be negated by challenging them.

The last principle that we talked about in class was the concept of the attack. Remember that our aim in chess is to capture the enemy king and as I have mentioned before, when our pieces start to put pressure on a certain square or area especially around the enemy king, an attack is brewing and sooner or later, there will be fireworks with tactics and sacrifices and combinations to checkmate the opponent’s king. 

Organizing an attack is quite difficult to do but when you know what your objective is, you can try to plan out your attack, maneuver your pieces to the best squares so that they coordinate with one another, and then launch your attack. This would only occur when we have a superior position over the other side and we can have that superior position by keeping in mind these simple principles in positional understanding. 

These seven principles are not the only ones; there are many other concepts in chess strategy such as planning, defending, counterattacking, maneuvering, and executing an attack. If you keep these principles in mind and have a solid foundation on positional thinking, it would be easier to understand the deeper concepts in chess strategy.

Hopefully, this helped since it did to me.


Popular Posts