The Initiative

20th_July_2010: Initiative

Half a story

Some things in chess are very concrete and visible -- checkmate, or a knight fork, perhaps, or as we get better, we can also see superior development or pawn weaknesses.  There are more abstract features of a chess game which are less easy to see, at least at a glance, and you can appreciate best over a whole game or a part of a game.  Annotators often talk about a player's 'feel for the initiative', which is

When and where to attack (Steinitz' accumulation theory)

Steinitz' accumulation theory

Steinitz became World Champion (more or less) in 1866 by beating Adolf Anderssen in a bloodthirsty match (+8 -6 =0).  His style was very much in the tradition of the Italian school, playing for attack from the word go.  He was awarded the brilliancy prize for this Rook sacrifice:
  • Romantic Steinitz (up to and including 1872) (304)
    • Steinitz W. - Mongredien A. [B01]
His play in the of 1872 was still in this style, but his play in the

Weak squares

Chris Bellers, Exeter Chess Club

This session comes out of a remark by ex-World Champion Tigran Petrosian, to be found in an excellent book, 'Opening Preparation' by Mark Dvoretsky and Artur Yusupov. In the middle of annotations to a game by Henrique Mecking in 1972 the authors quote Petrosian:
"Mecking does not understand the significance of weak and strong squares. I have played him three times. In 1969 he lost to me owing to the weakness of his light squares. A year later

Rooks on ranks and files

Knights like outposts, bishops like clear diagonals: you could guess that rooks like clear ranks and files. The best rank to put your rook on is the seventh, particularly if the opponent's king is trapped behind it. A rook on the seventh rank (or 'on the seventh' as people sometimes say) can threaten unmoved pawns and with assistance can create mate threats. To get to the seventh the rook will have to move along a file. You can see Znosko-Borovsky doing just that with the c-file in the Illustrative Games. The other use of rooks on files is to attack: we have seen some

The Queen's-side attack

The King's-side attack is so exciting and pleasurable that it is sometime hard to remember that games can be won on the other side of the board. I can remember some youthful indignation when playing against the French Defence, when my ambitions on the King's-side came to nothing, while my opponent's pussyfooting manoeuvres snuck in for a touchdown on the neglected Queen's-side.

  What is there to aim for in a queen-side attack? The aim is not mate, but to win or weaken the opponent's pawns on that side. Queen's-side attacks are more modest but more safe than


Twentieth-Century planning

Some time ago, we looked at this one:


[Event "rooks on ranks and files"][Site "-, Leipzig"][Date "1894.??.??"][Round "?"]

  [White "Tarrasch"][Black "von Scheve"][Result "1-0"]

  1.d4 d5 2.c4 e6 3.Nc3 Nf6 4.Nf3 Be7 5.Bf4 c6 6.e3 Nbd7 7.h3 Ne4

Pawn mobility

Pawn Majorities, Pawn Rollers, blockade and restraint

I will give several illlustrative games here - fairly straightforward games from Capablanca, Alekhin, Korchnoi and Karpov showing pawns mobile and dangerous, and the others (e.g. Nimzovitch's) showing them stuck and vulnerable.
"The most important feature of the chess position is the activity of the pieces. This is absolutely fundamental in all phases of the game (opening, middlegame and especially endgame). The primary constraint on a


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