Chess program, lesson 3

                                      Surrender of the centre

The four central squares hold more in them than any other area of the board. First of all we see that a piece, when placed on a central square controls and occupies more squares than when placed on any other square on the board.


In addition it also has utmost functionality – contrary to that will be when placed on a side file (or a rim file), hence the expression: “a knight on the rim is dim”. That phrase should be used as an alert sign, for whenever you’re about to develop a piece to the ‘a’ or ‘h’ files instead of the centre you should make sure it’s being developed there with a purpose for otherwise it is surely a bad move!

Developing a piece while allowing it to control the centre is in the heart of chess strategy. This can be done either by using the piece to occupy a central square, control it from the wing squares or by way of fianchetto (meaning g3/Bg2 & b3/Bb2)

That saying is true to most moves, in that respect you cannot play a more positional move than say… 1.e4 or 1.d4 but controlling the centre from the wings has the strategic value of being less committing. 1. c4 controls the centre square d5 thus whenever black plays …d5 white can retaliate with cxd5 trading a wing pawn to a centre pawn.

1.e4 e5
2.Nf3 Nc6
3.Bc4 Be7


– For a while there that move was considered best by top players, including Alekhine himself. The idea is to stop the Ng5 “cheapo” which can arise after the move 3… Nf6. evidently, it was later proven by Rubinstein (a great devotee of the two knights defence) that 3…Nf6 4.Ng5 is quite simply a harmless move!

Similar to other lines 4.Ng5 is a likable move in the under 2200 level since it’s tactical and aggressive and if black isn’t up to the task or isn’t familiar with it he is surely to be lost in the maze of tactical possibilities.

Anyway, 3…Be7 is solid and quite a good move none the less. Any player who doesn’t wish to play tactical opening play which will surely occur after 3…Nf6 4.Ng5 or 3…Bc5 4.b4 (the Evans gambit) is advised to study this solid 3…Be7 move.

The one minus that this move has is easily spotted. The bishop has not been developed outside the pawn chain. Therefore, once black plays the move …d6 (which he no doubtedly will in order to protect the centre e-pawn) the Bishop will be shut inside the black camp with far less dynamic play.

4.d4 d6 – a mistake will be to defend with a piece. For instance the move 4…Bf6 (moving the same piece again is already a sign for a bad move!) is met by 5.dxe5! Nxe5 6.Nxe5 Bxe5 and then either the tactical shot of 7.Bxf7+!! Kxf7 8.Qd5+ Kf6? 9.f4!!! and black is quite simply dead! Either by Qxe5+ or if 9…Bd6??? 10.Qg5+ just wins on the spot since the queen is gone! White can also play the quiet (still winning) 7.f4! which gains the tempo on the bishop and establish a good centre. if on the other hand black plays 5…Bxe5 then white can actually afford to take the time to play 6.Ng5! however, here too the move Bxf7+ triumphs but in a far lesser clear position! For instance after this continuation: 6…Kxf7 7.Qd5+ Kf8 8.Nxe5 Qe7! 9.Nxc6 dxc6! 10.Qd4 Nf6 – black is still worse but black does have a lot of dynamic play with his pieces so perhaps this explains why sometimes playing by understanding what you gain and what you lose is more important than pushing for tactics that may or may not work to your advantage. The move 6.Ng5 has a much easier to understand continuation after the moves… 6…Nh6 7.f4! Bd4 8.c3! Bb6 9.Nc3 (to stop the freeing move …d5!) 9… 0-0 10.Nd5! (threatening c3 Bb6 Nxb6) 10… a6 11.c3 Ba7 12.Be3!! Now that white opposed the Bishop he can enjoy his centre control, well developed (and centralized) pieces and swift development. White is clearly winning here!

We then understand why black played the move 4…d6!
As you can see it is becoming clearer (by seeing more and more examples) that the centre control/defence is mostly suited for pawns. Pieces can be dislodged while pawns are harder to attack and are easier to defend. In addition it’s harder to initiate an attack on a centre duo and it’s harder to break a pawn chain than it is to threat a minor piece.


We will now somewhat take a break from studying the concepts and fundamentals of chess and move to study the tactical aspect of chess.

We will do this in order to cement into our heads how these concepts are being conducted and why they are so important. Firstly, we’ll have to cover some basic patterns and ideas. Once we have enough understanding of these elements we’ll move deeper and study these patterns by seeing how they come about in openings and middle games.

Therefore, from this point on we’ll try to focus on:

Mating patterns, double checks. Smothering mates, combinations and sacrifice combinations
Our first example is one of the oldest and most classical to learn.

The Legal’s Pseudo sacrifice

1.e4 e5
2.Nf3 d6
 (Philidor’s defence)
3.Bc4 Bg4?!? – This is actually a bad move! Perhaps not entirely losing on its own but it is definitely a bad one. Before we’ll talk about why it’s bad and how should white take advantage of it we will have to understand a little bit about positional chess and how sometimes the best looking move is not the best move to practically make!

This is not necessarily psychological per say, but rather philosophical one. Perhaps white is best playing the move that on a strictly positional sense will fill the most functions but in practical chess while making the best possible moves that you can make you should also make the move that offers your opponent the best (or most) possibilities to go wrong and make a bad move on his part!!

As you will see in a moment, the best positional move for white isn’t the one white will end up playing and for a good reason! Sometimes delaying your response is the best offense one can muster!

This is a very important and highly interesting position to study! Mainly because the way a chess master views such position is different to an amateur but even more interesting is how a computer evaluates it (I’ll let you in on the secret, its evaluation is flawed!)

So, let’s start by judging this …Bg4 move by what knowledge we have gained so far. Our first judgment should be swift! Black developed a Bishop before any of his knights! But what makes it even worse is that the Bishop’s post isn’t a part of any logical strategic idea. In fact it’s quite bad! I’ll explain why…

To understand why I will introduce to you a new rule of thumb, that is of premature aggression in chess. Generally speaking, it doesn’t work at all. Our rule of thumb is this: when pinning a piece to a more valuable one (in this example the Bishop pins the Knight to the Queen) on the King side, a player must first wait for his opponent to commit himself to that side by means of castles!

What does that mean and why is it important? That becomes clear when white immediately hits the Bishop with the move 4.h3!!! Brilliant! Black is already facing a concession, he is either to lose his Bishop for the Knight (and a tempo since the Knight will be recaptured with the Queen! Hence white will have two developed pieces to black’s none!) or embarrassingly go back where he bloody came from ;)

However, what if black decides to be smart and play the move Bg4-h5 thus maintaining the pin and pressure over the Queen and Knight?

Here we see that white hasn’t committed himself to the King side by 0-0 and can therefore allow himself the aggressive move g4! Attacking the bishop again, gaining space as well as giving white attacking chances with the move g4-g5 (which also discombobulates black’s KSN (King Side Knight) since if black plays …Nf6 he will only allow white to play g4-g5, attacking the Knight and gaining a tempo on it!

! Notice – if white had already castled King side such extravagance (g2-g4) would severely weaken his castled position by creating holes in his pawn structure and allowing quick counter attacks with moves such as …h5 (breaking the pawns) or a later …Qh4 and Knight maneuvers to the f4 square etc.

So before we go about our mating pattern we learned a new rule today, a pin should be played once white has committed his King to that side of the board! On our example white can safely play g2-g4 and then plan for 0-0-0 with a great game.

Okay… we now face a question… we already established that the best and most “efficient” move for white is the move h3! It’s a good move, it’s a positional move and most importantly it seems to give excellent attacking chances. What else can we possibly want?

Well, for lack of other words… we simply want more! ;)

We don’t’ just want momentarily satisfaction. We want to win aggressively, beautifully, correctly and with style!

Obviously, I’m sure it’s clear to you that if you’ll input these moves to a computer engine it’ll only take a brief second to declare that h3 is the best move and true enough it is a good move alright, just not the move we want to make! Why?...

Because we want to give black the opportunity to go wrong, to play even worse moves and in all likelihood to make a fatal blunder.

For that reason we will make the move that adopts the pattern we need in order to unleash the Legal’s sacrifice. The move that we will make is actually a natural move! That should give you a sign that good patterns are based on good foundations and understanding of chess and not on weak/bad moves that if you’re lucky may or may not work!



- developing the other Knight! What can be more natural than that? Like Purdy said: play the moves you know you’re going to play anyway!

4…g6?? – This is of course a blunder! Here white can and will either win a pawn and a good position or mate black in just a few moves! Can you see it? What should white play?

The move is…

5.Nxe5!! – here the correct move is evidently 5…dxe5 where the continuation will be 6.Qxg and black not only lost a pawn, but a centre pawn as that! More so, white has three pieces developed to black’s none, in practical chess black is already dead.

But how many players will resist the temptation or even more importantly take the time to calculate this variation? Most of them (having played such un-positional moves so far!) will most likely take the Queen like Blitz players.

Unfortunately …

5…Bxd1 – is met by the Legal’s mating pattern (started with the Legal’s sacrifice of the Knight with the move 5.Nxe5)

6.Bxf7+ Ke7 – forced!!! The only square available!
7.Nd5# - check mate!


It’s important to notice here that pretty much most pawn moves (or other moves that DON’T affect the centre) will lose just as well! For instance 4…h6 or 4…b6 or 4…Na6 – all fall for Nxe5 either winning a pawn and gaining a fantastic position or mating in two moves.

At this (and the following) lessons we will mostly study such our bursts of mating and sacrificing patterns. Later on (on future lessons) we will see what openings yield what patterns.

There are other ways of handling the positions. You could by all means play 4.h3 or the solid idea of 4.d3/Nbd2 – to protect the centre and only then h3 or 4.d4 to open up the game and hit the centre or 4.c3 to prepare d4. 4.0-0 while not being a bad move is somewhat counterintuitive.

If we understand the rule of thumb of not pinning until the King has castled we should therefore understand that castling into the pin will only help and justify black’s weaker play!!? Funny to notice here that 0-0 is actually one of the possibilities a computer engine will provide in this position. To the chess master it is clear that such a move is fundamentally illogical.

As I said so before, one must first be educated in order to have the freedom to choose his own individual plans without losing to silliness ;)

For instance, if someone will decide that he wants to play the move 4.b4 with the idea of playing Bb2 and a create safe house for his LSB on b3 as well as occupying space on the Queen side I will never claim that his idea or the move 4.b4 is a mistake. However…

A player must ask himself these questions:
Does this move or idea help my position or only strengthen one specific area (neglecting another), does this move supports or contributes to my over all game plan, do I even have an over all game plan and can this move benefit any plan at all. What future weaknesses did this move introduce, what other good moves have I not played by choosing to play this one, does this idea provide winning chances at all or just creates a good/better position that while being just that – good and better is only comfortable at best since in reality it doesn’t really offer anything but a draw!? etc. if this player found an answer to all these questions and more. Then by all means he should play his idea and introduce it as a new TN (theoretical novelty) but in all likelihood the move 4.b4 (while being good on its own) probably doesn’t help white with building a winning advantage rather than a good/solid but ultimately – a drawing one!
It’s always worth to remember that good chess goes hand in hand with safe play. Try not to make bad moves and your game will at least be considered masterful.

On this note I would like to add this …

Once a player is fluent in chess fundamentals and attained both the classical and modern understanding of position evaluation he is ready to study chess according to the style of his own nature. If you only study and play what you like and naturally good at trying to avoid areas or aspects you’re not you may achieve some level of chess mastery but you’ll never evolve beyond that and your whole growth will ultimately become retarded. Obviously none of us will live forever or have the time to study everything therefore we each need to make a decision, decide on a repertoire and general playing styles but that doesn’t mean that you should play overly aggressive because you’re afraid to go into the endgame!

Let’s say a player knows that his style is solid and calm and that at no point he is to play into unnecessary complications. Then perhaps it is best for him to study middle game plans that follow that style as well as studying games by players who play with similar style. This however doesn’t free this player from the “Burdon” of tactical mastery!!

There’s a chess saying: chess is 99% strategy and 100% tactics. Most games are decided on tactical shots rather than on strategical grind. How so? …

Let’s say that this strategical and solid player doesn’t study tactics, how will he know to recognize them? How will he know what prophylactic moves to play to stop their build up even before they start? How will he know what moves truly stop a certain pattern rather then giving birth to another?

The reason Petrosian ( the great Armenian world champion who was the best defender in the history of chess) was able to play as he did was because he saw all the tactical possibilities of his opponent and stopped them before his opponent realized he had them! Amazingly enough Petrosian (who is a huge Nimzovich devotee) also said that one of the books that made the most effect on his play is the book ‘The art of sacrifice in chess’….

By studying tactics you not only know what to play and how to win but you also study what you need to prevent!!

Ok, let’s move to the next pattern…

Double check(s) combinations

1.e4 e5
2.Nf3 Nc6
3.Bc4 Bc5
4.d3 Nge7? 
– this move is of course a mistake since now the Queen doesn’t have its normal gaze towards the King side, therefore white takes immediate advantage of the Queen’s blindness and hops onto g5


5.Ng5 0-0??? – Obviously black’s best and only move here is d5 but we’ll not overly talk about opening play in this lesson. It’s sufficient to say that in either case white is better here however white is clearly winning after white’s next move. Can you guess what this move is?

6.Qh5!! – threatening immediate checkmate via Qxh7# and culminates the Bishop the Knight and the Queen attack(s) on the f7 square.

6…h6 – forced


7… Qe8 – there’s hardly anything better at this point but Rxf7 will lose slower ;)
8.Nxh6++ - double check! Both from the Knight and Bishop. Poor black can’t take the time to capture the Knight since it’s also being checked by the c4 Bishop. In double check situations the king is always dislodged since no move can blockade both attackers simultaneously!

9.Nf7++ Kg8 10.Qh8#
 - checkmate

! Notice, the important thing to notice here before we go on is that although black brought this disaster upon himself it is also white who lured black into giving away the right weak points. It is not on any square that one can deliver double check threats. Here too we see the square f7 being the main target but also the h7 square. A square like g7 needs to be attacked via its file or to lure the pawn to g6 where we will later on learn another pattern of exploiting its weakening post.

Smothered mate patterns

First of all we’ll start by viewing a few quick examples to what a smothered or, suffocation mate is.

1. e4 c6
2. d4 d5
3. Nc3 dxe4
4. Nxe4 Nd7
5. Qe2 Ngf6
6. Nd6#
 - checkmate, the king is smothered by his own pieces!

Another quick example is seen after the next moves (please don’t pay attention to the opening or developing moves themselves because they’re not very good. Instead pay attention to the idea it self.)

1. c4 Nc6
2. e3 Ne5
3. Ne2 Nd3#
 - checkmate

The real trick is to lure your opponent into a structure where smothered mate is possible. While that may not be easy the real mater will use the power of the Double check in order to create a forcing smothered mating pattern!

For that example we’ll examine the next position
Fen: 1rr3k1/5Npp/8/q7/6b1/1Q6/5PPP/6K1


Where it is clear to see that black seems to be winning! Black has a Queen, two Rooks and a Bishop to white’s Queen and Knight. More so, black is threatening not only to capture the queen with his b8 Rook but even more important to deliver mate once white will move his Queen!

In fact, if this was black’s turn both Qa1 and Rc1 would be mate in one! But alas, white has a nice trick in his sleeve. Can you see what it is? Please take a minute to think it through. Once you spot white’s trick try to figure out what moves he played in order to reach such a position.

How to solve this puzzle?
What plan one must adopt to create a position where one can inflict the combination of smothered mate?

If you want to know the answers to these questions you’ll have to wait for the next lesson ;)

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