Thursday, May 03, 2007

How do you play when ahead?

Are you Leonidas, holding your shield high but with the sword held at the ready to disembowel your enemy, or are you the quivering little mouse with the head gear?

I had a very good meeting with coach tonight. We went over three losses from the last week. In all three games, I played well at first, gaining at least a two-pawn advantage in the middle game. Then I proceeded to play passively, stopped looking for ways to attack, and in the name of 'playing defensively' ended up letting my opponent get good piece activity or even letting down my guard so much that I blundered material of my own!

Coach's advice? Go for blood. Use your full army without mercy. Maximize the activity of that extra material and destroy your opponent. In general, take more risks: if there are two candidate moves that I can't decide between, pick the one that is more agressive. Play more like a kid learning chess who makes threats constantly (even if sometimes they crash and burn). That is the best way to learn the patterns of attack that will actually work.

Do the analysis, make sure you aren't blundering, but never sheath your sword! Leonidas implores, "Give them nothing! But take from them everything!"


Blogger Blue Devil Knight said...

P.S. Heisman has an article on how to play when ahead called 'When you're winning, it's a whole different game' where he gives nine principles for playing when ahead.

5/04/2007 09:14:00 AM  
Blogger Jeff said...

Its kind of cliche but when I have material advantage I really push to trade down. If you can force peices off the board once you have more peices than your opponent it begins to hieghten your advantage.

2 pawns mean little when both sides have a rook and 3 minors left. But 5 pawns and knight versus 3 pawns and a knight is pretty decisive.

The other thing I will often do which you would like never see a computer do is simplify your advantage. If I have 2 Pawns and a Rook versus a Knight but the knight is causing me headaches I will often trade the rook for knight to simplify and then win the pawn ending.

5/04/2007 10:38:00 AM  
Blogger Loomis said...

Heisman's article is, as usual, very good. One additional thing that has been helpful for me to keep in mind when I play with an advantage is "limit counterplay." This has similarities to several of Heisman's nine principles. For me makes them a little more concrete since a lot of the suggestions like trading pieces and avoiding complications are ways to limit the opponents active plans.

Of course, I still lose games when I'm ahead material and it's one of the most frustrating things in chess. Sometimees I'm left thinking "Why did I work so hard to win the exchange just so his two bishops could slice me up and take all my pawns?" Of course, you won't find any books on "How to win at chess when you're up the exchange." I guess they just leave it as an exerceise to the reader. :-)

5/04/2007 11:11:00 AM  
Blogger Blue Devil Knight said...

Jeff: yes, trading down is important to increase the ratio of your material to his.

5/04/2007 12:28:00 PM  
Blogger Blue Devil Knight said...

Basically my coach thinks that, in my case, since I tend to err so extremely on the side of playing passively when I am ahead (because I want to follow the rule that says to think defense first when winning), that I need to start erring on the side of active, agressive play to balance out the universe.

5/04/2007 12:30:00 PM  
Blogger hisbestfriend said...

I will often look first for mortal blows. The attract my sense of asthetic, and tend to wrap the game up sooner, and limit my brain drain.

If that cannot happen... I then look to neutralize counterplay. This may be giving air, making some pawn moves, removing fork and skew alignments, stuff like that.

Next I will look for simplification to amplify the advantage.

Then I will look to complete elimination of counter play, even at the expense of material.

And then promote and checkmate.

But I really do spend some time to see if I can convert to a heavy win right away, Either checkmate or greatly extending the material advantage. It makes everything else easier, and may convince my opponent to resign.

5/04/2007 12:37:00 PM  
Blogger chessloser said...

my problem is, in the rare instance when i am winning, i play too aggressively, and not defensively like heisman suggests. i need to be a bit more cautious so i don't lose the won game...

5/04/2007 02:42:00 PM  
Blogger likesforests said...

Silman says "Material edges like the Exchange (Bishop or Knight for a Rook--three points for five) are only useful if you can give the Rook an open file to fly on. An advanced, centralized Knight can easily beat an inactive, useless Rook. This means that you must be careful not to allow simple point count (the pieces' numerical value) to influence you more than the particular position." -- The Amateur Mind

5/05/2007 02:59:00 AM  
Blogger Blue Devil Knight said...

Likeforests: good point from Silman, focusing on the exception to the rule that being up material is the most important Good in chess other than mate.

I wish it were something subtle, and not just my actively passive play, that killed me.

5/05/2007 09:29:00 AM  
Blogger takchess said...

I play aggresively when I am ahead because I am ahead and aggressively when I am behind because I am behind.(playing for the big advantage,which at times is just a bad choice). Perhaps toying around with openings that are overly aggressive like the center game may help you overcoming your passive play.

5/05/2007 11:59:00 AM  
Blogger transformation said...

hello BDK. one side note--the clock as distinct from material is another asset (or liability)...

...since if we CAN calculate, we have TIME TO grind into deeper variations and either solidify our advantage with simplifying provisions or, alternately, complexify and thus present our opponent with new problems and, thus, affording further opportunity to make errors, and in so doing amply our advantage.

material yes. clock yes. these two together are our STATIC resources at that moment, to borrow a term from Euwe-Kramer The Middlegame in Chess. but also our mood is a factor, or physical-emotional vitality, and is the DYNAMIC factor, to use Euwe-Kramer volumes I & II again in our analogy.

warm regards from the pacific northwest, david


i hope to write a new post before i go east thursday for twelve days to see my now very aged mother for mothers day, but it might have to wait till i get there, but it will be a good one, "Part iii: game analysis in the many versus the few", and subtitled "or chess foxes verus chess hedgehogs after Tolstoy" or such. :) aught to be the juices flowing.

5/05/2007 03:38:00 PM  

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