Most Powerful Ideas in Chess
by GM Igor Smirnov

I am glad to present you the new lesson. This issue’s topic is:
"The most powerful Ideas in Chess”

Here we will talk about “What are the most powerful ideas in chess?” and “What works best in chess?”.


However, first I’d like to discuss another question. What does a man do in a critical situation? He/she makes the SIMPLEST and the most AUTOMATIZED action. If someone has no automatized actions for such situations – he usually freezes with fear and does nothing at all (or panics).

Why do I ask you about critical situations? It is because chess is a critical situation also. You have to make a decision in only a few minutes (sometimes in only a few seconds) and you are under constant psychological pressure (you are getting nervous about the result of a game etc).

So what do you need to have for a successful chess game? Again, you need some SIMPLE rules and you need to train them and to AUTOMATIZE them.

I’ll give you another analogy. Masters of martial arts train 5 actions 1000 times (and NOT the other way round!).

Many chess players prefer to collect many different rules about chess (especially puzzling complex ideas). Such players purchase hundreds (sometimes thousands) of different educational chess materials. They study all this stuff, copy out the rules to an exercise-book (computer) and so on. Thus they “practise 1000 ideas 5 times”.


Ok, I know that you want to know many recondite ideas anyway :) No problem, I have plenty of them. I do not want to make this issue endless, therefore, let’s choose only 1 topic. Let’s say “a defense”. Here are some rules for you:

  • Don't lose courage. Otherwise you will continue making mistakes.
  • A tactical blunder is a consequence of a bad strategic situation.
  • Calculate variations very accurately, because one tactical error can lead directly to a loss.
  • Constantly make problems for your opponent. Protect each weak pawn and each weak square as long as you can. When an attacker encounters tough resistance, he starts getting nervous and makes mistakes.
  • Exchange pieces to reduce the power of an opponent’s attack.
  • It is better to be protected from a threat by using inactive pieces. If a protection has to be assigned to an active piece, it is necessary to pay attention not to overload it. Otherwise it will not be able to execute all of the functions assigned to it.
  • Detect the main attacking pieces and neutralize them.
  • Detect the opponent’s plan/threat and prevent it.
  • Detect your main weakness and strengthen them.
  • Take your king away from a dangerous zone.
  • Try to change the character of a position sharply (e.g. sacrifice something). It will be difficult for an attacker to change his mind, so it puts psychological problems before the opponent.
  • Don’t use more pieces than necessary for defense. Otherwise you will play too passively and will not be able to start a counterttack.
  • The king is also a piece and it can protect itself (at least Steinitz thought so :) ).
  • Your opponent wants to win without risk. Therefore you should just sit calm and do nothing. Force your opponent to start making complications. This will make him feel nervous.
  • Don’t move pawns, when you are under an attack.

  • Let’s stop here. It seems like even one topic can be endless. :)


    Now I’d like to give you a task. It is a very useful task, so I strongly recommend that you perform it.

    1) Print the rules about defense (see above).

    2) Play a game against a computer.

    It is better to set an attacking style for a computer (many programs have this option). When computer starts attacking you – look at the printed rules and find the best move in your game.

    3) Remember the result of this game and your impressions. You may e-mail me your impressions (I’ll be glad to receive them).


    GM Igor Smirnov

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