ChessFilter: Help me with my chess dilemma
July 18, 2007 11:21 PM   Subscribe

ChessFilter: Help me with my chess dilemma

I need some chess advice from those of you who play. My game has regressed lately and I am not sure how to regain footing. I have started to lose a much higher quotient of my games for one reason: attacking..

Let me explain. I used to play very cautious games before. I mostly let my opponents do all the attacks while I would defend myself and hopefully come out with even exchanges. I would only start attacking at the end of the game once my opponent and I had just a few pieces left.

However, after having observed many players with great attack strategies, I decided to try it myself. As a result my games got more intense and I was able to carry out successful checkmate-resulting offenses without playing passively anymore.

The downside to this new attack strategy is that it's too risky. Though it helped me have more fun active gameplay with enjoyable strategic checkmates, it also has lead me to lose much more frequently than before. My attacks are sometimes succesful, but at other times they get me in trouble and I lose valuable pieces that I didn't while playing cautious.

So my chess dilemma is: Should I abandon my active attack strategy and go back to playing a cautious defense-mostly chess game? It might help me stave off the frequent losses...

I would appreciate any advice you have to offer about how and how not to attack in chess...

BTW, if this seems too long of a post for something as trivial as chess, I apologize. It's just that I've really gotten into the game lately and it SEEMS important to me.
posted by gregb1007 to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (13 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
You're trying something new, so obviously you're not going to be as good at it yet as you are at the stuff you already knew how to do. Reconcile yourself to a temporarily increased loss rate while your brain learns what works and doesn't work given your new style of play. What doesn't kill you makes you stronger.
posted by flabdablet at 11:54 PM on July 18, 2007

I think this post would help you out, no?

(and TBM's comment made the sideblog a few months ago if I remember correctly)
posted by revmitcz at 11:58 PM on July 18, 2007

Firstly, there's nothing trivial about chess.

Secondly, I have been much the same as you. It's a little depressing, but I find it a lot easier to find the weakness in someone else's plan than to develop my own, strong plan. I don't think there's anything wrong with tailoring your game this way - trying for a slow-developing closed position for the opening, for example.

I sort of got out of the habit just because I decided to pick one opening for white, and concentrate on it... and the opening I picked just happened to be a very open, tactical sort of game (the Scotch). So for a boring answer: practice practice practice (ideally against someone slightly better than yourself!).

I also found Jeremy Silman's 'Reasses Your Chess' a great resource. Silman's text scans as a little self-congratulatory, but he certainly provides the tools to help in coming up with sound attacking plans - and also in knowing when it's time to keep your head down and get your own defences in order. I really can't recommend this book enough.

And finally: chess puzzles. I especially like the many Renfield books of puzzles - as they are generally taken from real games, rather than composed. When there's only one answer, it can give you a sense of how, in many positions, there are often attacks seem sound, but aren't really.

NB I'm not even ranked, but I can hold my own against about everyone I meet outside of chess clubs or dedicated sites - and I felt compelled to comply, because it sounds like my game is quite similar.
posted by pompomtom at 12:06 AM on July 19, 2007 [1 favorite]

Also, what flabdablet said.
posted by pompomtom at 12:07 AM on July 19, 2007

Just my $0.02, en passant:

I play this beautiful game every day. Chess is not trivial- it's a metaphor for life.

Actually, it's too short a post on the subject. Without seeing your game notation, it's hard to pinpoint mistakes or to see what tactics you are using. Consider keeping notation on your games (easier if you play online), and analyzing them after. You haven't provided much in the way of specifics. What do you mean by 'active attack strategy'?

Judging by the tone of your question, you have convinced yourself that it is too risky to attack. Well, the best defence is a good offence.

Some things to think about:

I would be especially concerned that you are not establishing a solid foundation in openings.

How are you using your pawns?

Are you grabbing the center of the board?

Are you opening up your lines for maximum mobility for your bishops?

Are you getting your knights out?

How long are you waiting to castle?

Are you trading major pieces down to the point where it becomes a pawn-pushing contest (very hard when you're a novice)?

How well do you coordinate your major pieces so that they interlock in order to create a focused attack force, while at the same time covering each other's butts defensively.

How well can you use your opponent's pieces against them (e.g. boxing the King in, creating doubled pawn blocks, pinning pieces)?

How far can you think ahead? Can you envision what would happen after a series of major piece trading? Will you end up ahead or behind?

You need to understand the psychology of chess. If you are reacting instead of acting, then it is easy to fall into your opponent's traps.

Yasser Seirawan has written some good books on the subjects. I've got Play Winning Chess, he's also got a book on openings.

Oh, and you have to lose OVER and OVER again to get better.

Break on through to the other side.
posted by solongxenon at 12:18 AM on July 19, 2007

Response by poster: solongxenon, i have begun frequently interlocking my major pieces to create focused attacks... major piece trading is a big problem for me... sometimes i win out, often i don't... i can usually trade well when i am on the defensive but not when i am attacking.. also, i get my knights and bishops out...

Problem is when my knights and bishops interlock to repeatedly check my opponent, it's only occasionally successful. the minute that checking my opponent is interrupted by him managing to defend his king successfuly, i get checkmated in a few moves..

why? because with my knights and bishops and queen checking my opponent, they can no longer protect my king effectively. Even if he is castled, my opponent manages to follow up my intensive attack with his own that usually ends up more successful.

That's why I am sort of driven to cluster my major pieces around my king and avoid attacks until I am really sure that my opponent won't get me...

Oh.. the problem also is.. that if I focus on interlocking attacks with kings and bishops, it sometimes cause me to lose control of the center because I am not focused on protecting it...
posted by gregb1007 at 12:36 AM on July 19, 2007

You're just going through the same thing everyone does. Chess is 99 percent tactics. Below expert level, the single most effective way to improve your game is to study tactics. Don't solve composed problems, which are often contrived. posts a daily puzzle, taken from actual master play and progressing from easy on Monday to difficult on Sunday.

But, basically, play a lot, especially against players stronger than yourself, and expect to lose a lot while you're learning. As John McEnroe said, the important thing is to learn something every time you lose. (Also, study master games. A lot of chess skill comes from simple pattern recognition -- expose yourself to many patterns and you'll start to recognize them over the board.)
posted by futility closet at 5:55 AM on July 19, 2007 [1 favorite]

I used to play very cautiously and only counterattack. I was not having that much fun. I have decided to try to work on my attacking game. I'm having much more fun.

Do you think you are losing because of your tactics or because you don't know how to attack? You need some tactical skills to succeed- the tactics post referred to by revmitcz can help. But there are also attacking skills to learn. Vukovic's book is considered the classic, but it may be too advanced for you. Amazon has some book selections in its 'So you'd like too...' section. Also 2nd anything by Seirawan for beginners.

Practice, practice, practice. A bunch of us are playing on Red Hot Pawn.

Biggest question is- are you having fun attacking? If so, keep doing it. It is better to have attacked and lost than to have never attacked at all. (speaking of metaphor-for-life)
posted by MtDewd at 6:37 AM on July 19, 2007

BTW- did you find people to play with?
posted by MtDewd at 6:45 AM on July 19, 2007

It's like Tiger Woods changing his swing. Sometimes you have to step back to take two steps forward.
posted by lubujackson at 7:23 AM on July 19, 2007

I suggest you learn how to use your rooks as an offensive piece. Rooks are one of the hardest pieces to use effectively and creatively, which is why I think many people try to attack without really tapping their full potential.

I am not saying leave your king undefended, but if you learn how to activate and position your rooks in novel and powerful ways, you'll have a fresh attack your opponent will not be so familiar with and you'll have more fire power (two ingredients for a successful attack). Learn how to sacrifice them. Learn how to post them. Learn how to dance with them.

Learning to use your rooks as offensive pieces will likely not stop the bleeding right now, but if you keep at it, your win percentage as an offensive player will eventually rise.

I hate to be so cliche, but Bobby Fischer did some amazing things with his rooks. Check out some of his games.
posted by milarepa at 8:02 AM on July 19, 2007 [1 favorite]

nthing milarepa on rook use.

The king can be very powerful offensively- especially during piece trade-offs. Once the queens are gone, you can begin using the king more aggressively.

You will get better at major piece trading with practice. Make sure as you're about to go into a trade-off that you've counted ALL the possibilites, that you've looked up and down the board for rooks/queens/bishops that could attack from afar.

Try to avoid checking the opponent's king repeatedly unless you know where you're going. If it's not possible to pin him down relatively soon, then make sure you can pick up pieces as you go- that will do a lot to weaken him. Knights are particularly useful in this situation.

Unfortunately, clustering your major pieces around your king and hunkering down will not help you to dominate the board, and (after a spate of piece-trading) may well result in you being boxed in. If your opponent is good with creating powerful pawn formations, your defence will be broken up in a matter of time.

In terms of control of the center- I would say that it is more important to establish dominance there in the beginning. Later on, as the board clears, it's not so critical (usually).
posted by solongxenon at 10:30 AM on July 19, 2007

also nthing rook use. Nothing can change the game quicker than a well-placed rook movement, in my humble experience.

More importantly, continuing on with what everyone has said, you just have to break on through. There's a the very cliched story of the trainer who watches two runners. They have equal time, but one has good form and the other has sloppy form. Which should he choose? Well, the guy with sloppy form, because once you teach him good form he'll beat the other guy.

What the story (or thought experiment) never mentions is that while the sloppy guy is learning good form, he'll have much worse times for a while. It'll be unnatural to him, but once he gets it, he has a chance at being great.

Just for good measure, I'll paraphrase the end of "Story" by Robert McKee.

There once was a millipede who strode across her branch in the forest, without a care in the world. "That's an amazing talent," chirped the songbirds. "How do you do it?" As the millipede started to ponder how she managed so many legs, they all ran into each other, until she tumbled to the forest floor.

Once she came to, she unraveled herself, flexed and studied each appendage, until she was able to stand and walk. What once was instinct became knowledge. Now, in perfect command of thousands of talented legs, she found herself able to dance.

It's cheesy, yes, but you're going to be a better player after sucking it up and shining on through for a while longer. Good luck.
posted by Navelgazer at 10:47 AM on July 19, 2007

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