My Chess Philosophy

The chessboard upon which the game of chess is played is somewhat akin to a blank canvas or piece of paper, albeit with a familiar basic pattern presented to the players – the checkerboard pattern of alternating colored squares. Upon this tableau, some paint is thrown (the players’ fighting units – the pieces and the pawns):

and the players are asked to engage in an intellectual endeavor to create skirmishes and battles for the pieces and pawns across the board (moving the paint about the tableau) from which they may create a masterpiece…a little splash here, a dab there, a splotch over here, a drop there…mixing, matching, and meshing. Not surprisingly, most often a masterpiece does not magically appear for the world to suddenly take notice and appreciate. However, the possibility that a masterpiece will be created generates the real thrill for engaging in the intellectual endeavor…playing chess.

Like life, chess combines many facets the players face everyday which come with most intellectual endeavors. Some examples with introduction to some chess terminology are:

There is simple arithmetic (no need for a calculator!): Just basic subtracting numbers (the points in material value for each piece except the Kings, and the pawns) and comparing the results (the material count) as pieces except the Kings, and pawns, are captured and removed from the chessboard. This facet also is important for just basic adding of numbers and comparing the results in some cases when a piece or pieces are added back to the board through pawn promotion (when a pawn reaches a square in the opposing player’s back rank, a player can remove it from the board and replace it with a Queen, Rook, Bishop, or Knight). This may be (and usually is) devastating to the opposing player in the fight to win the game, and quite often completely changes the landscape upon which the players are engaging in the fight.

This facet also shows the importance of hierarchy in the game of chess, involving the life principle that some things are more valuable than others. In the game of chess, the major pieces (Kings, Queens, and Rooks) are more valuable than the minor pieces (Bishops and Knights), and the pieces all are more valuable than pawns for example, but relatively this is not always true because when smaller things are combined working together [e.g., the minor pieces (e.g., two Bishops and two Knights, two Bishops, a Bishop and a Knight) and/or pawns] they may but not necessarily simple overwhelm and smother something which is bigger and stronger…e.g., when battling against the King and the Queen; or the King and the Rook; another example is two Bishops (called a “Bishop Pair” vs. a Bishop and a Knight].

Another example of this relative value aspect is important when considering whether to engage in exchanges or trades of pieces and/or pawns. For example, in most situations it is worse to exchange away a Bishop and Knight for a Rook and pawn than the reverse, even though in material count under the traditional point system they are equal. Most players would consider the player who gives up the Bishop and Knight to have lost the exchange.

There is geometry. Nothing like what most hated about it in school either, just simple basic geometric patterns including triangles for triangulation, triangles & diamonds for what I call diamondization, rectangles, and squares. These geometric patterns are used in developing the concepts for how pieces move & capture, and pawns advance & capture; which I call the classification of movement. These geometric patterns also play vital roles in developing mating patterns and mating nets; that is, how a player traps an opposing King so that he is attacked (in check) and cannot escape the check and thus checkmated.

Application of the geometric pattern concept also is shown, for example, in applying the “square rule” regarding pawn promotion [i.e., changed into a Queen, Rook, Bishop, or Knight; which one it is changed into is selected solely by the player doing pawn promotion and most often (but not always) logically it is changed into a Queen – referred to as “Queening)”], in a King and pawn vs. a King endgame.

The “square rule” in simple essence is counting the “moves” the opposing King needs to do in order to reach a position on the board in time to stop the pawn from doing pawn promotion. To do this, the players each need to mentally visualize (or in each player’s mind…”to draw”) a larger square geometric pattern on the chessboard starting from the square where the pawn is located, then to the square in the back rank of the opposing player where pawn promotion would occur, then across the back rank toward the file containing the square upon which the opposing King is located, across that file to the rank in which the square upon which the pawn is located, and then across that rank back to the square upon which the pawn is located.

Once the square is visualized, then there is simply the matter of counting the moves needed for the opposing King to reach the pawn promotion square or a square adjacent to it in time so as to be able to capture the pawn before doing pawn promotion, or be able to capture the piece to which the pawn promotes on the opposing player’s next move, or to block the pawn from doing pawn promotion.

Whether the opposing player with the lone King can stop the pawn promotion so as to enable the opposing player in order to force a draw or stalemate vs. the player being able to safely do pawn promotion, is nothing more than applying simple arithmetic…mere counting, nothing more, of the squares/moves. As with anything, there is an important exception to add in to the functioning of this basic “equation” of the “square rule”. Do not forget the importance of the player’s King that is on the board. Whether the player’s King is or is not in a position on the board to be able to move and come to the aid and defense of the pawn advancing toward pawn promotion must also be factored into the “equation” of the “square rule”.

The geometric pattern also has application, for example, in a King, Bishop, pawn v. King endgame, and calculating whether the opposing player with the lone King will be able to stop pawn promotion in order to force a draw or gain a stalemate. This application of geometric pattern involves determining whether the Bishop is a “wrong colored (coloured) Bishop” and which file the pawn is advancing toward pawn promotion. Suffice it to say here without going more in depth on the point at this time (a later tutorial covers this topic more in depth), if the Bishop is a “wrong colored (coloured) Bishop” and the pawn is advancing toward pawn promotion in the a or h file, then absent a blunder by the opposing player with the lone King, a draw or stalemate is inevitable.

Finally, and most importantly, there is examination and calculation of the pros and cons (benefits and drawbacks) of proceeding along alternative paths (called lines), to reach intermediate goals and combine them (to develop a game plan) designed hopefully to reach the usual ultimate goal…winning the game.

A final comment on playing chess: “It is not important what one ‘thinks’ chess ‘should’ be – only what it is: Chess starts out as a ‘mental’ game, but once our brain issues commands to our hands & fingers there is some physical involvement.” Don Steers, ICC handle is ChessCoach [links to Don’s website and ICC website are in the Links section]. Many a player, I included all too often, have sat dumbfounded as our brains said one thing and quite mysteriously (well almost) our hands & fingers have done something else. A good comment to keep in mind on the virtue of playing slow time control chess, especially while one is learning chess.

The World Chess Federation (Fédération Internationale des Échecs, referred to as FIDE from its French acronym) is the international overall chess organization that unites national chess federations and directs the chess world. FIDE puts out a set of Official Laws of Chess, with which each player should become familiar. FIDE’s Official Laws of Chess are available at FIDE’s website, a link is provided in the Links section. The United States Chess Federation (USCF) also puts out its own set of governing laws, called USCF’s Official Rules of Chess, for games under USCF’s jurisdiction (these may be purchased and are not available for download). Many other national governing chess organizations, tournaments, clubs, and others have variations of their own with which you will need to become familiar if you play in them.

Happy chess playing!