One of the essentials of
playing chess is the development of the ability to assess a chess position. Confromted
with a new position you have to understand it, at each and every move a new position
exists on the chessboard. Over the course of a game this has to be done at each move so
you would think that we would all be experts at this after a year or two of competitive
chess, wouldn't you? Unfortunately this is not the case, even very strong players make
mistakes in assessment, a club level this failure to make an accurate assessment is (in my
opinion) the biggest single part of the game to improve.
A method is needed however, because assessment
can only be made accurately when you understand the positional and tactical features
involved. This knowledge can only be gained over time, a minimum of several years is the
norm although Lasker thought that with proper education it could be done more quickly.
Even so this does not mean to say that the developement of the ability to assess chess
positions should not be done because you will not yet recognise that which is before your
Think about this, assessment of the position is
simply understanding what is in front of your eyes, this task is the basic move by move
function of playing chess and is the beginning, the essence of the game. Without an
assessment you cannot begin to decide on a move.
Many players forget this simple fact and spend
many hours studying typical positional features and tacticle elements and yet when they
come to their games they 'miss' best continuations and miss the correct strategy needed to
take their games forward as strongly as possible.
No matter how strong your knowledge of chess
theory is, no matter how strong your ability to see combinations, no matter how well
developed your ability to calculate variations is you will never succeed at chess unless
you have mastered the ability to exammine positions in minute detail penetrating the most
deeply hidden positional, strategic and tactical nuances of a position.
How we assess a position
The simple answer is that no two chess
theorists agree although many have put forward their own ideas.
Most agree that a method is necessary, highly
experienced Grandmasters may not need to use a formal plan as the assessment comes
naturally to them, they simply look at the position and they know the relevent features
without having to think about them. Let us be quite honest about this - these players have
only developed this ability throuh years and years of dedicated practice, and even then
when they are playing against someone of their own high standard they have to spend a
great deal of time assessing positions.
For club players assessment can only be learned
by using a plan, because as we know planning is one of the main tools in our goal to play
If you do not use a plan, you will never become
a good chess player.
So how do we set about this? WE ahev to know
all the essential features of a position so this means using elements.
Table of Elements
2.Poor opponent's king position.
4.Weak pawns (of opponent).
5.Weak squares (of opponent).
6.Weak colour complexes (of opponent)
7.Fewer pawn islands.
8.Strong pawn centre.
9.The advantage of the two bishops.
10.Control of a file.
11.Control of a diagonal.
12.Control of a rank.
1.Poor position of opponent's piece.
2.Lack of harmony in opponent's piece placing.
3.Advantage in development.
4.Piece pressure in the centre.
5.Advantage in space.
As you will no doubt realise it would be all
but impossible to go through each and every one of these elements one by one at each move.
The solution is an age old device of
classification into groups and these considerably help in the assessment process.
As I have already said no two chess theorists
use the same method. Kotov uses four main groups, Suetin uses three, another GM uses
seven, for me personally I use seven but you might feel happier with four.
The first assessment group is Material
The second is King Safety.
The third is the pawn structure and weak
The fourth group is space and the centre.
The fifth is control of ranks, files and
The sixth is the active placement of the
The seventh is the existance of concrete
threats both short and long term.
From assessment onwards
From the assessment you can tell which if
either of the players stands better. Then it is a matter of playing according to the
Prinsiples laid down by Steinitz:
1.In chess only the attacker wins.
2.The right to attack is enjoyed by the player
who has the better position.
3.The side with the advantage has not only the
right but also the duty to attack, ortherwise he runs the risk of losing his advantage.
4.The defender must be prepared to defend and
to make concessions.
5.The means of attack in chess are twofold,
combinative and strategical.
6.The attack must be directed against the
opponent's weakest spot.