What to do when there is nothing to do!


We have all had the traffic jam situations on our chessboards. A state of total bog down, a lockdown phase where most pieces are on some curfew. In these situations, the most affected pieces are long ranges, the Bishop and Rooks with knight sometimes having permits to jump a few steps. Pawns, the weakest on the board, are more helpless than useless; they literally become daylight statues. For some reason, the tick of the clock is slower, senses work extra hours, you get to recognise painting errors on the board and the blemishes in the piece carvings.

Your hunt for a way out forces you to literally ignore the loudest of checkmate roars in the playing hall. This stage is where most games are lost. Rookies and intermediate players tend to be frustrated and make emotional let-me-me-free-the-board moves. Moves done in desperation. The challenge faced by many is finding something meaningful to do during these driest of seasons.

Players’ prowess is judged by moves they do in this phase, and this literally separates the real from the pretenders. The absence of immediate dangers on the board is the most suitable time to work on strategy. Savially Tarkatower, a famous Polish-French’s made a famous quote around this. He cleverly knitted it as follows: “Strategy is knowing what to do when there is nothing to do…and tactics is knowing what to do when there is something to do”. The following few lines are dedicated to guiding and giving out GPS coordinates to the land of the real.

Coordinate 1 – Improve your position

Because of less activity and lesser threats and back-to-back combinations, a fertile ground for positional play is created. Positional play means intentional moves meant to create a better position while degrading the opponent’s position. Improving your position entails moving pieces in such a way that they get set up for action which might be taking place about five to six moves into the future. Positioning them and setting them up ensures that when action returns and lockdown is lifted, the pieces are well set up and coordinated to terrorise the opponent’s defense lines.

Coordinate 2 – Apply prophylactic play

The word prophylactic loosely translates to preventive course of action. At this phase of the game, a player is required to not only think of himself and his moves but think of the opponent’s possible threats and attacks.

The moves which follow should then be intended to break possible future dangers and threats. Prophylactic play may include completely blocking Bishop diagonal with pawns, and using reinforced pawns to stop forward knight maneuvers which might end up as deadly folks.

Coordinate 3 – Pay attention to pawn structure and improve it

Incorrectly placed pawns create a porous defense wall which is penetrable and easily exploited. Bad pawn structure also stands in the way of good combination attack as they most of the time block other pieces’ moves. Badly set up pawns may also preoccupy major pieces with the role of protection as opposed to conjuring up of a good attack.

At a quite stage of the game, pawn structure must be analyzed deeply and bettered. The starting point could be taking account of the side that has majority of pawns, the type of center as well as pawn chains in a position and relationship with major pieces.


Coordinate 4 – Look out for weaknesses

Weaknesses range from a bad pawn structure, bad pawn, bad bishop, blocked knights, pre-occupied major pieces, hanging pieces as well as unprotected king. The list is endless depending on the position one finds himself on. A trained eye should also be in the looked for those weaknesses and more and develop ways to exploit them. Some weaknesses may not be visible in the beginning and may need some “activation” from you- and do just that.

Inward weaknesses analysis should also be made and moves to correct them be made with less pressure in the quite phases of the game. I have seen people do more things during this quite phase of no activity…some claustrophobic lads may just exchange pieces or even give away a piece freely to give a position less suffocation by creating an Oxygen hole.

As fancy as it sounds, such actions create unnecessary weakness and may lead to a bad loss. The stage of the game requires more attention than any other and therefore should be applied.


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