Pawn’s worth on the Chessboard

My first ah ha! moment was realizing Pawns as part of my chess army, are useful for a lot more than canon fodder. In the past, I would simply march my pawns off to their death when I thought I had no real move worth making. May as well push a pawn forward and see what happens I would think.

After watching master and famous chess games on youtube, I realized that pawns are very important in the game of Chess. Pawns in these games were not shoved into battle like some rag-tag group of foot soldiers. Instead I observed pawns are used to maintain control of the front line, and provide anchor positions for Knights and occasionally Bishops. Also pawns are used to push the enemy off certain squares, generally in the center of the board, though at times down at the enemy camp.

When I tried to imitate the moves I had watched, they did not work, yet the games on youtube made it look so simple. Still, I started treating my pawns with more respect, although at first not a lot changed. I managed to stay alive for a few more moves, but the inevitable end came as predicted. I would be checkmated, more of my own pawns or not didn’t seem to matter.

There was a bright side however. With continued watching of youtube chess games, observing live games as I could, reading and trying to understand what purpose there was to the pawn placement, my chess abilities started to change.

Instead of losing at fifteen to twenty moves, I would be alive to see the twenty-second move. Instead of watching Genghis Khan rolling across the wasteland to wipe out my army, I managed to slow the thundering herd, and reduce the speed of my casualty rate.

I knew I was on to something. Then I played a game against and opponent who was the “Pawn Master”! No back row was needed in their game. My chess army was decimated mostly by a few pawns, as I watched in horror wondering how it was done! I wasn’t sure how it was done, but that game drove home the power of the lowly Pawn in the hands of a competent player!

After a lot of watching, reading, and thinking, I started to understand the real purpose of pawns. I learned employing pawns wisely can make the difference between losing outright, having a fighting chance, and maybe even winning.

Pawns can be used as islands in the center of the board. Blocking the enemy, and protecting the center of the board from direct attack. If your pawns are protecting any of the four center squares, it becomes more difficult for your opponent to mount a direct attack. Instead they are forced to attack from one of the ends of the board as the center is blocked.

Pawns are also used in diagonal chains from near the side of the board to the center. You may have seen them in one of your games. The pawn at b2 or g2 is the anchor and the middle pawns are positioned on the same color diagonals towards the center?

Doing this with pawns serves two purposes of which I am aware, perhaps there are more reasons I have yet to learn. These diagonal pawn chains cut off part of the board from your opponent. They also give you more space to move around in safely.

There is a third pawn deployment that I have seen, but it is not as common. The pawns are structured in a w shape or series of w’s across the center of the board. This is a very hard defense to break through. It makes for a very tough game.

Learning about and practicing how to deploy pawns is probably one of the big game changers for me. If I do nothing else well, good pawn structure frustrates and slows down my opponent(s). Slowing my opponent down allows me to watch for mistakes he/she is making in their game. I still get beat, but not as easily I do as with no pawn structure. I hope this post help you in your game.

Chess and getting to 1000

I do not know where this blog will end up, but for now, I am interested mostly in chess. I want to become a reasonable chess player. Reasonable to me is being able to hold up my half of the game with an average player. At some point chess will diminish and other things will be interest to me, and I will write about them, but for now it is about improving at chess.

I have always liked to play chess. Away from playing the family, I found chess frustrating. I set chess a side for about a year, still wanting to play better chess, but not taking any action.

Recently, I started looking for ways to improve my chess. I also started taking notes on what I found to help me. I will be sharing my notes here with you as time permits. Maybe my notes on what I find and learn will help you too?

I have learned a lot for over the last weeks as I became serious about improving. In the bigger picture, I know I have barely opened my chess eyes. Yet my discoveries have already helped me play better chess. Here is some background on my chess life.

I started out as about an eight hundred player, and my initial goal was to improve to over 1000. Once I make this goal, I want to press on trying to keep my improvement going. Before knowing I was about an eight hundred player, I thought was a good chess player. After all I could either soundly pummel, or hold my own against most of my family after holiday meals.

Playing computer chess told me a different story about my chess skills and abilities. I was getting soundly thrashed by these free, comes with the operating system chess games on their lowest settings.

Of course being an optimist, I thought the programmers were showing off their programming and perhaps chess skills. I thought few people played at the highest level of these chess games.

I went online to prove my worth as a chess player. This is how I found out I was about an eight hundred level player. An eight hundred level player is slightly below beginner in some chess rating systems. It was a humbling experience to lose to (very good) players who chose to use a little over half of their army to beat me.

At this point, I thought perhaps playing chess in person would be easier. These people on the net must be hard core players, not the normal chess player. I found out where a local club met, and showed up to play one night. Through some fluke I beat one of the better players in the first game. There was no future repeat, and my chess success in live chess play was a one hit wonder so to speak.

I set chess aside for a while as it was frustrating me, and took up interests in other things. The circle has completed, and here I am with chess again. This time however I am taking the game of chess a little more seriously, and making a real effort to learn enough to play an average game of chess.

Sure, I hope it will all click and I will become a chess wizard, though realistically, I will be thrilled to reach the ranking of an average club player. I understand moving up above the average chess club player skill level is when chess starts to become very serious.

As I became serious about chess these last weeks, I started a notepad file with my notes of what I discovered to help me play better chess. Maybe someone else wants to improve their chess skills, and perhaps they can learn from my notes? I decided to put my chess notes and thoughts online. I am sure there are other frustrated beginning players such as myself who would like to improve their chess, but do not know where or how to start.

Following will be most of chess notes in a readable form. What I am learning at the time of writing them to myself. This is sort of knocking on the aquarium glass, but I need to start somewhere.

If you are a skilled chess player, I imagine there won’t be a lot be a lot here for you outside of entertainment value. If you do follow my chess meanderings, feel free to comment on the many errors in thinking I am sure I will post. If you play chess at home or with friends and want to improve, maybe a few of the ideas and thoughts I find will help you to improve.

There are a lot of beginning chess blogs and articles about how to set up a chess board, how the pieces move, and so on. There are sites with tactics, strategy, and games for review. These very good sites did not help me understand how to put these many ideas together in some meaningful way.

I have found nuggets for improvement from various places and have the source for most of them in my notes.  They are gold nuggets for me as what I have found has helped me make fewer errors and play more cohesive chess. Maybe we will never make to a high level, but I am sure any of us reading this post can play better chess.