Estimated reading time: 6 minutes
The following method is for those who have grown tired of making chess complicated and are ready to commit to making chess position analysis uncomplicated. You do this by breaking the process of evaluation into its essential components.
All chess position analysis comes down to the harmony between your pieces and your pawns.
Of course, your mindset in chess is another essential ingredient in your chess success as GM Simon Williams explains in the following video:
A Method to Remove Madness From Chess Position Analysis
Here are the five essential elements of your chess evaluation method:
- Material imbalance.
- Direct threats.
- King safety/king activity in the endgame.
- Pawn structure.
- Piece activity.
Always start with a material imbalance because if you have a significant material advantage, you will want to simplify to a won chess endgame.
By looking for direct threats next, you can evaluate if obtaining a significant material advantage was worth the price you paid structurally or by conceding the initiative. Being ahead by a whole rook or more is not good if your opponent gets a mating attack for the sacrificed material.
Before considering the position of the pawns and pieces, you must deal with direct threats either to your pieces or your king.
Being up material is not worth much if your king is exposed in the middlegame and only concrete analysis will determine if your opponent can attack your king.
In the King’s Gambit, for example, White is forced to give up castling rights and move to the f1 square after …Qh4+. Combined with f-pawn advance, the king might appear exposed, but White’s position is quite playable.
When it comes to the endgame, you want the king to be active instead of sheltering behind pawns. That does not mean king safety isn’t necessary.
Although mating nets are harder to construct with fewer pieces on the board, kings get checkmated in endgames just as they do in openings and middlegames.
Once you have evaluated the material imbalance, are sure there are no direct threats aimed at any of your pieces, and safeguarded your king, look at the pawn structure and pieces.
Pawns Are Pivotal in Chess Position Analysis
Even though pawn structure is a crucial element of choosing your opening and something to consider before the game starts, our opponents can take us out of theory. In light of this, we must be able to correctly evaluate the pawn structure in our game.
The pawn structure, especially in the center, has a massive impact on our strategy.
For this reason, there are four vital aspects to consider:
- Who controls the center with pawns?
- Are there any outposts?
- What are the open files and diagonals?
- Who owns the most space and where?
Ultimately, the pawn structure will determine the relative value of the pieces on the board. A knight is very often stronger than a bishop and often stronger than a rook in closed positions.
Improving your pieces will often mean changing the pawn structure either with pawn exchanges or a piece sacrifice.
In some instances, you can offer an exchange sacrifice if you get an outpost or a passed pawn and close the position.
Even though it has no tangible value, the importance of a space advantage cannot be denied. Pawns are often crucial in establishing a space advantage.
Pwns can also buy you time and improve the harmony between your pieces. In fact, these three elements of time, space, and harmony are what GM Irina Krush stresses in her Master Method.
Pieces in Chess Position Analysis
After considering the first four components, you need to consider the pieces, and it’s vital in chess position analysis to assess the pieces remaining on the board! Being up an exchange is won’t help you if there are no open files for your rook.
When you struggle to develop a plan, you can almost always find a piece to improve in your position.
Don’t be afraid to move a piece backward if that is required to improve your position. In the Ruy Lopez Exchange Variation, it isn’t uncommon for Black to play …Nbd7 and later …Nb8-c6 to prevent d4.
The main criteria about where you place pieces is the purpose behind the move. No matter how strange and ugly a move looks if there is an excellent purpose to play it – play it!
Even if it isn’t possible to win a piece, you are playing a piece up if you can keep it from entering the game. In the following game, Capablanca managed to use his pawns and pieces to keep Winter’s bishop locked out of the game on the kingside.
Once the bishop was trapped on the kingside, Capablanca shifted play to the queenside, where he effectively played a piece up. Here is this famous game for you to enjoy.
Winter, William – Capablanca, Jose Raul, 0-1, Hastings Victory Congress (5), 1919
Initially, applying this method will feel anything but simple as you develop the habit of considering these five elements of chess position analysis. However, as you practice it in your games soon, it will become second nature.
You don’t need to do this after every move, although it’s always a good idea to constantly look for direct threats and the ideas behind your opponent’s move. A good rule of thumb is to use chess position analysis after an exchange or a change in the pawn structure.
This method of chess position analysis is a solid foundation that will help you improve your play because as your chess skills improve and your understanding deepens, you will effortlessly expand on these concepts.
Here you have a simple method to improve your chess results even if you leave it exactly as it is. Hopefully, the simplicity of this approach will help you relax and enjoy your chess more.
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