Improving Chess: How to Kill Your Pieces - Pt. 1

In our last installment of Improving chess, I taught you everything you needed to know to blunder consistently and reliably. If you have not read that yet, click the link -HERE-. That took care of your tactics, so now its time to begin work on your strategic side. Let us begin by learning how to "kill" our pieces.

{Your intrepid author's wise words will be in italics and surrounded by parentheses}

In order to help your opponent not lose, it is important that we learn how to neutralize, de-activate (or never-activate), and finally kill our pieces. Such a task may seem daunting, but the good news is there are many ways to go about this genocide. I will break down each method of killing into two segments. This first part will be focused on some more direct tactics to kill your pieces, while part two will be focused on some sneaky, more...higher level... combinations if your pieces seem too alive (or as some might call it: "well placed"). 

There are two direct ways to kill your pieces: to physically restrain them in a jail of pawns or to spin your pieces around so as to make them too dizzy to be rendered useful. Get out your pen a paper, you will need to take detailed notes!


How to: Jail Them Pieces!

This first technique I would wager you are familiar with. There are a number of legitimate reasons to jail your pieces such as if you think they are too useless to ever be good, you think they would like a jail cell, or you are just wanting to be mean and jail them for your pleasure.

I saw a game recently where white brilliantly demonstrated the concept of jailing his pieces because he thought his piece was not destined for greatness, so instead of trading it off (you know, that dumb chess principle "work it or trade it nonsense"), he did the right thing and jailed the little traitor. 

White to Move

White to Move

Probably going through the mind of white was, I have two options, I can trade on e6 and then play b3 to keep his queen from taking b2, or I could go ahead and play b3 because I don't want to trade off my light-squared bishop. 14.b3?? What a beautiful trapping move! The bishop is now perfectly neutralized, his bishop is biting on granite (yeah!) and the goal of defending b2 is now realized. Sadly white did not play perfectly (basically down a piece) and lost, but surely we can't blame it on this great idea {You say, I would never do this in a real game...yet I see it all the time:). 

Here is a common theme, when I try to help my students win... I often suggest solidity is the first step towards winning, so if you can have a beautiful pawn chain like the one below and encorporate the strength of that with your bishop, you will be dominating. I also often suggest they have the mindset of expecting their opponents to help them. Here is a perfect example where one of my students used this idea in a game. 

Black to Move:

Black to Move:

Here my student said to me: here I was afraid of fxe5, weakening my control of the center. I decided to play 14...f6?? because I knew once he took on e5, I would be able to play fxe5. Yes, I know my knight could take back on e5, but that feels very risky with his nice e4 pawn and such. I also am not afraid of trapping (killing) my bishop on e7 because I will be uber-solid with the bishop's help {Another classic example I see too often. Your reasons had better be insanely good to trap your own piece for defensive reasons}. 


Jailing your pieces within your own pawns like the two above bishops and one knight (not getting to come to e5) is very easy to do if you only think about your opponent's threats (a suggestion from "How to Blunder"). However, there is also another way to directly kill your pieces, and that is to make them dizzy as anything!

How to: Dizzy up Those Pieces!

How can you make a chess piece dizzy you might demand? I use this term to describe it when one maneuvers his pieces around from useful to inactive back to useful and then back to inactive again...etc. Basically, run them around in circles. They say your pieces should always have a purpose, and that is exactly what your pieces want! Because of this, it might be hard to jail those defying pieces and thus you will have to use another tactic. Make them think they have a purpose by moving them around in circles until they give up. 

White to Play:

White to Play:

White has a "better" position because of black's tangled pieces (he has a lovely rook on a7 and beautiful steed on a8 just to name a couple of the many bad pieces). However, white didn't really think about what his bishop's desires were to help most effectively and decided to take the Bishop for a spin; the perfect way for him to lose the advantage. 20.Bd3 Presumably to stop e5...) b6. 21.Bf1? (I assume to play g3 and Bg2) Bb7 22.Be2 Since the move Bf1 proved useless, the bishop wanted something to do, so he tried e2 this time. 22...Bb7 23.Re1 g6 24.Nd2 (Now most would assume Bf3 to improve the bishop would be coming, but that would be too beneficial to White. He had another reason in mind. 24...e5 25.e4?? The perfect move to kill the bishop I bit more. Of course, this is a blunder as well as 25...Rd6! wins the entombed DSB. His bishops are so useless!

After the game, white, who apparently wasn't trying to lose, suggested that he should have tried in the above diagram g3 and Bg2, giving life to his Bishop, or playing Bd3 and g4 to pry open the b1-h7 diagonal {Wise words indeed. I know he said this because yours truly played the black side. I should have lost, but he let me bring my pieces to life while he fooled around with his bishop}. What a thought! 

Killing your pieces is a great way to not hurt your opponent (we wouldn't want to be mean). Keep those pieces directly jailed, or preoccupied so as to never get free. Part two will cover some more advanced lessons dealing with indirect methods of killing your pieces such as putting them on the wrong side of the board, or by never developing them in the first place. Great lessons to follow!