I wasn’t here last week because I was teaching a chess boot camp for younger players. It was a camp for students who knew the basics but needed to improve their middle and endgame skills. I taught them all of the material we covered over the last three months. However, there was one area that proved the most difficult for my students, finding moves. Wait a minute, your students couldn’t find moves? How is that possible? After all, if they had the opening down and some basic game principles under their collective belts, they should have known how to find a move! Let me explain: My students knew their basic opening theory, following the principles to the letter. They developed their material accurately and in a timely manner. However, when they got to the transitional phase from opening to middle-game, their games started to stall. I should mention that my students were all young players. I bring this up because younger players tend to look for flashier moves, such as tactical setups and fast attacks. When these two opportunities are nowhere to found, my students became somewhat lost. Younger players like exciting chess. The majority of them dread becoming involved in a closed position. No tactics equals no fun! Of course, this doesn’t apply to every student, but there is a trend indicating this idea. Therefore, they search the position, with each move made, looking for that tactic or fast attack. The problem is that you simply can’t create a tactic or launch a fast attack if the position doesn’t warrant such a play. Sure, stronger players can set up a tactic that becomes a reality three moves into the future, but we’re talking about players whose skill set is still developing. These players are still grappling with setting up combinations and stall when an immediate opportunity doesn’t present itself. When this happens, the player with this mindset becomes lost. What should they do? When you move a pawn or piece, the square you move that pawn or piece to is not always it’s final resting place. Obviously, when a pawn reaches it’s promotion square, that’s it, there’s no place left to go. However, pieces are another matter. Think of moving a piece the way you would think about creating a sculpture out of a block of stone. In sculpting, you would start by roughing out the form, creating the rough shapes of a face for example. Then you’d start fine tuning the face by creating details, such as eyes, cheeks, lips, etc. Finally, you would smooth the rough facial features down. The point is, you keep improving the sculpture until you reach it’s final form. This holds true for developing material. You start by getting a piece into the game, moving it off of it’s starting square. This is akin to sculpting the rough shape of a human head. If you were to stop sculpting, you’d have a dreadful piece of art. The same holds true in chess. Once you initially develop a piece, you need to eventually further it’s development to make it more active. This is where my students were having trouble. They were looking for fast, easy solutions where there were none. My students were looking for moves that weren’t there, such as tactical plays and fast attacks. While they did look for ways to increase their material’s activity, they were looking for leaps rather than smaller steps. What I mean is that students were trying to find moves that would double their piece’s activity rather than a move that would improve it slightly. There is nothing wrong with idea, but if there is no move that doubles a piece’s activity, then what do you do? If you can’t find a move that greatly improves the activity of a piece, look for a move that at least slightly improves the piece’s activity. The other problem students had was not seeing that a small change to a piece’s position can create a larger opportunity later in the game. This called the snowball effect and it can happen with both good and bad moves. Bad moves in chess can create a snowball effect and good moves can also create a snowball effect. What’s the snowball effect? Let’s look at the snowball effect and bad moves. Sometimes, a player will make a small mistake, one which when looked at in the immediate, doesn’t seem to have any long-term negative consequences. However, it’s the long term you need to be concerned with. If you take a small snowball and roll it down a mountain, it will pick up speed and snow. By the time it reaches the bottom, it can be the size of a small car going fifty miles an hour. Yes, this is an exaggeration, but you get the idea. This happens with bad moves. The damage done by them increases with each passing move. What starts out as a small mistake becomes a disaster four moves later. Now we’ll apply the snowball effect to a small, good move. What kind of move is this? Moving a piece one square away to slightly increase it’s activity. You might have a Bishop that is controlling three squares from it’s current position. Moving it one square over diagonally will give it control of four squares. That is a one square improvement. While this may seem underwhelming compared to a flashier move, that one square may be a game changer later on. The trick here is to slowly build up your position by moving your pieces to more active squares. When you get the majority of those pieces to active squares, your attacking opportunities will be greater. You’ll have choices or options. Of course, you should take advantage of any opportunities for tactics or fast attacks if they present themselves. However, you’ll generally be better off if you put piece activity above fast attacks. What I did with my students was to have them try to develop their pieces to more active squares during moves 10 through 15 of their games. Next week, I am going to show you just how I had them do this. Here’s a game to enjoy until then! Hugh Patterson The post A Foundation for Beginners Sixty Eight appeared first on The Chess Improver.