Wednesday, June 6, 2007

For the Intermediate Player

Pawns are the soul of chess -- François-André Danican Philidor

But gambits are the windex -- His Best Friend.

One of the outcomes of this last month or so of playing with my best friend is that I have come to have a deep appreciation of the gambit. Not for their tactics, surprise or aggression. But for the clarity that they bring to a position.

It is not the game per se that is interesting, it is the point of the gambit that is. One of the key struggles of the intermediate player, is to have an understanding of the point of the game. It is one thing to recognize a skewer or a fork, and another to recognize a weak square or a pawn structure. But ultimately a player cannot make it past intermediate until he understands the fundamental strengths and weaknesses of a position. Including the starting position. The one that happens before 1. ??

Gambits are the ultimate testimonial to the weaknesses in a position. To trade material to help attack those weaknesses is the most audacious thing a player can do. The fundamental premise of the game after checkmating your opponent is to take their material so that you can simplify and overwhelm them, and win. And yet the gambit turns that premise upside down.

Interestingly enough, most gambits that have been played forever, have been found neither sound or unsound. That they have their merits, and generally nothing off the cuff that can defeat them but they are not clear winners either. But I am here not to convince you to play them, though you may. But rather it is important to study them. To study their themes, and to start to build up a repertoire, written or just known, of weaknesses that the gambits are based on.

That repertoire, not the gambits, is one of the key things that separate us from the masters. I have seen it written, and referred to as an aside. But I have yet to really see that catalog. The study of the standard weakness on the chess board.

I think this is one of the things that would help an intermediate player.

More Later...

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