21 Feb 2013

What should you do when you are ahead?


Think Defense First!! – Pretend you were the other person and see what you would do (what they are threatening). Stop that before you do anything offensively. This does not mean play passively or defensively. It is simply an ordering of priorities where you should first check to make sure the other person cannot get "back in the game" before continuing offensive play.

Play Simple! Avoid Complications. Don’t be fancy or clever. For example, if someone attacks something, don’t counterattack! – Instead, just move the piece to safety, if possible, or guard it. Complications increase the chance of mistakes, and you don’t want to make it easy to make mistakes when you are ahead.

Make fair trade pieces (but not necessarily pawns) to increase your advantage (it is better to be ahead 20 pawns to 10 than 30 to 20) This gets rid of the enemy pieces that might be used to catch up with you!

Make sure all your pieces are Active! What good is having more pieces if you are not Using more pieces? It's like a hockey team on a power play - use your extra force!

Have Less Concern about Minor Guidelines that are important when the game is even, such as avoiding weak pawns.
Avoid the Seeds of Tactical Destruction!

Bonus: Avoid unnecessary time trouble. You want to use almost all your time, as usual, but you want to aim for ~5-7 minutes left instead of almost none. Severe time trouble can cause the type of big errors which cost games.

The more you are ahead, the more you should follow these guidelines. So if you are ahead 20 pawns, it might be a great idea to trade a queen for a rook. Or, if your opponent has only one piece left and you have several, trade any piece for that piece, even if it is worth much more.

By GM Dan Heisman

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