Thursday, July 22, 2010

Not all Bads are Equal

At, Dan Heisman has a terrific article with the above title. He makes the profound point that inexperienced players often lose games because they have learned a lot of chess principles, but not their relative importance. He observes that, "Lower rated players have little trouble valuing most material issues, but many are absolutely clueless when assessing issues that are generally not quantified." For example, after 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bc4 Nf6 4.Ng5 d5 5.exd5 Nxd5 6.Nxf7!? (the Fried Liver Attack) Kxf7 7.Qf3+, the only move is 7...Ke6! with an unclear position that has been debated for centuries. Instead, most inexperienced players will retreat with 7...Ke8?, leaving them down material with a lost game, explaining that "I didn't want to expose my king." True, exposing one's king is bad, but being up a piece (as Black is after 7...Ke6!) is good, while being down material for nothing (after 7...Ke8?) is terrible. Another example he points out is that low-rated players will sometimes avoid exchanging pieces when they are ahead, yet will blithely trade off into dead-lost endings when they are behind. It's a very worthwhile article for anyone who is a low-rated player or teaches low-rated players.

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