Thursday, January 6, 2011

BOARD ORIENTATION

I find that this aspect of chess is not adequately covered in most chess literature. Much of the books today convey ideas on the ideal execution of plans and concepts, while telling the reader to be aware of traps and resources concealed  in the position.

Being aware of the situation is only inherent in the chess-player's mind after he has played many games and analysed the identical positions to note how the pieces can interact favourably or unfavourably. To the beginner and post-beginner, their games are often marred by oversights rather than missed opportunities. Some of the major ones:

a.  Missing a significant check
b.  Moving a piece from defending a critical piece or square, resulting in loss of the piece or square. Losing control of squares often seems to be taken too lightly I find in younger players. But they have not had the knowledge yet of the consequences, this will correct in due course when the knowledge is imparted.

Yet we often hear of coaches' screaming at their charges to THINK, THINK, THINK. What is this THINK? If this is not spelt out, then I do not think it is wise to put children through an ordeal of 90 minutes when they have absolutely no clue what to think.

Is this WHAT TO THINK taught to them in the first place?

I label the first WHAT TO THINK : Board Orientation.  Sorry but I've yet to learn how to put diagrams onto the page, but if you are to go through a child's just concluded game, you'll find that he does not have much knowledge of what's in front of him/her, ie what are his pieces doing, what squares can they safely go to. Half the time, the child waits for a move before his/her thinking cap activates. While the opponent is musing away, he/she gets bored waiting and starts looking at the games of others. When the clock is pressed, the player then switches back to his/her position, only to study it one more time, recollecting the pieces of knowledge of where his pieces can go to etc. Sometimes the recollection is not complete and he/she misses a detail that can be fatal, eg not seeing that the back-rank is unprotected due to his latest Rook move and BANG! comes the checkmate. The hapless parent would then rush to the victim and often the first words were " NEVER MIND, try harder next game".

When such a problem exists, coaches in my opinion, should set the tone right by asking the student to check his understanding of the pieces in the position. Were they aware of the role of each piece? Did they try to ask what their pieces are doing? Did they ask what is the latest move of their opponent is for? If the child did not do these, then it is the responsibility of the coach to drill in the routine during lesson or homework time.

Perhaps parents can also help but asking their hired coaches if this is being done? I am sure lots of unnecessary lost points and tears can be averted.

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