How to Improve Pieces | Chess Middlegames

How to Improve Pieces | Chess Middlegames


Hi everyone, Stjepan here. In this middlegame ideas video I’m going to
talk about how to improve your pieces in a normal chess position. This one I’ve set up first is just an example. I’m going to talk bout that in a minute. And, I’m going to tell you how to maneuver
your pieces, how to imagine your pieces going to their best squares or best outposts, and
how to get rid of your worst piece in a position. Now, one thing that all strong players do
in a chess game is that they look for their worst piece, and once they improve its position
then usually their whole position gets better, and weaker players often tend not to do that
and they look for tactical opportunities or ways to win material instead of trying to
improve a single piece or a single square. Improving one single piece can be a major
difference. We are going to look at four examples from
real games at the end of the video. The first thing I would like to talk about
is what each piece wants to do and where each piece wants to be. First of all, the queen I’m not going to mention. The queen would like to have as much space
as possible and be centralized. That doesn’t mean that you should develop
it first, because that’s usually a mistake in the opening, but, generally, during the
middlegame your queen wants to have as much scope as possible and be influencing as many
squares and as many pieces as possible. As for bishops, bishops require open diagonals,
and, same as the queen, the control of as many key squares as possible in the position. This is just a random position I’ve set up
on the board. Just to show you an example of what you have
to think about with your bishops. Now, in this imaginary position it’s white
to play. Of course, you can see that he has a bad bishop. How to improve the bishop? On the other hand, black has a bad bishop
too, so we are going to be playing for black as well. What would white like to do? If you think of bishops, a bad bishop is a
bishop which is stuck behind its pawn chain. And here the pawns are on light squares so
the bishop is bad and the bishop needs to get out of that pawns chain. Now, one idea I can see is playing the move
d4, which tactically doesn’t work because, of course, black can recapture, recapture
and activate his bishop. On the other hand, you might be able to win
this pawn here, so it might work. So, tactically, you would have to calculate
this. During a real game I would definitely consider
the move d4. The second idea I would have during the game
would be to move my king away, probably to d2, then put my bishop on d1, and bring it
along this diagonal here. This would be activating my bishop. So lets play a move. Lets say we play Kd2. Now it’s black to play. What does black want to do? Black has an even worse bishop, and one idea
of improving the bishop, which I see, might be playing the king either to c6 or to e6,
playing the move d5, and after captures recapturing with the king and then playing the move Bb8
to activate the bishop this way. Another idea might be to simply maneuver my
bishop around to b6 and then to d8, and then to put it on this diagonal. So I would say this is the best move. lets continue with white’s plan; Bd1, lets
continue with black’s plan; Bd8, and now white can activate. Lets say this is the best square – Bf3, coming
in here. Black finishes his activity, attacking the
pawn, the white king defends, and… I don’t know, the black king can approach
somewhere, and here. Now if you compare the original position;
this position, where both bishops were dead, and this position, then you can see that both
sides managed to achieve a lot of improvement regarding their bishops. And that is the general way of thinking you
need to have during a game. This was an absurd example, in which it was
really easy to do something because nobody was really doing anything and there were no
threats. But, generally, during a game, you need to
have the exact same mindset, and you need to think about improving your pieces even
though there are tactical opportunities, you could win or lose material, or there are other
things to think about, you need to have this in mind. Lets go on; knights. In this position, and this is another random
position I’ve set up on the board, once again both sides have the same problem. This time they have a bad knight, and it’s
white to play. Where would white ideally want to put his
knight? This is what I wanted to talk about regarding
knights: knights require outposts, and bishops, of course, can move backwards and they can
move several squares away. In this position if the black bishop is ever
attacked, then it could move anywhere on these two diagonals, and it could bring itself to
safety. On the other hand, if you put the white knight
here and the black king attacks it, then the knight can only go here, here, here, here
and here, and it might just be captured. Knights require outposts, and the knights
are the only pieces which can jump over pawns, which makes them significant, but, on the
other hand, they are the only pieces that are really reduced in scope, and they often
find themselves trapped. This is the piece that gets trapped most often,
so having an outpost, which means that you have a square that is defended, is great for
a knight. I would say that the white knight belongs
here: on the e6 square. Now how do you put your knight here? That’s the tougher part. Lets look at ideas for black. Which potential outposts does black have? I would say that that’s definitely the f4
square. I would like to get the white knight into
e6, and the black knight into f4 if I were these players. How are you going to do that? That’s the tougher part, as I said. During the game you need to calculate, so
you might think ok, Nc2, Nb4, I’m threatening this pawn. If it moves then, ok… Lets say… Lets just play that. The black king has to move in order for the
black knight to get into the game. So lets say this happens. Now this pawn is attacked, so lets say king
defends, because it’s too weakening to move the pawn. If the pawn moves then the knight gets a great
outpost on the d5 square, so lets say king defends. Now I’m pretty stuck but I’ll continue. How do I get here? So I need to get here either from this square,
from this square, from this square, from this square, from this square or from these two
squares. Could I get my knight into any of these squares? That’s the tough question. I could go here and here, but the black pawn
is defending. The same goes for this square. The same goes for this one, the same goes
for this one. I could go here, so my next move might be
this, so if the black king ever moves I’m going to jump in here. Black continues his plan, etc. Improving your knights requires outposts. Just let me briefly mention rooks. Rooks need open files. This is another random position I’ve set up. You can all find the best move for white here. It’s definitely to put your rook on e1. If you can put your rook on the open file
it will have an increased scope and it will be better. Piece value is, I would say, pretty abstract,
because you can’t really conclude that the rook is worth five. If the rook were on h1, then it wouldn’t be
worth five, it would be worth zero because it’s not in the game. So a rook on f1 might be worth five, but a
rook on e7 might be worth six, and probably is. Improving your pieces is the general way of
thinking you need to have throughout the game. Now lets look at some real examples. The fist example is from the opening. I wanted just to briefly mention that because
usually it’s easier to grasp middlegame plans by using opening examples. This is the Italian. A normal theoretical position on move 7, after
black plays a6. I highlighted this knight on b1. You all know the thematic plan for the knights
in the Giuoco Piano and in the Ruy Lopez. This knight, if you know these two openings,
wants to control the f5 square and/or the d5 square. And it either does that from the e3 square
or the g3 square. Now, this maneuver is well known, so I’m not
going to spend too much time on that, and during a game, you are going to have this
maneuver in mind because you played this maneuver a hundred times, and you know that you have
to play Re1, Nbd2, Nf1, Ng3 or Ne3. This is a very common maneuver. However, during a real chess game, you don’t
have the patterns in your head and you’re not going to know this by heart and just say:
“Ok, yeah, my knight is going to g3 anyway.” During a real game, in the middlegame, you
are going to have to imagine plans like this on your own, which makes it harder, and that’s
why knowing opening plans such as this one, and this is one of the most famous examples,
is going to help you find similar ideas during real games. Now lets look at some real positions. Ok. Now, how do you go about improving your position? Firstly, this position is very tense. There’s pressure on the a file, and white
is suffering a lot. This is always a threat, and if white at any
point has to recapture with the c pawn, then black’s c pawn is going to be passed and white’s
a pawn is going to be backwards, which means that it’s going to fall. That means that this bishop can never move. Which black pieces are good? These rooks, therefore, because of their pressure
along the a file are tremendously good. They are fulfilling their role. This bishop is amazing, controlling four key
squares in the position. This queen is great too, putting pressure
on the h3 pawn, which might fall tactically sometimes. And we have two bad pieces. The bishop behind its pawn chain on e7 and
the knight on d8. I would say that these two pieces are both
terrible. Now lets remember what we were looking at
in these examples with the bishops and with the knights. We need to find an outpost for the knight,
and we need to find a good diagonal for the bishop. Two of my ideas for the bishop: either get
your bishop to f8 and then to h6, it will control
a lot of squares. The second idea: get you bishop to d8 and
then to b6, and it will control another great color complex. Which diagonal you will choose depends solely
on you, I think. One might, in conjunction with your other
plans in this middlegame, be better than the other. So this is what I would want to do with the
bishop. As for the knight; this square looks great
I think. These two look great, but for now they are
defended by the bishop. This one might work. This square looks fine. So I would probably try to find a plan to
improve both of these pieces at once. The player in the game chose this diagonal. He chose to put his bishop on 6, and he played
a great move. A move which looks subtle but actually solves
all the issues. He played Nf7. now what this does is, firstly,
it frees up the d8 square for the bishop. So it can go to b6 and get onto this diagonal. Secondly, it prepares to bring the knight
into a much more active square, putting pressure on the h3 pawn. Now, after a few moves (white played Ne3 here,
Bd8, Rf1, Bb6, Rae1), this is the position. Now, if you compare it to the original position;
look at this bishop here and look at it here! This is a very much improved piece. At the same time white didn’t do much. Very often in maneuvering middlegames, especially
in closed positions such as this one, where the pawns are locked, you are going to have
time to maneuver. And don’t waste your time improving pieces
which are already good. Try to use… I always use what Yasser Seirawan suggested
in one of his books. And that’s talking to your pieces. Just look at the board and ask your pieces:
“Where do you want to be? Are you good on this square? Would you like to be somewhere else?” And this actually works. If you don’t ask, you won’t know the answer. So this bishop is already improved, this knight
might come in here, or might reroute somewhere else, but black already managed to achieve
a lot. Lets look at the second example. In this case, lets look at all of black’s
pieces. I’ve already given up the answer as for which
piece is worse. Maybe I shouldn’t have done that. Lets look at what the pieces are doing. This bishop is amazing pinning the knight
to the queen. This queen is marvelous putting pressure on
the same knight. This rook as well. So all of these work. This rook is on a semi-open file, putting
pressure on the undefended pawn on d4. A marvelous rook! And this knight… I’m not sure if it could be any better. The move f3 would weaken the position too
much and lose the exchange in the process, so this knight is perfect as well. The only piece that isn’t really doing anything
is this bishop. Now, not that it’s a tactical liability, the
knight isn’t threatening to take because it’s pinned, but it’s just a bad bishop. It’s staring at this pawn which might be something,
but the bishop could definitely be improved. This position is much simpler than the last
one. How do you improve the bishop? What do you want to do? The best thing to do with your pieces is to
either create weaknesses or to put pressure on weaknesses which are already created. And playing the middlegame in a way in which
you constantly create threats is going to make playing significantly easier and your
opponent is going to be under a lot of pressure and he is going to have to think a lot more
than you are. So creating long-term plans for your pieces
and putting them on squares where they are either provoking weaknesses, creating weaknesses,
or pressuring weaknesses, is the best idea. I think it’s pretty clear in this position
where this bishop wants to be and what it wants to attack. My first thought when I looked at this position
was Bb8, Ba7. Now what do you think about this bishop putting
pressure on the f2 pawn along with the knight, pinning the f2 pawn if the d4 pawn moves,
and along with the rook putting pressure on the d4 pawn. I think that, after Bb8, which was played
in the game, Rad1, Ba7, this pawn is attacked twice. It can move but then it pins this pawn. Black’s position is perfect. I don’t think that any of black’s pieces could
be improved any further and this is just marvelous. Now, another subject I’m going to talk about
is patience. What to do when your pieces are perfect. That’s for another video so we are going to
get to that, but for now you’ve just improved your worst piece. Now, once again, imagine this position here
and this position here. Where is the bishop better? The bishop here is controlling one, two, three
squares, attacking two pawns and these I wont even count. And the bishop on a7 is doing a tremendous
job in the attack, so the bishop has definitely improved. What you have to do is find the worst piece
on the board, and you can find that easily using these examples. Is my bishop good or bad? Compare these two. Is my bishop behind my pawn chain? Is my knight on the rim of the board doing
nothing, or does it have a great outpost in the center of the board? Is my rook behind my pawns or is it on an
open file controlling key squares? You can do that. Do that and you will find a bad piece. You don’t have to find a horrible piece. Sometimes your position is going to be good
and harmonious, and you are going to have just one piece which is unhappy, which could
be improved slightly. And once you do that your position is going
to be this much better and you are going to be more likely to win. The third example is… quite… easy to see
after we’ve seen all of these exercises. And… you have one bad piece. That you can see easily. The rooks are fine, definitely. You want to play the move a5, open up the
queenside, put pressure on the queen, put pressure on the remaining pawn, and the rooks
can’t really be improved. You could argue that the queen could be improved,
but how? Perhaps queen to f2 or queen e1 and coming
in here, going in for an attack. The knight might also be improved, but it’s
actually fine here. It could jump into h4, g6, so the knight is
fine. Now lets look at the bishop. The bishop is bad, definitely. It’s stuck behind its pawn chain and it needs
to improve. Once again, you have this position, it’s your
turn to move. Look at the position, find the worst piece. You can do that easily, we just did that;
rooks fine, queen ok, the knight fine, bishop horrible! Lets do something about the bishop! Once again, look at the diagonals, where do
you want to go. You can either go Bf2, Bh4 controlling this
diagonal, or you can go Bc1, Ba3 controlling this diagonal. In this particular case, tactically, it might
be better to get to the a3 square because you have a rook on f8, so it serves one more
purpose. So I would definitely do that. White to play, I would play Bc1. Lets give a move to black, lets say putting
pressure on this pawn, so the bishop can’t move. You don’t really want to move your g pawn. You can play, I don’t know queen here. And once you do this… ah, sorry, lets give
another move to black. Once you do this your bishop has improved
significantly. Remember that during a real game you need
to find a way to improve each and every one of your pieces. Once you find yourself in a middlegame position,
when it’s your turn, I would advise you to calculate, and I’ve made a video on calculation
and how to improve it and I’ve also made a video on creating plans which can help deepen
this knowledge from this video. And once it’s your own move, you need to calculate,
you need to think of specific moves, specific variations; does this work, am I losing anything,
am I winning anything? Just go: “I go here, he goes there.” Just calculate. And when it’s your opponent’s move, during
a tournament game, spend your time to find plans like these. Talk to your pieces. I usually, when it’s my move, I try to use
my time as wisely as possible, and I try to do hard calculation without too much general
thinking, and once I make the move, then I start thinking about my pieces and I do this. And I think about: “Ok, where would this piece
want to go? Where would this piece want to go?” And once my opponent makes a move, I will
usually have one plan which I can still follow up with and which my opponent hasn’t destroyed
with his move, so it will generally work. Remember to try to find plans like these when
it’s not your move because that will be a wiser way to use your time. Ok, I hope you liked this video on how to
improve your pieces. Please let me know what you think. Let me know if there are any great game examples
with this idea. And thanks very much for watching! Stay tuned for more chess! Bye, bye!

27 thoughts on “How to Improve Pieces | Chess Middlegames

  1. I discovered your channel a few days ago. I want to tell you that I am impacted by the quality of your lessons. I am very grateful for everything you share. Regards

  2. Sir u r really Awesome, once again very useful Lecture, i am improving my chess by watching your Lectures. Thanks for this huge support absolutely free. Bravo !

  3. One of the best channel! Broadcasting the most useful lectures! Now Tell us about how to blocade the opponents pieces and obstruct their piece improvements!

  4. Its 2 .45 am in India but i cant miss a middle game idea video.😁 clear explaination and u rock.Nice video. Waiting for the next😁

  5. Thanks! What website should I go to or what should I Google to be sure I don't miss any of your upcoming or past videos.? Keep up the good work.

  6. This was a an awesome lesson I learned so much new things especially how to relocate the bishop in more then one move. Somehow I don't see things like that naturally. These lessons rock thank you so much for putting all your energy in it, it really shows. Two thumbs up.

  7. Sir I have problem that after improving the pieces and the position ,what to do if there is no sudden attacking possibilities and no plan for winning

  8. Very well explained. Just watched 1 video on your channel and I immediately subscribed it. You have great quality in teaching chess. Great work.

  9. This is good, the improvement of the position is often something my opponents don't know they even need to do, instead they just look for tactical things that aren't there, like that black cat in a dark room. After the opening they don't know how to follow up by doing the sorts of things you discuss here. Thanks!

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