The main principle of strategy has been known (at least in written records) since VI century BC: Forestall the enemy’s plans, fight their own strategy, Sun Tzu, our venerable consultant on matters of strategy.

Then in the year 1645, a Japanese samurai warrior, Miyamoto Musashi, expressed the very same idea this way:

Whatever the enemy tries to bring about in the fight, you will see in advance and suppress it. When the opponent attempts to execute his (sword) move, frustrate it from the onset, make whatever the opponent is trying to accomplish of no use, and achieve the freedom with which to lead the opponent about.

He might have played Shogi, but all the chess strategists should now stand up and bow down to this man:

Miyamoto Musashi, The Master

Hey, those guys did know a thing or two about strategy, huh?

This principle has never ever failed in any conflict: war, business, sports, chess, you name it.

Any expectation, any intention by the opponent, any sign of activity that may develop into something harmful is to be disrupted at the root by all available tactical means (tactics are just building blocks of strategy).

Quite naturally, we should just follow this golden rule in chess, the game of strategy, right?

Yes, but not many of the rest of us do.

Why is it? Why we don’t start teaching this simple cardinal principle from the onset, so it becomes part of our chess instinct? The concept has already been known to the powerful subconscious brain (they also call it “primitive”, o sancta simplicitas! it’s much, much smarter than you ever thought it could be). Buried deeply inside your subconsciousness, acquired through past experiences from sports, war movies we watched without a blink – at least boys – it’s been just waiting there for you to activate it. For you to become a winner.

(I’m afraid, I must keep repeating this over and over again as this is the single most important thing that you will ever need in chess, business, or sports, and, for that matter, any other competition for a life time!!)

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Okay, we know what’s the main principle. But what’s the “chess pendulum” anyway?

Actually, it’s one of many “small” strategies. We need to learn them too. FM Anatoly Terekhin has collected more than 120 (in Strategic Methods in Chess, Samara, 2005, ISBN 5-9900489-1-2, he presented nine of them).

In my latest post on grand scheme of hierarchy in chess few major strategies were mentioned in the strategic level (E).

One of them was weakening of the enemy position (E6). It’s a potent weapon with different flavors and today we’re going to demonstrate a method called “chess pendulum”. Chess what?

I’ve asked IM Ashot Nadanian, the second of the #3 in the world, GM Levon Aronian, to best translate Russian “маяатник” in this context for us. In my mother tongue (Serbo-Croatian, an old relative of Russian) there’s a similar verb with a meaning “to annoy someone”. But pendulum fits in perfectly.

At the same time we’ll take a quick look at another strategy: trading your “bad” pieces for the enemy “good” ones (E4). Also very, very important, another biggie (there’s hardly ever an equal trade in chess. One side or another almost always gains some advantage. If only we could learn how and when to do it, we all would be much better players. So train your subconscious brain engine to watch closely whenever an exchange happens in a GM game you may go over. Try to figure out why they went for it and what kind of advantage they may have gained. That way you will learn a lot).

* * *

Back to the pendulum. It’s a close relative of the “vanishing move” strategy, with the same goal – to weaken the opponent’s position. In a different form though:

The piece returns to the original square, giving over the right of move to the other side, but the position has changed favorably (in contrast with the vanishing move, all pieces may do the pendulum, not just Bishop).

To demonstrate, here’s a position two chess legends played almost hundred years ago (just en-passant, study primitive classics!):

Capablanca - Alekhin, St Petersburg 1913, after 11...Nb6

12. Ng5!

“Forcing the Black to play g7-g6, which will weaken his K-side and make holes for the White’s dark-squared Bishop”, Capablanca, My Chess Career.

12. …g6 13. Ngf3

Capablanca - Alekhin, after 13.Ngf3

The pendulum operation carried out. Weaknesses inflicted. At the same time “this move is making room for the Queen’s Bishop. White could have also played 13.Qe2 and if  13…Qxd4 14.Ngf3 followed by Bh6  and Ng5 with a violent attack”, Capablanca.

13. …Kg7 14. Bg5 Nbd5 15. Rac1 Bd7 16. Qd2 Ng8 17. Bxe7 Qxe7

Capablanca - Alekhin, after 17...Qxe7

18. Be4!

“This move I considered a very long time. It looks very simple and inoffensive, yet it is the foundation of the whole attack against Black’s position. The fact is that the Bishop is doing very little, while the black Nd5 is the key to Black’s defense, hence the necessity of exchanging the almost useless Bishop for a most valuable Knight”, Capablanca.

18. …Bb5 19. Rfe1 Qd6 20. Bxd5 exd5 21. Qa5 a6 22. Qc7 Qxc7 23. Rxc7 h6 24. Rxb7 Rac8 25. b3 Rc2 26. a4 Be2 27. Nh4 h5 28. Nhxg6 Re8 29. Rxf7+ Kh6 30. f4 a5 31. Nh4 Rxe5 32. fxe5 Kg5 33. g3 Kg4 34. Rg7+ Kh3 35. Ng2 1-0

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Let me be perfectly clear. There are two things that should become your first instinct in chess, an indispensable part of everybody’s subconscious, strong chess vision engine, so you never ever again even have a slightest thought about it:

1. Strategy #1

2. Basic chess contacts

Period.

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