A Stitch in Time. On Prophylaxis 4
From chess fashion back to prevention
A recipe for survival? Get strong. Then act from the position of strength and go the distance.
But how to become strong? It is a matter of strategy, setting up your men (“piece coordination”, Capablanca’s main principle throughout), getting them establish contact with strategically important points, and building your position so as to be flexible enough to withstand enemy threats and serve as an offensive platform for launching assault at the time and place of your choice. After all, no tactical blow may come out of blue.
There is, very importantly, dimension of time in it. You should maintain a solid position, or even strengthen it over time. On the other hand, you do everything that your competitor’s position is getting looser and looser over a period of time. You stay stable (=stand firm), while trying to get him out of balance creating weaknesses in his formation, normally by using elements of movement and surprise. This is something that much less time is dedicated to when we study chess, in contrast to tactics (usually taken in isolation from positional considerations to which it should serve as building blocks), openings, etc.
How to keep your position robust?
By using the universal method of prevention, that is, taking all necessary measures with the aim to keep back anything that may get your position deteriorating. As the Super coach Mark Dvoretsky put it, developing prophylactic thinking allows the chess player to take a huge step forward, lifting the level of his game considerably. Ergo, you should always combine your own plans with those of your opponent. And you should always play so as to reduce his options and possibilities. When you are defending a difficult position, you constantly have to look out for threats, and in carrying out an attack you have to bear in mind your opponent’s defensive resources. It follows that gaining experience of prophylactic thinking can have a beneficial influence on practically all areas of your game.
One stitch in time saves nine.
Here are some more examples of preventive thinking.
In #1, Black came up with a plan to get rid of the best placed enemy piece (following the rule “trade the strong enemy pieces, fight the weak ones”). White didn’t see and do anything to frustrate the plan; soon, his position deteriorated and he lost the game. We can also see (the 16th move) that prophylactic moves can be sharp and aggressive at the same time!
In #2, Black had a certain positional advantage, but didn’t use prophylactic thinking to keep White from centralizing his king which would have given Black possibility of improving his position undisturbed had White’s king held back. As a result of neglected prevention on Black’s side, White improved the overall health of his position and game ended drawn in the end.