Discover Tricks To Protect Your Pieces In Chess

Discover Tricks To Protect Your Pieces In Chess

In every game, the concept of Protected and Unprotected pieces plays a crucial role in shaping the outcome.

Soumya SwaminathanUpdated: Saturday, December 23, 2023, 11:42 PM IST
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Pic: Freepik

One of the earliest Checkmates I learnt in Chess is the “Scholar’s Mate”! It goes like this:

Starting position of a 
chess game 
(e4 e5 2. Bc4 Nc6 3. 
Qf3 Bc5 4. Qf7 Checkmate! White wins!)

Starting position of a chess game (e4 e5 2. Bc4 Nc6 3. Qf3 Bc5 4. Qf7 Checkmate! White wins!) |

The first key concept of this Checkmate is that the Black King does not have an escape route. As you can see the White Queen directly attacks the Black King, resulting in Check, and the Black King’s surrounding space is taken up by his own pieces and pawns, so he has nowhere to go. The second key concept of this Checkmate is Protected and Unprotected pieces. The White Queen is able to Checkmate the Black King by giving a check on f7 because the black pawn on f7 was also being attacked by the White Bishop on c4! So, on f7 the White Queen is now being protected by the White Bishop. Even though the black pawn on f7 was protected by the King on e8, it was attacked twice here, by the Queen and the Bishop, which lead to it being captured. If there had been an additional Black piece protecting the f7 square, for e.g. a staunch Knight on h6, then Checkmate would have been avoided as the Queen could have been picked up by the Knight. In a different scenario, if she had been by herself, without having the Bishop or any other White piece to support i.e. protect her, the Queen would have been unprotected and could have been picked up by the Black King himself!

In every game of chess, the concept of Protected and Unprotected pieces plays a crucial role in shaping the outcome. The 64 squares have often been described as a battlefield. Keeping each member of our army safe and helping each other during a battle is a key element of war strategy. Here are a few advantages of keeping our pieces protected:

Position after 4.
Qf7 Checkmate!

Position after 4. Qf7 Checkmate! |

Better coordination

Like we saw in the above example, when pieces protect each other, they co-ordinate well with other and help to create a “Combination” over the board.

“A Combination refers to a sequence of moves that involves a series of tactical operations, where pieces work in harmony with each other, often resulting in a significant advantage or a Checkmate. “

Safety first

One of the ways to gain an advantage in Chess is by gaining a material advantage. The side with material advantage may be able to bulldoze their opponent simply thanks to having a bigger army. When our pieces are protected, the opponent can’t just take them for free. Sometimes the opponent can capture them, but then we capture back, and here the concept of exchanges and trade-offs that we discussed previously comes into play.

Lose pieces drop off (LPDO)

GM (and PHD!) John Nunn introduced this phrase about the danger of lose pieces through his excellent book “Secrets of Practical Chess”: unprotected pieces tend to be vulnerable to various tactics and drop off the board! You might have noticed it in your own games. Next time you play a game, try to think about keeping your pieces safe. Before making a move, ask yourself, ‘Is my piece protected? Can my opponent capture it?’ This way, you’ll get better at protecting your pieces and creating harmony over the board.

Let’s have a look at the following position:

Q1: What will be your move if it was white’s turn to play?

Hint: Pay attention to which of black’s pieces

are under attack by white, and which of those pieces are defended. Now apply the concept we learnt today.

Q2: What will you be your move if it was black’s turn to play?

Hint: It’s the same concept for black as it was for white in the previous question.

These types of questions, where a chess position is presented for solving, is known as a chess problem. We will share the answers next year, I mean, in the next article. Happy solving!

(Soumya Swaminathan is an International Master and Woman Grandmaster in Chess. She has been World Junior Champion and Commonwealth Gold Medalist)

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