Chess Strategies for surviving the lockdown

With many of our team members in self-quarantine mode, we can’t think of a better topic to write about than our current situation and how, as chess players, we can take inspiration from our favorite game to beat this stalemate situation! I’m sure we can all recall a closed middle game position from one of our games. One where you wandered aimlessly without a plan and got duly destroyed. One that we regret missing a draw or a win. Has this ever happened to you?

No?

Then imagine the following position.

White to play. What are you going to do?

In this position, the great positional master, Karpov slowly squeezed the life out of his opponent and outwitted him with a clever plan.

He maneuvered his bishop, yes, that odd-looking lazy b1-Bishop all the way to h5! Meanwhile, his opponent ran out of good moves to play, and slowly suffocated to death (uh, not literally). Here’s the full game!

With most of the world already in some form of curfew, even our own team members, it’s time to reflect what Chess has to offer in this dark situation.
– Being strategic: We begin our search with this simple idea – Think ahead of time, BE STRATEGIC! Don’t just keep running around in circles. It’s not going to help in any way.
In chess we have the obligation to move; there is no option to skip a turn if you can’t identify
anything to do. This obligation can be a burden to a player without strategic vision. Unable to form
a plan when there isn’t an immediate crisis, he is likely to try to precipitate a crisis himself, usually
succeeding only in damaging his own position.
                     ~ Garry Kasparov in “How Life Imitates Chess”
Having nothing to do doesn’t mean there is nothing to get done. The strategist shines at such times. Never have we had so much personal time in all our lives, and it’s time we put it to the best possible use. Cross off those to-do lists rotting over the years, learn something on youtube, pick your favorite book, clean and reorganize your hours, analyze your chess games, and the list is endless. Be conscious of your choices and stay motivated!
[Credits: @Bunicomic on Instagram. Ironically that’s how it’s been so for some of us, including me. Got to get back to shape!]
– Prophylaxis: The art of preventative thinking:
Staying indoor accomplishes a great purpose. We’re serving the bug a distasteful medicine. Robing it of potential victims. Every action we take now – be it the careful washing of our hands, avoiding touching your face, disinfecting tasks or social isolation and distancing – are all to be taken in this light, as a prophylactic move. 
There is a lot of good medical advice from the NHS and WHO. Here are their website to read more:
Here’s my favorite game on why preventative thinking is important. Nimzowitsch restricts his opponent’s play little by little like a Python squeezing his prey, to the point of zugzwang right at the start of the middlegame. In a similar fashion, we’ll think of our prophylactics moves like a tightening grip at the throat of the Covid-19 virus

 

– Quality vs Quantity:
Having too much of something isn’t always useful. It’s sad to see people hoard toilet papers for twenty years for a crisis that will last just a couple of months. Fear and panic are our enemies. It robs the right of another person who desperately needs the same resources.
Morphy schooled the world in the quality use of pieces, as opposed to having many pieces meaninglessly loitering around the chessboard. Here’s a gem from one of his games. Look at the final position carefully. All he needed were two pieces to rip apart his enemy king. And the process he took to reach here? – Careful, quality use of his pieces!

 

It’s essential to be economical with the use of the resources we have saved up for the lock down and put it to the best, quality use! Make Morphy proud!
(Morphy isn’t going to be very happy with me gulping down a month’s worth of snacks and biscuits in just a few days )
– Protect your weaknesses:
The alarming mortality rate in elderly patients is something to be precautious about. In Chess, we’re used to this concept of improving or defending our weaknesses. Here is a list of advice for caring for the elderly from John Hopkins University: https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/conditions-and-diseases/coronavirus/coronavirus-caregiving-for-the-elderly
I love this concept in Chess where a bad piece is slowly maneuvered out of trouble and slowly starts becoming a superhero! Here’s an example:

Notice carefully how white improves the g3-knight, turning it from a bad piece to a game-changer!

Stay strong! This too shall pass!

Arun J

Content & Marketing @Forward Chess