There are few things sadder in this world than seeing an entombed piece or a Bishop blocked by your own pawns sitting there without a prayer or a life. Out of all the Chess pieces, Bishops, Knights, Rooks, Pawns, every one of them should be activated in the best way possible for their specific strengths and weaknesses. Bishops are powerful on open diagonals, Rooks want to be on open files, Knights want strong support in the middle of the board. This is where piece activity comes in. This article is all about the activity of pieces, a concept amateurs often neglect.
Importance of Piece Activity
Piece activity is one of the most important strategic factors. As we will see later, piece activity is not limited to mobility of pieces, but also includes other aspects like piece coordination. Let’s talk about each of these factors.
Having strong activity of pieces is one of the biggest differences between lower rated players and higher rated players. Activating your pieces seems obvious when hearing it out loud, but in practice, it’s one of the most common mistakes you’ll see players make.
Players will activate two or three pieces, and then continue to try and establish some sort of attacking strategy with just those pieces while ignoring the rest of their army. This is a big mistake. Activating all of your pieces crucial to an overall strategy and better done as soon as possible rather than later.
All of your pieces should be used as a team, together. When working together, they are stronger. What would happen if a chunk of an army broke away from the rest and started doing their own thing trying to attack the enemy? They would die and also weaken their own army. We want the exact opposite of this in Chess.
Each piece should be working with one another, complementing each others strengths and weaknesses. This concept is known as piece coordination. Pieces should coordinate with each other to work towards victory.
White is castled and has activated King-side pieces. White even fianchettoed the light squared Bishop. However, White hasn’t developed any Queen side pieces at all. Before White moves another piece on the King side, the other pieces should be activated.
Black has developed most of their pieces, even though they aren’t on ideal squares, they are still activated. Players often make the mistake of immediately attempting to formulate some sort of attack on the King side, since their King side pieces are active and mobile, or even expanding their center pieces even further into the center capturing more space. However both of these strategies would fail, assuming the opponent knows how to stop blundering, White should activate the b1-Knight and c1-Bishop first. Develop and active all piece so your whole army is fully mobilized. Then you can formulate a much stronger and protected attack. White’s next move should be Nd2.
Keep in Mind: Placing the Knight on d2 doesn’t mean the Knight should then be forgotten and left there. When coordinating your pieces, placing them on the best square possible in the given position is the goal. d2 isn’t the best square by any means for the Knight, but it’s a good starting square to go to so White can continue activating the rest of the pieces. The Knight should eventually land on a square where it can prevent Black from moving to a square or two while also defend ally pieces and attack enemy pieces.
Don’t put pieces on any square thinking “that’s good enough”. Your pieces deserve nothing but the best, most optimal square on the board. This is so important, that it’s worth it to take two or three moves moving the piece around to then be able to land on the best square possible. If you had an archer in your army, you would want that archer to be high up, difficult to attack and also difficult to stop being attacked by the archer. Placing that archer on the ground would be wasting the archers potential power.
Mobility of Pieces
The mobility of a piece is the number of squares to which it can move. You can simply count these squares, but keep in mind that control of the centre and generating threats on your opponent’s side of the board is of greater value. Depending on the chess piece this results in some other sub goals.
Knights have to be centralized. There are several chess aphorisms referring to this principle: A knight on the rim is dim and A knight on the side cannot abide.
Bishops should not be locked behind the pawns of their own color. A Bishop which is hemmed in by pawns of its own color is called a Bad Bishop.
Rooks are best placed on open files, but as you may notice the number of reachable squares doesn’t increase by centralizing them, while they become more vulnerable.
One of the opening principles is to develop your pieces which increases their activity. Avoid moving a piece twice during the opening is also a good chess strategy originating from this activity goal. This means that when you have developed a piece, it should not be moved again until the other pieces have been developed.
I hope this guide on piece activity helped you. Continue to the next post teaching you about Forks in Chess.