To start off the new coaching year I decided to check that my students understood about the four basic elements of chess.  “Basic Elements?”  What are they?   If you don’t know then it seems you are not alone.  Even my better students gave me a puzzled look when I asked them to list the four basic elements of chess.



Let’s suppose we are looking a a real battle between Napoleon and Wellington at the battle of Waterloo.  What factors may help to determine the outcome of the battle?  I’m thinking about such things as leadership, army size, terrain, mobility, etc.  Now let’s  convert this to chess.  The elements that I have in mind are material, time, space and King safety.  These should be covered in all your basic chess books and King safety is probably the most important one.  If your King is not safe you may soon be checkmated.  Material of course is good.  If your army is bigger than your opponent’s you will probably win, but only if you have been able to deploy and co-ordinate your army effectively.  This leads us to the element of “time.”  If I can get my pieces out into battle faster  (development) than my opponent then he will be out-numbered and I will probably win the battle.  That’s why we have gambit openings where one side sacrifices pawns (material) for development (time).  Finally we have “space” which often translates to “control of the centre.”  If I have more space it means that I can more easily move my pieces to where I want them whilst my opponent cannot do so as he is cramped.

For today’s puzzle I thought that I’d give you an example of the element “king safety” from the U/10 section of the RJ Shield Tournament last Sunday.  Have a look at the position below.  Clearly both Kings have lost their shield of defensive pawns and may be in trouble if attacked … but whose attack will get home first?  Your task is to tell me whose King is more unsafe and why.

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