Confidence is an important quality that most good chess players have.  Some of them have too much of it!   The German Grandmaster Bogoljubov once said “When I am White I win because I am White … when I’m Black I win because I’m Bogoljubov!”

One situation when you need confidence is when your opponent offers you a draw in a level position.  Do you take the draw (particularly if you are playing a stronger opponent) or do you play on and risk everything?  I think most of us would take the draw.  I had a interesting lesson with one of my students yesterday who was faced with just this dilemma.  He was playing a slightly higher-rated rival as White and reached the position below.  Material is even and the position is pretty blocked.  Black played 1…Bc8 and offered a draw.  My student thought for a bit then accepted the draw.   Was he right?   Study the position below before you read my comments or play through any moves.

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I stared at the position from a strategic point of view and it dawned on me that perhaps my student didn’t understand about space.  White clearly has more space on the Kingside thanks to his advanced pawn on e5.  This suggests that he should attack on the Kingside.  Space allows you to easily move pieces into the area where you have more space whilst your opponent’s pieces are cramped and may not be able to come to the rescue in time.   Once you have a majority of attacking pieces in that area you organise a break-through (possibly with a sacrifice) and win!   If one player is attacking on one side of the board usually his opponent’s best response is to counter-attack in the centre.   Fortunately for White in this position the centre is blocked and even better the queenside is blocked (save for the open “c” file) so Black’s options for counter-play are limited.  Perhaps Black can get a knight to the outpost on c4, but it will take a while.  My conclusion therefore was that White had much better chances because of his extra space and mobile pawns on the kingside gave him good prospects of a winning attack on that flank.   Perhaps you agree with my conclusion?  In any case I hate draws and would almost always play on.   That is where confidence comes in.   If you are too scared of losing you won’t become a good player.   Now please play through the moves in the diagram.