How to play practical chess

Do you like to get attacked?

Most of us don’t. That’s why, especially in bad positions, you should aim to pose threats to your opponent. The engine might laugh at you, but your human opponent will likely be scared and more prone to make mistakes.

That’s called playing practical chess. In this article, I show you how a very strong Grandmaster made some big mistakes after I started targeting his King in a practical way.

Play The Person

What would you play in the position below? You are a clear pawn down, but there is a way to muddy the waters.

GM Eros (2585) – IM Studer (2467)

My opponent was a very strong Hungarian GM. Incredibly gifted positionally, but he does not like to have an unsafe King. So, I gave up the last triumph of my position, the powerful Bishop on b7, to create a little crazier position.

17…Bxf3! 18.Bxf3 g5!

White can’t capture fxg5 because the Bishop on f3 would hang.

I instantly felt that my opponent got a little bit nervous. His posture shifted, he started moving his feet while thinking and spending more time.

He went from a clear advantage without any risk to a crazy position.

Who cares what the Engine says (in this case, even the Engine somewhat agrees). White kept the pawn advantage after 19.Be4 gxf4 20.Bxh7+ Kg7, but now I have some open files for my rooks, and White’s King isn’t too safe.

White is objectively on top, but I have real counter chances. In human words, I changed the game from a play on one goal (either I lose or hold a draw), to an open street fight. Which ended in a crazy perpetual check.

Kf6, Rf3+, and Kg7 was the way we ended the game “peacefully”.

The Opposite Of What They Like

By the way, this also works the other way around. Some players hate to play “boring, positional chess”. Against them, it might be enough to go for a dry position and wait until they hang themself.

How To Understand What They Don’t Like?

Take into account all the information you have on your opponent and make an educated guess what they might not like. Someone always playing crazy gambits is probably on the aggressive side and doesn’t like dry positions.

On the other hand, someone playing the London, probably doesn’t want to get attacked right away.

Young players generally play more aggressively, while elderly players prefer calmer games. And as a last very general rule, nearly nobody likes being attacked and not having the initiative.

If you have absolutely no intel on your opponent, you can also ask yourself: “What would I fear in their shoes?” Then go for that. We are all human; we all have emotions. Mistakes happen when you put your opponent in an uncomfortable position. Don’t try to play like a machine.

Make life hard for your opponents, and you’ll be surprised by how many mistakes they will make.

Keep improving,

PS: This article was initially sent out to my Newsletter list. If you want to get chess improvement advice for free in your inbox, join 17,000+ chess improvers by signing up for Friday Grandmaster Insights here.

Whenever you’re ready, here is how I can help you:

  • Want to know How to train chess well? Check out Next Level Training – The Chess Training Blueprint for Adult Improvers. This course taught 600+ students the How of Chess Training. Create your high-quality chess plan and learn how to study each part of Chess, from tactics to openings & endgames. ​Click here to learn more​.
  • Check out my all-in-one Beginner Video course, Beginner Chess Mastery—Reach 1200 Online. You’ll learn all the fundamentals, from strategy to how to get the most out of your pieces, tactics, and endgames. You even get a full opening repertoire for free. ​Click here to learn more​.

I firmly believe that

anyone can improve their chess through the right mindset and training techniques.

I’m here to guide you on your journey to chess mastery.

Related articles:

Stay Up to Date

by signing up to my e-mail newsletter

Enter your email address below to sign up for receiving all my new insights, articles, books & courses

– a very short mail, without fluff or Spam

Thousands of readers and students

have already boosted their ratings and derive greater enjoyment from the game

Each week

you will receive an update on all my new articles, books & courses A very short mail, without fluff or Spam Just a little reminder to keep improving your chess.