There is an old chess adage, “Patzer sees a check, patzer plays a check.” My experience is that intermediate player often fall into a similar pattern of play. They see an attack on a pawn or a piece and they rush to capture the material.
One of the most valuable pieces of advice I learned from my first chess coach, IM Valeri Lilov (and I received many), was to carefully evaluate the position and consider whether sustaining the pressure on an opposing unit is better than quickly making the capture.
I’ve played more turn-based games against my opponent in the game below, and I just noticed that he’s lost roughly 100-150 rating points over the last year. He makes premature attacks and simple tactical oversights.
My initial plan was to focus pressure on the h6 pawn. Russian players have a term for these tiny advances of the rook pawns. The call them “little ears.” Novices and even some intermediate players makes them almost instinctively to fend off minor pieces. The idea of suffer the temporary inconvenience of a pin is something they want to avoid, even at the expense of a permanent positional scar in the pawn structure in front of their king. Some players even instinctively advance both rook pawns straight away. There are opening variations where advancing one rook pawn of the other by a single square is a sound move. Stronger players learn when the position requires this move and when it merely creates a target for the opponent. There are many occasions in chess when it’s better to endure pressure than to react immediately in a way that weakens your position
In my notes to the game below, I made a move that ChessBase identified as a novelty. Perhaps it is a weak play. I considered the move carefully and if my analysis was faulty, I’d love to learn how. So please don’t be shy about posting a comment with your own analysis.
The idea of 10.Qc1 was to apply pressure to the h6 pawn. I was entertaining the possibility of a positional sacrifice, the trade of a minor piece for Black’s h- and g-pawns. That would expose the black king. Black’s game quickly fell apart with an outright blunder on move 11 that captured my d-pawn instead of recapturing my bishop. This left me with a minor piece advantage. Black could have played on at a disadvantage by recapturing. It would have left his kingside dawn structure in a mess, but at least Black would not have the deficit of a minor piece without compensation.
I did not intend to rush forward with my plan of attacking h6 directly. As the game notes indicate, I intended to maintain the pressure on h6 while at the same moving on with my development with Nbd2, adding a complication on the queenside with the pawn thrust to a4, and than completing my development by connecting my rooks with the queen move from c1 to c2. The queen move would reduce the pressure on h6 but protect the pawn on a4, freeing the rook on a1 to come to a more active square.