Keeping Your Opponent Helpless:
Part of the Chess Strategies Guide (Section 1: Strategies)

Chess Strategies Guide,
Section 1: Strategies
Stopping Enemy Counterplay
[Keeping Your Opponent Helpless]

About This Article...

Winning Chess Strategies - TeaserThis article includes my notes, additional images and interactive chess positions from my study of Yasser Seirawan's book, Winning Chess Strategies.

Winning Chess Strategies,
Revised edition
ISBN: 978-1-85744-385-1
Chapter 2. Keeping Your Opponent Helpless (p37-43)

Seirawan Strategy Examples:
  • #1: Trading Inactive Pieces for
    Active Pieces.
  • #2: The Merits of Playing Safe.
  • #3: Restricting an opponent's
    attacking options.
  • #4: Avoid creating for your opponent opportunities for Counterplay.
  • #5: Take the time to stop any
    potential enemy counterplay, if your
    army holds a permanent advantage.

Keeping Your Opponent Helpless

Strategy #1 Should your opponent's position be passive / non-threatening to your army, your objective should be to keep him in this non-aggressive state.

Avoid the temptation for show-boating, or ego-massaging gameplay ... When aiming to keep your opponent in a helpless state, your moves should be played with "safety" and "simplicity" in mind.

If opportunities arise to capture your opponent's dangerous Pieces -- and it's safe and simple to do so, then by all means, wipe the enemy off the board! One less weapon in your opponent's arsenal can only be good for your prospects of victory.

In cases where you possess a Static Advantage -- one that is permanent, or a long-term gain, such as more material/territory, or superior Piece mobility/Pawn structure -- spend time stopping any possible enemy counterplay, to maintain your opponent's helpless state.

Examples of Ways to Keep Your Opponent Helpless

Chess Strategies - SSE - Diagram 13 Seirawan Strategy Example #1
(p38) Diagram 13: Black to play.
Keene-Hartston, England, 1968
Diagram 13, left, shows Black's army under the cosh from a very dominant White army.

Black's best hope, according to Seirawan, is to "trade inactive pieces for White's active pieces", which would help to gain Space to try and build some tactical threats of his own.

White's strategy was to keep Black's Pieces tied down to defensive duties, while waiting for the position to enable him to advance his army ever deeper into Black's territory. And that's just what happened.
Chess Strategies - SSE - Diagram 14 Seirawan Strategy Example #2
(p39) Diagram 14: White to play.
Diagram 14, left, is a position setup by Yasser Seirawan to reinforce the merits of playing "safe" and not risking a winning position by trying to be too exotic.
Chess Strategies - SSE - Diagram 15 Seirawan Strategy Example #3
(p40) Diagram 15: Black to play.
Spassky-Petrosian, World
Championship Match, 1966
Diagram 15, left, contains an example of restricting an opponent's attacking options.

The purpose of this is so that you can carry out your own attacking objectives with less pressure to spend some of your attacking resources on defensive duties.
Chess Strategies - SSE - Diagram 16 Seirawan Strategy Example #4
(p41) Diagram 16: Black to play.
Matulovic-Fischer, Vinkovci, 1968
Diagram 16, left, pounces on a familiar theme with this strategy topic about Keeping Your Opponent Helpless ...

If you have the "Superior Side", you must: "take care when deploying your troops across the board. You must avoid creating for your opponent opportunities for counterplay, as that might result in them becoming the superior side!"

Includes a detailed study:
Chess Strategies - SSE - Diagram 17 Seirawan Strategy Example #5
(p42) Diagram 17: White/Black to play.
Gligoric-Seirawan, Baden, 1982
Diagram 17, left, is a second take on the same theme as shown in Example #4 (re-read the text to the right of Diagram 16, above).

The point to remember, in order to Keep Your Opponent Helpless: "Make sure you take the time to stop any potential enemy counterplay, if your army holds a permanent advantage."

From this article about Keeping Your Opponent Helpless,
Return to the Index (Stopping Enemy Counterplay)
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