CHECKS, CAPTURES, THREATS, AND SACRIFICES FOR KINGS, QUEENS, AND ROOKS!?!(STRANGE)

White to move! Can you see where everyone can and can not go!?

Chess isn’t easy by a long shot but it’s definitely more fun than difficult when it’s taught correctly. Chess, above all other things it’s called, is a discipline!!! The challenge is what are you supposed to be disciplined about? There’s a correct way to do everything. Chess is no different. Checks, Captures, Threats, and Sacrifices is the beginning of your discipline training. Lombardi said we are going to get very good at the basics. Your punches, and kicks aren’t allowed o be sloppy because everyone knows you are a Black Belt!? Ask a chess player what they are supposed to be disciplined about and the answers will make you laugh more than provide guidance. The answer should have a common level of acceptance and then gain depth and diversity!! Read your chess instructions again for the 1st time and you will understand that there are things that you are supposed to be looking for on every single turn. Once you know what to be disciplined about and follow it, it’s like making people play any other sport in slow motion!?!

Checks: In the above position, The king has 0 checks, the queen has 6 at d2, c2, b2, e1, d1, and b5, the rook has 1 check at f5, the bishop has 3 at f6, e7, and c1, the knight has 1 at f7, and the pawns have 0. To evaluate the position correctly you should 1st see how many there are then see what your opponent’s response can or can not be for each one. It’s a rotation, so you may get the answer at any time. The key to getting answers is an open mind! You can’t say, “If I play that, they’ll just take me” Ok, if you play there they will take you, but should they, can they, without any risk or penalty? The more disciplined you become about the answer to that question the more you will discover about where everyone really can or can not go!!

Captures: If you did not figure out where to go by looking at the checks, now it’s time to look a the captures. The king has 0 captures, the queen has 1 capture at b2, the rook has 3 at d5, e6, and f5, the bishops, knights, and pawns all have 0. The procedure is the same! Look at each capture and see if they really can take you back or not or where they can or can not go. Again you must look a couple of moves to see should they, can they, without any risk or penalty? This is where the w,b,w,b,w, and b,w,b,w,b, I’ve been sharing with you in the last couple of blogs comes in to play.

Threats: If you’ve looked at the checks and captures and still don’t have moves to play, it’s time to look at the threats. Remember it’s a rotation! You don’t need patience to play chess, you need patience to win at chess. That’s why your blitz and puzzle ratings keep going up, but you still keep losing when you sit down to a real game! You don’t need skill to identify checks and captures, so don’t get all proud of yourself because you got the number right! Identifying threats will require that you use the Magic 10. Look at every piece and asses their range, speed, power, force, time, space, mobility, initiative, their affect on king safety, and if they can snatch any material. The features of the magic 10 in this position are range, force, time, and king safety… Anytime your opponents king, queen, or rook has no escape square, or has to stay on a square, all it takes is 1 good check/threat to take them down. You’re going to have to talk yourself through it. All you need is 1 check on the a1-a8 diagonal and black is toast. How or who has the range, speed, time or force to help me get my queen or bishop on that diagonal? My own rook is stopping my queen and their rook is stopping my bishop.

Sacrifices: The worst trick that has been played on the mind of chess players is that a sacrifice involves the temporary loss of something!! In chess, sacrifices involve the temporary gain of something!! That gain is a change in the Magic 10. Every time a check, capture, threat, or sacrifice happens, the Magic 10 of all the pieces changes!!! So here the question is how can I sacrifice with force and gain time to get my queen to e5? “I know, Rf5!? then if they take my queen, I take their rook and mate on g8!! Oh that won’t work, they just take me with their rook. Let’s look at something else” No, let’s finish looking at what we were looking at. The key to finding a combination is to constantly be looking the length of a combination. Here is the key to the entire system. You must look at the checks until all the checks are gone, you must look until all the captures are gone, you must look until all the threats are gone, and you must look until all the sacrifices are gone. That may take 3, 4, 5, 6 even 7 moves but at the end of your analysis, you will be 100% sure of where everyone can and can not go. So, after 1. Rf5!!(check) Rf5 you must keep checking, capturing, threatening, and sacrificing until they are all gone to get the correct answer about 1.Rf5!!(check)

Checks, captures, threats, and sacrifices until they are all gone!!!

We are going to keep going until everything is gone. Now the queen has 13 checks!!! e5(3), d2, c2, b2(2), e1, d1, b5, f3, e4, and g4. the bishop has 3 checks f6(2) and c1, the knight has 1 check f7 and the pawns have 1 check g4. We started with 11 checks and now we have 18! We used a forcing sacrifice to gain range, time, and more compromised king safety. We are in the middle of our combination now so we will be going through our rotation using the most forceful moves we can find to accomplish the objective we had set!. 1. Rf5!!(check) Rf5 2. Qe5! Re5 3. Bf6 mate! Visualize everything until they are all gone.

How many checks, captures, threats, and sacrifices do you see?

Our last example was using a check against the rook to change the Magic 10 in our favor. The rotation will always be the same. By that I mean we always go in the same order Q, R, B, N, then pawns.

Checks: The queen 9 at b5, c6(2), c4(2), d3, e2(2), and f1, the rook 1 at b4, the bishops 2 at c2(2) and the pawns have 0. If you’ve found the combination by just looking at the checks, then there is no need to go any further. My suggestion is to continue through the rotation until you are 100% convinced and sure that they have no way out and you haven’t missed a defensive resource!

Captures: There’s 1 for the queen at c6, 1 for the rook at b2 and 2 for the bishops at g5 and d4.

Threats: What does the magic 10 say? My pieces are good and that check on c4 looks killer. In this position instead of using the magic 10 for me, I have to use the magic 10 against my opponent. The only thing holding that position together is the Queen. How do we zap her range, space, and mobility?

Escape squares are most limited for kings, queens, and rooks!! Check them! lol

Sacrifices: Here we know the problem. It’s the queen and here mobility. Oh wow!? the queen doesn’t have any escape squares either! 1…Rb4!!(check) They have to take with the pawn or I win the queen. 2. ab? Qc4 3. Kd2 Qd3 4.Kc1 Qb1 5. Kd2 Qb2 6. Qc2 Qc2 mate. They can’t take with the pawn, so I win the queen and get to keep my attack!!

Sometimes the checks will tell you what to sacrifice, sometimes the captures will tell you the threats, sometimes the threats will tell you which check to use! The point is, if you go through the checks, captures, threats, and sacrifices, every time, you are going to know the magic 10 of both teams, not just your own! You have to win more games when you know where everyone can and can not go for both sides!!

Now you have some idea of what to be disciplined about to win more chess games. It will only take one game of you using the information in these blogs to change the amount of fun you have when you play! This is still the tip of the iceberg. I promised you secret stuff that you’d never heard of that would explain why our students do so well so fast. how am I doing? There’s more coming!!! Your game, your inner talk and thoughts have to evolve. Remember we are a tournament chess training company. If you read and then try to discipline yourself to use this information during blitz games you missed the point!?! You must play longer time controls or be doing extremely difficult puzzles at a board to see how this works! At the beginning, doing what I say will shorten the length of your games, it’s not designed to save you time. For what I’ve explained to shorten your games and save you time. you must take these disciplines and make them habits!!!

Want to learn and see more? Get some lessons/coaching. Got a question, contact me. Mike Callaham 804-426-6058. Until then take what I’ve given you and beat the snot out of somebody!?! lol

Do You Really, Truly, Understand The Value and Properties Of The Pieces!?!

In the last blog, Va Championship Wrap Up, I let the cat out of the bag about the shortest length of a combination and the Magic 10! The Magic 10 consist of 1.) Range 2.) Speed 3.) Power 4.) Force 5.) Time 6.) Space 7.) Mobility 8.) Initiative 9.) King Safety and 10.) Material. If you are like most of our students, the properties and values of the pieces are flashing through your head as you read the magic 10. You may say to yourself… that’s easy, basic stuff. Yes the way you were taught was basic stuff, but when is your perception of the value and properties of the pieces going to evolve like the rest of your game? The chess world leaves us clues about the true nature of everything in chess!! We see them all the time and don’t realize we need that lesson, method, or attitude. A couple of examples… In any other sport, if you see a record of 15-5-3 that means they won 15, lost 5, and tied 3. In chess that means they won 15, drew 5, and lost 3. The reason our scoring is different is because when you are following grandmaster advice and playing up as often as possible, when you draw, you still get points!! Chess is the only game in the world that still has a winner and a loser when there is a tie! Why is it when you go to the back of an Informant to solve puzzles, they have mating combinations 1st, then there are combinations to draw, then there are material combinations, then there are all other combinations. If you have a Win, Lose, or Draw mentality instead of a Win, Draw, or Lose mentality you are habitually doing something wrong! Why does Chess.com have a vision exercise that requires you to tell where a board coordinate is? That’s a clue that you are supposed to know where all of the squares are and record all of your games. That has been a standard recommendation by the greatest players for nearly 2 centuries but there are still people out there that won’t do it and think they are improving intelligently!?! lol

Without boring you into submission, let’s get into our topic. Forgive my rhetorical questions, but this is supposed to be a comparison between what you believe, what is true, and which one will help you more easily and efficiently improve at chess. How many pieces does a chess set have? No silly! lol Literally, what is the minimum number of pieces you need to play a game of chess? The answer is 33!?!

The board is a piece!! You must understand and master it!

You can’t play without one. Remember, the whole idea is to be able to play chess without moving the pieces. That’s what all of us are trying to master!! Some people can see a couple of moves, some quite a few moves, others whole games, and at the highest level they are able to play multiple games without a board and pieces. Don’t argue, even if you set the 32 pieces up, you’d have to have some type of imaginary board to play and coordinates to record the game! It’s a piece.

The playing area is smaller than the board!?!

What is the playing surface of the board? There are 8 ranks and 8 files, but what is the playing surface? The playing surface is 8×7, not 8×8!?! I can’t make this stuff up. If the playing surface is 8×8, how is it that the rook can only go to 14 squares instead of 16? What will really bake your noodle is when I say that the there are only 63 squares that a piece can go to! Now that’s funny!! it can’t go the square it’s sitting on, it’s already there. The only point I’m making is that the board is a lot smaller than we think. Being able to only go 7 in any direction and knowing how the squares are occupied affects range, speed, force, time, space, mobility, and king safety!! That’s 7 of the magic 10!! When I go to teach someone chess, the 1st thing we learn is the board and how to record a game. The more you write the coordinates, the faster you won’t need a board to do combos.

How much is each team worth?

What is the total value of a team of chess players. We’ve all heard the 1, 3, 5, and 9 nonsense. Yeah I called it nonsense. The only thing I tell my students is who’s more valuable and how it translates to comparable material. The only time the team is worth 39 is when nothing has been moved!?!

The teams potential value!!

Now we are getting closer. Here we have 103! So how do we properly describe the value of the pieces? Simple… Each team starts with a fluctuating value that goes from 39 all the way up to 103. The job of each team is to help a member of the team to become priceless. Remember, when we are following grandmaster advice and playing up, wins and draws earn points. The piece that delivers the mate or delivers the draw is priceless because they are equal or better than the other persons King!!

The square the King occupies is his and his alone to occupy and control!?

Every other piece can explode and implode except the King. What do I mean by implode and explode? Every other piece can force other pieces to take them and occupy their square, The king can chase pieces, but he can’t attract. So when we look at the diagram, the king only controls 8 squares. He’s not a coward, but technically speaking he is a running piece. All the other pieces have the choice of run, take, block, or sit there. When the king is at his strongest, he requires you to see further ahead than any other piece. When met by the opposition of another king, the number of playing squares a king can go to drops to 55, (1 + 8 = 9!). Don’t get it twisted, The king is using the Magic 10 to conduct a battle. When there are no checks, captures, threats, and sacrifices, the Magic 10 will tell you what needs to be played.

The Queen reigns Supreme

From here, everyone has explode and implode!! Like the king, she can go in 8 directions. Her range, speed and mobility are 3-4 times more destructive than the kings. She has the character of a King, Rook, Bishop, and a pawn. Her only limit is that she can not move like a Knight!!

A Rook is just part of a Queen!?!

Why does everybody complicate it. You’ll learn how to use all the pieces and the board a lot faster when start asking yourself should you use the Queen or the Rook? Should I use the Queen or the Bishop, should I use the Queen or the Pawn? The right person for the job requires us to use our pieces that way!

The other part of the Queen!

The balance! A mini queen and half pawn! lol The Pawn moves like a Rook and a Bishop, just slower and can only face forward. What came 1st, the Rook, the bishop, the pawn, or the queen?

Circular Piece On A Square Board!!

How does a Knight move? It moves in an, ” L” shape is not true. The Knight is actually moving in an 8th of a circle!?!

The mysterious Knight?! lol
If it’s on dark, it’s attacking dark!

if you want congruence from a knight, you must understand that it is a 2 phased piece. It controls from where it sits, and attacks when it moves. It’s control and attacks can not be blocked. The diagram shows the squares the knight can not attack! During an endgame, hiding on a square like this can gain time!

2 moves ahead every time!!

If it’s on light squares, it’s attacking light squares. If it’s on a dark square, it’s attacking a dark squares! If I have a knight on f3 it’s attacking h7, e6, and f7. A Knight has it’s own worth! Nothing moves like it!

Look different? It should!?!

Now that you have an evolved your understanding of the value and properties of the pieces you have several advantages that you shouldn’t be sharing with anyone if you like winning.

The playing board is smaller than the actual board.

The board is the 33rd piece. When you master the board, you won’t need pieces.

Except for the Knight, all the pieces are made in the image of the king. They all do what the king does, just farther or with the added benefit of being promoted!

The Knight is a circular 2 phased piece! You must imagine it moving twice or 3 times to get a peak at it’s true power. If it’s on light, it’s attacking light, if it’s on dark, it’s attacking dark!!

Pawns move in the shape of a fan, not just nomadically down a file. Once a pawn reaches the 6th rank it’s as valuable as a piece. The pawn isn’t slow. It has the smallest playing board of all the pieces… just 40 with 8 promotion squares!!

The pieces are there for you to invest in the war effort. Their lowest value is 39, and their greatest value is 103. Success is finding a way to make one of them priceless.

The queen is a combination of 3 pieces. Always be asking if a rook, bishop, or pawn could do just as good or better job!?

The Magic 10 are what increases and decreases the value of a piece or group of pieces. Material is the last concern. Invest wisely!

Hope you learned something unbelievable. If you’d like lessons, we offer a free consultation. if you are not ready for lessons, we will get you ready for free!!

Coach Mike C 804-426-6058

Post Round Analysis At The State Championships!?!

I’ve been conducting post round analysis for Virginia Scholastic tournaments and championships for 11 years. This year it was my job to collect games for the VA bi monthly newsletter. After having surgery in August, I was in no mood to play or direct so I decided that I’d do post round analysis for the amateur and novice sections.

A recent article by Women’s Grand Master and 2 time Czech Women’s Champion Katerina Nemcova,

“Katerina’s Seven Tips For Effective Preparation For OTB Tournaments”, see Chess Life August 2021, pages 33 and 34 seemed like a must read, especially when preparing to play in a “heritage event like the 84th VA Closed! I had my issue of the magazine with me and continually asked the participants if they had read the article. The answer I got 100% of the time was no!?! I was in disbelief! As a coach, I had read this article word for word to all of my students and to some parents before this event. So then I started asking how many books they had read and if they were being coached.

Trying to get better exclusively by using online tools and coaches is the weakest link!!!

Come to find out 75% of them had not opened even 1 book to get ready for the championship. They been solving on line puzzles, playing Blitz, and watching videos. That threw me for a loop when I also discovered nearly half of them had online coaches.

It’s not the blind leading the blind! It’s the greedy leading the needy!

The next thing I noticed was how fast they were finishing their games and how unaffected some of them seem to be by the result they had gotten. When I asked about their online activity, I was hearing ratings of 1500 blitz, 1300 Bullet, Puzzle Rush scores in the high 20’s and 30’s. Even with this level of activity, the quality of the scoresheets left a lot to be desired. I thought it was because some of them were in their 1st tournament, but I was wrong on that assumption. I was getting inaccurate and incomplete scoresheets from people that were bragging about having played for years!?!

Online chess sites are in the, “fun” businesses.

Since the pandemic, there has been a dramatic increase in the number of people playing chess! Since they couldn’t play over the board, they have to play online. Chess, whether anyone wants to admit it or not, is an industry. As with any industry, there are people that give great service and people that give terrible service. One of the biggest mistakes I see parents making is they think chess instruction is a commodity!

What should you ask to protect yourself?

If you want to get a quality coach, here are some question to ask;


1.) What is your US Chess Membership #? 2.) How long have you been coaching chess? 3.) Are you licensed and Insured? If yes, What is the name of your company and what states are you licensed in? 4.) What is the name of your US Chess Affiliate? 5.) What is the age requirement for becoming a US Chess Certified Coach? 6.) What is the age requirement for becoming a Certified Tournament Director? 7.) What qualification do you use for endorsing US Chess Certified Coaches? 8.) What is the age requirement for being a US Chess Affiliate? 9.) What is the minimum age required to coach for you? 10.) What is the measure of success you use for your students? 11.) Are you a for profit or a non profit organization? 12.) What is the age requirement for a business license? 13.) What is the age requirement for going to college? 14.) What is the highest rating one of your students has achieved? 15.) How many teams have you coached at any one time? 16.) Do you have your own chess club? 17.) Do you sponsor tournaments? 18.) Have you authored any books? 19.) Do you write for any publications? 20.) Is your coaching staff required to have background checks?

If the only place they have ever been is on line, virtual is also the only type of Improvement you will see!

The 1st question will tell you a great deal about the person offering lessons or coaching. Lesson and coaching are not the same. Once you have their membership # you can find the truth about them at, http://www.uschess.org/index.php/Player/Rating-Lookup-Old-format.html There you can see their membership status, tournament history, norms performance/category, whether they are a tournament director, their peak rating, and career statistics. To see if they are a Certified Coach visit, http://www.uschess.org/index.php/Scholastic-Misc/Certified-Chess-Coach-List.html. There are people asking $25.00-$75.00 per hour that won’t even know what you are talking about or why you are asking so many questions!!! Just remember they are a business… If they don’t know the answer, don’t know what you mean, or ask why do you need to know that, move on to the next organization.

You have to start, “Right” not “Somewhere”

Everyone knows that when it come to following grandmaster advice, interpreting the results of the surveys that have been done on chess, and using chess to bolster school applications, college applications, and resumes, I am unrelenting and uncompromising!!! It was disheartening to watch players tell me they were playing the Sicilian and have no idea that …a6, …b5, Rc3, Re8, or Bh8 were all moves of standard consideration. I watched and listened as coached players tried to explain why they had played 2. d3 or 2. Nf3 instead of 2. d4 in response to the French, Caro, Modern, and Pirc. I saw games where they took on d4 in the Scotch, and moved both the e and g or the b and d pawns when fianchettoing. Too Many of the players I met were still missing 3, 2, and even 1 move blunders by their opponents because they were still stuck in the, “you take me, I’m going to take you back” mentality! Many parents and coaches just don’t realize that the longer it takes to get the kids thinking right about chess, the closer the kids get to putting the game on the shelf. They’re kids not adults!! They’ve actually told me, “If I haven’t learned how to play after spending, “all this time” it’s going to take forever to fix my game!” I don’t know who’s fault that is, I just know it’s preventable. As I’ve said for years… sooner or later if you stay with chess long enough, you are going to realize that tournaments are the only way to the benefits you were seeking. When you go up to that nice, friendly, polite, and professional clock watching coach that you’ve been paying for a year or 2 and ask them why they never stressed going to tournaments, they will say, “You never said you were interested in tournaments… we had to start somewhere?!” What that always means whether it’s chess or some other endeavor is, they got paid, and you got nowhere!!!

Yes, I’ve got openings! Call Coach Mike @ 804-426-6058!

Ready For Coaching? We Get You Ready For Free!?!

59 next month!? I’ve become the old dude. It’s terrifying! Not because I’m closer to leaving, but because there’s still so much left to do!! If I’d known just how much I was going to have to get done in this life, I’d have taken more vacations, and planned for a lot more time off!?! lol Having to get a stint put in to relieve chess pain and blockage is life altering. Life, all of a sudden feels like having an hour glass where you can see the sand coming in the bottom, but you can’t see the top anymore. So many leave with so much more at the top that I’m just grateful for the time I’ve had and the time I have left. I’m one of the lucky ones that got a warning!!

So, it’s time to make some changes. The 1st thing that’s changing is I work with and for tournament players only! Tournament chess is the only proof that will bolster a school application, college application, or resume!! It is also the only chess that matters for a scholarship!! I’ve got more secrets than Russia and the US combined and the only way to not take it with me is to declassify everything!! I’m putting all my best stuff out there for everyone to see, learn and improve from!!! There is no order because all of our lessons, group and individual, have always been custom. If you’d like an invitation to this FREE Learning Group, a free 90 minute assessment/consultation is required. You must be a, Rated Tournament Chess Player!!

Rosen 2425 vs Chow 2232 from the year 2011

As mentioned in the 11 yr old section of “Arena or Playground the 60/40 Rule”, you must be ready to play against your older opponents peak rating. Here in 2011 at the North American Invitational, Eric Rosen is just 18 years old. Albert Chow reached his peak rating of 2456 all the way back in 1993! Here black must choose between 16… g5-g2, and 16… g5-h6. The answer to that question will tell you if you are ready to be coached. Write out what you think the next 5 moves will be for each side. Write out as many continuations as you think are relevant. If you can’t write out continuations, you need coaching! If 5 moves is too far, you need coaching!! Move the pieces around as much as you like before you ask for the answers.

Callaham 1863 vs Cohen 1990 From the year 2014

The next position is from the 2014 Virginia Senior Open. This is the 3rd round of the day. My peak rating is 1943 achieved in 2003. Harry’s peak rating is 2199 that he achieved in 1997. 2 old farts fighting it out if you must, but instructive all the same. I stared at this position for 35 minutes before I finally made my move. Here you have 5 choices 16. d1- e2, 16. c2-d2, 16. g3-f5, 16. h4-f5, and 16. c1-h6. Write out the next 5 moves for each side. Move the pieces around as much as you like. If you can’t write out 5 moves for each side even when you are allowed to move the pieces, you need coaching, but you may not be ready?!

Checkmate Drills

White has just played 20. f1-d1?? Because of this blunder, black has more than 20 ways to checkmate white!! Yes, I said 20!! If you can write out 20 or more without moving the pieces, you should be coaching. These and many other practical exercises to improve your chess await you.

If you think you are ready for Tournament Coaching, we offer a free 90 minute assessment/consultation. We will discuss your goals, play the potential student, and then give you our assessment. If your student is ready, we will give you a quote. If your student is not ready for lessons, we will help you get them ready for FREE!! Rated Tournament Chess Players Only!! Call, write, or email. No texting. Coach Mike 804-426-6058. Call anytime!