This is a question I hear often from students when opening is finished and there are no clear tactical moves.
Let’s take a moment to think about this scenario.
The reason we often get stuck is because we’re looking prematurely for the final punch, even though there are plenty of game to be played.
Instead of thinking to finish the game, let’s take a step back, and make small improvement moves for our positions.
There are two questions we can ask
- How to activate my pieces
- How to stop my opponent’s plans
Activate My Pieces
Black to Move
All the minor pieces are developed for both side, now black should consider to bring rooks to the center and find ways to open up the files for the rooks.
Re8 or Qd7 are two good choices here. These moves does not win the game or have any immediate threat, but we are ‘waking up’ our heavy pieces.
Stopping Opponent’s Plans
White to Move
Similar to the previous position, white’s minor pieces are developed. Rb1 is a good idea to control the b-file, however, we can make this move later as well.
More importantly, what is black’s plan here. Where should black develop the light square bishop?
Once we ask this question, we can see g4 is the ideal square to pin white’s knight and queen. Based on this h3 would be a good prophylaxis move.
Chess can be a fast and furious game, but it can also be strategic in nature.
When the next time you don’t see clear cut moves, make sure to search for small improvements that will help you in the long haul.