Strategic Play: Increase your Options

“I don’t believe in psychology. I believe in good moves.” – Bobby Fischer

Bobby Fischer was one of the all time greats in positioning the chess pieces. In his games, we find brilliant pawn structure and resource “mobility.” Raw mobility in chess means having positioned your pieces in a way that allows you the greatest number of moves – if you have more choices then you will generally have more effective attacks on offense and a more composed defense available should you face a threat.

Having options wins games, often all by itself.

“Fischer was a master of clarity and a king of artful positioning. His opponents would see where he was going but were powerless to stop him.” – Bruce Pandolfini

The other side of this is of course to minimize the chances of your opponent. We have to face opponents not only in chess, but also in our personal relationships, business and every other undertaking, whether they are people or real-life situations and habits we want to change. Boosting your options while limiting those of your rivals is a good lesson to learn in life and chess.

Consider the game position from Fischer – Benko, in the US Championship 1963. White has just played the “binding” move of 11. f5, forcing his opponent to reduce the utility of his own pieces…

Fischer - Benko, US Championship 1963 - white just moved f4 f5!

Although he has not castled yet (we’ve discussed King Safety in a previous post), White has a perfect example of piece mobility – almost every piece actively covers the others, the queen is in a strong mid-board position, the rooks are one move away from doubling (directly supporting each other), the bishops are centralized next to each other with open diagonals available, and the pawns are threatening from positions that don’t hamper the force’s movement. Like a happy family, they are all tied to each other, support each other, and don’t impede each others’ advancement.

In business also, you should “Keep your options open.” For example, if you are running an adult technical education program, keep an eye on how the trend is being changed in the field; for instance, is the night computer lab your most used venue? Perhaps transitioning to flexible class hours or online courses would work better for your students, increasing your school’s appeal. If you’re in high demand you can both expand your offerings and raise your tuition too!

By seeing the trends early elsewhere, you may be able to transition an under-performing method into a winner, whether by shifting resources into it, or emulating the other more successful “pieces on the board.”

“Don’t get hung up on static formations. In chess, all things are fluid, because mobility is everything. Formations are only valid as part of a sequence or plan, not as goals.” – Bruce Moon

Having a “plan B” doesn’t mean that you are dividing your efforts, …

but instead increasing the likelihood of your ultimate success. It’s as if you have moved you Knight from the corner to the center of board, enhancing the opportunities to combine it’s power with your other resources and ultimately provide a win.

Chess is a game of persistent, applied focus and determination, and in both Chess and Life there are no shortcuts to becoming a Master. You have to learn and improve every day, protect what you have, make plans of what you want to achieve, study the board, and try to create more options for yourself with every move. All of us are playing the game; every passing moment brings us closer to the destination or pushes us further away.

Watch the clock, move with precision, and learn from your mistakes. Increase your Options when you can. Play like you want to win. Be Strategic.


Postscript: The complete Fischer – Benko game can be found in an interactive format HERE

Image: Fischer – Benko 1963, created with

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