Played by me (White) lately. Rev up engine of choice and weep.

[FEN ""]
1. d4 Nf6 2. Bg5 e6 3. e4 h6 4. Bxf6 Qxf6 5. Nc3 Bb4 6. Qd2 d6 7. a3 Bxc3 8.Qxc3 Qe7 9. e5 O-O 10. Nf3 b6 11. Rd1 Bb7 12. Be2 Rc8 13. O-O Nd7 14. Qe3 Nf8 15. Rfe1 dxe5 16. Nxe5 c5 17. Bh5 g6 18. Qxh6 {A} 18...Qh4 19. g4 {B} 19...Qh3 {C} 20. d5 Bxd5 21. Rxd5 exd5 22. Nxf7 {D} 22...Qh4 {E} 23. Re5 Kxf7 {F} 24. Bxg6+ Nxg6 25. Rf5+ Qf6 
26. Rxf6+ Kxf6 27. h4 {G} 1/2-1/2

Some comments based on a quick(!!) LiChess stockfishing.

  • A 18.Qxh6: I simply overlooked the pin (as I always do) and only calculated (I can't calculate anyway) 18...gxh5 19. Rd3 h4 20. Ree3.
  • B 19.g4: The engine still gives its OK, but I have to follow up with 19. Ng4. But in the main line I still am a piece down and no mate is in sight. The question below deals with exactly this (type of) position.
  • C 19...Qh3: Obvious human move, since I now must throw another exchange, but hands back advantage.
  • D 22. Nxf7: Obvious human smokescreen, but 22. Qf4 (point: 22...Rc7 mostly only move, but runs into discovered attack) holds.
  • E 22...Qh4: Obvious parade against 23. Qh8+ Kf7 24. Bxg6+ Nxg6 25. Qxh3 is obvious, but my face after 22...Re8 (second best) and then exchanging and executing the combination would have been priceless. (See the snag?)
  • F 23...Kxf7: Half a dozen WAT? moves of the engine are better.
  • G (game end): Peeking at the lousy time of my opponent, I quickly offered a draw. Accepted for same reason (and maybe my large ELO plus, especially in the endgame). If Black can ever organize his play, I'm so fritzed. Engine still gives a slight White advantage, but it tends to go down the longer it calculates. (Hey, my master instincts are not that worthless.)

So, here my question. Assume you end up (or have the option to end up) in a position indicated in comment B. Totally unbalanced, material vs king safety.

  • If you are an engine, fine.
  • If you are Tal, also fine, he actually managed to calculate such lines concretely.
  • If you are young Hauke, don't bother, you're playing chess for fun and you have extremely good intuitive judgment of chaotic positions.
  • Alas, I'm an old geezer now. I can't calculate (I repeat), even less than ever. My intuition is on the wane too.

Do you have any good (based on objective measure!) advice to deal with such positions than simply not getting into it - "Then don't play Qxh6, for Pete's sake, and accept the position will quickly draw out!" (For example, after 19. Ng4 cxd4 20. Qf4 Qe7 21. Qxd4 etc. there is probably a list of human candidate moves longer than my arm, and the engine prefers still another based on random tactics.)

  • META comment: Do we have tags equivalent to "intuition" or "unbalanced", for starters? Commented Jun 24, 2022 at 8:38
  • 1
    I must comment that this is a very interesting and informative question-and-context for many of the rest of us here. :) Thank you for being so forthright in your appraisal of your situation! :) Commented Jun 24, 2022 at 21:53
  • Are we talking blitz or standard time control? The only general piece of advice is to embrace the chaos and keep your wits about you, but that might not be what you're looking for. Humans are always going to miss things in these kinds of positions, it is virtually impossible not to, and basically it's just about doing what Tal and Nezhmetdinov did and have some ice in your stomach when playing these positions.
    – Scounged
    Commented Jun 24, 2022 at 22:21
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    I can not refrain from mentioning that I find it hilarious that you as a titled player would ask us that here. I'm already looking forward to see the answers ;)
    – Hauptideal
    Commented Jun 25, 2022 at 22:00
  • 1
    @Hauptideal: Indeed, as a 15 year old I would rather have had asked "How do I get in those positions?" :-) Commented Jun 26, 2022 at 7:04

2 Answers 2


I'll allow myself to read two questions here, since I'm somewhat familiar with the latter of them.

Q: How to deal with material vs king safety? A: Rip it open and apart!

  • Try to envision how to benefit from said imbalance in a most general / least concrete way. Conclude heavy pieces against an open king. You spotted the (double) rook lift; so

  • take a breather and see if you can make a Rg3+ work.

Clearly, the general strategem "rip it open!" then undergoes a more detailed study of which moves are there for your opponent, which not and why so, very much concrete, or at least pattern recognition in case of Not thinking anymore-Hauke; but formulating a strategem is the right thing to do imho, and taking a step back and let go of immidiate concrete thinking is helpful towards this. Which brings me to the implied second question:

Q: How to deal with surprises? A: Relax!

  • The mindset of what's wrong with my opponents move. Try to overcome the surprise factor of an unexpected reply. In your example, the pin to your bishop turns out to be best for black, but still not good enough; the questioning mindset towards this pin, when unforseen, may even lead to outright finding Ng4 and its subsequent grip on their king. Other times, it just calms nerves, useful in general and especially in time trouble.

  • Bodily exercises; juggle your shoulders, spin your head around, breathe heavily. Sounds like I'm a yogi, but it does wonders in itself, plus supports an initial distancing from concrete searches, thus allowing for finding and formulating general plans before one undergoes the business of ordering moves.

  • Lastly, have trust in your spidey senses. There is likely a good reason why one is attracted to a certain move; don't let the minor fact of having overlooked a reply deter you. (At times, we steer into commital lines with no clear resolution in sight, where we couldn't bother less about not foreseeing replies.) Similarly, trust yourself to find conrete stuff with nuances on the fly, once you came up with the general strategem.

  • Peter Fischer....no relation
    – Savage47
    Commented Jun 27, 2022 at 23:50

To repeat what was edited out by someone else, this is difficult to see on mobile so I'm just just going to give general advice.

If you're the attacker, the number one thing is to not overplay the position. You think your opponent is terrible so you start throwing your pieces away and then you don't have any pieces left. Also, keep "bail-out" moves in mind. These are moves that can get you to a reasonable position if things aren't going your way.

As the defender, you should want to develop and consolidate your position. Then, look for ways to create counterplay. Look for moves that attack and defend at the same time. Try to take back the initiative. Lastly, don't be afraid to give back material.

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