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The power of threats: How to find dominating moves in chess!

An attacking move that forces your opponent to defend in a passive way is nearly always a good move. Yet, the power of a move that carries a simple threat is often underestimated!

In this article I will discuss why simple threats are so powerful and why you should focus on playing such moves even when your opponent can easily defend against it.

White plays Nc5. This move threatens both the bishop on a6 as well as the pawn on e6. If black wants to save both he will have to play the passive move Bc8.

What is a threat?

A threat is simply a move that attacks one of your opponent’s pieces (either an undefended piece or a higher valued piece) or threatens to get some advantage if your opponent don’t find an accurate defense.

When you make a move that threatens your opponent in some way, they will forced to react to that threat or else face the consequences.

You may ask – “but what is the use of a simple threat if my opponent can easily defend against the threat?” This is a good question with a good answer: A threat forces your opponent to defend in a certain way whilst at the same time your own pieces become more active!

That is a good thing for you because it is easier to plan ahead when you already know that your opponent must respond in a certain way. This is also referred to in chess as “having the initiative” and it implies that you are limiting your opponent’s options by continuously making threats to which they must respond.

A threat can also be seen as the simplest form of a tactic and it is often the starting point for more spectacular tactics.

In other words, when your opponent must defend against a threat – they don’t have the time to improve their position or advance their own plan. You are in control. If you can make a threat that forces your opponent to defend, do it – this is how you can dominate the situation!

To see an example of what I mean, check out the link below.

Magnus Carlsen Demonstrates The Power Of Forcing Chess Moves
(I recommend you read this article to get an even better grasp of the power of threats.)

But here’s something about threats that you must also understand:

Real threats vs. Imaginary threats

Not all threats are real. Sometimes they are an illusion and it is up to you to investigate whether a perceived threat is a real, or imaginary threat.

Real threats. I am talking here about threats that force your opponent to defend or retreat. In some cases your opponent can deal with your threat and at the same time improve their position. In that case, your move was not a real threat – it was an imaginary threat.

Imaginary threats are not always bad, but keep in mind that they don’t carry the same dominating authority that comes with moves which are real threats.

Lesson outcome

The purpose of this lesson is to help you understand the power of threats – even when it seems that your opponent can defend easily. A threat that forces your opponent to make a defensive move is an opportunity that you shouldn’t miss. Of course, this does not guarantee that you will win the game but it will improve your chances and it will help you improve the overall quality of your chess.

And so we reach the following important conclusion:

In most cases, if you can make a move that threatens your opponent and forces them to defend passively, then you have found an ideal move – no need to look any further!

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