The Importance of Piece Activity
by Chad Lieberman
While most chess players know that piece activity is one of the most important factors to a successful game, many players seem to disregard it sometimes. They place king safety and pawn structure ahead of it on their list of priorities.
Although king safety and pawn structure are not to be taken lightly, harmonious pieces can destroy the enemy monarch before it can take advantage of weaknesses in king position or pawn structure.
It is for this reason that pawn-grabbing is such a crime. While your opponent is snatching pawns, you can increase your piece activity and launch a fatal attack against the opposing king.
I find that it is easier to achieve more active pieces when I am down materially. Some sort of psychological restraint is pulled down and I play all out to regain material or checkmate the opponent. It is in these times that my moves (while they may not be perfectly sound) are most threatening. This causes the opponent to become the one making passive, defensive moves.
This week's game is from the 2002 U.S. Open when I defeated Chris Sevilla in the final round. He is notorious for his unorthodox openings (as seen here).
While I achieved a neutral position out of the opening, my position was falling to shreds around move 19. I then decided that my c8-rook was doing absolutely nothing and that his bishop on e2 was very inactive. So, when the opportunity presented itself. I traded my terrible rook for his e5-stallion and I even got a pawn with it!
Throw in a temporary pawn sacrifice with 27...f5! and threats down the h1-a8 diagonal, and his position was the one in shambles. I transferred my rook to the second rank, and the game was mine. This was the most exciting game I've ever played. I hope you enjoy it!