In chess, the fianchetto, ‘little flank’ in Italian, is a pattern of development wherein a bishop is developed to the second rank of the adjacent knight file, the knight pawn having been moved one or two squares forward.

The fianchetto is a staple of many hypermodern openings, whose philosophy is to delay direct occupation of the centre with the plan of undermining and destroying the opponent’s central outpost.

One of the major benefits of the fianchetto is that it often allows the fianchettoed bishop to become more active. Because the bishop is placed on a long diagonal, it controls a lot of squares and can become a powerful offensive weapon.

However, a fianchettoed position also presents some opportunities for the opposing player: if the fianchettoed bishop can be exchanged, the squares the bishop was formerly protecting will become weak and can form the basis of an attack. Therefore, exchanging the fianchettoed bishop should not be done lightly, especially if the enemy bishop of the same colour is still on the board.

‘Strictly speaking, fianchetto is a noun – a diminutive of an Italian word meaning wing or flank – but the English have long misused it as a verb. The true pedant, however, will always refer to a ‘bishop in fianchetto’, and never a ‘fianchettoed bishop’.’

– Hartston. B. 1997. Better Chess London, United Kingdom: Hodder Headline (2004) p. 26

Playing in Blinkers

‘The Finnish psychologist Pertti Saariluoma has identified a remarkably common source of error in chess thought. In simple terms, it happens when you become so fixated on one move or variation that it produces an inhibiting effect on all other thoughts. You start thinking about a temping rook move advancing down a file, and you overlook a more powerful retreat; you are so proud of one piece powerfully established on a strong square that you miss the chance to force a simple win with a sequence beginning with its exchange for a passively placed enemy piece.

These common errors are all connected with the way we perceive chess positions. With up to 32 pieces scattered over 64 squares, and our poor brains generally incapable of juggling more than seven items at the same time, we need to codify the pieces into meaningful subsets. We don’t think in terms of discrete pieces on their individual squares., but instead understand a position in terms of the relationships between groups of pieces. The trouble is that such a process is liable to lock us into particular mind-sets. When, for example, we have a queen and a bishop on the same diagonal, their relationship exerts such a pull on our thoughts that it can blind us to possible moves of the queen or bishop on the diagonals.

The only solution – though difficult to put into practice – is to train yourself to look again at each move of a variation in a fresh and naïve manner. Somehow, you have to put your previous thoughts aside and clear a path in your mind to let radically new ideas come through.’

– Hartston. B. 1997. Better Chess London, United Kingdom: Hodder Headline (2004) p. 72

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