Captain Chess
Original Articles for Club Players

On the Importance of Learning the Name of Diagonals

October 17th, 2017

Learning the name of diagonals is a crucial theme to improve not only your knowledge of the chessboard’s geometry but also —and more important— to be better at calculating variations.

When a chess friend tells you that he was in control of the f-file you don’t have much problems visualizing a rook governing all the f-squares. What if he tells you that his bishop was Lord of the a3-f8 diagonal instead? Can you see the idea within your mind? Do you imply that the d6 square was under his control?

If your answer is ‘no’ then we must start working. It’s true that not many players at club level invest time on this issue. I believe it shouldn’t be the reader’s case. Acquiring familiarity with the name of diagonals will allow you to take for granted some assumptions when calculating. And this is by no means trivial.

As chess lovers we love to ponder positions every time. Could it be over the board or maybe while resting on your favourite armchair. In any case your mind needs extreme focus to evaluate the resulting position of a tempting line. As every piece of general knowledge, if you have points of reference you will administer the information in a more efficient way.

I know it isn’t easy at first. But take it as learning to bike. In a few days (weeks?) you won’t even notice that your mind is relying on the coordinates you provided. Just as pedaling. In the middle of your calculation you will say ‘Wait a minute, that bishop controls the a7-g1 diagonal so my knight can securely land on e3 and… bum!’. Nice, uh?

How to practice? I’ll recommend you installing NoirChess, one of those great chess apps out there. This piece of software has a tool —among others— called Same Diagonals, which will easily guide you through the practice of this skill. Of course you can also just force yourself to think of the name of diagonals while blitzing online for example.

The main idea is to link squares in order to reinforce your knowledge of the chessboard. If your mind knows the different paths around the citadel then it will surely take you for a ride with total confidence. Good luck!

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