Here’s a really simple tip which will help you take control of positions by claiming space and limiting your opponent’s possibilities. It’s a principle called “one pawn holds two”.
Imagine Black has 2 pawns, one on a6 the other still on b7. If White was to place a pawn on a5, neither of the Black pawns would be able to move. The a6 pawn is blocked and, if Black plays b7-b6 or b7-b5, the a-pawn could capture it.
Here’s an example from one of my club games. White has 2 extra pawns and Black’s Bishop is pretty terrible so many moves are playable but I played the simplest a5. This fixes Black’s pawns on the same colour as his Bishop, prevents him (temporarily at least) from moving either of these pawns and frees my Rook from guarding the pawn.
However, it’s the restriction of Black’s a6 and b7 pawns that is most important. One pawn is stopping two – a very efficient move!
If you put this position into your engine, you’ll find a5 is one of the top suggestions but once you’ve seen the pattern it doesn’t require any thinking, you’ll find it in a 1 minute game.
So powerful is this idea that, if it was Black’s move in the above position, then …a5, stopping White’s pawn advance, becomes one of the computer’s favourite moves.
Here’s the same position with Bishops & Rooks removed and, to show the power of this idea, I’ve taken away White’s h-pawn too.
Again, many moves win but the strongest is a5! We’re not restricting a Bishop here, just slowing Black down, taking away his options. Without us playing this move, Black might try …a5 himself, followed by …b5 to get a passed a-pawn.
So, a simple idea but one to remember. It will come up loads of times in your games and make your job much easier!