25 Lessons from Daniel Naroditskys Speedrun
Created at: 2021-03-01 ; Last updated: 2021-03-21
The Speedrun by Daniel Naroditsky is a great way to learn and understand chess. Daniel takes his time and explains every though process that makes him play the moves he plays. If you ever wanted to understand how a Grandmaster comes up with their moves this is the video series you want to watch.
With other 30 hours of videos the series has a huge amount of important information. With this list I want to highlight the pieces of information that stood out to me as a quick reference for the future. I hope you find this as useful as I do!
The least valuable piece should perform the taskhttps://youtu.be/iQQDU3H7vaU?t=618
If you have to decide which piece should do a task, in general, the less valuable one should do it.
Why? Because the more valuable figures can be forced to move away more easily.
If, for example, the queen were responsible for defending a knight, it would be less solid than if a pawn were to defend the knight. As soon as the queen is attacked by another piece, she must move to avoid being taken herself. Thus, it may have to leave the knight undefended.
You don’t always have to react to your opponents movehttps://youtu.be/iQQDU3H7vaU?t=1167
If your opponent does something, it does not mean that you always have to react to it.
If it doesn’t require immediate attention, we can just continue with our plan.
A hook is a pawn next to your opponents king that is not on its initial square.
This can be used in two ways. It can be used as a target for a piece sacrifice or as a hook for one of our pawns to attack.
An attack is a function of two thingshttps://youtu.be/woqgGKERnps?t=681
A successful attack depends on two things. The number of pieces with which you can attack the enemy king and the number of weaknesses around the enemy king.
With this rule of thumb we can find out if it makes sense to attack the opponent’s king. If your pieces are all on the other side of the board and each 3-4 moves away from attacking the king, it makes little sense to attack The same is true if the king is safely behind his pawns and surrounded by his own pieces.
Here, the hooks can also play a role again. Often we can exploit a hook to force weaknesses around the king which we can then use for an attack.
Kinetic and Potential Energyhttps://youtu.be/woqgGKERnps?t=1413
Not every piece has to charge into attack.
Sometimes the best position for a piece is where it doesn’t look optimal at first glance.
Let us consider the following position:
The Bishop on c4 does not look very impressive right now. It is blocked by its own pawns. But it points to the opponents king and even x-rays the king and queen. This piece has a lot of potential energy. It might now look impressive right now but once the position opens up it will have a lot of kinetic energy, helping out in a possible attack.
That is the difference between potential and kinetic energy. A piece with potential energy needs something to happen before their kinetic energy is released. So you don’t always have to move a piece to make it good, sometimes other pieces have to move instead to let a piece release its kinetic energy.
How to win endgameshttps://youtu.be/woqgGKERnps?t=2660
In most endgames you will have very few pieces left. It will be hard to checkmate with those alone. That is why the key to winning endgames is to promote your pawns.
The first step to promote your pawns is to identify (potential) passed pawns. These are pawns that cannot be attacked by your opponents pawns. If you don’t have any passed pawns the goal should be to create one.
Once you have a passed pawn the goals shifts to push it safely up the board up to its promotion square. Don’t push too early before you’re not ready to defend it. Once you promoted the pawn to a Queen checkmating your opponent should be easier.
Use your passive pieceshttps://youtu.be/FPI9J8_LmJQ?t=825
In this game Naroditsky shows an example from a game of Siegbert Tarrasch and Oldrich Duras:
Duras has an excellent knight on d5. Tarrasch has two knights to choose from to remove the black knight from d5. The knight on e5 and the knight on c1. Of course Tarrasch chooses the knight on c1 to do this. The knight on e5 is on an active square and perfectly placed. On the other hand the knight on c1 is barely doing anything and looking rather bad. This is why Tarrasch chooses the c1 knight for the task.
Carving out squares; Undermining your opponents pawnshttps://youtu.be/FPI9J8_LmJQ?t=760
This concept can be used to create good squares for your pieces. It applies when a pawn of your opponent is covering a square that you would like to use for one of your pieces. To get rid of that pawn and to use the square for our purpose we undermine the opponents pawn with one of our own pawns.
In this game black would really like to move their knight into d5. But that covered right now by whites pawn on c4. Luckily black can undermine the pawn on c4 with the pawn on b4, carving out the d5 square for their knight.
Vacating a square to advance a pawnhttps://youtu.be/FPI9J8_LmJQ?t=1861
This concept can be used when one of your pieces is in the way of the pawn you want to advance.
A perfect illustration of this can be seen in the game Daniel Naroditsky vs Abhijeet Gupta:
Abhijeet has three attackers on the pawn on d4. If one of whites defenders has to move then he can take the pawn. From the concept of using the least valuable piece should perform the task we know that the white queen is the most vulnerable of the defenders. Thus, Abhijeet makes a square on a7 for his queen before vacating the b6 square to advance his pawn. With the white queen having to retreat black can pick up the pawn and ultimately win against Daniel.
When to advance pawns in front of your king for an attackhttps://youtu.be/FPI9J8_LmJQ?t=2130
Pushing your pawns in front of your king can be scary. They can fuel the fire that overwhelm your opponent, but they can also leave weaknesses in front of your king that your opponent can exploit. As the saying goes: “you can’t make an omelet without breaking some eggs”.
In the speedrun he gives this rule of thumb: Does your opponent have enough pieces ready to counter-attack your king.
This ties in with the factors that determine if an attack can be successful from earlier. You can create weaknesses in front of your king with the goal of attacking your opponent, as long as your opponent does not have enough pieces to exploit those weaknesses. Otherwise, your opponent might succeed with their counter-attack.
Pushing a pawn to use the square it left behindhttps://youtu.be/aoWDLhcoQtE?t=608
What if one of your pawns is on a square that would be perfect for one of your pieces.
Then it is important to remember that the pawn structure is not set in stone.
Sometimes it even can be good to sacrifice the pawn to make way for one of your pieces.
In this game a knight on e5 would be very powerful. Thus, Daniel sacrifices the pawn that keeps the knight from using that square to get access to it.
Reevaluate your tactical justificationshttps://youtu.be/9Iu56-1zzfI?t=1590
You have to reevaluate your tactical justifications when your opponent makes a move. Otherwise, you might miss when a tactical reason for something no longer is valid.
Take this toy example:
White can take the pawn because black cannot take the bishop as it would lead to backrank mate. But this changes after h6.
You have to be cautious when a piece is “defended” by a tactical justification!
Why you want to control the centerhttps://youtu.be/3UqPa5eV2e0?t=1630
When you control the center you have more space for your pieces. Because of this you can put those pieces on better /more active squares.
With your more active pieces it because easier to create an attack against your opponent.
Transforming the advantagehttps://youtu.be/bIxvPbhuTpo?t=1690
It is hard to give up your good pieces.
It is also hard to stop an attack if you can’t get your opponent into checkmate.
But sometimes you have to give up something to transform your advantage into something tangible. You don’t automatically win the game because your pieces are well-placed. You have to convert those advantages into something that will win you the game.
Three types of undefended pieceshttps://youtu.be/7uxRcomJo7I?t=655
Pieces (excluding the king and queen) can be categorized into three classes:
- Type 1 undefended pieces: A piece that is not protected by any other piece or pawn
- Type 2 undefended pieces: A piece that is only defended by one other piece
- A defended piece: A piece that is protected by a pawn or at least two other pieces
The queen is excluded from this because it does not matter if the queen is defended or not. If the queen is attacked by any other piece it does not matter if she’s defended or not, you have to deal with the attack either way. That’s why the queen has to be regarded as undefended.
This categorization is helpful to noticing tactics. Take this example:
In this position, for white, there is one undefended piece (the queen) and two type 2 undefended pieces (both bishops). Noticing this we can exploit this and win a piece by removing the defenders of the type 1 undefended pieces.
Three move rule, and when to break ithttps://youtu.be/7Tueff34xjA?t=437
Plans that involve more than three moves are often not realistic. That’s why short plans should be preferred. But the rule is not set in stone.
In this position during the speedrun the plan was to bring the knight on b1 to d5. This plan involved the knight jumping to a3, c4, c3 and finally d5. That’s 4 moves for the plan. But Naroditsky didn’t just blindly go through with this plan. If the plan is a general goal you want to achieve while still reacting to what your opponent is doing, even longer plans can be valid.
Removing the symptoms vs removing the causehttps://youtu.be/7Tueff34xjA?t=712
This is a distinction of how you deal with a tactical threat. You can either deal with it by removing the symptom or remove the cause of the tactic. By removing the symptom the tactical threat is still present but cannot be exploited. In contrast, by removing the cause the tactic simply isn’t possible any longer.
In this position black wants to move their knight from the backrank. Therefore, they have to deal with the threat of knight e7 forking the king and queen. They can move a rook to e8 to remove the symptom or move the king to remove the cause of the tactic.
Space and time = moneyhttps://youtu.be/SXsVWpN8e1A?t=799
Space and time in chess behave similar to money in the real world. Money has no inherent value, it is just a piece of paper. But we can use our money to buy things that have value.
Space and time are the same. Just because you have more space on the board doesn’t mean you automatically win the game. Space and time are only good if you can transform them into something tangible that has value, cash them in if you will :)
So use trading your space advantage into something tangible like winning pawns can be a valid way to play.
Static vs dynamic factorshttps://youtu.be/NQYFSC5TCnE?t=1030
A static factor is something that is hard to get rid of. Dynamic factor on the other hand are more short-lived and have a more simple solution.
So if you can choose what factor to exploit in your opponents position pick the one that is a dynamic factor.
In this position there are static and dynamic factors in black position. Black hasn’t castled yet, but that’s a dynamic factor. They are ready to castle could do it next move.
A static factor in the position in the weak backwards pawn on d6. That pawn cannot advance right now as it would hang the pawn on e5. So the pawn will stay there for some more moves.
So if we as white would have to choose what to prioritize, we would look for ways to exploit the fact that black hasn’t castled yet as that factor is the more easily solvable for black. The pawn will still be weak in a couple of moves, so we can come back to that later.
The wishlist method is a way to come up with moves. The basic principle is: make a wishlist of the things you want to accomplish in a position, and then figure out ways to achieve them.
This method opens up ways to think about the position in a more oriented way where you focus on what’s important in a position.
In this position we would like to get a rook to the 8th rank, basically winning the game. How can we achieve this? With the wishlist method we could come up with Nc7. The knight cannot be taken by the rook as the queen defends it. Black is lost in this position.
You have to admit when a plan of yours does not work out the way you intended it to be.
Stubbornly trying to force a plan though that does not work will not help you. You have to realize when a plan does not work out and try to come with a better one. This ties in with dynamic and static factors. Factors can change so noticing when they do and reacting to it is important to not chase ghosts that do not exist.
When your opponent plays on the flank, attack in the centerhttps://youtu.be/EfHnGTCO1s4?t=854
When your opponent spends a lot of time playing on the side of the board you want to attack in the center. This is because playing on the side of the board does not strengthen your center. So often there are weaknesses that you can exploit when you notice this.
Is a pin dangerous?https://youtu.be/EfHnGTCO1s4?t=1803
As a rule of thumb: if the pinned piece is defended by a pawn it is not that dangerous.
This rule is a byproduct of the types of undefended pieces classification method described above.
What to do when you’re up an exchangehttps://youtu.be/uVQKL83tZb0?t=343
Rooks are good in an open position. They are more mobile than knights and bishops. This means if you’re up an exchange your goal should be to open up the position to amplify the strength of your rook(s).
Concept of inaccessibilityhttps://youtu.be/uVQKL83tZb0?t=765
A weak square in your position is only a weak square if your opponents pieces can access that square.
In this position white wants to prevent black from opening up the center with e5. Therefore, white plays f4, creating a beautiful outpost on e4 for the black knight. But the knight needs at least 8 moves to access the outpost. So for all intents and purposes that outpost in not accessible for the black knight, so we don’t have to worry about creating that weak square.
What if we do it anyway?https://youtu.be/7f2sPY2U204?t=115
This is the Sam Shankland question. When our opponent seemingly prevents us from doing something we have to ask ourselves: what happens if we do it anyway?
Asking this question can help us realize that we missed something when we initially ruled it out and help us notice tactics that can make it possible to play.
Not every piece has to scale Mount Everesthttps://youtu.be/s3ea8V8twrY?t=954
Opening principles tell us to develop our pieces actively. But we shouldn’t force this for every piece if there are better alternatives available. Bringing out your bishop to e2 is a valid way to get read to castle.Back
Great Blog. Was really helpful!
Great work, really helpful
This is an excellent article. I was trying to compile these in my head as I followed the speedrun, but it's very helpful to have them codified.
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