Game Spotlight: Bad Shape

There is a shogi proverb that states, “Bad shape leads to bad shape.”  Though more correctly, it should say, “Bad shape leads to worse shape.”  The problem is that because most shogi pieces don’t easily move backwards, compensating for a bad position means making moves that weaken the position further.  So small weaknesses progressively become large weaknesses, and the game slips away as you try to save it.

In chess, the proverb still often applies, only it refers more to weak pawns.  While there are different types of weak pawns, what is always true is that they can’t be defended by other pawns.  So defending a position with weak pawns must mean defending with pieces, tying them down so they can’t do something else.  In this way, if enough pressure is applied the player with bad shape is forced to make a choice — either give up the weak pawn, or fail to contest the opponent’s piece play elsewhere.

Notice in particular Black’s 23rd move.  The move played may be a hallmark of the proverb, but the alternative is also very important.  A lot of the time, the answer to your problems with bad shape involves getting active piece play.  This can mean distracting your opponent from their plan to tie down your pieces.  It could also mean trading off pieces, getting down to an endgame where your pawn weaknesses are harder to exploit.

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