Initiative (chess)

Initiative (chess)

Initiative in a chess position belongs to the player who can make threats that cannot be ignored. He thus puts his opponent in the position of having to use his turns responding to threats rather than making his own. A player with the initiative will often seek to maneuver his pieces into more and more advantageous position as he launches successive attacks. Initiative is often described as "the soul of chess. The player who lacks the initiative may seek to regain it through counterattack. The importance of initiative is summed up in the syllogism that initiative is necessary to attack; and attacking is necessary to win (i.e. by capturing pieces and checkmating the opposing king); therefore initiative is needed to win.

White starts the game with the initiative, but it can be squandered in the opening by accepting a gambit. Players can also lose initiative by making unnecessary moves that allow the opponent to gain tempo, such as superfluous "preventive" moves intended to guard against certain actions by the opponent, that nonetheless require no specific response by them. The concept of tempo is closely tied to initiative, as players can acquire the initiative or buttress it by gaining a tempo.


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