When we find ourselves in a position where there are no tactical shots, no forcing moves that work and no combinations to consider, what should our thought process be? Well, at that point we should be looking to make a plan. Having a plan in chess is essential to playing a strong game. If we do not have a reason behind the moves we make on the board, then we need to seriously evaluate ourselves and figure out why this is the case. But what can help us to figure out the best plan of action in a position? Well, we have the acronym “IMPLODeS” to help us!
Each letter in this acronym stands for an imbalance — an important difference between White and Black — on the board. The letters stand for Initiative, Material, Pawn structure, Lines (and squares), Officers (knights and bishops), Development and Space.
By evaluating these seven imbalances in any position, whether it is our game, a friend’s game, or a grandmaster game, will help us find the best plan we can pursue. When we find out what advantages and disadvantages there are for both ourselves and our opponent, we can then begin to figure out what our optimal course of action is. We always want to maximize our advantages and minimize, or get rid of, our disadvantages. The plan in the position that does this best will be the plan that we should play.
Let’s use the position above to see the use of IMPLODeS in action. It is White’s move. First, let’s look at who might have the Initiative (when someone is reacting to the other player’s moves). At the moment Black is aiming his pieces towards the kingside, but he doesn’t have an immediate threat at the moment. White is not attacking anything here either, so the initiative imbalance is equal.
Next, the Material imbalance in the position is equal on both sides. The Pawn structure imbalance is fairly equal as well. Both sides pawn structures are sound without any glaring weaknesses. The Lines (and squares) imbalance is a bit different. Black has lifted his rook to the e6 square, so he is soon going to be using the strong line of the rook on h6 to facilitate an attack on White. Black would have a slight advantage in this imbalance.
Black also has a bit of an advantage in the Officers (knights and bishops) imbalance. Both sides have a bad bishop, on b2 and b7, while both sides good bishops are symmetrical as well. However Black’s knight is better placed on e4 compared to any white knight. Development is equal, and White has a slight advantage in queenside Space.
In this position, White found the optimal move in 1. Ba3! This move gets rid of his disadvantage (bad bishop) and also gets rid of Black’s advantage (attack on White’s king using his good bishop on d6). This move accomplishes a lot, and we can find this move using the IMPLODeS imbalance acronym. This can help us a lot during our own games as well, if we learn and practice this concept.
Read more about how to improve your thought process in chess by clicking here: “The 4-Step Thinking Process”.