Tempo (chess)

Tempo (chess)

In chess, tempo refers to a "turn" or single move. When a player achieves a desired result in one fewer moves, he "gains a tempo" and conversely when he takes one more move than necessary he "loses a tempo." Similarly, when one forces his opponent to expend moves (often in defense) that he would not otherwise have expended, one "gains tempo" because the opponent wastes moves.

A simple example of losing a tempo may be moving a rook from the a1 square to a5 and from there to a8; simply moving from a1 to a8 would have achieved the same result with a tempo to spare. Such maneuvers do not always lose a tempo however – the rook on a5 may make some threat which needs to be responded to. In this case, since both players have "lost" a tempo, the net result in terms of time is nil, but the change brought about in the position may favor one player more than the other.

Gaining a tempo

Chess diagram|=
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Scandinavian Defense, after 1. e4 d5 2.exd5 Qxd5.

Gaining tempo may be achieved, for example, by developing a piece while delivering check, though here too, if the check can be countered by the development of a piece, the net result may be nil. If the check can be blocked by a useful pawn move which also drives the checking piece away, the check may even lose a tempo.

In general, making moves with gain of tempo is desirable. A player is said to have the "initiative" if they are able to keep making moves which force their opponent to respond in a particular way or limit their responses. The player with the initiative has greater choice of moves and can to some extent control the direction the game takes, though this advantage is only relative, and may not be worth very much (having a slight initiative when a rook down, for example, may be worthless).

In the Scandinavian Defense, after 1. e4 d5 2.exd5 Qxd5, if White plays 3. Nc3 it attacks Black's queen, forcing it to move again, and White gains a tempo. A similar move gains a tempo in the Center Game opening.

Losing a tempo

In some endgame situations, a player must actually "lose" a tempo to make progress. When the two kings stand in opposition, for example, the player to move is often at a disadvantage because they "must" move. The player to move may be able to triangulate in order to lose a tempo and return to the same position but with the opponent to move (and put him in zugzwang). Kings, queens, bishops, and rooks can lose a tempo; a knight can not Harvcol|Müller|Pajeken|2008|pp=40, 175, 189.

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Timofeev-Inarkiev, Moscow, 2008
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Position after 117. Rd4d8, threatening 118. Rh8. Black resigned.
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Timofeev-Inarkiev, analysis
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Analysis position after 118... Bh5. Now 119. Rh7 is a tempo move.
In the position from the game between Artyom Timofeev and Ernesto Inarkiev, Black resigned because White will win with a tempo move. (Timofeev won the 2008 Moscow Open with this game.) White is threatening 118. Rh8+. If Black moves his king on move 117, White wins the bishop with 118. Rh8+, which results in a position which has an elementary checkmate. If Black moves 117... Bh5 then 118. Rh8 and Black is in zugzwang, and loses. So Black must move 117... Be2 to avoid immediately getting into a lost position. But then will come 118. Rh8+ Bh5 and now white makes a tempo move with 119. Rh7 (or 119. Rh6), maintaining the pin on the bishop, making it Black's turn to move, and Black must lose the bishop.

ee also

* Initiative (chess)
* Sente
* Triangulation (chess)
* Zugzwang


* Citation
surname1=Hooper|given1=David|authorlink1=David Vincent Hooper
surname2=Whyld|given2=Kenneth|authorlink2=Kenneth Whyld
title=The Oxford Companion to Chess
publisher=Oxford University Press
id=ISBN 0-19-866164-9

surname1=Müller|given1=Karsten|authorlink1=Karsten Müller
title=How to Play Chess Endings
publisher=Gambit Publications
id=ISBN 978-1-904600-86-2
author=by Eugene Znosko-Borovsky; translated by J. Du Mont

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