Dr. Tarrasch received a letter from an angry reader who claimed that “you wrote that we should place rooks behind passed pawns in the endgame. I followed your stupid advice and lost!”. In his next column Tarrasch commented on this ironically: “Here is the new rule. You should always place your rook behind passed pawns in the endgame, except for the situations when it doesn’t make sense”.
A typical example of a non-standard method of thinking is making an intermediate move instead of a recapture or moving a piece away. For instance, first give a check, and only then recapture. This trick is often missed by one or both of the players since it seems to break the standard pattern of calculating lines. The main ideas behind intermediate moves are: improve the position of one’s pieces, gain a tempo, put an end to your opponent’s combination. Intermediate moves are especially dangerous in long forced lines since it’s very easy to miss them when calculating a few moves ahead. Therefore, you should always stay alert when pondering seemingly forced lines. Ask yourself: is it really so? Or are any deviations possible?
A fresh example from the Candidates Matches:
One more example of non-standard moves is sacrifices that lead to material imbalances. We have discussed these in previous articles at Chess.com. If your thinking is rigid (e.g. based on conventional value of the pieces), you are likely to miss such opportunities.
To sum it all up, rules (principles, regularities, etc.) have two roles. On the one hand, they help us find plans and moves. If you have a certain level & experience in chess, you can save time and make a standard move quickly. On the other hand, if you adhere to stereotypes, you might miss lots of valuable chances. Your task is to get a deep understanding of the current position, while keeping in mind that time is limited. This will help you find unexpected and very strong moves, as well as eventually win the game.
One of the ways of extending your notion of how one can play chess is to study games of creative chess players who like to improvise, e.g. Aronian or Morozevich. Don’t forget to solve chess compositions and play training games in non-standard positions (those can be found in special books or software). The less dogmatic and more creative your chess thinking is, the higher the chances of finding the right approach to the position and surprising your opponent.
The following game of mine was played vs WGM Inna Gaponenko at the recent Russian Team Chess Championship: