Sunday, June 26, 2022

Phantom auras

 You don't need just to see the auras of the pieces, you must learn to see their future auras too. Some puzzles are more suitable for this than others. I assume that these type of problems is a good start:

White to move. Mate in 3

4Q3/8/2p5/2kr4/K3R3/3r4/2p5/8 w - - 0 1

Thursday, June 23, 2022

About the future

Proof of concept

 Chess improvement is always very unpredictable. I started the preparation for the oncoming tournaments with a complete new openings repertoire, and via endgames I ended up with aural visualization, which is the main part of my training now. It feels as if it is working. So what's the plan?

The tournaments will be decisive. If they show that aural visualization is the missing link in tactical improvement, I can base my plans on that. If it is not working, well, then it's back to the drawing board.

Endgame training

Endgame training will be a substantial part of my training the coming year. Even though it will only gain me 70 points or so, it is necessary to embed it in my games. It makes a whole lot of difference when you can decide at any moment in your game, now I'm going to liquidate into an endgame. Your options will double.

Vukovic

Studying "The art of attack" of Vukovic deeply, has been on my bucket list for a long time. Especially the preconditions of an attack have my interest. If the tournaments show that aural visualization is working, I know exactly how I'm going to approach the study of that.

Positional play

 Creating micro plans fast is a definite hole in my chess ability. Studying "Mastering chess strategy" of GM Johan Hellsten is designed to fill that gap. I have no idea how many rating points that will yield, but at least it should help to avoid time trouble. Like endgames, it is a necessary part of your chess education.

His System

After reading My System a few times, I became convinced that there is indeed a system hiding in the book. But it will take a lot of time and effort to decipher the work. To be honest I was a bit disappointed about the book of John Watson "Advances since Nimzowitsch". The book seems to battle against the idea of rules in chess. Since every rule has its exceptions, and exceptions form the majority of the cases, and rules are always overruled by concrete calculation. Well, he has a point, of course, but is that a reason to abandon the idea of rules all together? I don't think so. The aural visualization is designed to take care of the calculation department. Within two months we will know if that is sufficient. At the same time it is a pity that Watson didn't build further on the work of Nimzowitsch. The theory of chess, and I don't mean the openings, didn't seem to come any further since then. Of course every super grandmaster has its own ideas about how to conduct a game, but there doesn't seem much consensus and coherence between the super grandmasters mutually. Or maybe I just mist it.

 Piece activity

At the same time, I'm working on my own system. I don't like the longlists of for instance "How to reassess your chess", where you have to fill in a list of more than 10 points to assess your position. Although these long lists might have a solid theoretical base, they are not practical. During a chess game there is little time to think, and working your way trough a whole bunch of checklists isn't of any help in practice.

My investigations show that you can replace all those checklists by just one rule: improve the activity of your pieces. Such checklist of just one point is easy to remember, and offers enough guidance to judge whether a piece has to move or not. For long, piece activity has been the nec plus ultra guidance for my games.

Sitting ducks

The king and the pawns are the slow moving pieces of the board. That makes them the natural targets to hunt for. In their wake they might slow down other pieces, when these are obliged to slacken too, for reasons of defense. Slowing down due to function. I have been looking for ways to combine piece activity with the idea of the sitting ducks. The PoPLoAFun system proved to be the glue which cement both ideas together. A piece cannot be considered to be active when it is not aiming at a target. Only when an attacker is connected via lines of attack and points of pressure with a target, a piece can be called active.

The pawn landscape provides the lines of attack which can be used to bring the attackers in contact with the targets. So you have the creation of the lines of attack, followed by the battle to make use of them. What is left behind in the endgame are the remnants of the pawn landscape. In the middle game, piece activity should be your guide.

Some day, I hope to combine the ideas of PoPLoAFun and piece activity related to sitting ducks, with the ideas of Nimzowitsch. In some way.


Sunday, June 19, 2022

Auras and knowledge mining

 My tactical training in the past has gained me about 250 rating points during its heydays. I often wrote that the core of this effort was reached within about 6 weeks. Although it took a year or two before it was reflected into my OTB rating.

I mentioned this fact often in the past, and I have been in search for a way to copy this result ever since. Without any avail, alas. I remember well what I was doing during this period of six weeks of growth in tactical insight. I was working on mates in one and two in papa Polgars brick "chess training in 5333+1 positions". I wasn't even repeating the problems, the repetition came from the similarities between positions. Even during working on Polgars brick, I felt the effect of the training slowly fading away. I thought that the answer lay in doing more problems, hence being exposed to more patterns. Later I met the Knights Errant, and I was introduced to repetition and speed.

Some new areas of chess were entered, for instance the steps method learned me a lot of new things I didn't know before. And a new area means new rating points. But the amount of areas you can improve in is very limited and the amount of rating points you can gain with each area is too. See for instance my latest educated guess on endgames: it will improve you with about 70 rating points. Give or take.

After a long investigation and all sorts of effort to copy the initial result of Polgars brick I finally ended up with the necessity of adding chess logic to your moves and the need for concepts and analogies for the transfer of knowledge from one position to another. The past year at the club I have been looking for ways to transform this theoretical idea into a practical training method. When you have such concrete questions, you learn the most of your games since you are looking at them with vulture eyes. At the same time, there is little to write about as long as matter isn't materializing in a coherent way.

A few weeks ago, I was shoved from the board in 17 moves by the club champion. I didn't see it coming during the game, and I asked myself what exactly had happened. Analysis showed me that I didn't see the auras of the pieces well. And I remembered that the effect of my initial steps with Polgars brick was that my focus shifted from the pieces to the auras of the pieces. I had formulated that fact in that way earlier, but my attempts to mimic that shift in focus had been stuck in the mud in those early days. Mainly due to the attraction of volume, repetition and speed, the mental image of the auras became a mechanical effort which soon blurred out.

So I reasoned that the lack of ability to see the auras is the main area to work on. Even before working on logic and concepts. Without aura visualization, there can be no fast calculation of variations. Meaning that adding new logic and new concepts don't work without the ability to see auras.

The fact that my gained 250 rating points overtime was reduced to 100 rating points nowadays, even with continuous tactical training, tells me that aural focus need to be maintained by the right training. A scattershot tactical training is not sufficient to maintain aural visualization.

Chessable has a few tactical trainings that have gathered exactly the right material for aural training. I limit myself to 434 tactical puzzles and 387 mates to train my aural focus. Spaced repetition slows down the exposure to puzzles overtime, stimulating to take more and more time per puzzle. Discovering new chess logic and new concepts along the way too. Despite doing an excessive amount of puzzles in the past, I never asked myself any questions how the tactical theme came about. Which ways are there to deliver mate with queen and bishop? How to set up an Anastasia's mate? It already delivered me an undeserved point in an endgame where I was two pawns behind. I mated my opponent in the middle of the board, and the only way to prevent it was to exchange his beautiful bishop against my gimpy knight. He hadn't seen the mate at all.

Especially mates invite you to focus on the auras of the pieces. Since you have to imagine the box the king can't escape from. Take for instance the following position. Imagine the auras!

White to move


2Q5/8/p5P1/2pk4/2Np1b2/1P6/P6q/3K4 w - - 10 51

Wednesday, June 15, 2022

Layers of calculation

 I found the following layers of calculation:

  • The lowest level of calculation are the pieces. Which is pure geometry. One piece can make a total difference. Apparently, my over the top tactical training regimen has provided me with piece patterns aplenty.
  • The next level of patterns are the aura of the pieces. I exercise with mate patterns, so the aura's of the pieces manifest themselves as "the box" in which we want to kill the hostile king.
  • The following level of abstraction is the way your pieces cooperate. One could say "technique". Pry the castle open. Prevent the king from skedaddling away into the blue. Chase the king into the box. Squeeze the box and kill the king.
  • The next level is adding logic. When a piece is B.A.D. (Barely Adequate Defended), look for attacking its defenders. That kind of stuff. CM Chua uses the term "reciprocal thinking". In stead of stopping when a variation seems to lead to a dead end, you ask yourself "why is this not working" and "can I make it work".
  • After that, the level of concepts follows. In an endgame it tells you that those 3 pawns against 2 can lead to an outside passer, and that these doubled pawns are strong enough to resist their counterpart end so on. It describes which system to use in a rook endgame for defense, Philidor, Kling and Horwitsch, Vencura, Back rank defense or Long side checks etc..

The past weeks I found that the second level is causing me problems. The first level is very good, in many ways at grandmaster level, due to excessive tactical training. But level two isn't good. The levels have each their own speed. Level 1 is the fastest. Level 2 is a bit slower, but only a tiny bit. We are talking about seconds. As long as level 2 isn't in order, calculation will be slow, energy consuming and error prone. I think I know the way to fix this, and I'm working on it. The tournaments in July and August will show me if I'm on the right track.

De la Maza has always been pressing on speed during exercises. That is the flaw in his system. You need to train slow, and focus on the aura op the pieces (level 2), the technique (cooperation of the pieces, level 3) and adding logic (tree of scenarios, level 4). Due to speed during training, I'm extremely well versed in the geometrical patterns of the pieces (level 1), but I'm bad at level 2 and beyond. Forget about speed during your training. Speed should be the result of your training, not an aim in itself.

MDLM has a follow up: the woodpecker method. It has the same flaws.


Saturday, June 11, 2022

Varia


Endgame study

 41% of the games end with an endgame. If half of the endgames can have a better result, by means of studying endgames, then 20 % of the games will end with half a point extra. Draws will be wins and lost games will be draws. That equals to 10% of the games will be won extra. I don't know how 10% extra wins results in extra rating points, maybe a mathematician can tell us that. Wild guess: 70 extra rating points.

Mating patterns

I'm doing a course at Chessable about mating patterns I knew all 30 patterns already, and go trough the course for the first time real fast. An IM who does the same course, told that he didn't know 10 of the 30 patterns. The good news is, that after a very long break from serious tactical training, I still know the patterns. The bad news is, that apparently you don't need those patterns to become an International Master.

Positional patterns

There are tactical patterns and positional patterns. When I followed 100 blitz games of GM Henrik Danielsen, I could follow most of the tactics. But I couldn't follow his positional moves at all. I'm following a middlegame strategy course Mastering middlegame strategy from GM Johan Hellsten at Chessable in order to fill in that gap.

Calculation

I follow a calculation course Calculation: A Complete Guide for Tournament Players at Chessable from CM Azel Chua. He improved as an adult player with 528 points. There are many elements in his course that we have found too. After all, we know that we have to add logic and concepts to our training. We just have to figure out how. Which is what I'm doing.

Layers of calculation

  • The lowest level of calculation are the pieces. Which is pure geometry. One piece can make a total difference. Apparently, my over the top tactical training regimen has provided me with piece patterns aplenty.
  • The next level of patterns are the aura of the pieces. I exercise with mate patterns, so the aura's of the pieces manifest themselves as "the box" in which we want to kill the hostile king.
  • The following level of abstraction is the way your pieces cooperate. One could say "technique". Pry the castle open. Prevent the king from skedaddling away into the blue. Chase the king into the box. Squeeze the box and kill the king.
  • The next level is adding logic. When a piece is B.A.D. (Barely Adequate Defended), look for attacking its defenders. That kind of stuff. CM Chua uses the term "reciprocal thinking". In stead of stopping when a variation seems to lead to a dead end, you ask yourself "why is this not working" and "can I make it work".
  • After that, the level of concepts follows. In an endgame it tells you that those 3 pawns against 2 can lead to an outside passer, and that these doubled pawns are strong enough to resist their counterpart end so on. It describes which system to use in a rook endgame for defense, Philidor, Kling and Horwitsch, Vencura, Back rank defense or Long side checks etc..

I focus on these extra layers when training.

His System or My System

I'm working out a simple system for the middlegame, which aims to be a guide for pawn moves and placing pieces in the pawn landscape. I use the sitting duck theory as a base. Furthermore I look for ways to deepen my knowledge of My System of Nimzowitsch. I intend to mix that with my own idea's. But that is a long term project.

So, I'm pretty busy.

Saturday, May 28, 2022

Pawn landscape awareness

 The previous post told us about the relation between the slow moving pieces as targets (sitting ducks) and their potential as source for the creation of tactics:

  • Create targets (weak pawns)
  • fix targets (so they can't skedaddle)
  • attack targets (points of pressure, lines of attack)
  • bind pieces to the defense of a target (FUN)

This describes the relation between pawn structure and the slowing down of pieces by giving them a function (defense).

The next step which should be considered is the relation between pawn structure and dynamism. Often dynamism and pawn structure are treated as if they were contradistinct. But is this totally justified? Lots of openings compromise the pawn structure in favor of piece activity. While a wrecked pawn structure is riddled with weak pawns which are potential targets in themselves, especially in the endgame, the hunt for the ultimate target (king) is judged as more important.

41% of the games end with an endgame of some sort. This seems to justify the precedence of piece activity over pawn structure. But can't we add a bit more precision to our judgement?

Any pawn move alters the pawn landscape. Lines and diagonals are opened or closed. Lines of attack are opened or closed. Some pawn moves result in the creation of weak pawns. AKA targets.

Piece activity can only have meaning in relation to targets. A knight on a beautiful outpost on b6 is useless when there are no targets in the vicinity.

The king as target is a somewhat vague concept. When is a piece active in relation to the king? When it can give check? When it covers the squares around the king? We need a precise definition.

Momentarily I study the ways to create targets in the enemy pawn structure. The next step should be the study of the effect of pawn moves on the lines of attack. Since you can't create a pawn target without altering the pawn landscape. So that we can judge the pawn landscape in terms of targets and lines of attack.

We must develop pawn landscape awareness.

Pawn targets provide us with an extra weapon: We can always liquidate towards an endgame when things go wrong. I'm starting to like that extra weapon.

Wednesday, May 25, 2022

Preparing tactics is FUN

 Which leads us to the following grand scheme of preparing tactics:

  • The slow moving pieces like the king and pawns are the potential sitting ducks of the game
  • Provoking the pawns to move forward is the way to alter them in targets
  • Targets need to be fixed so they can't skedaddle the coming onslaught
  • Add pressure to the targets, this forces hostile pieces to defend them
  • Pieces with a defensive task have a FUNction. The FUN of PoPLoAFun.
  • Pieces with a defensive function must give up their mobility. So they become potential sitting ducks themselves.
  • Add a second front by creating a second target
  • By changing the pressure from one front to another and back, the immobile defenders with a FUNction might have trouble to follow. Which clears the way for tactics to appear.