Sunday, July 03, 2022

Phantom forks

 A Fide master said that he knew only 20 patterns of the 32 checkmate patterns. What does this tell us? It is not the amount of patterns that counts. What is important, is the frequency of occurrence of the patterns you know and how deep your familiarity with the pattern is.

I noticed that I'm not familiar enough with the phantom auras of the pieces. That is to say, the virtual future influence of the pieces. This observation arose from studying checkmate puzzles. Where you chase a king with the phantom auras of the pieces into a killbox and squeeze it.

Now I'm focusing on other puzzles I have trouble with, and I notice that there are other phantom patterns I have trouble with. Take for instance this diagram:

White to move

3R4/p5r1/4q1k1/4p3/6n1/4NQ2/PPP5/6K1 w - - 0 1

In order to find out why these positions cause me trouble, I ask myself: "what should I ask myself here in order to trigger the right pattern?"

Well, I don't know yet, but the pattern I'm missing is a phantom fork. With targets that are not in place yet.

Friday, July 01, 2022

Aura building

 The yellow squares are not safe for the black king. Theoretically he can be forked there with his queen. The black king is only safe on the light squares and on the red squares.

White to move

Now you see what this position is about. The bishop should keep the black king off the light squares, while the rook can chase him from the rook file.


 In a post of quite some years ago, I talked about the drawbacks of the trial and error method. It often took me a long time to realize that a piece was defended, and that the logical conclusion was to eliminate that defender. In order to speed that up, I invented the tree of scenarios. With 23 standard scenarios, if I remember correctly.

But thinking about scenarios is a system 2 exercise, it is no skill. So it didn't work. But slowly we are finding out how to transfer this knowledge to system 1. It is about the concepts and the analogies we talked about.

I work with a database of 748 selected tactics. It is very important that these tactics are selected well. I found these careful selected tactics in two books at The checkmate patterns manual by CraftyRaf and 1001 chess exercises for club players by New in Chess.

Right now, I'm internalizing all 748 tactical exercises. The spaced repetition method is a great help for that. Once the moves are internalized, I focus on the technique behind the moves. The tree of scenarios. Which scenarios are at work? Once I found out, I simply memorize them. Once the scenarios are memorized, I try to conceptualize them. To generalize the ideas. What is needed for the tactic to work? I work bottom up, that is to say, I start with the position and generalize from there. That is the other way around as the top down approach with the tree of scenarios. What do we need? An undefended back rank, with a rook that can enter at will to sac itself in the corner, a bishop on the long diagonal to pin the pawn on g2, b2, g7 or b7. And a Queen that can deliver mate on those very squares after entering via the rook file. See the comments here

Besides this conceptualization, the phantom auras need of course to be imagined, and these kind of exercises are perfectly suited for that:


White to move

 8/8/3p2k1/2q5/3N4/1B1K4/5R2/8 w - - 0 1

Thursday, June 30, 2022

Bad pieces

 Some pieces are B.A.D. (Barely Adequate Defended).

When a piece has zero defenders and zero attackers, we call that piece unprotected. When you add an attacker, that piece is hanging. LPDO, remember?

When a piece has one defender and one attacker, it is effectively unprotected as well. When you add an attacker, that piece is hanging.

When a piece has three defenders and three attackers, that piece is unprotected as well. When you add an attacker, that piece is hanging.

Which piece of the the three examples offers the greatest chances for a tactical combination? The piece with the most defenders, of course. Since not only the piece itself is vulnerable, but the defenders, which are immobilized due to their defensive function, are vulnerable as well. If you manage to eliminate just one defender with tempo, the defended piece is in trouble. So develop an eye for the most defended unprotected piece.

That is the rationale behind overprotection. The defenders are no longer immobile, and hence no longer vulnerable for tactics. Neither is the defended piece.

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.


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