Monday, December 02, 2019

Exaggeration ad absurdum

The truth lies often in the middle. The fastest way to end up in the middle is to seek for the extremes.
That's why I try to simplify Nimzowitsch's writings into the extreme.

  • build a pawn center
  • a pawn center is a shelter for your pieces
  • develop your pieces behind the shelter
  • pieces cannot be demobilized when they shelter behind you pawns
  • overprotect your center squares see this post why
  • develop your pieces into overprotection
  • overprotecting pieces are free to move
  • by overprotecting your center, your position cannot crumble
  • overprotecting your center squares works as prophylaxis against assaults
  • hack off freeing pawn moves from your enemy with your center pawns
  • taking with your center pawns clears the squares where your overprotecting pieces are pointing to
  • those center squares become pivot points for your pieces
  • occupying the pivot points with your pieces blockades the enemy center pawns
  • with a pawn chain, you attack the base
  • you try to weaken the blockading pawns
  • you annihilate the defenders of your enemies central pawns
  • you annihilate the blockading pieces of your central pawns
  • you set your pawns in motion once the blockaders are driven away
  • a rolling pawn mass works as a wedge in the communication lines of your enemy

To make a start.

Tuesday, November 26, 2019

First impressions

I have been working hard lately in order to unearth some wisdom from "My System". I managed to flick in an hour or two a day during the passed weeks. I study with Margriet, who feels a bit better lately. Which is quality time. I focus on the center. Part 1 The elements chapter 1 the center and development , part 2 positional play chapter 1 Prophylaxis and the center.

What have I found sofar?
The most important part of a pawn center seems to be its potential mobility. Its lust to expand. The ability of the pawn mass to set itself, after ample preparation, in motion, thus becoming a steam-roller. All rules Nimzowitch gives about the center, seems to have this idea at the basis.

Looking at the center as a potential steam roller, sheds a clarifying light on the rules he gives. The rules are not an end in themselves. They must be seen in the light of the main idea. This way you can judge when a rule is applicable or not.

There are rules for preventing your center from collapsing. That is where overprotection comes in. The pawns might disappear, but you must still be in charge of the squares with your pieces.
When your center is blocked, you must undermine the blockaders. That is where freeing moves and attacking the base of the enemy pawn chain comes in. You try to annihilate the blockade, until that you can set your pawns in motion. A moving central pawn mass act as a wedge, in order to splay the enemy forces in two. Cutting off the communication lines in doing so.
Preventing the freeing moves of your enemy, or to render them harmless at least, that is where prophylaxis comes in.

What is the relationship with tactics?
Tactics flow naturally from good positions. My system is about good positions.
In a very concrete way, his treatment of the open file and the invasion of the 7th and 8th rank is immediately related to our lines of attack. For now, during the study of the center, that is out of my scope.

The book contains rules for pawns, pieces, the center as a whole and the tempo battle around the center. I suspect especially the tempo battle to have a lot in common with the tempo battle belonging to tactics.

What am I after?
Building a mental database with patterns related to the center. Knowing the thematic schemes that are common to the center and its battle. Developing my own thoughts about the center.

Developing a plan is the base of positional play. The actual moves and their order are of less importance, as long as you work towards a goal that you have set yourself. Without a goal, a move can't be bad. Or good, for that matter. Because there is no way to measure a move without a goal.

Thursday, November 21, 2019


I played an 8 year old boy lately. He is clearly a prodigy. I had the chance to observe how he does it.

His tactics surpasses the seniors he plays with. But we seniors still can keep him at bay by more experience in practical play. For now.

What I noticed, is that his tactical database is crispier than mine. In the opening he plays at lightning speed. But in the middle game he uses more time when there is a possibility to ambush me. He is not much faster in seeing tactics than me, but his database with tactics is less contaminated than mine.

And that is the main message from my tactical training, lately. My knowledge of the very basics is too poor, and my database is contaminated. So far, the training seems to work. But it is a time consuming process to cleanse my internal database with tactics.

An example to show what I'm talking about.

White to move

1r3rk1/1b3p1p/p2qp1p1/2Nn4/1b1P4/1B3Q2/P2B1PPP/2R2RK1 w - - 1 1

It took me 3:30 minutes to find the solution. Yet it is very simple. Look at my picture in paint:

White to move

The black knight is pinned (function), so it is a poor defender of Bb4.
What was the contamination here?
What I didn't realize, is that after 1.Bxb4 Nxb4 my bishop isn't on b4 anymore. So I tried to find a winning line while preserving my bishop on b4. A time consuming and senseless endeavor, of course.

But creating the picture in paint helps me to see that matters are actually very simple. If it is enough to cleanse the contamination in my inner tactics database, we will find out in due course.

Now that this is off my chest, I finally can write about Nimzowitsch. Yeahhh!

The game with the prodigy showed me what I can expect from better tactics. Not so much as I thought! But Nimzowitch will help me out, I'm sure!

Monday, November 04, 2019

Mein System REDUX

The past week I have been frantically searching for more information about the center. Aox has put me on the right track, and I had a clear picture in my mind how such information should look like.
All of a sudden it dawned on me that I might have already exactly the book that I'm looking for in my library!

I never have taken My System of Nimzowitch too serious. It contained an incoherent set of rules, in my not so humble opinion, and I would certainly not think of it as a system.
But I might be quite wrong!
Suddenly I see the coherence in his ideas. Pawn chains, blockades, the rest and even prophylaxis might very well make sense! The coming weeks I will reread the book.

I will keep you posted. . .

Sunday, November 03, 2019

Thou shall attack in the center

Pawns are the background of the battlefield. They form the hills and the valleys. You can place your pieces on the most active positions. But when there are no lines of attack, they are going nowhere.

Tactics naturally emerge from good positions. This means, that lines of attack must be created along the line. There can't be tactics without any lines of attack.

There is lot of "pawn babble" in chess. Which obscures matters, since it concerns pawn structures in relation to the subsequent end games. But we are talking about the middle game here.

Thou shall attack in the center!

There are two extremities. The open center and the closed center. If you know everything there is to know about these two extremes, then you can interpolate the rest.

In the open center, there are no center pawns, in closed centers, pawn chains are blocking each other. The ensuing strategies are simple.

Thou shall attack in the center!

Open center: when you reach total control in the center, you will find  no additional goals that can be pursued there. This means that you have to change your focus to the flank where your pieces are the most active.

Closed center: since you can't make any progress in the center, because it is blocked, you are obliged to change your focus to the side where your piece are most active. Usually, the pawn chain is the salient that points into the direction of your attack. You don't have to worry about creating weaknesses, since your opponent can't punish you for that with a blocked center. So use your pawns for an assault on the base of the hostile pawn chain in the center.

I have about hundred booklets with my game scores. I never look in them, because I just fiddle around with the pieces. Last Friday, I played for the first time with a plan: "thou shall attack in the center!". For the first time it makes sense to analyze where I went astray. Without a goal, you cannot find out why you missed it.

What I intend to do, is to express the dynamism of the center in terms of lines of attack.

Tuesday, October 29, 2019


The following picture emerges. Thinking backwards from a tactical shot, you need to create lines of attack. For lines of attack you need holes in the pawn structure. You need invasion squares in the camp of the enemy. That are squares where you outnumber your enemy through the holes in his fortress walls.

The center is paramount. Putting a piece on a central square is the equivalent of a duplo move. From the center, a piece radiates to two flanks at the same time.

The ideal is the open center. With no pawns on both sides in the center. In this situation, the dynamism of the pieces is biggest.

At the same time, these positions are hardest to assess. Due to that very dynamism. One tempo can change the hole picture. Putting your pieces in the open center, provokes pawn moves from the enemy to chase them away. The defending party should withstand the defying pieces by keeping the pawns where they are. Forward movement create holes, invasion squares and weaknesses.

We have to find a way to assess the dynamism of the center.

Sunday, October 27, 2019

Struggling to understand the center

"Pawns are the soul of chess."

In my head I tend to add something like "yadayadayada. . ." to it. The body of positional knowledge has always been an incoherent set of rules to me. I know about open lines, the center, piece activity, outposts, weak pawns, strong squares, mobility, king safety et cetera. But I never have been able to apply that knowledge properly. I just fiddled around with the pieces, until, out of the blue, some tactical shot appeared. Good or bad. That way of playing made no sense to me, even to that extend that I abandoned playing chess for five years. I solely have been working on a proper study method for tactics, those years.

Together we unearthed the PoPLoAFun system. Nowadays I train daily with the system.
For the first time there is room for something else. So I decided to think about positional play.

For tactical shots, you need lines of attack. That's the LoA of PoPLoAFun. This means that positional play revolves around creating lines of attack. If you think further about this, then you will find that only pawns can create lines of attack.

All of a sudden the body of positional knowledge becomes coherent. In stead of fiddling around with my pieces, I can try to create lines of attack! And for that, I must begin to plan my pawn moves. (So the pawns are the soul after all!)

While reading everything about pawns I can lay my hands on, I was confronted with the importance of the center. I don't have a good grasp of that concept. While reading about the open center, I stumbled upon this position:

White to move
[ r2q1rk1/pp2bpp1/4bn1p/2pn4/3P4/2NB1N1P/PP1B1PP1/R2QR1K1 w - - 0 1 ]

The center is not quite open, but after the pawn trade it soon will be.

1.Rxe6 is administered here, and GM Stokfish agrees with +0.67 pawnpoints.

But why is Rxe6 so good?

I can see that the white squares around blacks king become a weak color complex, with the defending bishop removed. I can see that e6 is weak and e5 is a strong outpost. But why is that worth an exchange sacrifice plus +0.67?