Sunday, June 28, 2020

Answers to Robert


Robert said:
I have seen numerous assertions (such as from Garry Kasparov) that planning involves (at its best) considering what will happen within (approximately) the next 5 moves, sometimes (often?) fewer than that.

Isn't planning essentially looking at the general situation and determining (through the process of elimination via calculation) which sequence of moves provides the best probable outcome? If that is so, then PopLoaFun seems to provide an excellent basis for determining a (shorter term) plan. A plan for the entire game seems to be too general and abstract for practical use move-by-move.


Planning starts with WHAT should I try to accomplish.

Followed by HOW can I do that.

It is too early to say how big the role of PoPLoAFun is going to be in the endgame. About the middle game, I am inclined to say that 25% of the moves are tactical by nature, meaning that all three parts of PoPLoAFun are directly concrete involved. The remaining  75% focusses on creating lines of attack, closing them for the enemy and wrestling for domination on the existing lines of attack. How you exactly are going to use the lines of attack is of later concern.

Are endgames particular (concrete; tactical) or general (strategic) in nature?

If I'm not over ambitious, read I don't throw the kitchen sink at move 3, I will get a middle game. I put a lot of effort in investigating the middle game. After a few months I reached the final formulation of middle game planning: Get the most piece activity against the least activity for your enemy. With this simple rule, I can judge any middle game move.


With my new approach, I am starting to get endgames on the board. With so many years of attacking and gambits under the belt, I'm relatively under experienced in endgames. I simply am not used to get them on the board. But now I do get them, I smell a possibility for improvement.

10% of the endgame is about specific endgame knowledge. Those 10% tends to be 98% of the content of any endgame book. The remaining 90% is simply not treated in endgame books.

This 90% is about endgame planning. Start at the highest level. There are two possible plans in the endgame:
  • Attack the weak pawns
  • Create a passer
There are a lot of assisting rules for endgame planning. I will devote several posts to that.

Robert said
My experience with various openings (admittedly, I rarely look at specific opening lines unless I'm upset at how I played a particular line) leads me to believe that the openings (for Class players up to approximately Expert level) are not critical for winning chess. My experience is that usually I win or lose because of an oversight (usually tactical) that has nothing to do with the outcome of the opening. In short, I don't win or lose the game in the opening.

Would you please elaborate on why you consider the Caro-Kann defense to be insufficient for a Class player in tournament play?


It is a matter of taste. And of confidence. I trust the London system. I trust the Dutch defense with black reasonably well. There are a few lines in the Caro Kann that I don't like to play. Not because they are bad, but because it is not according to my taste. What I'm searching for, is to play with black against 1.e4 in a way which gives me the same feeling as the London system with white.
I used to mess up the Caro Kann since I hadn't the slightest idea what I was doing. But with my new middle game approach, I fare fairly well with it, lately. But there are a lot of variations that are so commonly well known, that I still don't know after move 12 whether I face a grandmaster or a beginner. Meaning that I denied my opponent the chance of 10 moves to go astray.

Wednesday, June 17, 2020

Resuming PoPLoAFun

Now matters are normalized a bit, I resumed my training. I intend to attend the chess club in the adjacent city, which is much bigger. The one in our village is probably not going to survive the Corona crisis.

Other plans:
  • picking up endgame study, especially the making of plans
  • have a look at the Jobava London system
  • see whether the Caro Kan can be replaced by the Scandinavian of GingerGM

Monday, March 16, 2020

LoA vision

I have a database with 931 tactical problems in the following categories:
  • Discovered attack
  • Double attack
  • Skewer
  • Pin
  • Overloading
  • Mate in 3
I learned the geometrical patterns by heart of 252 positions (27%) already. It took me 50 days.
I focused on PoPs (points of pressure) and Funs (functions) solely.
So far the method seems to work excellent. 

Now I have drawn a definite conclusion about the middlegame, I thought that it would be nice to extend my method to middlegame positions too. Hence I began a search for a database with positional problems. I couldn't find an acceptable one.

But then I realised the following: I now have a definite method of judgment for every middlegame move. Which is the following: how does this move alter the balance of piece activity? In the previous post, I called it the battle of the LoA's (lines of attack). Do I really need a problem set with positional problems?

The answer is: probably not. I just have to draw the lines of attack in the position. Any position. Since what I need is LoA vision. So why not use the database I already have? Who cares that it are tactical positions? When I know the points of pressure and functions already, why not draw the lines of attack in the same positions?
So that is what I'm going to do.

I had a sneak peek in endgame theory. I discovered that I don't need to learn so much positions, but merely that I have know how to devise an endgame plan. So that is what I'm going to focus on the coming time. 110 days to the first tournament. Still some time to work. I'm excited!




Sunday, March 15, 2020

Battle of the LoA's

I have dived deeper in the position of februari 16th. The rationale behind the move 11. e4 seems to be piece activity. Compare the two diagrams before and after the skirmishes.

White to move
Diagram 1:  rn3rk1/pp2qpp1/2p2n2/3p1b1p/1b1P4/2N1PPP1/PP2N1BP/R1BQ1RK1 w - - 2 11

Moves: 11. e4 dxe4 12. fxe4 Bxe4 13. Nxe4 Nxe4 14. Nf4 Nf6 15. Nxh5 Nxh5 16. Qxh5 Nd7

Diagram 2:  r4rk1/pp1nqpp1/2p5/7Q/1b1P4/6P1/PP4BP/R1B2RK1 w - - 1 17

Look how the activity of the white pieces has improved in comparison to the black pieces. Especially the absence of the black light squared bishop is of importance. White has three (semi) open files for his rooks while black has only two. The position of the pawns determines the lines of attack. Which side can make use of the newly formed lines of attack?

Tuesday, March 10, 2020

Studying along

Although little seems to happen around this blog, I'm studying very hard. I will have two nine day tournaments in July for which I'm preparing. I do daily tactics for half an hour or an hour, conform my newly developed method. The more I think about it, the more I become convinced it is the only way. It addresses the very basics of tactics, which I turn out to master surprisingly bad.

I'm almost finished with the book Game Changer, about AlphaZero. It turns out that AlphaZero is an activity addict, although even in this book it becomes never clear what activity actually is. When activity isn't arrived at yet, AZ is a mobility addict.

I'm working on more understanding of the middelgame. It seems to boil down to three aspects:
  • Prevent counter play in the center
  • Targets, of which the king is an exponent
  • Activity, although nobody gives a definition of that, and those explanations that are around seem to contradict each other
Of these three, activity seems to be paramount. Along with restriction of the activity of the enemy. Even targets are merely used as a way to restrict the activity of your opponents pieces by binding them to the defense of a target (function).

The pawns seem to play a key role. Since the pawns determine which lines and diagonals are open. The potential lines of attack. The piece position in relation to the lines of attack determine who can make use of the line of attack. It is a matter of tempo's. Who is first.

I was intending to divide my preparations for the tournaments in three: two months for the middlegame, two for the endgame and two for the openings. But the area is so vast, that I consider to drop the opening preparation altogether.

Maybe I should have a peek in the realm of the endgame first, in order to decide whether there is some low hanging fruit I can reap. After all, my new way of playing brings me in endgame after endgame. Where I usually screw up a better position.

Sunday, February 16, 2020

Want to understand this position

I encountered this position. I have the feeling that when I really understand it, it would entail with a whole host of positional knowledge for me. So I'm going to try to find out what I can learn from it.

White to move
[ rn3rk1/pp2qpp1/2p2n2/3p1b1p/1b1P4/2N1PPP1/PP2N1BP/R1BQ1RK1 w - - 2 11  ]

In a non tactical position there can always be some debate about the best move, since there can be more than one good (enough) move. But here both GM Smyslov and GM Stockfish seem to agree on [ 11. e4 ] Select the area between the brackets to see their suggestion.

Although it is intuitively the first move that comes to mind, there are a few arguments against it.
  • It seems to lose a pawn
  • It leaves the d4 pawn vulnerable
  • There doesn't seem too much difference in development or activity between both sides
  • It gives black a nice outpost on d5
  • If I win back h5, I seem to have exchanged a center pawn for a rook pawn
So why is it such good move?

Tuesday, January 28, 2020

The grand scheme

There are four types of centers which are more or less stable.
Two of them comprise the two extremes:
  • The closed center, where two pawn chains are standing opposite to each other
  • The open center, where there are no pawns on the center files
And two centers that are somewhere in between:
  • The half open center
  • The pawn center, where one side has two center pawns against no pawns on the other side
Each center has its own standard positional plans.

But before you reach one of the more or less stable centers, there is a dynamic struggle going on, from which it is impossible to say beforehand which type of center is going to emerge. Yet even in this not yet crystallized situation there is a plan: conquer the center and try to get a favorable version of one of the four center types.

I have subscribed for a nine round tournament in July. So the work is cut out for me. I intend to focus the first two month on positional play. The following two months I will focus on endgames. Since with my positional approach I already start to get endgames on the board. Only in June I will have a few sessions to strengthen my new openings of choice.

And what about tactics?
I have trained during quite a few months every now and then in accordance with my newly developed training system. Due to the illness of Margriet and my mother passing away lately, the training has been very infrequent. I have tried all sorts of methods for trying to reach tactical prowess the past twenty years. For the first time I think I'm still on to something after more than half a year of training.
So until the tournament I intend to flick in half an hour tactical training per day, every day.

Language is rich. Which means that a single term can have a lot of different meanings, dependent on the context. Take for instant the term "attack". We use the same word for attacking a piece which is well defended and a piece that is B.A.D. (Barely Adequate Defended). The effect is not the same though. I hope I can express myself well enough to avoid the invention of new oddball terminology. If not, please bear with me.