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.

Thursday, January 23, 2020

Activity by the center

Writing about piece activity has clarified a whole lot of things. Of course that leads to definitions that aren't everybody's cup of tea. But I belief that I can work with this simplification of matters. The punishment of oversimplification is that I have to think again. So no worries.

Activity = attack. The pressure of PoPLoAFun so to speak. Where PoP=point of pressure.
Weakness = target
Target = weak pawn, B.A.D. (Barely Adequate Defended) piece or defender
Defender = function (Fun)
Outpost = attacking square = the other end of the line of attack (LoA)

Sofar it is all nice and simple and coherent. I think it might even be workable.

What remains obscure though, is the relationship between piece activity and the center. I read rules, but the why behind the rules isn't clear to me. And as we know, following rules that you don't understand leads to disaster.

Monday, January 20, 2020


I absorb a lot of information lately from all kinds of sources. Most sources use different definitions. Without an exact definition, matters remain obscured. It must be as concrete as possible.
  • What is piece activity and how is it measured?
  • What is exactly a weakness?
  • When can we consider a piece as being developed?
Once I played a knight to a beautiful outpost on c6. I thought it would be a super monster octopus there. But it accomplished nothing. The pawns it could attack were long gone, and the king was on the other flank where my knight could not reach it. So all the effort to get my knight there, was in fact wasted. That leads to the following rule:

Activity of a piece should be measured by what it accomplishes. A piece must do something concrete. Now what are the concrete things a piece can do?
  • It can attack a backward pawn
  • It can attack a piece
  • It can attack a defender
  • It can invite  an enemy pawn to forsake its duty by occupying an outpost
If none of these tasks is accomplished, the piece is inactive.
Although other grandmasters seems to look differently at this point, both Nimzowitsch and Bangiev seem to consider the pawns on the 7th rank to be backwards. Bangievs invites us to look at the least defended weak pawn.

Putting a piece on f5 can invite your opponent to play g6. Thus weakening f6 and h6 in its wake. This is a different way of looking at matters.

Somehow, the idea of the center must be integrated into this. A weak pawn or outpost in the center prevails over one on the flank.