Monday, October 21, 2019

Brainstorming about positional play

OK, let's see if we can flick in some thoughts of our own.

Talking about positional play has a tendency to sound rather vague. Possessing the center, piece activity, mobility, king safety, space, are all pretty abstract. Can we make matters less vague?

First, a few thoughts and observations.

For now, let's assume that my method for learning tactics is going to work. If that is the case, then we should find the relationship between positional play and the PLF (PoPLoAFun) system.

The essence of the PLF system is the duplo move. Accomplishing two things in one go. Positional moves must abide by the same rule.

Once, I had all my pieces fully activated. But what to do next?

Once, I noticed that it was stronger to put a knight on a square where it could reach two attacking squares. I found that to be stronger than the actual placement of the knight on one of the good squares. Now my opponent had to keep an eye on two potential threats in stead of one manifested threat. I call that elastic moves. Elastic moves keeps both options open. They don't commit.

PLF starts with identifying the targets.
Targets are in contact with the points of pressure
lines of attack are the access roads to the points of pressure
Positional moves should clear the lines of attack for the attacker, and put the attacker on the line of attack

I tend to think too early about tactical shots. I don't know a way to decide "in this position is no tactical shot". It is better to continue to prepare for a tactical shot than to waste energy in finding one when there isn't.

What about pawns? I tend to think about pawns in terms of the endgame. Thus making the wrong decisions for the middle game.

Only pawns can open lines
Only pawns can open diagonals
Only pawns can create outposts
So, pawns are critical for creating lines of attack

Pawns by themselves can become a target. So provoking them to move should become part of positional play.

Developing your pieces behind your pawns can build up the pressure like a coiled spring. The spring can be unloaded by a pawn break.

Letting your pieces make a journey in front of the enemy pawns might provoke them.

These are just a few haphazardly thoughts which spring to mind. Much to my surprise, I find the pawns at the center of my positional thoughts.

Sunday, October 20, 2019

Time to broaden the scope

Now the weather becomes worse, I feel less the urge to go out and ride my recumbent trike. Time behind the computer doesn't feel so wasted when the weather is cold and rainy. So I have been able to flick in a few training sessions. Where am I standing now?

I feel that I have found the right method for tactical training now. I focus solely on the four duplo attacks. Double attack, discovered attack, pin and skewer. They form the base of all tactics. Two moves deep, rating between 1600 and 2000. Every problem solved is copied to paint with the aid of a macro. There I evaluate the position by drawing the critical PLF (PoPLoAFun) elements. It took me 19 years to develop the method, now it is time to practice it for at least a year or so.

Since I don't need to spend time on developing the method anymore, it is time to broaden the scope. The approach of Munich which he describes in the comment of the previous post has drawn my attention. In January I adopted the London system, and the lesser ambition of the system (in contrast to my all out throwing the kitchen sink no matter what attacks) feels very healthy (when I can suppress the urge to castle queen side). It saves a lot of time and energy, and the longer the game is, the more chances my opponents have to go astray.

For black I readopted the classical Dutch, with the aid of GM Simon "Ginger" Williams. Which seems viable enough for the rest of my life.

Leaves me with one problem: what to do against 1.e4? I used to play the Dutch lion, but since many people play f4 in an early stage, I have lost my faith in it. So I'm looking for a solid option against 1.e4. As solid and less ambitious as the London System.
I don't like the French, the Aljekhine, the Caro Kan, the Najdorf, the Scandinavion and everything with 1.e4 e5. Maybe I have a look at the accelerated dragon.

Tactics - check
Openings - in progress

This means that now the time is ripe to focus on a different aspect of the game: positional play!
What can we say about that?

Monday, July 22, 2019

More KISSing

An overloaded system II is the main reason for system I to hold back itself from learning anything. So the first thing to do is to calm down the hysterical system II a bit. Since system II isn't able to cope with complexity, we must simplify matters into absurdity. Only when system II has no longer the urge to sabotage the learning process, we can hope that system I kicks in to show off its magic. So let's simplify matters to the bone and beyond.

There are only three tactical principles that can win anything.
  • Lack of space
  • Lack of time
  • Immobility due to function
There can't be no other ways, logically. In fact all three principles boil down to the same: lack of time. Lack of space means you don't have the time to make an escape square AND to skedaddle at the same time. Immobility means you don't have the time to relieve your piece from its defensive function(s) and to bring itself and or the piece(s) it is defending into safety in one go.

Lack of space
The tactical theme that belongs to lack of space is the
  • trap

Lack of time
There are three tactical themes related to lack of time:
  • Double attack
  • Discovered attack
  • Skewer
I coined these three as the duplo attacks. You attack two targets in one go.

Immobility due to function
There is one theme associated to this:
  • Pin
You focus either on attacking the pinnee or what it is defending.

I have the following presumptions:
  • I consider mate to be a special case of a trap (lack of space)
  • I consider promotion as a special case of gaining wood
  • I don't allow quiet moves to upset my system II, so I ignore them for the time being
  • I consider castling to be a potential double attack in special cases (two moves in one go)
  • I consider a skewer and a roentgen attack to be the same
 And a whole bunch of preparatory moves
For the sake of simplicity I hypothesize that you can only win by one of the five themes I mentioned
  • trap
  • double attack
  • discovered attack
  • skewer
  • pin
 Besides these five themes there is a whole bunch of preparatory moves. They lack the two purposes in one go element. What they have in common though, is that they maintain the initiative. Which means, it are all moves which require an answer. It are moves with tempo.

I spent some time to order them. I found the following categories, all with tempo:

Activate an attacker
  • bring attacker to the attacking square
  • clearance of the line of attack
  • loading a battery

Activate the target
  • chase the target towards the target square
  • put the head piece of a pin in place
  • put the tail piece of a pin in place
  • put the target in place by a magnet move
Exploit function
  • annihilate the defender
  • chase away the defender
  • lure the defender away from its task
  • interfere the defender

Solve your own problems first
  • exchange a hanging piece
  • safe a problem piece
  • bring your king into safety
  • defensive move
 That's pretty much it, I believe. I will add the missing themes later. Remember all preparatory moves only work with tempo. I'm focusing on the five winning themes first.

Sunday, July 21, 2019

I met a man who wasn't there

One major way to spill your time during solving a problem is by chasing ghosts.

White to move
3qr2k/1p2r1b1/p3B1p1/7p/1P1p4/P1n3BP/3Q1PP1/2R1R1K1 w - - 1 1

Only after chasing phantoms for six (!) minutes, the ghosts stopped haunting me. What remained was a simple win.

Yesterday, upon the stair,
I met a man who wasn't there!
He wasn't there again today,
Oh how I wish he'd go away!

Tuesday, July 09, 2019

The ABC of tactics

Black to move

In order to solve a tactic puzzle, you need to know your basics well. What are the duplo attacks in this position?

There seems to be a discovered attack to the king. But wat is the target for the bishop?

There is a double attack of the knight.

There is a discovered attack against knight d3.

And there is a discovered attack against rook e4

Do you see how the PLF (PoPLoAFun) system is closely related to the duplo attack?

Sunday, July 07, 2019


The PoPeye system we are developing for the education of system I has already a fundament of two firm pillars.
  • Themed problem sets
  • Highlighting the PLF (PoPLoAFun)

Themed problem sets
I use Chess Tempo to make themed problem sets like all double attacks with a rating between 1600 and 1650, all discovered attacks with a rating of 1700 to 1780 et cetera. The problems are only two moves deep. That diminishes the complexity of the problems. Albeit solving a 2200 rated problem can still take you quite some time.
The diminished complexity usually reveals itself especially in the stage of the post mortem analysis.
By reducing the complexity during analysis afterwards, system II is no longer confused or overwhelmed by occupying all Short Term Memory slots. When system II is confused, system I will not store information to the long term memory. For safety reasons, possibly. Or economic reasons.

Robert introduced the highlighting of the points of pressure and the lines of attack. I added the highlighting of function to that. With the aid of macro's I copy the board to Paint. With lines and shapes of different colors, I can highlight any aspect of PLF (PoPLoAFun), duplo attacks and so on. It seems that the act of highlighting is a way of absorbing knowledge by system I. Robert pointed out the importance to use what is in the here and now on the board, in stead of using mental (verbal) constructions of system II which might represent a possible future.

Third pillar
Today I pondered what the third pillar of the PoPeye method for education of system I might look like. I think that it is based on the discovery of new patterns by system II. By simplifying matters by pillars I and II, system II is more at ease, and more sensitive to new ideas. Because of the themed problem sets, the frequency of reoccurrence of patterns with similar structures is much higher than it would be otherwise. That way your chance to encounter a similar structure before you forget the previous one is much higher.

White to move
Take for instance the diagram above. Qg4 is a duplo attack. Target 1 is Rf5, target 2 is Qe2.
The move Qg4 is loading the battery against Qe2.

The loading of a battery as part of a duplo attack is a new structure that you encounter time and again when you are working on the themed problem set "discovered attacks". The focus of attention and a system II that is not overworked seems to be the ideal conditions for system I to work its magic.

Saturday, June 15, 2019


Margriet has not been well, lately. At a certain moment she weighted only a mere 45 kg after a weight loss of about 32 kg in a year. . They have found the cause, and with medication she is doing reasonably well now. According to the doctor, she had walked along the edge of the abyss. So understandably I had a lack of energy and focus to write about chess the past months. I hope that I can pick up the thread again now she is doing better. I started this post long ago, so maybe certain sentences are outdated.

Robert has painted a broad overall picture of the problem we face. I'm glad he did. The sheer amount of facts is overwhelming, and by sorting it out already, my mind is freed from the looming clogging up. I can focus solely on the important details now. Thanks for that!

The square of the knight method (SOTK)
We talked about the transformation of knowledge into a pattern. When your king is chased by a knight, you can gain a tempo by putting the king on the same diagonal as the knight, with one  square in between. For convenience, I call this move the square of the knight. (Like the square of the pawn who wants to promote).

The shifting of gears method (SOG)
We talked about the fine art of shifting gears. System I seems to make use of mathematics of its own invention when calculating when to shift gears and when to push the brakes. These mathematics bare no resemblance with the mathematics of system II. Analogies seem to be an important ingredient of the working of system I.

Comparing SOG to SOTK
In the beginning there was only the SOG method. While we are learning how to drive a car, system I peeks over our shoulders, and assists the attention by adding its magic when needed. It is system I in its purest form.
SOTK on the other hand, needs some preliminary work to be done by system II. System II invents the pattern, and system I stores it under the appropriate cues.

I hypothesize that we do best by first extending system I by using the pure SOG method. That way, we maximize the added magic.

After system I is optimized in its own realm, we can start with the SOTK method. Meaning pimping knowledge into patterns with added intelligence borrowed from system II. With which system I can show off its own magic.

A little something about system II
Somewhere I described system II. While writing, I noticed already a few particularities. We talked about slow verbal thinking. And we talked about attention. I reckoned they both belong to system II by then. Thinking and attention seem to be very related. Even so, that some guy in the past thought that he was, just because he was thinking (cogito ergo sum).

Since we don't know that we are thinking when there is no attention, we supposed that there is a relationship between the two. But the peculiarity that I noticed, was that attention and thoughts function at total different speeds.

In the Vedantic world, there is a part of the mind that is called the Buddhi. We might call it the center of discrimination. For the xenophobes among us, we maybe should call it simply system III. System III represents the flight of the vulture.

Everything system I does, must be under surveillance of system III. The same holds true for everything system II concocts. There is no intelligence in thinking. Intelligence is added by system III, the quiet center of discrimination. Logic thinking is destructive by its very nature. It can only work by falsifying matters. It is not creative. System I is creative. But since there is no intelligence in system I either, everything must have the sign of approval of system III,  the center of attention. The center of intelligence. Without the intelligence of system III, we are surrendered to the mercy of mere chance. Are the solutions which system I and system II come up with fit for the situation at hand or not.