Sunday, December 31, 2006

A second trick

Now I'm over my anger about Bent Larsen's silly move, I see that there is something interesting in it. This was the diagram what the rage was all about.

The instruction was: find the positional plan.
I set it up at a board and analysed the position for two hours without reaching a definite conclusion. When I looked at the solution it said this is a mate in 3. It costed me 20 seconds to solve it.

What does this mean?
Since I solved it in 20 seconds, the pattern must be very familiar. I mean, I have probably exercised between the 20 and 50 knight sacs a day the past 3.5 year, so how could it be otherwise?
But I don't associate a knight sac with a positional plan. So the instruction sets a filter over the candidate moves.
At which moment did this filter work?
Was the move filtered BEFORE it appeared in my brain, or appeared the move and was it dismissed? I can't remember exactly.

I postulate that this tunnelvision is the common state of mankind. Not only filtering your moves at the chessboard, but coloring the whole interpretation of what you see in this world. It's the last day of the year, time to get philosophical:)

To avoid the disadvantages of such filtering at the board, some steering of your associations is necessary. Is this where a thoughtprocess comes in handy?

A second trick.
Since my tactical training I'm a one-trick pony. That's much better than before when I had no trick at all. Now I have realized the importance of piece activity, I'm developing a second trick. Piece activity is 100% in the line of MDLM's approach, so there is nothing to worry about.
I'm solving positional problems now and in the mean time I'm creating an empyrical list:
What characteristics do I need to look at to solve this problem. The list is very pragmatical, what I check anyway (for instance is there a mate in 3:) is not on the list. The more problems I do the more items on the list, but since I start to do things automatically, the list shrinks again. So its size is fairly constant.
The list is already quite helpful in my cc-games and it makes my chesslife easier.
In the meantime I found the common factor in piece activity: targets.
Tactical targets: undefended piece, piece of higher value, king.
Positional targets: weak pawns, better home for your piece.

Happy New Year!!


  1. Happy new year to you, too!

    Even when I just do tactics problems at CTS I sometimes I encounter "tunnelvision": I catch myself glancing at the rating of the problem and if it is above some threshold, I tend to not recognize simple solutions. I guess that is one of the reasons why some problems with simple recaptures are higher rated then some mates in 2.

  2. isnt it mate in 4 not 3


  3. Maybe Bent Larsen is a Zen teacher. One of the Zen methods is that the Zen master makes his disciple angry, giving silly answers or asking silly questions. You are angry about the teacher and about the book, but in reality you are angry about yourself! I think the diagram number 13 is a very important lesson: Even in positional play always stay tactically tuned, all the time. You found this a cruel joke, I can understand it very well. But chess games are cruel, too.

  4. Mouse,
    LOL. If Bent Larsen is a Zen teacher I'm a Cherubim:)
    Why should I be angry at myself? I know for years that tunnelvision is my common state. As it is for all people. I just can't stand practical jokes. Because they are cheap. Because it costed me two hours for nothing. Because I paid the guy to help me.

  5. Tempo, you knew about your tunnel vision for years and never did anything against it? Or knew for years and never found out what to do against it? Anyway, it seems that finding out and then doing against it should be the ultimate way of improvement. Achoo?

  6. Mouse,
    it isn't as easy as it looks. I wrote about blind spots, which is basically the same as tunnelvision, in the past. Everybody has this problem. Wars are fought because of it. Most people don't know it though. If you don't see it, you can think it doesn't exist. But by "circumstancial evidence" you can draw conclusions about what might be in that blind spot.
    I believe that tunnelvision is a precaution-measure by the brain to prevent information overload.

    If I look at positional problems, I must force myself in a disciplined way to not look at tactics all the time, since that distracts me and I forget to look in a positional way.

    If you can't believe you have tunnelvision too, ask your wife:)

  7. Happy new year, Tempo!

    It was a cruel lesson by Larsen, but a very important one. The filter you talk about was already there, because you expected a positional solution. When you are playing you have to forget about thinking in terms of positional and tactical, you just have to find a solution. You have to try to find a synthesis in your thinking. Easier said than done, but I think it has to do with "steering your association". I have been thinking about this a lot lately, so I hope I can give you something more concrete soon.

  8. Tempo: it sounds like a memorable lesson (much like the mate in one I missed on move 11 in a real game recently because I was looking at subtle positional factors). It taught me that I always need to consider tactical, especially checking, possitilities.

    I think you are right that a thought process can help with tunnel vision in real games. (Using Heisman's rule: if you aren't happy with the thought process you are implicitly using, then it helps to think about it consciously and practice a new one until it is unconsious." Following in J'adouble's footsteps, we can call this rule, invented by Heisman, "BDK's law of the thought process."). Hee hee.

    But it was a cheap trick. :)

  9. Happy new year, Tempo. I envy you. I wish I could start my new year with such a wonderful lesson as you could. Joke aside: I think the point is to look always tactics first. If there is none, look positionally. It is a matter of seconds (20 for you, this time) to see the tactic or to rule it out. Then plenty of time remains for making a positional plan, if a such then still should be necessary. If I am right it was MDLM who claimed first tactic, then position. Also Heisman claims so. This may be the most important of all chess rules.

    BTW I know that I am tunnel-vision prone. To overcome it is the main goal of my training at CTS.

  10. Soltis also says tactics first, as the longer you look at a position, the less likely you are to see a tactic in it (he calls this the law of diminishing returns with tactics).

  11. I still have the feeling that my main point doesn't come across.

  12. Tempo,

    Judging from your description, the pattern was filtered immediately.

    This means that something very specific is going on with you. You obviously have trained your mind to be very focused and also very disciplined.

    In some regards this is good. It means that you can achieve a "Zen" like state when playing - I would have loved to see your brain wave patterns when you were working on this problem.

    Of course, the disadvantage is the filtering, but I'm thinking that if you use this experience to "filter the filter" - that is, don't forget that tactics may exist - then I suspect you won't miss something like this in the future.

    BTW, I think BDK took a cheap shot at me [grin]

  13. On this one, I looked at the diagram and saw in about 10 seconds the mate in 3, then I noticed your notes about it. I'm confused why you dont think that this is a positional diagram.

  14. Maybe Larsen is trying to say something a little bit profound about the relationship between strategy and tactics. Seems quite clever to me , he's renowned for being a little sarcastic.... In your thought process, tactics first, then strategy. All the strong chessplayers have universal skills, see my early posts on Petrosian and Karpov. I know you are strong, but it sounds like Bent "bent" your though process to think that there were no tactical issues in the position.

  15. Maybe a few readers are suffering from tunnel vision (not you!:)