## Tuesday, January 09, 2007

### Positional play for dummies

Since we Knights are are all tactical monsters, we can have a problem if there are no tactics.

If there are no tactics, we have to find a positional move. If I use the 80/20% rule, I can find the right positional move in 80% of the cases by asking myself only two questions. This is true for both PCT and Bent Larsen's Good move guide.

These two questions are:

1. Is there an outpost I can conquer?
2. Is there an open line which I can conquer or can I open such line by a pawn push?

You have to know the main idea behind these questions, which is piece activity.
MDLM had a 3rd step to implement his new acquired tactical skills into his OTB play.
If I leave the things out I do anyway and the things that look nonsense, then only two topics remain. I made them bold:

1. Make a physical movement. Initially I shuffled my legs but found that they got tired in long games. Now I shift around in my chair, move my arms up and down, or wiggle my toes (5 seconds; total time: 5 seconds).

2. Look at the board with Chess Vision, the ability developed by going through the micro-level drills described above (10 seconds; total time: 15 seconds).

3. Understand what the opponent is threatening (20 seconds; total time: 35 seconds).

4. Write down the opponent's move on my score sheet (5 seconds; total time: 40 seconds).

5. If the opponent has a serious threat, then respond. If not, calculate a tactical sequence. If no tactical sequence exists, implement a plan (70 seconds; total time: 110 seconds).

6. Write down my move (5 seconds; total time: 115 seconds).

7. Imagine the position after I make my intended move and use Chess Vision to check the position. If Chess Vision does not locate any problems, make the move and press the clock. If Chess Vision does locate a problem, go back to step 1. (10 seconds; total time: 125 seconds).

8. Make sure that I have pressed the clock.

Step 5's "implement a plan" is the only step that is not self-explanatory. I implement very simple plans (as opposed to Silman, Kotov, and Pachman-like plans) that improve the probability that there will be a tactical shot. These plans include:
1. Improve the mobility of the pieces.
2. Prevent the opponent from castling.
4. Keep the queen on the board.

The idea behind MDLM's two bold points and my two questions is the same: increase your piece activity (and hinder the opponents piece activity).
I apply these two questions in my cc-play. I can't proof that it improves my play, because I win most of the games anyway, but it makes my play a lot easier. I have a clue in almost all queiet positions. A clue which I didn't use to have before.

1. Great stuff, which I hope to steal. Who knows, it may help me simplify the board evaluation/planning step in Chessplanner.

2. I find the mechanistic checklist of MDLM quite silly, but of course it contains a lot of important points. I think you found a big improvement with the concept of activity instead of mobility.

One more point, maybe so clear to you that you did not mention: Making own pieces more active is the same as making opponent pieces less active.

3. Mouse,
Making own pieces more active is the same as making opponent pieces less active

I didn't make the perspective of the opponent a distinguished topic since it's speak for it self once you know what you are after yourself.

I can interpret your comment in different ways and I want to make sure I understand it right.

Essentially a pathway (open line) to the enemy is neutral. Both sides can make use of it. The art is ofcourse to open lines which you can use and your opponent can't.

You can deny an enemy piece a good home. But you have to be carefull with that. Of course you have to prevent as black that white uses d6 as an outpost for his knight. But often people play h3/h6 or a3/a6 to deny the opponent's bishop a home and a pin. Since the bishop often has other possible good homes, the move restricts only one of the possibilities of the bishop and is thus a waste of tempo plus an unnecessary weakness of your pawn structure.

So in general the accent will lie in activating your own pieces and not in restricting your enemy pieces.

4. What I wanted to say: It is important to always look both sides, not only the own. Suppose you have a bad piece and want to make it better. But then you see a very good piece of the opponent and a possibility to make it worse. You then have to decide and take the move that brings the biggest change in favour of you. This can be your piece much better, because the opp. piece can only be made slightly worse. Or maybe make the opponent piece much worse instead of making your own piece a bit better. Am I clear enough?

5. The books I have read seem to put equal emphasis on improving the position of your pieces and preventing your opponent from improving the position of his pieces.

6. Also, mousetrapper is not quite correct when he says:
One more point, maybe so clear to you that you did not mention: Making own pieces more active is the same as making opponent pieces less active.

Sometimes, strategic pawn pushes can block up the game, simultaeously closing off both your AND your opponents pieces.

Conversely, some pawn breaks can open up pieces activity for both sides, tremendously.

7. Funky, I would like to put it more precisely: Making own pieces more active has the same MEANING as making opponent pieces less active. And yes, of course there are moves that make both sides better.

8. Funky, I would like to put it more precisely: Making own pieces more active has the same MEANING as making opponent pieces less active.

This is more precise? In what language? :P

9. The bottom line is that making your pieces more active often makes your opponents pieces less active, but not always.

Here's a simple counterexample.

1.g6

White has increased the activity of his king-bishop. But he hasn't really decreased the activity of any of Black's pieces. Black can move any pawn anywhere he wants. He can still move his knights anywhere he wants with no negative consequences. He can still fianchetto either of his two bishops if he so desires.
Black is in no way restricted by this move, which, nevertheless, has increased the activity of White's pieces.