Saturday, February 17, 2007


The past few days you witnessed the working of my mind.
I'm very well aware that it looks very unscientific, subjective, vague, theorethical etc.. About the most qualifications you will give it I have to agree with you. Except for two. To me it is not theoretical and not vague but very concrete and crystal clear.
Since you are still reading I assume you still bear with me, to which I'm very gratefull.
The thoughtprocess has lead to a conclusion.
I hope you don't reject the conclusion beforehand because of it's conception looks suspicious.

Between tactics and positional play lies a broad area which is widely neglected by literature. At least to my knowledge. Common thought about a position is: look for tactics and if there are no tactics around, improve your position.
I call this area brilliant chess. Because it is the place where brilliancy prizes are won. Of course you can make brilliant moves in the opening or the endgame. But with those you win no brilliancy prize. So I stick with the name.

In this area the advice to improve your position isn't appropriate since most pieces are already very active, and only concrete variations play a role. It is an area where you feel that the tactics lure just around the corner. If you put the position in Fritz there might be or might not be tactics visible, but even if there are no tactics, it's very likely that one of the two opponents can't handle the complexity so that tactics emerge very soon.

If I look at the few prodigies I played with and who used my head to climb to higher regions, I have the feeling that they excel in exactly this area. One way or another they have developed a strategy to get a good move in these positions.

I guess that most Knights feel that such area exists. And that they hope to develop such strategy by doing zillions of tactical exercises. At least I did. But the circles nor any other kind of tactical exercises, calculation exercises or visualisation exercises are of help in this area. It's the complexity and the short term memory overload that is the main problem here.

So that is what I'm after now. To develop a strategy to find good moves in this area. A strategy to handle the complexity and to train the mind for this.

I use the following diagram, which I have already shown to you, as example and standard test position.

The game is a lot moves further and still continues, but my opponent is already a piece behind and in a lost position.
I'll be back.


  1. In such complex positions my strategy is to break it down first by looking at it simplistic.

    1. count material: white is behind, so look for something decisive, otherwise the endgame is lost

    2. exit strategy: black has tremendous pressure on the kingside, but the black queen is cramped. A forced drawing line could be the way out.

    3. tactics: black might sac the queen on f3 and then play gxf3 followed by f2#. Which move will prevent this mate? h4! and the king escapes to h3.

    I actually started by looking at Nb4 attacking the queen, just taking one sensible forcing move and only then realized black's threats.

    Only after this type of positional pre-pruning, I start calculating concrete variations:

    1. Nb4 Qc5 2. Nd3 Qc6 draw?
    1. Nb4 Qxf3 etc
    1. Nb4 Qc5 2. Nd3 gxf3 etc

    Concluding that it does not give white anything I start looking at other moves

    1. Bb5 this might be the one, stop here and first look at other moves.

    1. Ne5 nothing 1. Nf4 nothing 1. Bxe6 nothing

    and only here I really dive into the calculation of 1. Bb5

    For me this method comes natural and I am not sure how I learned this. I think it comes close to "playing with the position" first when I am in my "zone". In this position I found myself thinking along the lines: if black can move a couple of moves, which would be the best? Answer: 1.Qxf3 gxf3 2.gxf3 + f2# mate as an fantasy double-move.

    I hope you will post the actual moves soon. I would like to know how you got the winning position.

  2. Fier,
    given the fact that you just dismissed the winning line as giving nothing to white, my attempts will not be in vain for you either if I succeed:)

  3. When I looked at the position I considered only two moves 1.Bb5 and 1.Nb4 because both have a concrete threat and this is important because in such a position initiative is everything Bb5 seems to force Qd5 and I can't see anything better than Qxd5 Bxd5 Nb4 and after c6 white will only get a pawn but he has two bishops and more active pieces so Bb5 is Ok but I think Nb4 looks better after Qc5 the e6 pawn falls and white breaks through and gets a powerful initiative 2.Qxf3 fails to gxf3 gxf3 and Rxe6 and white can block the checks on the h1 a8 diagonal, Nb4 gxf6 Nxc6 fxg2+ Kg1 Bxc6 looks harmless since black can't bring any more pieces into the attack.Was Nb4 the move you considered a gamble?

  4. Anon,
    yes. Nb4 was the move I eventually played. It was a gamble since I could not quite see the effect of his Nc5 as reaction. Attacking my queen and defending e6 at the same time.

    I wasn't very worried about blacks chances against my King, as long as I keep the initiative and take measures when I have to give up the initiative.

  5. I have a tendency to keep all options open. To think that everything is possible. That habit is killing me in such positions. That prevents me from pruning, thus causing a memory overload error.

  6. I don't have this problem in fact I tend to consider very few moves and sometimes this is a problem I missed 1Nb4 Nc5 but it doesn't look that good 2Qc2 and if he wants to save the queen he has to go 2Qa4 3b3 Qa3 and his queen is horribly misplaced while yours is now in a nice position lined up with his king maybe 4Bxe6 works(removing the defender of the f5 pawn)but this has to be calculated.After Nb4 Nc5 Qc2 he can try gxf6 Nxc6(Bxc6 Bxe6 and the f4 pawn falls with check)and Rxg2 white seems to have quite a few good options in response Qc1 Qb1 Rd2 and black's attack doesn't look dangerous.And Nb4 Nc5 Qc2 Qxf3 seems to also fail even if the e6 pawn is now defended since you can sac a piece to take the e pawn and then take the f5 pawn with check.

  7. "given the fact that you just dismissed the winning line as giving nothing to white, my attempts will not be in vain for you either if I succeed"

    I've only spent about 5 minutes on this position, which is way too short for such a complex position and I made a mistake dismissing Nb4 too fast (missing 1. Nb4 Qc5 2. Bxe6 Rxe6 3. Rxd7+!). I also missed Nc5 as a possible reaction. I cannot tell for sure if I would have played Nb4 if it was a game of my own, but I tend to double-check my calculations and look deeper if the clock permits this.

    You can't expect me to really exert myself if it is somebody else's game and I was trying to make a different point which still has some validity, right?

  8. Fier,
    what I expect is that EVERYBODY with a non optimized search strategy for complex positions will have trouble with this position. That is everybody below masterlevel and who is not a prodigy. Failing by either overlooking important replies or by drowning in them. In general I believe that the ones who overlook possibilities are far better off than who drowns in them. Because an oversight happens sometimes but drowning always.

    That shows why this position is such beatiful testcase. If I can develop a solve-strategy that helps me to find a reasonable move within 20 minutes, I have succeeded. But maybe special training is needed. I intend to find out.

  9. OK, that solve strategy must contain some sort of synthesis of evaluation and calculation, but I think it will be hard to find a special training for this. Maybe you can give us some insight in how you solved the position at hand in a next post.

  10. Buckley book that Patrick has been writing about will help maybe (practical chess analysis).

    Or rather than torture yourself, and us, going through this slowly, hire a GM for four lessons and get the right answer from him!

  11. Blue,
    patience, young Padawan!
    I said it before, I hire a GM when I'm stuck. I'm not stuck, I have just begun! But feel free to ask your own coach.

    I discovered that there is already a lot written about the subject by chess engine programmers. I will check out the book you mentioned.