Sunday, September 30, 2007

Powered by Nimzowitsch

Yesterday I played my first two games in the regional championship. Although I only won the second game, I'm still pleased with my play. My first game was against the Caro-Kan (1866). I outplayed my opponent in the opening and the middlegame. I gained a healthy pawn and had the initiative (Rybka scored it +2.5) but I adopted the wrong plan by trying to trade off to the endgame in stead of picking up another pawn and to continue the attack. Although Rybka still scored my position +1.1 I managed to find another faulty plan so my advantage dissipated. In time trouble I couldn't hold the draw so I managed to lose.

Bill and Marty are quite right in their comments on my post lately. I'm overly focussed on tactics in a position. That's not due to personal preference but to lack of other subjects of focus. Maybe that has something to do with the rigorous tactics training the past few years:) The good news is that it is a problem that is easy to fix since it is due to a lack of knowledge. And a lack of knowledge in chess can usually be replenished within a few weeks.

That's why I'm reading My System now. A word of caution is in place here I think. If you have never thought about the topics Nimzowitch writes about, his writing style invites you to take over his idea's ridgidly. His idea's are not suited to find the best move out of nowhere. In stead you must flavour your own findings with it. Say, you are in doubt between two good candidate moves. Choose the one that is according to his idea's. But let his idea's not replace your own idea's, since they are too subtle to be the base of your play. Although I had read only the first 30 pages, it made already a huge difference in my games yesterday.

Fixing a weakness in your chess education immediately causes a shift in your play demonstrating your next weakness. While I consequent examined my moves according to Nimzowitch, my higher rated opponent committed now and then little sins against his idea's. The pressure was build up because of that, resulting in the loss of a pawn. It was not I who accumulated little advantages, it was my opponent neglecting them and worsening his position "at free will". That I adopted 3 times a wrong plan in the transition to the endgame is the next weakness that revealed itself. The solution of that lays already on my shelf in the form of Hansen's book, ready to be read. But first I'm going to study My System from cover to cover.

The next game I faced the Sokolsky against a lower rated opponent. I have nothing prepared for a long game against it, but Nimzowitch helped me to make healthy moves, which eventually made me win a pawn. Again I made my usual mistakes in the transition to the endgame and the endgame itself, but my errors went by unpunished.

So I find myself back studying according to everyone's idea's and advice. The difference being that you can only get answers according to your questions and I have learned how to ask the right questions.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Thanks for the advice, guys!

Even after only a few lines of My System (Hattip Blue Devil and Christian) the paradox between piece activity and moving center pawns is solved. As Nimzowitch says, a pawnless development would be preferable. The problem with that is that your pieces can easily be chased away by enemy pawns . With control over the center you create secure homes for your pieces. He compares development with the mobilization of troups during a war. A single pawn at e4 already makes c3, d3, e3 and f3 a secure home. As he states it, during development only pawnmoves in relation to securing the center are appropriate.

I like the book very much and I'm going to read it from cover to cover. I have accumulated so much questions in the previous months, that I hope I can get a lot of answers from it. The first pages that I read are literally packed with information already.

I don't like the book of James Watson. Basically he says that in occuring positions concrete analysis supersedes general rules. Then he starts to proof that 60 times, writing a book full. Since I'm already convinced after example 2, the remaining 58 are a bit too much. Allthough I have read the book and admire the scrutiny, I didn't get much out of it. There is no area of knowledge where concrete analysis doesn't supersede general rules. But after I finished My System, I will have a look at what Watson says about the subject. Hattip to Blue Devil.

I will try if I can find the Art of the Middlegame. Hattip Samuraipawn.

Thursday, September 27, 2007


Today I finished The Art Of Attack by Vukovic. I decided to analyze my latest games again in order to see if I'm on the right track with my study. One of the questions I wanted to have answered was "Since I did a lot of simple tactics and it didn't help me to get better at complex tactics I dismissed it as not usefull. But if I do the simple tactics with the aid of narratives, will it then help me to get better at complex tactics?"
So I did a few simple tactics with the aid of narratives and I started to analyze my latest games to get a feeling if I could solve the problems in my game by means of such study. I clearly got the feeling that that is not sufficient. But I made another discovery.

This is a crucial position in one of my games.

Black (me) to move and not lose.

This is a complex middlegame position, and there are a lot of tactical things going on. But I don't know if there is a win. So I gambled on Nh5. IF I can't calculate this position until quiescence AND there is no win AND I don't know that AND I have to move at a certain moment THEN I gamble. This time I gambled wrong. But after reading the book of Vukovic, it was evident in a glance, that Nh5 is not good. Black has committed himself to a kingside attack. The pawns have already moved forward. But one of the preconditions of a kingside attack is to prevent a counter attack in the center or at the queenside. With 1. ... Nh5? 2.fxe4 Nxg3? 3.exd5 black gets the mess he could expect. Since the black king is exposed his kingide attack immediatley comes to a hold and white takes over.

Based on this game, my reasoning was "I lost since I couldn't handle the mess". Which convinced me to study messy situations. But when black plays 1.exf3 himself, he can avoid a lot of the mess, since that leaves the center still blocked more or less.

So deep study of messy positions leads to narratives that are very positional and reading about positional information learns that it is better to avoid messy situations. Why do I always have the feeling that I go round and round in circles?

Which encourages me to ask again: does anybody know a good book or article about "centralization" or "the center"? Since I'm still struck by the paradox of piece activity and building a strong center.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Chess is war

After playing for years opportunistic moves as a headless chicken in reaction to what happens to be on the board accidentally, finally some structure in the game emerges. The resemblance to war is striking!

The structure that I discovered in winning complex middlegame positions is as follows. A primary front is set up against the enemy king (gamma). Since the king position can be defended, this is usually not enough. In stead of trying to press thru anyway, it is better to setup a second front at another part of the board (bhèta). The idea is to deflect the defenders of the king position by luring them into the defense of the invasion square that forms the second front. The preliminary struggles with the other defenders of the invasion square at the second front is called plan alpha.
Any problem I'm studying at the moment obeys this scheme. Sometimes plan alpha isn't necessary, or both alpha and bhèta are missing. But then still gamma remains. It is all very logical. This scheme is a quantum leap forward, since I can now study everything in the light of this scheme. This gives coherence to my study and makes it way easier to remember important topics. In stead of studying quite seperate positions without a clue how they are intertwined.

I mean, how often have I tried to set up a second front while not even realizing I have to setup a primary front first? How often have I got into time trouble while pressing against a well defended kingside? It seems to be unbelievable that I have played so many years without even the slightest idea what I had to try to accomplish!

Vukovic' book is mainly about plan gamma, the direct attack against the enemy king. I'm at chapter 8 of 12 and there is a lot useful information for me too in the book. Allthough 90% is already familiar.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Art of attack

The book Art of attack from Vladimir Vukovic almost entirely covers the theory of plan gamma. So in stead of thinking for myself I decided to make a study of the book. Well, some thinking for myself remains, since the book has a tendency to formulate matters a bit too abstract, while the given examples are too concrete. The translation of both to a pragmatic approach is still work the reader has to do for himself. But it's a good start.

I'm very happy how a lot of pieces of the puzzle fall together. All positional play in the middlegame is geared around piece activity, which has as its goal invasion, which has as its goal to mate the enemy king. There are two holes in the story, the opening and and the endgame.

The endgame.
The book Secrets of chess endgame strategy of Lars Bo Hansen covers this stage very well and gives you the clues about the do's and don'ts in the middlegame in order to get an endgame with fighting chances. I haven't studied the book thoroughly yet, since my weakness in complex middlegame positions costs me more points by far. But whenever appropriate, I will take up the study.

The opening.
Now I have a clue about what to do in the middlegame, there will come a time in the future that I will have to ask myself how to open the game in accordance to my middlegame insights. That time is still far away, but one of the questions I have to answer is "what is the importance of the center?" I mean if piece activity is your main technique in the middlegame, then why should you clog up the center with pawns? Of course there is a reason to it, but I haven't thought about it seriously yet. At first sight it seems contradictionary. The question is important, since a lot of openings revolve around occupying the center. Without an insight how the center relates to improved piece activity I have no idea what I'm doing when I play such opening.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Plan gamma

Finally a narrative.

It took me 14 days to formulate a narrative of the position of my last post that meets my standards, but finally I succeeded. I now have a consistent story and I trust that I can reproduce it over a few years within 15 minutes or so when I look at the same position again. It really simplifies the position. Pfewww.

Even the study of only one position gives me an abundance of insight. Will it bear fruit? That remains to be seen. I signed up for the regional championship, which consists of 9 games over 5 saturdays over 5 months. Starting next saturday.

Effect of study.
My latest club game showed me again that there is always a moment in my games that the complexity grows over my head. I never noticed that before, but that is the function of study, it raises questions, and questions trigger observations during the game. When the game becomes too complex, I just gamble.
One effect of my study is that when I have to choose between an active continuation or a defensive consolidation, I choose for the active continuation. Which is usal better. But for the rest, it is not good enough when I learn to do something in 15 minutes what I first did in 14 days.
In chess only things count that you have learned to do in less than 30 seconds. Otherwise it is just too slow to add something to the battle.

Plan gamma.
My latest study position was mainly about plan alpha (prelimanary tactics) and plan bhèta (invasion). Right now I'm studying a position where plan alpha and bhèta are pretty straightforward but where plan gamma causes the headaches. Plan gamma is mating the king. I have thought about it, but plan gamma will probably always be about mate. Especially when you intend to sacrifice wood for plan a and b, you have to workout plan gamma well.

Vukovic' focal points revolve around mate, the mating squares, the auxiliry squares, the kingposition before and after castling. I guess the book will be of help while unraveling plan gamma. Hattip to Blue Devil. I will keep you informed.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

An exercise in backwards thinking

The same position as before but now solved with backwards thinking.

View from defender
You start with identifying the invasion squares. That are the targets you intend to attack. a2 is already under atack by the queen, e4 is under attack by the B, R and N. Look at the defenders of those targets too.
If you think backwards, you imagine the previous targets c3 and c5:

View from attacker.

On c3 stands as target an overloaded knight with such important function (protecting a2) that is has a high value, on c5 the queen with a high value too. So that are natural targets for a black knight on e4. A black knight would be taken off the board immediately by the white knight on g3, which has its target square on e4.

View from defender.

This shows that the knight on g3 is the piece that spoils the party. So you have to look for ways to deflect that knight first.

View from attacker.

If you take with the rook on e4 first you deflect the knight on g3 since you have some serious threats. The targets of the discovered attack are the white king and queen. So white must take with knight g3.

So the main line becomes 1. ... Rxe4 2. Nxe4 Nxe4 3. Nxe4 Qxa2+ leading to mate.
Ok, this story is somewhat feeble and shaky, and not quite waterproof, but I hope you get the idea. The point is to recognize the characteristics, which means identifying the targets, and work your way back to the beginning. I will have to do a lot more exercises with backwards thinking to get experience. The great power of the method is that it rules out moves that aren't aiming towards targets. This prunes the tree drastically, thus preventing brain damage.

This is a typical alpha, bhèta, gamma type of forced attack, where alpha= prelimanary skirmishes, bhèta=invasion, gamma=deliver mate.

For backwards thinking in relation to accidental tactics you have to start with the recognition of pieces of high value as potential targets. Accidental tactics aren't about squares. The value of a piece can be high because it's static value is high or because it's dynamic value is high (e.g. it fulfills an inmportant function, like white's overloaded knight on c3 above)

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

The art of thinking backwards

After thinking long and hard and after trying different options there is only one thing I can think of as an attempt to solve the problem I formulated in my previous post. And that is to develop the art of backwards thinking to the max.

The method of backwards thinking starts with the recognition of characteristics. In the case of plan bhèta I'm talking of how you can recognize the characteristics of the crucial invasion squares. Once you know the characteristics of plan bhèta you have to find a plan alpha. This plan alpha can be composed of every tactical motif or combination of motifs around. These tactical motifs have their own characteristics. When it concerns a duplo-attack there are two targets around which you want to attack with one manoeuvre. A target can be a piece or a square. It shouldn't come as a surpise to you that we are talking about invasion squares. You can have one or to attackers. The targets can be on the same line or not etc..

When you have to learn to recognize the tactical motifs backwards, it is of course not only useful for the implementation of plan alpha but for any accidental tactic too.
The coming time I'm going to experiment with backwards thinking. I wouldn't even be surprised if it is a perfect method for chunk-building. In order to relief the short term memory.

I have read Vukovic's book partly. His focal points come close to what I have called invasion squares. He makes a distinction between different kinds of focal points:
  • Mating squares. Where the attacking piece delivers mate.
  • Mating focal points. Squares that give access to the mating square
  • Auxilary focal points.
  • Attacker's strong squares.
  • Focal point-complex. More weak squares.
  • Weak color complex. More weak squares of the same color.
He devotes a full chapter of 40 pages to focal points and the attacks based on them. He relates the focal points to the position of the king, be it castled or uncastled. An interesting read and a useful addition to my vision on invasion squares.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Defining the real problem

In the previous posts you could see my initial struggles with the matter. High time to formulate what the real problem is. If we find an answer to this problem, we have found what seperates the masters from the amateurs, the men from the boys.

The idea's about invasion squares are already pretty familiar to me since I've been thinking about them for months. The idea's are already crystallized to a certain degree. I realize that this subject is new to the readers of my blog. What I now want to talk about is new to me too. This means that my thoughts haven't crystallized yet. That will it make it even harder to you to follow me. I hope you will bear with me. You will find much overlap with previous posts too.

I encountered the problem for the first time to the full extent in a position you are already familiar with:

Black to move and win.

For 12 days in a row I'm struggling with this position.
I have written down the total tree of variations with moves that weren't illogical. That consists of over the 200 moves. I found that there are 3 ways to prune a tree:

This is the most common way. Since you have to make a move every now and then you have to gamble when you play a promising line. In my last two games I gambled on the right continuation. One I won, one I lost. I don't think that gambling has much future in chess. But if you lack the skills it is often the only method.

I have been too harsh in my judgement about my intuition in this position. I dismissed 1. ... Bxe4 as a bad way to take on e4 if you compare it to 1. ... Nxe4 and 1. ... Rxe4. But it is indeed the most bad way, even when the counter attack from Rg1 is ruled out.
Which raises the question "how do you improve your intuition?"
I can think of no other way than doing lots of problems and formulating lots of narratives.

Backwards thinking.
This looks the most promising method. My study of the invasion squares was meant to make backwards thinking possible. In the position above you get something like:
If you invade whites position with Qa2, the white king will be mated (plan gamma). The invasion square a2 is guarded by the knight on c3, which has to protect e4 too (plan bhèta). The other protector of the invasion square e4 is Ng3. With the exchange sacrifice on e4 I can deflect Ng3 which enables the knightfork e4 against the queen and the protector of a2 (plan alpha).

If my idea's about invasion squares are correct, then the only moves to consider in this position are the 3 moves that effect the invasion square e4: 1. ... Rxe4 1. ... Nxe4 1. ... Bxe4
This are the only possible moves that can lead to a viable forcing attack. Other moves are only to look at for accidental tactics. But forcing lines have to go along the invasion squares.

Actually my investigating of duplo attacks in the past was meant to introduce backwards thinking in accidental tactics. When you can identify two potential targets, you can think backwards to find out if there is a tactic to attack them both at the same time.

My ideas about invasion squares are just that. Logical looking ideas. The ideas haven't been put to the test seriously. Yet.

The pruning potential of backwards thinking is tremendous. Yet there is another nut to crack. I wrote about that in paralysis by analysis.
Even when there are only 3 candidate moves left my mind easy paralyzes. The alternating moves (white/black), the counterattack of white which interferes with blacks attack and the bookkeeping of values I tend to do all at the same time. Thus causing a short term memory overload error. Even after 12 days looking at the position my mind shuts down easy. All side-issues are solved and clarified, yet the heart of the calculation remains confusing for me. I'm quite sure that this is the biggest difference between me and a good player. I have seen people do such calculations in less than a minute. I'm in trouble even if I have 12 days to try.

Only if I'm able to solve this problem, if I learn how to do this calculation in under a minute, I have a chance to become better at chess. This is the real problem. And I have still no idea how to crack it.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Good for you!

From time to time during my blog "career" readers gave comments like "we have to agree we disagree", "success with your approach", "good for you!" or "it obviously works fine for you". Now I see that at such moments my rantings have gone too far and that it's time to elaborate on the topics at hand. Today is such moment. My plan is to reformulate my idea's in the hope it becomes more clear. At the end I will go thru some specific questions of Blue Devil to see if they are covered by my essay.

What I try to accomplish.
Usually the positions in my games arise by accident, as far as I'm concerned. In order to give my games some direction, I try to formulate a general scheme of a game. If I will be able to play according that scheme is a different matter. From time to time I'm filling in a piece of the total chesspuzzle. Today I will try to formulate how a specific found piece fits in the total framework. It is meant to help my chess thinking.

The biggest problem in our communication is the difference in interpretation of terms. I will try to exclude confusion as much as possible by defining terms. I will try to avoid to stretch definitions beyond the edge of usefulness too. For instance I can think of a definition of tactics that makes the statement "chess is tactics" true. But I think that such definition isn't usefull any longer. I feel not bound to any definition, but use definitions only for the sake of clarity.

The opening.
At the first move it is impossible to threaten something. Nor can you invade something. Actually I don't like the term invasion, because it has already a specific meaning in tactics. Originally I used the term penetration. But since that leads to stories about double penetration and so on I was hesitant to attract the wrong people to my blog. Thus I stretched the definition of invasion somewhat by meaning every square in the enemy camp where you can put a piece which can't be chased away easy and which disrupt the enemy lines. For instance a knight outpost on d6 is such invasion square.
The goal of the opening is to activate your pieces. Once a piece is placed on a square from where it attacks squares in the enemy camp the piece has become active.

The middlegame.
Different things can happen in the middlegame. But I think the main goal can be formulated as you have to try to reach a winning complex tactical middlegame position. There is another possibility, that is reaching a favourable endgame. For the sake of reasoning I don't want to talk about endgames. For now.

Why tactical?
I define tactics as: the gain of wood or the mating of the opponents king. Usually the wood is won because it is given to prevent made. If wood is given otherwise, it usually is an accident. For the sake of reasoning I don't want to talk about accidents. For now.

Why complex?
If the gain of wood is simple, it usually concerns accidents. Okay, I will say a little about accidents. A whole spectrum of tactics is based around accidents. There are two variations: the trap and the duplo attack. With or without prepatory moves. They all have in common that the opponent has to coöperate to let it happen. When Knights Errant improve, they usually improve in exactly this area of accidental tactics. But that is not what I want to talk about. For now.
I'm talking about situations where the opponent doesn't coöperate and there is still a possibility to work towards a forced win. These are complex positions by nature.

Why winning?
I noticed that the winning positions have certain things in common.

Okay, I have narrowed the scope drastically by excluding endgames and by excluding accidental tactics. Now what?

Let me first introduce a few terms that I plan to use. When a piece hasn't moved yet it is on its initial square. When the piece is on a square in its own camp and points to squares in the enemy camp the piece has moved to its home square. When a piece forms a bridge head in the enemy camp it stands on an invasion square. The road from the home square to the invasion square is called the pathway. When a piece stands on its home square and the pathway is free the piece is called active.

It can happen that every piece of you is on a home square and every piece of you is active and that there is still no way to come any further. It looks you can only move your pieces from home to home, remaining active. The contact with the enemy camp is still somewhat sterile. Every threat of you is simply met. To force matters there is only one way: you have to invade into hostile territory. Only then you can cause havoc in the enemy camp, breaking the communication lines between enemy pieces and to impede internal regroupings. Only then forcing lines and threats can come into existance. This actual invasion I call plan bhèta. The tactical struggle that preliminates the occupation of the invasionsquare I call plan alpha. You see all tactical motifs in the implementation of plan alpha. And they are often difficult to find. Time and again I see this plan alpha and bhèta. The 90+ winning complex tactical middlegame positions from both Polgar's book and Renko's CD I have investigated show these plans in 100% of the cases. Which is not the same as to say that when you occupy an invasion square you win in 100% of the cases, as Svensp pointed out. But if you are winning, you seem to follow these lines all the time. Just being active or just threathening something is from too great a distance. You must have a closer contact to hostile territory. That is where invasion squares come in.

When you have a general idea of plan bhèta, you can work from the opening on towards this idea. Because only when your pieces converge to specific squares you have a chance to outnumber your opponents pieces on the invasion squares. Right now I look for tendencies in plan alpha.

So far my findings. Its all still in its infancy of course, but I hope you get the idea. Now let's have a look at

Blue Devils questions and remarks.

Finding an invasion square is to find a particular threat that you can work toward. This fits in fine with the abridged process.

Of course it fits in with the abridged process. The threat of occupying an invasion squares is a threat too. Yet I think it is useful to distinct it from the more common threats. I hope I have made clear why. Actually the real deal starts with plan gamma.

So you stand by Tempo's Thesis, and don't think finding an invasion square is reducible to some mixture of threats and piece activity.

It is reducible to that, but I think it really adds something to call it plan alpha.

I just don't see why finding an invasion square, even if it is extremely important for transitioning toward the end of a game, isn't a special case of threats plus activity (as I've previously defined activity).

It is. But there is a difference between being active from your home square or being active from an invasion square. The impact differs. Besides that I tend to believe that struggle for the invasion square is unavoidable in such positions, when you exclude tactical accidents and endgame concerns. So why not make it explicit?

Me: I thought we aimed toward mate.

I place the mate somewhere between gamma and omega.

So I introduce a distinction between threats, threats, threats and threats (and accidental threats).
Threats from the home position which are not killing, threats from the alpha phase which are the prelimanary fightings for outnumbering on the invasion square and clearing the pathway to the invasion square, the actual threat to occupy the invasion square and the threats that arise from the occupation of the invasion square. O yes, and accidental threats which are the bane of the casual Knight Errant.
But indeed, it are all threats.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Repeating the obvious (?)

Blue Devil gave us his abridged version of his chess thinking process:

1. Find candidate moves that generate threats and piece activity.
2. Play the candidate with the best consequences.

I commented the following:
This is what I used to do. But it is too meagre for complex positions.
Actually I hated myself for stressing the obvious again.

Reply from Blue Devil:
Tempo: what aspects of a complex (middlegame) position doesn't it cover?

At first I thought he was joking. But after a few hours I asked myself "what if he's not?". Is there a chance, after talking for months about exactly this very same subject, that there is someone out there who doesn't see the obvious? As Sherlock Holmes put it, "How often have I said to you that when you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth?". After all, this is not the kind of joke Blue usually makes.

Since I never want to miss a chance to repeat myself I assume that, how improbable it might seem, I haven't explained myself clear:) Let's summarize what looks obvious to me:

I was always looking to a chessposition according to the the following two rules:

1. Find candidate moves that generate threats and piece activity.
2. Play the candidate with the best consequences.

Not the alpha nor the omega. . .
But I found that in the kind of position that causes me trouble this approach was to meagre. The search for candidate moves stimulates the trial and error approach. Since it starts at the trunk of the tree of analysis. So I started to look for another approach. Was it possible to start at the end of the line and work backwards to the trunk? No, that proved to be not possible, since the characteristics of the end of the line are not yet visible on the board.

But the bhèta.
It is possible though to start at the second stage and work your way back to the first stage or the trunk? The second stage is about identifying the invasion squares.
I can imagine that this sounds arbitrary for the casual reader.
It is not.
If you have a closer look at it you will see that it is inevitable. The highest strategy of the middle game is piece activity, but what is the ultimate goal of piece activity? Invasion!
After investigating complex middlegame positions for months I found this to be true in 100% of the cases. Identifying the invasion squares is the method nec plus ultra to find the second stage of the tree of analysis in any complex middlegame position. See for yourself!

From the bhèta back to the alpha.
What I'm trying to find now are the laws that govern the transition from stage one to stage two. This is where the men are separated from the boys. Even grandmasters fail in 25% of the cases, according to Rybka. This phase is still under construction.

A lot of my fellow bloggers seem to have no higher goal than to avoid the dropping of pieces. That is logical given their rating. But above 1700 the dropping of pieces is very rare and other methods have to be applied. The second stage of the tree of analysis lies already 5 to 10 ply in the future. Mastering the first two stages of the tree would mean a quantum leap ahead. For most of us, I suppose.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Paralysis by analysis

This is about the 10th day that I look at the same position. I have trouble to come any further. With the list of 3 items (invasion, overloading counterattack) it is possible to find out the goal towards you have to work.

But the problem is how to reach that goal and especially which move order is best? This is where actual calculation comes in.

When I try to calculate the moves the problem is that I try to accomplish 3 things at the same time. I calculate my own attack with my opponent's possible responses, I calculate the counterattack of my opponent with my possible responses and I try to do the bookkeeping to see if I'm actually ahead or behind in material. This is too much for my poor short term memory and I simply paralyze.

Your comments on my previous post are helpful. Montse pointed out that it is all about threats, and he is right. But how can I simplify these 3 tasks (my attack, his counterattack, bookkeeping) I try to accomplish? Finding an answer would mean a quantum leap ahead.

Sunday, September 09, 2007


I have taken a closer look at my "chess intuition".
In the position below I dismissed the move 1. ... Bxe4 because I had the feeling "that can't be good".

Black to move and win.

My 3 points analysis:
  • Invasion squares: e4 and a2
  • Overworked piece: Nc3 defending e4, e2 and a2
  • Possible counter attacks by: Rg1 and Bd3
I tried to formulate where that feeling that 1. ... Bxe4 was bad stemmed from. This was approximately what I came up with:
Since the threat is stronger than the execution, I must not take away the threat of the bishop by trading it.

That is pretty vague, but we are talking about feelings here. When I started to analize the move, I could proof that the move 1.Bxe4 was bad indeed, but for a different reason!
The point is that after 1. ... Bxe4 2.Nxe4 Nxe4 3.Rxg7+! white has a decisive counter attack. For instance 3. ... Kxg7 4.Qe3 attacking h6 and pinning Ne4
This counterattack never crossed my mind when "intuitively" dismissing 1. ... Bxe4. If I take the same position as above but I put the rook at h1 instead of g1, the counterattack is ruled out. All of a sudden the move 1. ... Bxe4 becomes winning too!

This means that I'm just deceiving myself when I talk about "my chess intuition". At least in this position.
Painful yet instructive.

Maybe I must investigate the statement
When your intuition strikes up but you can't back it up with a narrative, you are probably wrong:)

Saturday, September 08, 2007

Contradicting point

Yesterday I lost my game from a 1980 opponent. The way how is for me the proof that I'm on the right track when I say that lack of calculation ability in complex positions is my main weakness. If I was asked, I would guess that from the 800 points my rating differs from that of a grandmaster, 500-600 points are caused by lack of this skill. But nobody asks.

This was the position where I did find the losing move:

Black to move and lose.

Untill now black is slightly better. But with the move Nxg3 (instead of dxe4) I manage to give the game away. I was simply unable to calculate all the intricacies of the the position. So in fact Nxg3 was a gamble. Because the clock was ticking, and I had to make a move anyhow. For me the position was quite unclear. When I talked with my opponent afterwards, he said that he immediately knew that move can't be good. That remembered me at the comment of anonymous on my previous post, who asked me why is 1.Bxe4 not good in the position that I repeat here for your convenience:

Black to move.
I reacted in the same way, that move can't be good.

Now we reach the contradicting point:
I try to improve my calculating skills by constructing narratives. I hope that that will improve my intuition in the end. But above I have two examples of chess intuition, and nor my opponent nor I was able to translate our intuition into a convincing narrative when asked.
This seems to indicate that we have obtained this intuition in the past without ever being able to formulate a narrative. But if that is truly the case then the question is raised how did we then acquire this intuition?
The only argument I can find to solve this is to assume that we have forgotten the corresponding narrative. But is that really the case? Or did we use another method without knowing how?

You can find the game here.

Friday, September 07, 2007

Not much to say

Now the path is clearly defined it is just a matter of walking along. I have been busy installing a homenetwork so Margriet has access to internet again. Though that shouldn't be much of a problem, it took me 5 days to solve all the associated problems like malfunctioning networkcards, incompatible drivers etc.(plug and pray). This is the position that is on my chessboard during that time.

Black to move and win.

It revolves around the invasion squares e4 and a2 (of course!:)
The knight at c3 is overworked, it has to defend both e4 and a2.

This is a typical position where the moves are rather obvious, but the move order is the difficult part. Right now I'm trying to formulate a narrative why 1.Rxe4 is better than 1.Nxe4. Since this kind of move order problems is extremely common, it's worthwhile to invest a considerable amount of time in it.

Tonight the new clubyear starts, let's see if I made some progress.

Saturday, September 01, 2007

Hanging in the right place

Update: I have just replaced the word motive with motif in all my posts. Hattip to Blue Devil.

After gathering a lot of new information lately, it is time to attempt to hang everything in the right place.

I have investigated 83 complex tactical positions and in 100% of the cases an invasion square was involved. A stepping stone from which you can cause mayhem in the enemy lines once you penetrate.

Of course there are tactical positions where the invasion square doesn't play a role. Those positions are called simple tactical positions:)

Balance of attackers and defenders.
The essence of a complex tactical position is the battle for the invasion square. Each invasion square has attackers and defenders. The attacker tries to disturb the balance between the attackers and the defenders. He can work on the defenders or on the attackers. Sometimes both. The value of the defenders compared to the value of the attackers plays an important role.

Working on the defenders.
In order to diminish the amount of defenders there are 4 possibilities:
  • Chase the defender away
  • Trade the defender off
  • Deflect the defender
  • Cut off the defender
There are no other possibilities.
The first two options are easy to see. For the third we need the famous overloaded piece as defender, which is harder to see.

Working on the attackers.
In order to increase the amount of attackers:
  • Just add one
  • Clearance of the road that gives access to the invasion square
  • Use the invasion square as the second target in any duplo attack like a skewer, a pin, a double attack and a discovered attack (hard to see). The first target is a piece (or another invasion square).
If you are preparing for an attack you always have to watch out for a counterattack in stead of a defensive move from your opponent.

I'm going to put these idea's to the test. I'm specially interested in how the other tactical motifs relate to this core idea.