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.


  1. Very helpful and clear. And I think a very useful insight you've been developing the past few months. I've started trying to use it in my games, and in practice it seems a very helpful way to think of the game.

  2. Your observations are interesting and certainly contain some truth.

    "I'm talking about situations where the opponent doesn't coöperate and there is still a possibility to work towards a forced win."

    I believe what you are describing is called "attack." Or, perhaps you mean something else and possibly something that is more immediate than an "attack"? I can see something between simple tactics and a longer-term attack that you might be trying to describe but it seems you are in that general area.

  3. Classic Tempo. :)

    Does Vukovic or whatever his name talk about this much in 'Art of attack?'

  4. I see you have too succumbed to the dark side. Comment moderation.

    It took me a couple of days before I stopped going insane checking for comments every minute. Now I try to check just once an hour. I hope to graduate to four times a day. That seems quite generous and reasonable :)

  5. Blue,
    I'm not familiar with the Vukovic book.

    About moderation: yeah, I had attrackted a troll. A strange phenomenon. Spouting filth from anonimity in stead of just stopping to read your blog. Now he is shouting against my spamfilter. You can fill in your e-mail in the moderation settings then you get an automatic warning.

  6. There was someone at my blog leaving nasty comments using your name, but obviously it wasn't you so I deleted them.

    You haven't read Art of Attack? I find that hard to believe. I have started it once, but it was a bit advanced for me. It is supposed to be the go-to book on the topic....from what I have read!

  7. Apparently Vucovik's book has lots of errors in it. There is a not-too-recent review of two other 'how to attack' books here.

    Anyone out there know what the latest state of the art book on attacking chess is? I wonder...I wonder if they depend typically on the opponent making a mistake, and it really will hurt Vukovic's general points anyway. I don't know.

  8. my edition is the modernversion checked by Nunn,

    and the word on Vukovic is that Dr. Nunn cleaned it up, without sucking the life out of it, as was reputed to have sadly occured in his treatment of Fischer's 60 Memorable Games,

    in an otherwise steller chess publishing career, and supreme excellence in problem solving competitions and compositions.

  9. Ignore my comments at your peril. I gave you the answer back then. :P

    Now, go get a coach.

    It is so easy to give advice, so hard to not suck at chess.