Friday, October 05, 2007

Good question

As usual Blue Devil asked me a very good question which isn't so simple to answer.

If it is about accidents and endgame, where does strategy come in? Is middlegame and endgame strategy different? I know activity is the God of strategy. Is this different in the middle or endgame?

You have:
  • Accidents
  • King attack
  • Second weakness
  • Strongpoints
  • Leftovers
  • Endgame
  • Fighting methods
You cant' force accidents. Trying to play for accidents is hope chess. Accidents concern pieces. Pieces are too volatile to haunt. You only can shoot a sitting duck.

King attack.
The king is a target that is always good. It is a sort weakness. A king moves slow. A king is a potential sitting duck. According to Nimzowitch you can only have a succesfull king attack when your opponent makes serious mistakes.

Second weakness.
A pawn moves slow. Fixate it. A fixed pawn is a sitting duck. A pawn that can't be protected by another pawn and that can be attacked is a weakness. A second weakness is always a pawn. You can only pick up a pawn in the middlegame when your opponent makes a serious mistake.

Only recently I discovered strongpoints. I read about it in chapter 15 of My System. A strongpoint is a pivotal point where your attackers converge. For instance the famous invasion square. We will talk about it later.

When the pieces are traded off the leftovers of the middlegame in the form of accumulated advantages remain. Always play with your doggybag in mind.

The final goal in the middlegame is: create leftovers. Does your opponent make mistakes along the way? All the better, you don't need an endgame. But if he does not, the content of your doggybag is all you got.
The endgame has a definite different goal: queen a pawn. The king is no longer a weakness, that's why you see him babooning around. There is your pawn, the promotion square and the impediments along the road.

Fighting methods.
Since every move in chess is answered by a countermove there are only two ways to force an advantage.
By means of space. The more space the attacker has and the less space the defender has the greater the chance that the defender cannot keep up with the attacker.
By means of time. When you threaten 2 targets with one move there isn't always one move that parries both threats of the same time. The principle of two weaknesses is based on this.
So basically you conduct feigned attacks inducing weaknessess or mistakes.
Piece activity is paramount in both the middlegame and the endgame.

Strategy is the decision making that steers your course through this mental maze, based on the analysis of the positions.


  1. Strategy is the decision making that steers your course through this mental maze, based on the analysis of the positions.

    Hmmm. I would think you would have said strategy is all the principles of good chess that don't have to do with endgame 'technique' or accidents.

  2. Blue,
    maybe I'm missing something, but to me is that the same as long as you don't mean endgame strategy when you speak about endgame technique.

    Of course accidents do not fall under strategy nor do mistakes. Those are called "tactics":)

  3. Hello, gentlemen

    I'm going to revisit Tempo's interesting position from 9-19, and then go through the analysis myself. As I told Tempo in a private email, I've revisited all his posts since mid-August. The whole thread he had about alpha, beta, gamma, and the methodology of thinking about complex middlegame tactics intrigues me. I'm wondering if one can build a whole "system" starting with tactics and narratives, and then incorporate strategy. One part of me thinks it's naive to think so; another part of me thinks that this is the whole shebang -- what Tempo says seperates the men from the boys. Is it possible that by studying Nimzo right now we're putting the cart before the horse, or do you think Nimzo's focus on the center, overprotection, prophylaxis, etc., somehow fits in to the smaller picture Tempo was focusing on in late August to mid-September? I think it does.

    I had a coach for a few years. (I don't have him anymore, but we stay in touch informally.) When we stopped working together he said my greatest weakness was my inability to "execute" every game. I had not (and still do not) know what that means, even after asking him to specifically define the term. When I got nice positions, he said that I would not know how to "pull the trigger" (this is how he defined it). I think this is what plagues Tempo too: At certain points in a game we move more randomly than we would like to do than if we had a specific purpose.

    While I'm rambling, let me throw out the name of another book: How to Become a Candidate Master, by Alex Dunne. What reminded me of this book was wondering if Tempo's assertion of what seperates the men from the boys is true. I don't think that this book is appropriate study material right now (or ever), considering the sequence of material Tempo is working on, but it would be interesting to just skim that book again. If I remember correctly, there were always these seemingly tiny differences that seperated the class-A player from the expert. Something else makes me think that Tempo's more structured analysis of his weaknesses is vastly more useful than a stupid ol' book. I like Tempo's attitude towards books: even if it's widely acclaimed (i.e. John Watson), if it doesn't fit into his scheme then it's not worth reading.

    Howard Goldowsky

  4. OK. Yes, by technique I mean the standard endings that "everyone" knows (everyone except the non masters). As you discussed.

    The reason I asked is beause in your original italicized bit, you didn't carve out strategy as separate from any of the other factors, but just steering through all of them.

  5. Howard,
    welcome! It's obvious we can use every analytical power to crack this nut.

  6. I'll do my best to contribute. In generla terms, I don't think that the nut is ever going to be cracked. Making chess moves is like making decisions i nthe face of uncertainty. If there was an easy algorithm, then everybody would be doing it; computers would have solved the game; chess would be boring. When I mentioned in my email that I had a notebook filled with psychological aspects of the game, I was basically refering to this. I've been reading a lot about cognitive psychology, decision making under uncertainty, and fallacies that the human brain clings to despite the poor logic. Chess, being a game where we make decisions in the face of uncertainty (like we do every day in real life), makes us gullible to general psychological errors in our move selection process. For example, we might contruct a narrative where, as white, we're faced with the move ...h5. This narrative could trigger a whole set of ghosts (bad memories) of the last time we faced ...h5 and lost. But in the current instance it's a harmless move, and the narrative hurts us. Narratives are the brain's way of simplifying complex situations. As Einstein said, "Things should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler." If we get too simple we make mistakes.

    Anyway, I'm looking forward to analyzing 9-19's position. I'll be back on that.

  7. the best commentary. and thank you to Mr. Goldowsky. best regards to all, dk

  8. i hesitate to say this publically, after a very long email to you privately now, but if not for your benefit, and more to give voice to another side that i do not have the capacity, patience, need, or desire to voice at this time along the lines of:

    "You think that you READ Nimzovitch", i wrote amply about this already,

    and if not for you, refer other readers to a read or reread of my post, crafted over many months as you recall, which, i still feel stands, if not all the more prominantly after these articles of yours in recent weeks:

    Cannonical post about Tempo: 'Saying What is NOT being said: simple, middle, or complex'

    warmest, dk