Friday, October 19, 2007

Rule independence II

Samuraipawn asked the following question:

I don't know if you've mentioned this before, but I often find that two positional ideas clash in the same position and you're then left to make a choice. Let me give you an example: According to Silman you're supposed to play on the side of the board where you have the most space. Let's say it's the kingside. The problem arises when you realise that it's the opponents queenside that is weak. So where do you choose to play?

That is a very good question. Since there is no concrete position given, the answer will be somewhat abstract. What I tried to formulate in my previous post is the cohesion of moves. My goal is to become rule independent.

When two rules collide, you have to think for yourself. In the example above it is of course madness to attack where your opponent is strong (rule 1), albeit your space advantage. On the other hand, it is madness to attack on the queenside where you haven't enough space (rule 2). So logically you shouldn't attack. But in fact this tells you what you must do. If you can do a feigned attack on the queenside, without committing yourself, you might be able to deflect some pieces from the kingside to the queenside, after which you might be able to attack the kingside.
(Rule 3, principle of attacking 2 weaknesses. Rule 4, According Nimzowitsch the amateur must learn to do nothing. That is to say, to do just moves that aren't attacking nor defensive, but that make your position more viable. Oh no! Not more rules!!)

So the answer is, use your common sense. You can only supersede rules by common sense if you comprehend the idea behind the rule. What the rule intends to accomplish and why. How the rules are intertwined.

I find the analogy with warfare usually very clarifying, with mobilisation, frontlines, bridge heads, supply lines, feigned attacks, defenders, Alekhines guns etc..

That's why I try to paint the big picture. (Too lazy to learn the rules:)


  1. I would consider first launching an attack at the queenside where the opponent is weak. But he has more space there allowing him to maneuver for defense. Okay, let him. But the real plan is keeping a kingside attack plan and switching to that as soon as the opponent has finished his queenside defense buildup. In order to make this work, you should dominate the center which allows you to switch sides quickly. I think an overprotected Nimzowitsch outpost would work fine with such a plan. How does this sound to you?

  2. My goal is to become rule independent.

    I think the rules we learn are a big part of the problem with using one's "common sense". We have all accumulated knowledge about chess and unfortunately some of this knowledge - to different degrees - is causing more harm than good. So the follow up question to this would be what sources should we use to build a solid positional understanding or common sense. Do you have any good tips? What do you think about "How to Reassess your Chess".

    I guess this would have been easier to discuss if we had a practical example to study. I'll see if I can find some.

    You gave me some more ideas with non committal feigned attacks and deflection, attacking two weaknesses and so forth and I'll look into this more in depth. Thanks!

  3. Christian,
    I had exactly that in mind. But I expressed it less clear.

  4. Samurai,
    I can't think of a better method than what I have done myself. That is:
    1. Analyse a lot positions.
    2. Describe what is going on.
    3. Generalize the narrative.
    4. Find the highest abstract goal of a move (for me: piece activity, invade)
    5. Formulate how to conduct a game in my own words.

    Yet to come:
    6. Finetune my fabulations by feedback of real games.

    I think that trying to find yet another author to do the thinking for you is part of the problem.

  5. I think that trying to find yet another author to do the thinking for you is part of the problem.

    I'm not looking for someone to do the thinking for me, just someone who can provide me with the tools for my own analisys. As it is I analyse every game I play, but have noticed that: A. Knowledge is lacking and B. Some of the knowledge I do have seems faulty.

    I've actually only read one author properly on positional concepts and ideas, namely Silman and have sometimes felt that he oversimplifies strategical concepts. Since you have more experience in these matters, I thought it would be a good idea to ask you what you thought of the aforementioned author. You see, I kinda want to avoid filling my head with more junk than necessary. ;)

  6. Samurai: There should be good books out there: it certainly is a good idea to look for good writings on a topic! Trying to do it yourself, from scratch, is crazy. Try doing that in biology or physics. It is just more efficient to stand on the shoulders of giants.

    Getting a good coach is also probably a helpful path. Surefire way to personal advice. But also very expensive. If you want to talk with Heisman it's now up to 75 clams an hour!

  7. Samurai,

    I thought that when said "We have all accumulated knowledge about chess and unfortunately some of this knowledge - to different degrees - is causing more harm than good. you referred to yourself as being booked up to the eyeballs. Hence my answer.

    The best book sofar I have found is Dvoretsky's book. But I think you must be at least 1700 to be able to apply it in your games. That is mainly because otherwise tactics play a too big role.

  8. Tempo: I'll guess I'll stick with Silman and tactics until I reach a higher level. Not that I find Silman all that easy either. :-p

    A coach would have been great, but as you say, they're really expensive. 75 clams for Heisman! A bit steep.