Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Point count chess

The framework of chess probably looks more like a tree than a bicycle. At the higher cognitive levels I suspect it to be fairly limited. Say there are 10-15 tactical ideas, 10-15 positional ideas and 10-15 endgame ideas. About 30-45 ideas in total. The point is to recognize these ideas in your games and to value these ideas against each other in case there are more themes in one position. How difficult can that be?

It's my take that it is very important to think for yourself. With ideas of your own, you will learn more from books. Since most books will provide information conflicting with your own ideas you are forced to think about it. Without ideas of your own it is easy to read books on the autopilot. Thus missing a lot.

I have investigated a lot middlegame positions. The main positional point I learned from that was the importance of piece activity. I found all positional ideas to boil down in the end to piece activity. Further research learned me that piece activity means nothing without weaknesses. I must cultivate target consciousness.

In search for the ultimate frame I decided to read the book of Horowitz and Mott-Smith Point Count Chess. I looked at it in the past, but it made no impression by then. But now I have some ideas of my own and I was struck by the conflicting ideas of the book. Hence this post.

The idea of the book is to give plus points for good characteristics of the position and minus points for bad characteristics. To give an idea of the units: 1 pawn = 3 points. The goal is to find moves that lead to the most pluspoints. The division in piece activity, pawnstructure and endgame pawnstructure is mine, in order to compare it with my ideas. They talk about positions that are strategical by nature, since all becomes different if there is a tactical shot, of course.

Plus points

Piece activity:
  • Superior development
  • Strong outpost
  • Bishop pair
  • Bishop vs knight
  • Rook on 7th
  • Control useful open file
  • Half open file
  • Better king position
Middlegame pawnstructure:
  • Control of the center
  • Pawn on 4th vs 3rd
  • Mobile pawn wing
  • Greater space
  • Qualitative Pawn majority
  • Offside pawn majority
  • Advanced pawn
  • Advanced chain
  • Advanced salient
Endgame pawnstructure:
  • Passed pawn
  • Outside passed pawn
  • Protected passed pawn
Minus points
  • King held in center
  • Cramped position
  • Compromised kingside
  • Bad bishop
Middlegame pawnstructure:
  • Backward pawn
  • Hanging pawns
  • Hanging phalanx
  • Crippled majority wing
Endgame pawnstructure:
  • Doubled pawn
  • Isolated pawn
Weak squares middlegame:
  • Weak square complex
  • Holes
From the 32 topics mentioned there are 21 about pawns, 8 about piece activity and 3 about king safety. I only consider pawns in sofar they influence piece activity or they be a targed. That means that I neglect about 11 topics concerning pawns. That is remarkable, to say the least.

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