Thursday, January 10, 2008

Sudden enhancement

All of a sudden my strategical framework is enhanced by 45%. From 22 to 32 topics to take into consideration. When you are consciously building your framework, you have a reference to compare new information with. The book of Horowitz presented 10 quite new topics which I had never heard of before. All new topics concern pawn play. This is the missing link to turn the Polar Bear into a powerful weapon! There is no way I could have devised this on my own.

The book Pawn Count Chess is fairly underrated. The reason for this is, I think, that it is written by someone who wasn't of masterlevel, allthough the book obviously was approved by Horowitz, who signed it as co-author. Horowitz was an international master. Allthough his play was of grandmaster level to nowadays standards he was never granted the title of grandmaster.

For us mere amateurs the fact that the book is written by a non-master act as a recommendation! The main author, Mott-Smith, is capable to bridge the pedagocial gap that usually exists between grandmaster and amateur. The book doesn't contain irrelevant material and doesn't focus on exceptions. It explains the heart of the matter and the summaries at the end of each chapter hit the nail on the head.

His idea behind the counting method is simply put that 3 positional advantages is worth a pawn. Of course you can wait until some grandmaster will frown upon this idea saying, "yeah, but sometimes an advantage is worth 0.1 of a pawn and sometimes it is worth 0.4 of a pawn. It depends on the position" These objections are well met by the additional information that the book provides. It tells you when to count and when not. I think that the method quite suffices for amateurs. It provides a framework, and of course you will learn in practice when an advantage or disadvantage is worth counting and when not.

I'm very surprised that the book contains 10 new topics I had never heard of or if I had I never used it in my games. All new topics are about pawn play. I'm surprised that books about strategy like the ones of Euwe, Seirawan and Aagaard don't talk about it. That PCT had no problems that adressed these topics. Maybe these books and software did cover the 10 new topics. But in that case I must have forgotten it the moment I encountered it. Due to lack of a framework of course:)

I have read the following books about pawnstructure and pawn play: Pawn Structure Chess of Soltis, Winning pawn Structures of Baburin and Understanding pawn play in Chess by Marovic. Pawn Count Chess does a much better job to explain the basics of pawn play, not bound or limited to specific openings, the endgame or the isolani.

What I have learned as quite new:
  • What kind of occupation of the center can you count as an advantage and under what conditions is this advantage useless?
  • When does the pawnpush to the 5th rank count as an advantage and what conditions are needed? What is the effect of the structure this van pawn is imbedded in? (chain/salient/reverse salient). When can you count an extra bonus for the van pawn?
  • When is a pawn storm on one of the wings considered to be an advantage?
  • What is a hanging phalanx and when to count it as a disadvantage?
What I had forgotten to use in my games:
  • Offside pawn majority.
  • Crippled wing majority.
  • Weak square complex.
The count method itself is of course useless for OTB play. There is no time to count 2x32 assets in a game each move. Even for a cc-game I consider that too much work. But it is helpful when it is not quite obvious what candidate move to play in a game. If you can count as follows:
  • Move x only improves the position of my bishop counts as 1.
  • Move y gives me space advantage plus it chases away an important defender counts as 2
it is a helpfull method. Of course after experience you will forget to count and just weight those moves. But untill then the method helps you to not forget to take into account all important issues.


  1. Is there a difference between a weak square complex and a weak color complex?

  2. The co-author was an avid Bridge player and transposed a point count method to evaluating pawn positions.

    I liked the book... its been a while since i read through it. A lot to absorb. Maybe I'll take it with me next time I go ice fishing ( if you hadn't seen my last post)

  3. Blue,
    I'm not sure. I guess not. But I adopted the formulation of the book.

  4. Just making sure. As I started to get better before my little break, focusing on weak color complexes was very useful for helping me evaluate Bishop worth. It won me a couple of games, basing attacking plans around the opponent's weak color complexes. I'm sure I don't understand them very well, though, so it seems worth reinvestigating once I resume the hobby.

    My attitude is changing: when/if I resume I want to appreciate these subtle and beautiful strategic factors more, even if it means I lose a bit more because I'm not as sharp on tactics. Or at least that's what I'm telling myself. :)

  5. BDK: There is something to be said for being able to grind out small advantages based on opponent square weaknesses. If you grind long enough the suddenly you have opened yourself up for all sorts of possibilities.

    BTW, glad you're at least lurking and making comments here and there. This means you haven't totally turned you back on the mighty Caissa.

  6. Blue,
    another reason I used square complex and not color complex is because I remembered the book of Vukovic with its focal points. He spoke about weak squares of different color which formed a weak square complex. So I decided to keep the options open by copying the exact words of Point count chess.

  7. Tempo,
    With the beginning of Corus, I couldn't help but wonder if you are playing in it this year. If you are, good luck. One day I'd like to make it over there and play in that tourney. Seems like a special time.

  8. PMD,
    no, I'm not playing this year. Companies I work for have the irritating habit to go bankrupt so I must take some measures. Alas.

  9. Tempo: I was expecting them to be different. I could imagine a kind of irregular quilt of weak squares that formed a complex, but not the same colors. Something a knight could easily exploit, for instance. It would be interesting to see examples I'll keep my eye open for that book.

  10. Can you help me please? Take a look at

    I'm trying to become a knight!