## Saturday, February 07, 2009

### Why you need somebody else

At the moment I'm doing the Chess Exam of Igor Khmelnitsky. I like the idea of the book very much. I'm very curious how my score will be. Doing the exam is positional training at the same time. Take for instance the following diagram:

diagram 1

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White to move.

There are two multiple choice questions related to each diagram.

Question 1: Evaluate the position.
A. White is significantly better
B. White is slightly better
C. Nearly equal
D. Black is slightly better

Question 2: What is the best move?
A. 1.Ba5
B. 1.Qh4
C. 1.Rd2
D. 1.f4

Solution [Q1: A Q2:B]
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If such position had occurred in one of my own games I wouldn't have realized that d6 is weak (my blind spot). You need somebody else to tell you that. That is why analyzing your own games all by yourself is of limited use. d6 is well restraint and cannot be pushed forward. Hence it is weak. I immediately dismissed Qh4 because it wrecks the white pawnstructure and I didn't see the point behind Rd2 at all.

You really need somebody else to show you what's in your blind spot. The black Queen holds the black position together. Blacks pieces are undeveloped, but that is a temporary advantage. So white must act quickly. With 1.Qh4, white attacks the only defender of the black pawns. The fact that it ruins your own pawnstructure is of less importance than that the black centre pawns will fall. 1.Ba5 and 1.f4 are both met by 1. ... Nc6.

1. Nice example! I love this kind of unexpected exchange - so hard to see in advance, and so obvious in hindsight.

2. It boils down to knowing when to exchange queens. The temporary developmental advantage and the weakness on d6 are enough compensation for the weakening of the pawns on the King's side.
Aagard, in his Excelling in Positional Chess Book talks what it takes to win an endgame. You need 2 advantages ( or exploitation of 2 weaknesses) in order to win. Only one, and your opponent can draw. The advantage can be King position and an extra pawn. In this case its a weak square AND the development advantage. Looking at it in this light, makes the Qh4 move all the more obvious.

Would I have seen it? Hell no. Like you I didn't see the weakness in d6. Will I ever see things like an expert? No telling, but I am trying my best to train to improve my accuracy when I evaluate positions. Since this is one of the other cornerstones of DeGroot's study ( thought and choice in chess). In addition to the pattern recognition of Experts versus amateurs being in order of magnitude different, so is the ability to evaluate accurately a position... in a given amount of time ( OTB simulation).

So I continue to practice tactics AND practice evaluating positions in my games as well as annotated master games. For my own games, I take a crack at it first, then I use a chess engine. Sometimes I have the added value of my strong opponent's insight post game. When I look over master games, I annotate on my own without looking at the evaluation in the book. Then I compare my lines and assessment with those of the author of the tournament book. I am getting to the point where I see similar branches but still fall short with technique.

3. I would be careful about applying the two-weakness rule so liberally. The original idea (as formulated by Dvoretsky) is that in an endgame where one side has a weak pawn and everything else is equal, tying the opponent down to that one pawn may not be enough to win; you often need to find a second weak pawn somewhere. If you start taking into account things like material and development advantage then you might as well start using the rule to evaluate middlegame positions. After all, an extra pawn and a lead in development in any opening position ought to be enough to win.

4. Only 1 point out of two. I got Qh4 but said nearly equal for the first Question.

So wrong evaluation but right move, does this mean i have to work on my evaluation skills not being so chickenish?

5. Hi TempoSchlucker,

thumbs up for your blog. I discovered it recently and am working back it's history. I am Dutch too, play promotieklasse for SV Ons Genoegen (Amersfoort). Just like you I was a MDLM adept and thought I could reach ELO 2000 by drilling tactics. I peaked at 1917 4 years ago and have had a major fall back to 1700 since. It's so insightful to see how your thoughts on chess improvement have developed during your blogging period. Since short I am in the phase of studying by playing as much rapid games as possible and analyse with engine afterwards. Rybka does show me things like Qh4 in these kind of positions and helps me to create a 'narative' to find out what is going on. I have these 2 exam books on my to read list as well, but first I will do some drilling with stap 6.

Regards and I hope to see you in real in the Dutch chess life some day.

6. BP,
logically your approach must be good. As is reflected by your rating.

7. CT,
what went wrong with your evalution? Did you underestimate the falling down of the enemy center or did you overestimate your wrecked pawnstructure, or both?

8. Papablanca,
I would be nice to meet you! Our next tournament will probably be the Pinkstertoernooi in Bussum, so who knows:)

9. "CT,
what went wrong with your evalution? Did you underestimate the falling down of the enemy center or did you overestimate your wrecked pawnstructure, or both?"

I guess i overestimated my wrecked pawn structure. Dont know why but i am more affraid of my own bad points in my position then those in the opponents position. Maybe that is what holds me to reach 2000+ rating, that i always try to have a decent position even if that's not always necessary.