Monday, October 12, 2009

Enhancing the toolbox

After a half year break of chess study I restarted this weekend. There are two main problems: first of all I have now two other hobbies which consume time, singing and geology. Secondly I have the feeling that I have found a way to improve and have a tendency to see that as the end of the road. So I must force myself to actually prove my case.

A good help is that the chess season is now in full swing here and I feel that I have become rusty. Ok, what am I up to?
Previously it was my intention to keep radio silence untill I reached 2000. I have re-evaluated this and asked myself if blogging is going to be helpful. During the break I have forgotten every knowledge about chess that I didn't "own". It was very helpful to reread my old posts while mapping out the future. So I have come to the conclusion that some dosed blogging will be helpful. Which is what I'm going to do.

Let me recapitulate my starting point. I have found that the pattern recognition in itself is not the problem but the building of the database with patterns to be recognized (read this twice, it's essential). In order to build that database I make use of the problemsets in Dvoretsky's books. I make use of shortlists which help me to find the right move. Every time Dvoretsky comes with a problem I can't solve with the aid of my shortlists I re-evaluate and rewrite my lists. Topics I'm already used to apply during problemsolving are removed from the lists. Which makes the lists very personalized.

What's on the lists right now?

Are the preconditions for a kingside attack met?
This is based on the ideas of Vukovic.
  • Safe center. To rule out counter attacks
  • Safe queenside. To rule out counterattacks.
  • Outnumber. You have to outnumber the defensive pieces at the kingside by 3. One piece to break open the position by a sac, two pieces to mate the king. The rest is exchanged. If there is a lever in the form of an advanced pawn, you can open lines by a pawn storm. Then there is no need to sac a piece.
  • Wedge. A pawn on e5 is helpful.
  • Noescape. The king can't escape to the queenside.
If the preconditions are not met I'm not going to attack, but I'm going to
Create a weak pawn.
  • Induce a weakness.
  • Fixate the weakness.
  • Attack the weakness. According to the principle of the two weaknesses, attack where your opponents pieces are not.
If I can't attack the king and can't create a weakness I'm going to
Reorganize my pieces.
  • Pawnstructure. The pawns decide which piece is active and which is passive. There are 3 things pawns can achieve: create an outpost, open a line or claim space for manoeuvres.
  • Manoeuvre my pieces towards their best positions.
What I'm going to think about:
What is the relation between the last point (reorganize my pieces) and the first two points (kingside attack and creating a weakness)?


  1. Hi,
    the building of a database with pattern to be recognized! Thats the clue!
    I think first you have to see/name/recognise the pattern like "Minority-Attack" "Isolated Pawn", ... and then you have to weight/judge/handle it in a concrete & new situation correct.
    In Tactics thats "easy" in positional play not: "When the players began to solve positions from the Combinational motifs section the number correctly solved increased sharply"

    says Irina Mikhailova, WGM here :

    on other place she mentioned a delay of 1 jear for the improvement in Elo-rating after start of training.

    Your list might be quikly completed by Euwe/Kramer The Middlegame or the International Chess School ( expensive but newer then Euwe and "sharp") or others.

    Dvoretsky is to high for me, i use Jusopow. Jussopov was student of Dvoretsky and has Books/Problems for 1500/1800/2100. (

    I think the Errors of your own games, detected by Rybka/Fritz might be the best source of Problems to analyse. Your openings, your errors -> your improvement.

  2. Uwe,

    I think the Errors of your own games, detected by Rybka/Fritz might be the best source of Problems to analyse.

    There is a problem with that. To enhance your database you need something new. By definition you can only come up with something old. You need somebody else to get something new. Be it a coach or a book. Rybka cannot replace that.

  3. Hi,
    i think that problemsets are not that good to name/recognise/learn pattern. Traditional Middlegame/Strategical Books from Pachman or Euwe or ICS ... are showing you the pattern better
    (Attack of the king with a own Pawn on e5, How to handele a pair of bishops... ). In a concrete new position (=problemset/puzzle) you have always several (20 and more?) pattern. Now you have to judge, wich pattern is dominat, wich not important and find a solution. I know a lot of these pattern but i am not able to handle/judge them propper. Like in your post Saturday, May 02, 2009: "Why? In my ridgid vision the creation of an extra pawn island is not good. So of what comprises the advantage of black? Or is it his only way to maintain equality and are other moves worse?"
    You know what a (half) open line/file means for Towers ( e and g file ) and what pawn islands are and that they are weakness, you know that a trade of queens helps usually the defender and so without the queens the king can do some work. You know that a pawn on f5 controlls the centerfield e4 and that a centralised queeen on e4 is better then a queen at the boarder a5. but still you dont "share" Dvoretsky's opinion. By the way, i did ask a 2100+ about the position an he did share Dvoretsky's opinion but could not tell why.

  4. 'Rybka cannot replace that.'

    Well, I do learn a lot of 'tricks' from crafty. A lot of times it gives me moves that I wouldn't conceive on my own.

  5. also,

    Are you sure keeping a list in mind is the best way to go about things?

    Do you actually consult your list before each move? Wouldn't trying to remember the list itself present a problem?

    A list 'per se' is not bad. Like if you are shopping and there are tons of things you need to buy. But since it is written on a paper, it would be no problem.

    But in a chess game, i don't think consulting in a piece of paper is allowed so we are forced to carry the list in our head.

    Carrying such a thing in mind might cloud your judgement and prohibit you from thinking about the position in front of you. e.g. You start thinking of the list instead of the position.

    I'm pretty sure there is an old post of you somewhere where you stated you don't think when you play.

    This prompted BDK to ask 'if you're not thinking during games, then why are you in time trouble all the time? what're you doing, flirting with your wife?' - or some such thing like that. I can't remember the exactly..

  6. Isn't the idea to learn new ways of thinking about and playing positions that you encounter? So if you made errors in a game then it means you didn't see or think of certain replies or ways to play in a given position. So if Rybka or Fritz shows you another way to approach that situation that wins or keeps you in the game instead of losing, which didn't occur to you when you were playing that game, then isn't there a decent chance that you might come away having discovered something "new" from that experience? It seems kind of counter-intuitive to say that if an example comes from your own game then it you can't learn anything ("new")from it...?

    -- Hank

  7. Randall,

    the book I'm working from is Dvoretsky's Secrets of positional play (always think that a book is a lousy way to keep things secret). The problems in that book have a close relation to the explanations. I see no reason to switch to Euwe or Pachman. (I already studied Euwe in the past.)

  8. Nezha,

    Well, I do learn a lot of 'tricks' from crafty. A lot of times it gives me moves that I wouldn't conceive on my own.

    I'm not talking about tricks here but about positional knowledge. For tricks Rybka is fine of course.

    Are you sure keeping a list in mind is the best way to go about things?

    Do you actually consult your list before each move? Wouldn't trying to remember the list itself present a problem?

    The list is for study purposes only. What's on the list: What I want to investigate MINUS what I already investigate automatically. For instance piece activity is not on the list since I can't make a move without considering it.
    If the study is done properly, no items will remain on the list.

    what're you doing, flirting with your wife?

    Yeah, I remember that one. Makes me feel coming from another planet. Flirting with my wife? But I am already married! Or must I pretend first that I'm not married? Sounds pretty silly. But he had a good point with time trouble. That isn't a problem anymore since I quit playing gambits btw..

  9. I tried to take up singing as a hobby as well, but my neighbors all forced me to stop.

  10. Hank,

    When I look at my own games I can, almost by definition, only come up with something old. Something I already know. To come up with something new, I have to invent it. The process of inventing is daunting and consumes lots of time and energy. Inventions are limited to my capabilities.

    It is much easier to get the knowledge of a wheel handed down than to invent it myself. That is where somebody else comes in. Even Rybka can learn me something new, for that matter.

    You are right that your own games are the best source to identify the omissions in your knowledge. But another person, like a coach, is the best one who can hand you down that knowledge. But for that he has to study your games.

    Having someone who has no time to study your games but who did study his own games is the next best option. A chess author, so to speak. That is what I'm advocating.

  11. LEP,

    now you mention it, both my neighbours sing in a choir too. Lucky me:)