Saturday, October 17, 2009

What to do when there is nothing to do?

When the preconditions of a kingside attack aren't met and a weakness cannot be provoked, the game is in such a stage that it is not evident what to do. I have a whole bunch of loose idea's that can be applied at this stage. But there is no cohesy nor hierarchy in this bunch of idea's. At a certain point I bundled a lot of these idea's together under the same noumer piece activity. This is no longer sufficient. This is a first attempt to bring somewhat more order. First of all I have to give this stage a distinct name for convenience. Let me call it the stage of improving the position.

Summing up the ingredients.
Before order can be applied we must know which ingredients play a role. Sofar I have identified the following topics:
  • Prophylaxis.
  • Piece activity.
  • Flexibility.
  • Manoeuvring your pieces.
  • Preparing for potential targets.
  • Attacking two weaknesses.
  • Outnumbering.
  • Pawns.
  • Manoeuvring space.
  • Dual purpose move.
  • Improving your worst piece.
  • The tempo of the game.
Dvoretsky defines in his Secrets of positional play prophylactic thinking as the habit of constantly asking yourself what the opponents wants to do, what he would play if it were him to move, the ability to find an answer to this question and and to take account of it in the process of coming to a decision.
The main principle of converting an advantage is the restriction of the opponent's possibilities.

As a gambitplayer I was used to totally neglect the moves of my opponent since initiative is everything and I usually had no time to consider other moves than answers to my threats. So I definitively have to learn a quite new habit.

Piece activity.
A lot has been said in this blog about piece activity. There is no necessity to repeat that. My latest dicovery is that I treat it way too static. I remember well an experiment to try to invent my own opening by placing my pieces as active as possible in as less moves as possible. That lead to some kind of Colle-Zukertort kind of position. I played it in about 20 cc-games. The opponents found 20 different ways to defuse the threat of Qc2 and Bd3. Once defused, the position of the teamed up Queen and bishop continued to be harmless.

A concept related to piece activity I often use is when a pawn is very well defended by pieces it probably stands in the way.

A more dynamic approach is not to put your pieces on their best squares but to stop one move short. On a square where you have the most possibilities to reach a good square in one move.

Manoeuvring your pieces.
When the effect of a piece at a certain square peters out you have to regroup it. There are several different elements needed for this. First you need time. There mustn't be urgent tasks to accomplish elsewhere. Furthermore you need space to manoeuvre. Such space is typically created by pawns moving forward. At last you need a new square to go to.

Preparing for potential targets.
At some point you want to provoke a weakness or start a kingside attack. How on earth do you prepare for that? what does a potential target looks like? How do you know you are ready?

Attacking two targets.
This is commonly known. But how do you prepare for it?

You have to outnumber your opponent on a certain square on the board. But how do you choose your targetsquare? How do you know which square is important?

Pawns can have multiple functions. To claim space for manoeuvres, for instance. How do you know it is time to move a pawn in stead of a piece? How do you judge the irrevocable effects of a pawnmove?

Dual purpose moves.
How can you learn to design them?

Improving your worst piece.
How do you know it is time to move your worst piece?

The tempo of the game.
In the opening you can't waste tempos. But once you have developed the tempo of the game can change. Sometimes you can permit to dabble around a little. Sometimes it is time to improve your worst piece. Sometimes there is time to regroup. How do you judge this?

As you see there are a lot of ingredients and a lot of questions. I going to look for some order.


  1. Hi,
    some ingrediences are missing. One: "Beginners increase the activety of their pieces, masters reduce the activity of their oponents pieces". Dont remeber who said it. Depending on other factors g2-g3 can "block" a Knight on g6. Sometimes f3,e4 can block a Bishop on b7. Casablancas Rules for the color of the pawns depending on the colors of the bishops have the same intentions.
    Many Many Pattern, all at the same time. And you are looking for an logical algorithm: if then else. But there is no boolean algebra in chess its more fuzzy logic or Neural Nets. "How much is a Position dominated by the bishoppair" ... "How much by the open file" and so on.
    I think tactics training can help here to. In slow tactics you test an idea in your mind and then you see a problem and then you try to get rid of this problem. In positional play it might be the same (at least sometimes). You have your strategic goals and you see a problem ...

  2. "Dual purpose moves.
    How can you learn to design them?"

    You cant, you have 30-40 moves max.
    You have your candidate moves and if one of them has several purposes its a very interesting one.

  3. What's going on with the freaky hybrid pictures?

  4. Uwe,

    Beginners increase the activety of their pieces, masters reduce the activity of their oponents pieces".

    I intend to talk about that in a next post.

    if then else. But there is no boolean algebra in chess its more fuzzy logic or Neural Nets.

    My brain happens to be a neural net, so no problems there. The idea is to bring some order in the chaos in my head. Chesswise, that is. It works.

    You cant, you have 30-40 moves max.

    I have to and I will.

  5. Anon,
    that are the remains of my contest with DK to find the ugliest cat or dog. I used to win:)