Sunday, November 15, 2009

From the middlegame into the endgame

Blunderprone commented on my previous post:

"Being able to reach a middle game position and in my head run through a calculation only to mis-evaluate the outcome is an issue in my mind's eye. Visualization skills are critical for calculation of a position's value at the end of a variation. Much easier to see if it's forced moves with a distinct and clear advantage or loss ( material or space). But to reach a middlegame position and evaluate the correct course is most difficult in static positions. In it's simplest terms, the decision to play a minority attack or try to make your opponent advance a pawn in front of his king first, requires teh ability to see the resulting position and say " then what?" and " who is better?" That's where knowledge of typical endgames from your games could really come in handy. Recognizing a subtle panw structure in your minds eye can give you an advantage."

The improvement of my positional middlegame play happened as follows chronologically:
  • First there were loose bits of positional knowledge with no interconnections in my mind. Knowledge about outposts, half open lines, king safety etc.. I used to forget to apply this knowledge in my games all the time.
  • After a period of serious thinking and abstract arcane blogging I found the common idea behind all these different loose ends of knowledge: piece activity. That generalization made it possible to incorporate the knowledge into my play. That helped my positional middlegame play greatly.
  • Then I found the relation between pawnstructure and piece activity. That it are the pawns which determine which piece is good and which piece is bad or ugly.
  • Due to this new insight I often reached a middlegame position with pieces which were active like hell but is was not clear to what avail. Allthough it was possible that the pieces could do something "active", the concept of "something" wasn't clear. That is where my latest blogging comes in, it defines exactly of what the activity consists. What the pieces do by being active. And it defines the hierarchy of the moves which should be played first.
The problem is now that towards the transition into the endgame I am in about the same position as I was towards positional play two years ago. That means there are a lot of loose different bits of endgame knowledge which I forget to apply in my play. If the above list can be generalized into a recipe for improvement then that means that my next step should be to find the common factor in those bits of knowledge. Which is what I'm up to now.

If I return to the comment of Blunderprone, all this means that you can't evaluate a position until you have transformed the bits of knowledge into an applicable form. Only then evaluation becomes automated enough to be useful in a game. The visualization he touches upon has a close relation to this internalization of knowledge. If I translate it to my own situation, I have difficulties to visualize the cage. Which should be trainable separately perfectly. Visualization without a relation to internalized knowledge I consider to be luxury. It will have no effect on the outcome of the game. If you can't evaluate two different positions right even if you see them physically on a board, then you will not be able to do any better when visualizing these positions in your mind in stead.


  1. Great post. I must say I greatly appreciate how you string the "arcane" bits together. And it is a great word ;)

    The description of your improvement reminded me of my own progress somewhat: I started out with very loose and general positional ideas ("outposts", "open lines"), then that was enriched by certain specific pieces or move sequences (e.g. "doubling rooks on open lines"), then that was enriched with pawn structure (e.g. "using a knight outpost to provoke a pawn weakness", "creating an isolated pawn, blockade it with a knight outpost, build up an attack on the half-open line")... and I hope this "enrichment" progress will continue well into the endgame.

    In my "system", it's all about ideas or "chunks" that function as anchors or coat hangers for further ideas. The core idea helps you categorise and retain new ideas by virtue of which it becomes more and more differentiated, more fleshed out and more specific, making your calculation more and more streamlined and efficient. I'm tempted to say that you're trying something quite similar, but that your "key ideas" are more general; or put differently: you want to use one big coat hanger, whereas I'm using a whole box of them, and they're a bit all over the place.

  2. Yes, I always need an ultimate coat hanger to hang the little coat hangers on. Without it I keep juggling with my little coat hangers without ever using them.