"Reading this post I do get the feeling that it does seem to imply that good positions are created. I tend to believe that this is more or less a false assumption. We only achieve an advantage if the opponent allows [himself making] mistakes (or "creates" weaknesses). There is a strong case to be made however for the assumption that it is possible to create imbalances, and with them the targets that can be attacked. My feeling is that if one tries to understand endgame play, it is better to talk about imbalances than about advantages."
It is tempting to talk semantics about advantages versus imbalancies, but that would obfuscate anything to be learned from these erudite words, my dear Phaedrus. Let us see what's the fabric of which imbalancies are made. In order to get an imbalance, the opponent must make a mistake, you said. Implying that you cannot force it, the opponent must cooperate. A mistake can happen when there is a difference in the database of patterns of the players. This can have one of the following forms:
- Both players have the same omission in their patterndatabase. The mistake goes by unnoticed.
- Only one has an omission. In that case he makes a mistake and won't notice it. This will usually not happen in tactics, since both players at our level know the few tactical combinations there are all too well. To expand your database you need the help of somebody else. Be it a coach or a chessbook author.
- There is a transferproblem. Both players know the pattern, but one of them fails to remember it behind the board. For me, the coathangerrack is the solution for the transferproblem. Take for instance the coathanger I use do decide on a positional move in the middlegame: "the pawns decide which piece is active". By just remembering this one sentence, everything I know about outposts, open lines, strong squares etc. comes to mind.
- There is a valuationproblem. Both players recognize the pattern, but one of them misjudges the consequences. How often do you hear yourself say "I thought about that move, but I rejected it because. . ."? Being wrong with hindsight.
- There is a difference in skill. If you cannot calculate far enough, or have difficulties to visualize a position, you can make mistakes which you can't help. A lot has been said about skill and skilltraining. It certainly takes quite an effort to fix it.
- A blunder is made. It looks a bit like the transferproblem but it is more basal. With the transferproblem it is normal that you don't remember it behind the board, but with a blunder it is unusual. Discipline and good habits are your weapons here.
This leaves three topics to make a real difference:
- Transfer. As said, coat hangers are imho the solution for me.
- Skill. We already talked too much about this. Read my blog if someone doesn't remember it:)
And indeed, if I look at my latest loss against Lysias, I quite ignored that little passer at the rim since I thought the game was about killing his king with a beautiful combination. So even when I had the chance to get rid of that little bugger I followed the figments of my deluded mind instead. How wrong my judgement was!
So what we need is a database with evaluations, my friend.
A database where we put in our experiences in order to make use of them later.
Thus speaking, our main enemy appears unhidden before our eyes: Forgetfulness. Our thirst let us drink from the river Lethe all too much. Forgetfulness is very useful for our daily life. If we wouldn't forget where we left our car the day before yesterday, and the day before the day before yesterday, our remembrance where we have left the car yesterday would soon be obscured by a cloud of memories with all possible places where we have left the car ever. But forgetting our chess experiences will yield mediocracy.