Saturday, January 23, 2010

Why tell me why

Every rule in chess has a why behind it. If you don't know the why behind a rule, the rule leads necessarily to a ridgid application. John Watson has written a whole book about falsifying the rules of Nimzowitch. Without offering a workable alternative.

Obeying rules is the lazy man's way of development. In stead you must go after the reason behind the rule. There are a few cases where we only have a rule but the reason why remains in the dark. In such cases the rule is often used to describe something. Take for instance the description of the transition of advantages. It only describes what is happening, but it isn't clear why it is happening. And why it is inevitable. Such rules are useless for practical play.

Nimzowitsch beautifully explains the relationship between open lines, penetration into the 7th rank, outpost, inducing weaknesses, pawnchain, blockade, centralisation, overprotection and prophylaxis. He welds everything together. It really is a coherent system. For some reason he translated his ideas into rules, which is a silly thing to do. Maybe it was a matter of fashion and did he wanted to copy Tarrasch.

My play is prone to tactical weakness. After analysing I found that I miss tactical opportunities of my opponent once every three games. According to Rybka I seldom miss a tactical opportunity myself. The reason behind this may be that I am used to gambitplay. With gambits you have the initiative, so it is much less important what your opponent is up to, since he must react to your moves or lose. If you throw the kitchen sink at your opponent it is less important what he is throwing back. Usually. But now I'm trying to implement the ideas of Nimzowitsch in my play, tactical counterplay of the opponent must be taken into account. The initiative is less strong, usually. So there is more freedom for my opponent. I just must make it a habit to look at my opponents opportunities as if it were mine. That should lead to an improvement.

So far one loss, one win.


  1. The transition of advantages happens because the opponent is trying to nullify your advantages and develop advantages of his own. During the period when your advantages exist you should use that pressure to develop new advantages. It is important for practical play to understand this carefully. Probably the likes of Watson, Rowson and Silman must have explained this somewhere.

    In general: suppose you develop a game with different pieces each having different ways of moving over of a board with two opponents who play in turns with a complexity similar to that of chess. Will your game turn out to be analyzable in such a way that you can formulate various rules in human language? Maybe you can. But in general the rules will only be an approximate model for the game. While over the years with more brainpower more advanced sets of rules can be formulated, which more closely model the game, but there will likely always be a disparity with the real game. However, a developing player may benefit greatly by learning these advancing rule sets in succession.

  2. Tentative,

    But in general the rules will only be an approximate model for the game.

    Yes. That is partly my point. The other part is that the why behind a rule deals with the exceptions. It explains what you try to accomplish with the rule. Thus telling you when it is appropriate to follow the rule strict and when to abandon it.

  3. Even if you did not train with the "gambit" mindset, I'd bet you'd still have a similar discrepancy.

    For most people, defense is naturally a more difficult skill to develop. Human psychology has a big part to do with this.

    Even as a defensive player, my ability to see good moves for the opponent is shockingly poor.

  4. This past sunday i was all the game better then my opponent but helas at the end of the game i overlooked a tactic for him and had to resign.

    Since i stood better i looked the entire time to improving my position moves and didn't focus enough on moves of my opponent. I guess you have something similar.