Thursday, June 17, 2010

Stretching positional knowledge towards the opening

While thinking about the opening I return to an old idea of mine. It should be possible to base my positional thinking not on the characterististics of the position but on what a single move actually accomplishes. Since one single move has a vast amount of consequences, that is a challenging approach. Yet it might be the only one that is actually doable.

To chart the consequences of a single move can easily take hours, as I found out. Since you have only 3 minutes to think at average during a game that doesn't sound very promising. There is more to it, though.

First of all, it is the only way to notice all changes of the position immediately. Compare that with my normal way of moving. If I play 1.f4 I'm totally unaware that I weaken the diagonal where my future king will be after castling short. Twelve moves later, out of the blue as it seems, I am bitten from behind by it since my opponent has a terrible threat due to that weak diagonal. So theoretically, thinking of the effects per move might be the only way to not constantly fall victim to your own sown seeds of positional destruction.

A second point is, that you don't have to calculate every position as if it were new over and over again. Our usual way of thinking isn't very productive, to put it mildly. Theoretically you have to find every consequence of a move only once. You only have to think about single moves. (And remember the consequences which simply accumulate over time).

Thirdly, the effects of a single move are vast, yet finite. Both finite in the amount of effects as in the sort of effects.

Let me give an example.
A straight forward move of a pawn has always the same 3 sets of effects:
  • It closes a set of diagonals
  • It opens a set of diagonals
  • It uncovers two squares
  • It covers two new squares
  • It frees a square
  • It occupies a square
Look here where I elaborate on this.

The only thing we have to look at is how these 3 sets of effects influence the 3 positional elements of attackers, targets and the roadmap. There can't be no more to it.

I expect a huge amount of overlap once you become familiar with these finite effects of a single move. Thus saving time after a lot of exercise.

So is it doable?
I have no idea but I'm going to find out.


  1. Seems terribly simple, but I'm sure its not, as this game is very difficult.

    My question is this, what does it matter that 1.f4 weakens your kingside? Should you not already know this when you choose the Bird?

    It is something to think about when playing a Grand Prix attack, Closed Sicilian, Vienna Game, or King's Gambit.

    I understand what you are getting at but this positional knowledge would be fleshed out by playing over games in your chosen opening.

    During middlegames it seems as though this thought process could save you precious seconds on the clock and be a great jumping off point for analysis.

    Interesting stuff.

  2. International Chess School makes a big deal out of this, spends a lot of time analyzing consequences of single moves, it's one of their two central ideas for their evaluation of a move. People seem to really like it. I like it intellectually but in practice I'm still deciding games with tactics so don't need to worry about non-tactical consequences.