Thursday, February 14, 2013

Taming those pesky beasts

When you reach an endgame, usually there is not an awfull lot of time left on the clock. It's not uncommon to need another 30 - 40 moves to mate for an already winning endgame. I noticed that especially checking out the knights in the endgame is very time consuming. You have to be aware of forks, mate and sacrifices. Especially when there are four of those beasts around.
This is time which is better spent elsewhere.

I have done more than my fair share of knight vision exercises. Microdrills, Maurice Ashley, Jonathan Levitt, Troyis etc.. When I was checking out yet another knight vision exercise today, I realized that all these exercises were aiming at mastering the dynamics of the knight. But my handling of the dynamics is already very good, especially thanks to Troyis. I soon realized that I needed a few rules that concerned the statics of the knight. The best way to speed up calculation is to avoid it. After some thinking I came up with the following four simplified rules. With simplified I mean that I don't take into consideration situations where the knight is sofar away that it is not necessary to take special measures. In order to keep the rules simple.

The first two rules are about where to put a piece in comparison to the knight. Two rules since there are two colors.

Rule 1. Same color. Relative to the knight.
If you want to put your piece ont the same color as the knight, there are only four safe squares to do so.
When you put your piece on one of the blue squares, you have two free tempos before the knight pesters you again.

Rule 2. Different color. Relative to the knight.
If you want to put your piece on a different color, you can put it on every square, as long as you don't put it in direct jeopardy.
When you put your piece on one of the blue squares, you have one free tempo before the knight pesters you again.

The next two rules are about how to place two of your own pieces relative to each other to prevent them from being forked. One rule for each color.

Rule 3. Same color. Relative to your own piece.
Put your pieces on the same diagonal with one square in between.
In all other positions on the same color, there is a risk to be forked.

Rule 4. Different color. Relative to your own piece.
When you put your pieces on a different color, they can never be forked.

These four simplified rules cut down calculation time drastically.
Only rule 1 I use on a regular basis. I was only vague aware of the existence of the other three rules, but I never used them.


  1. These are rules how to play AGAINST a knight.

    Here are some useful rules I use:
    Knight and Pawn:

    1) Place your white knight on e5 and your white pawn on d6.
    Place the opponent king on d8 or e8.
    How can the black king attack your pawn?
    If he goes from d8-c8-b7-b6-c5xd6 you can easily see how long that takes!
    Also: walking this way is pretty dangerous if there is a white rook around. Who know where the black king gets mated? At the end it might be the a-file after a rook check on the b-file forcing the opponent king maybe to the a-file and it might get narrow after the knight jumps to c6.

    So lesson learned: a knight and a pawn can work very powerful in restricting the room of the opponent king while at the same time the passing/free pawn cant be attacked by the king. No need to weakly guard your pawn on d6 with a knight on e4, but better place your knight on e5 --> then you dont need to guard your pawn.

    If you need to guard your pawn with the Knight (you cant apply rule 1 because your pawn is currently attacked), then you better guard it from behind and not from the front. The pawn itself can always develop a promotion thread that indirectly protects your knight. If your knight is in front of your pawns, then it can be attacked and your pawn is a bad guard for your knight against the opponent king.

    3) your Knight and your Bishop are best placed on the same colour, one square in between.
    Place your knight for instance on e5 and your bishop on c5, the opponent king on e8.
    Know look where the opponent king needs to go in order to attack either your knight or your bishop: many, many moves.
    You usually dont need to know how many, nor does it matter much if the opponent king is on d8, c8, c7 - you have endless time to get help from a single pawn somewhere on the flanks or from your own king.
    The bishop set-up B&N on the same square is usually very strong.

    4) your knight and queen:
    They work beautyfully together and mate is often possible with these, too.
    A common mate that many people dont see is for instance: your queen on b7, your knight on e4.
    The knight is protected by the queen, and an opponent king between queen and knight is either check mated or almost mated. Often with some of his own pieces blocking his way, the opponent king will eventually be check mated. Just let your thoughts circle around this set-up and you will see many dangerous "almost" check mates.
    I created my own CT tag for this Q/N set-up, so often does it happen!