Saturday, December 26, 2015

More about vision

I didn't intend to write about counter attacks, but while I was preparing this post, I stumbled upon it, and I realised that it is the main cause of confusion for my brains. But actually, I wanted to write about step 3, the training of vision. Step 3 is under construction, and the thinking out loud that blogging is for me, has always been helpful, along with the feedback that stems from your comments.

So why do I think that training of vision can help to see simple positions as simple? Why do I insist that most problems at CT are actually simple? How will visual training look like?

The diagram below stems from CT problem 100388. Its rating is a remarkable 1784 , and it took me almost 3 minutes to solve it.

Diagram 1

6k1/5p2/2r5/5p2/8/1r4P1/1N2RPK1/R1b5 b - - 2 7


Once you know the solution, it's hard to imagine why it took so much time to find it. And it rises the question: how can I see what is going on in this simple faster, the next time?

When we go through the obligatory step 2 first, our brain performs a few tasks. We want to know if there are any tasks that can be automated.

Identified tasks:
  • Knight is attacked+ 1
  • Decide which piece should take the knight, R or B
  • Effect of RxNb2
  • Effect of BxNb2
  • Pin after BxNb2
  • Unpin the bishop

Robert Coble introduced the term "function" in one of the earlier comments. That is an interesting term which might be useful. I want to see the current function of the pieces.

Knight is attacked+ 1
An evident task here is counting the attackers and defenders. Although I can imagine a specific training geared towards counting, it is hard to imagine that there will be a great gain in speed. After all, counting is something I do all the time during a game.
This knight isn't an ordinary knight. After counting, it has become a target. Its function is: target. It would be helpful here if I was able to see it as a target.

Decide which piece should take the knight, R or B.
It is too early to be able to  make a decision yet. First more information has to be gathered. Usually we think of decision making as something that is a conscious process. But repeatedly gm's reported that they just knew which move was good, since it felt best. Either way, the actual decision making won't take much time when the preparation has been good.

Effect of RxNb2
It helps to see this position before your minds eye.

Diagram 2

What is important, is the function of the bishop. The bishop is the protector of the rook. Annihilation of the defender for white is the first move that comes to mind, and it wins the piece back.

Effect of BxNb2.
Again, it helps to see this position before your minds eye.

Diagram 3
 This position doesn't look save due to the pin.

Pin after BxNb2.
What is important here, is that black puts his pieces in a "pinnable" position. Rb1 pins the bishop to the rook.

Unpinning the bishop.
It took me an incredible amount of time to find the right move to unpin the bishop. I dabbled around with al kinds of trial and error moves. If I had only defined the task my pieces had to fulfil, I had found the move much earlier.

Diagram 4

I look for a move that protects both Bb2 and Rb3. So Rb6 is the natural way to go.

Which tasks lend themselves for automation?
In order to solve these kind of positions faster in the future, can we formulate what we should train now, and how we should train it? I identified these tasks:
  • Imagination of a future position.
  • Imagination of the function of the pieces.
  • Imagination of the themes of the combination.
  • Formulation of the purpose of the move.
Let's have a closer look at these four tasks.

Imagination of a future position.
And first sight, it seems logical that seeing the board and its pieces before your minds eye is a big advantage. Every gm can play blindfold chess, but you can learn yourself to play blindfold chess and still suck at chess. It turns out that the gm doesn't see the board as a whole, but he sees the essence of what is going on. We experimented a lot the imagination of a future position, and we found that a little narrative that guides the imagination is paramount. With only a little verbal help it is way easier to look into the future position.

Imagination of the function of the pieces.
This is actually an eye opener (hat-tip to Robert Coble). It is necessary to see that pieces stand out due to the function they have in the position. Common functions: target, defender, attacker, overloaded, pinned. I will try to see those pieces in relation to their function.

Imagination of the themes of the combination.
This is what I already was training. I try to see all the themes of a combination in the position.

Formulation of the purpose of the move.
Without this, I fall victim to the habit of just looking around for random moves on a trial&error basis. The formulation of the purpose of the move will be a great guide for imagination of future positions, so I catch two birds with one stone here.

Further I'm just roving about at my scrapyard looking for usable pieces.


  1. First and foremost, the credit for defining "function" as a significant motif belongs solely to Dr. Lasker; I am only the messenger. Please refer to his excellent Lasker's Manual of Chess for the details.

    I approached the position as a combination of the "assault" motif, the "geometrical" motif, and the "Loose Pieces Drop Off" motif. The Knight is not currently performing any "function" which diminishes its movement or capabilities; in other words, it is not occupied with any tasks other than its loss, so it has no "function" in the Dr. Lasker sense. It is obvious at a glance that the Nb2 is attacked twice and defended only once; I don't even think of that is counting, even though it actually is counting. The "assault" motif says to use forcing moves, in order not to allow the opponent time to defend. either by bringing another defender to bear or by allowing the attacked piece to be moved to safety. If a forcing move (check, capture or threat) is available, it reduces the available options for the defender. If the Knight is not captured immediately, it can be moved to safety with Na4, and then defended (if necessary) by Rea2. Assuming that Black grabs the Knight ("assault" and "Loose Pieces Drop Off" motifs) with the Bishop, the final question revolves around the geometrical motif: can White attack the Bishop more times than it can be defended by pinning it against the Black Rook on b3? The only possible way that can occur is if Black has no other possible defender available after the pin. Obviously, the Black Rc6 can get to b6 unhindered in time to provide protection of the Rb3 (and through it, the Bb2). Therefore, there are only two possible attackers and two possible defenders of the Bb2 after the Bishop captures the Knight. Therefore, Black wins the Knight. As a quick check for safety after the capture, can White bring any more piece(s) to bear against the pinned Bishop, utilizing the "encircling" motif? No, the White King is too far away, so, consequently, Black wins the Knight "for free." Black can easily remove the pin without any further problems, because White cannot create a geometrical battery along the b file, and wouldn't be able to win the Bishop anyway because there are two Black defenders of the Bishop to two attackers. Any attempt to bring the White King over to attack the Bb2 can be met by moving the Rb3 to a black square, and then removing the Bishop from the pin while simultaneously protecting the forward Rook. In this particular position, the sequence of moves seemed obvious: grab the Knight with the Bishop!

    It took me approximately 15-30 seconds to go through that mental process. (I did not set a timer, but it was very quick.) It took considerably longer to describe the thought process in writing.

    That's my take on it. Hopefully, there is some value in the description that you can use.

  2. The difficulty of giving examples with these kind of positions is twofold. What is difficult for one person, is simple to the next. And variations are addictive. Both difficulties conspire to distract the attention from the main point: what is the post about.

  3. BTW, a more contemporary book on this notion of "seeing" the motifs is Emmanuel Neiman's Tune Your Chess Tactics Antenna: Know when (and where!) to look for winning combinations. The terminology is different, and the motifs (called "signals") are somewhat different, but the idea is the same in both methods.


    In this book, I suggest a thinking method that is intended to help the practical chess player. I am sure that using this technique, the reader will improve his play as a whole, meaning both his tactical abilities (i.e. the ability to foresee combinations) and his positional abilities.

    The idea of this work is to provide the reader with a kind of "antenna." this antenna has seven "filters" (what I call "signals") that will allow a chess player to detect tactical possibilities.

    The two main points are:

    - Follow carefully the necessary steps of reflection (see the 5 phases in the Introduction);
    - Detect the signals for you and for your opponent (Part I and II).

    First look, then analyze, and only then start to look for the right move! See Part III of this book.

    A great trainer and champion [Alexander Kotov] once advised his pupils to calculate like machines. I'd say: be human! Do not calculate without ideas.

    Good luck to all!

    Emmanuel Neiman
    November 2012

    There is a sufficient number of new ideas explicitly spelled out (with lots of examples) in this book to make it worthwhile to add to Dr. Lasker's book as a source for the methodology.

    Happy "signal" hunting!

  4. I apologize if I missed your point of this post. I was under the impression it was about "vision." Perhaps I am unclear as to the process I used. I didn't get into variations because there are none of any complexity in the position. The general process of "look FIRST' for the motifs, and then apply tactical themes sufficed (for me) to "see" what is needed in the position.

    Perhaps I should have described what I immediately eliminated from consideration: there is nothing going on regarding either King, so I eliminated the Kings from consideration. Nothing is going on with the Pawns, so I eliminated them from consideration. That only leaves the interrelationship between the pieces on the right side of the board as having any significance. I didn't try to calculate any variations; I just looked first for motifs. The motifs strongly indicated that Black can take the Knight and keep it.

    End of story for me.

    BTW, I am still in the process of re-working my thought processes. Occasionally I still fall back into the "trial and error" approach of randomly looking for a tactical shot. When I observe myself doing that, I smack myself in the head (metaphorically speaking) and discipline myself to use the process of "SEE, then DO." I do not claim (and do not believe) that this process is either universally applicable to every position nor universally useful to every player. YMMV.

  5. When I saw the puzzle for the 1st time - I thought it is a serious mistake! Why? Because black just play BxN and he is ahead of a piece! Of course I knew that even after pinning and doubling attack at (B)b2 white is able to defend it easily.

    I did not even CONSIDER playing RxN as a first move! Hard to say what I was 'blindfold' - maybe because I wanted to "escape" the Bishop from the 1st rank (and attack a Rook next move!).

    What about the conclusions? I think we should draw conclusions from such a play (a trap shown at this post). I have seen such a motive when solving positions, but with back rank mate motifs! I call it "flying/flowing pieces" - you cannot touch anyone one (of the Rooks) because the other takes with check and mate the King (White: Ra7, Rb7 and black Ra8, Rb8 - black King at f8 with pawns at f7,g7,h7).

    BTW. Please notice that the move RxB - it is an example of DOUBLE attack - even if you can call it "destroying the guard". After that move both (black) Rooks are under attack and no one is defended!

    PS. I have the feeling that if we would be able to understand the function of the pieces (in relationship to tactics) and (how to check out) the refutation idea - we would be half way of our journey! :)

  6. If you look at the problems that CT throws at you based on your rating, then 50% of the times you are lucky, you have no problems, since you see the position as simple, and 50% of the time you are dumb and have no clue. I exaggerate for the sake of reason, of course. The question is, how do we get from dumb to intelligent. Even if you are looking intelligent at the moment cause the problem happens to fit in the you looking intelligent class.

  7. I read through the comments again. The core point of both (series of) comments above seems to be, that a lot of branches of the tree of analysis can be pruned without any further thoughts. Robert Coble pruned along while basing himself on logical reasoning, while Tomasz did the same while basing himself on his gut feeling.

    I on the other hand, didn't prune anything at all, basing myself on T&E (trial and error) to find the next move. The move Rb6 alone took me about a minute. Which is a hard to believe waste of time. Yet that is the harsh reality.

    The post describes a close relation between vision and verbal guidance, and maybe that is what we might have to train. The verbal reasoning seems to be very helpful when it comes to pruning, which is a way of speeding up by not doing things. Which is more like using a car than like buying a new pair of sneakers.

    So replacing t&e by verbal reasoning is the first stage (step 3a) and replacing verbal reasoning by vision step 3b) is what I am going to experiment with. Being especially keen on pruning.

    1. I have been thinking about "gut feeling" - why have I chosen the move BxN, but not RxN? To be honest - I even did not check the latter! I have just seen the "only move" - I was really shocked with the simplicity of the puzzle (taking a piece for free in ONE move???, really?! that's it??!)

      Look at the position VERY carefully. Why I did not choose the move RxN? Because if you have your BISHOP at the 1st rank - it is simply useless! Then I combined the two themes into one! Improve my bishop and win a piece for free! That's why the move BxN came to my mind with the lightning speed! It may sound awkard or even ridiculous, but I made a simple developing move and took a piece! Maybe tactical ideas should be recognized together with positional aspects as well? What do you think about it?

      And the second reason why I moved the Bishop (instead of Rook) is because the Bishop takes the Knight and AFTER this move it is "ideally placed" (at the long diagonal). You cannot ask for more when playing just one move (developing a piece, placing at the ideal position and taking a piece for free!).

      Probably that's one of the masters' (or grandmasters') secrets related to chess tactical moves they have difficulty to explain. Try to notice how often masters or grandmasters are saying: "I played this move, because it LOOKed really nice - I was not 100% sure if it is correct, but I simply felt it".

    2. It is a matter of chance. My gut feeling told me to not putting the bishop into a potential hazardous pin without reason. Only after I dismissed RxN, I was ready to look at the awkward move BxN.

  8. This old post describes the relation between the vision of future positions, and guidance by verbal reasoning.

    My blog looks to be based on T&E too, by the way. Unbelievable how often I have repeated myself. But then again, that is the harsh reality.

  9. Tempo. You have already mentioned the important thing. It looks really easy and there is no point of dealing with it... but that's the REAL drawback! What do I mean?

    Let's quote you: "The move Rb6 alone took me about a minute. Which is a hard to believe waste of time. Yet that is the harsh reality."

    Now let's prune it ;) :). Yeah, that's the REALITY to check out and change the piece you will be using in the near future. DO NOT build your car with the parts they can be broken with the first "road shot".

    What do I mean? You should ANALYSE deeply the actual position:
    1K6/2B4k/2P4p/3N4/8/6r1/3R2b1/6R1 b - - 0 1
    BLACK to play and win (gain material).

    I hope you will analyse it DEEPLY as just thinking about a minute is a serious sign where your problem is hidden. Of course you should set up by yourself some similar positions and draw the conclusions - now it is (a theme) about pinning and unpinning.

    I have solved 700 puzzles since 24th of Dec - as I wanted to see if my recognition and perception has changed. And YES! It has changed to the degree that I not just remember the solutions, but ideas (motifs!) come to my mind! And what I discovered (and still testing!) is that visualization is a real breaker (stops us) when we feel that the solution is 'just around the corner'. Anyway hard logic, verbal reasoning and a lot of patterns - ALL of these components are needed to find the best move and know WHY it is the best one (of course assuming there is JUST one move at specific position - which is the best and we have to discover it)

    You will probably be happy if I make a table with "speed performance" related to our (solving) car (model).

    1) Understanding the (goal of the position) - obligatory [otherwise we are unable to solve the problem]
    2) Recognition of the simple themes (pins, forks, double attacks, back rank mate, discovered attack, discovered check, intermezzo, etc.) and patterns (as the exact or extremally similiar type of positions) - 40%
    3) Creating the threats or improving our position by force (harmony of the pieces and/or coordinated attack) - as a form of verbal and visual reasoning (perception) - 20%
    4) Imagination or as we call it now (correct) "visualization" - building the tree of variations - 15%
    5) Checking for refutations (strongly connected with the 4th point) - 15%
    6) Gut feeling, intution, experience and luck - 10%

  10. Of course there is a model at the project phase. Anyway you may see WHY the speed and correctness of solving puzzles may DRASTICALLY improve.
    If you have the problem with no.5 (as Tempo showed when he had trouble finding the defence against the double attack at the form of pinning the bishop) your time will increase quite much.

    How do I know? Why am I so sure? It is because I have just solved 700 chess puzzles - they were quite easy (#2 type), but consisted of many illusory (deceptive) solutions as ideas interpose each other. What I discovered is the using these points above with more courage and bigger determination. One of the puzzles I have been solving up to 15 mins (!) - compare it with Tempo's (small) failure. However when I broke the puzzle into the important parts based on logical reasoning and "freedom of choice" (courage to go into new territory) - it literally "jumped" at me (as you probably have had some kind of "illumination").

    And yes, I am going to test my ideas with the random (puzzles rarely or never seen nor solved) and see what happens.

    And one more important hint: if you know the MOST IMPORTANT motif - your task may be fasten even up to 90-95% of the time previously used. It is the same phenomena as Kasparov told when he had the opportunity to outplayed Deep Blue. I will quoute him (just the idea not exact words): "IF somebody would just tell me 'NOW!' - I would find the winning variation without any problems. The problem was I did not know it when 'now' is present".

    Let's share your comments. Remember there are just our ideas and hypothesis we are sharing - not proven facts we are obliged to use blindly.

  11. PART I:

    I may have given an incorrect impression, for which I apologize. I provided the time it took for the problem to become "simple" only as a data point, not as a comparison to show that I can solve the problem faster than Temposchlucker, so I must be better, etc., but to show that the process I used does not take nearly as long as it seems, given the rather lengthy verbal description. You are absolutely correct that it may be purely accidental that I could penetrate into this specific position quickly and "see" it as (relatively) simple. However, that has not been my experience on a rather large set of problems that I have solved recently, since beginning to search for and "see" the motifs (those signposts that are needed to shout "NOW!") to trigger the application of tactical themes (forks, pins, skewers, double attacks, discovered check, i.e. all 30 or more of the various tactical devices that can be applied). The calculation process (determining the correct moves and the correct sequence of moves to be applied in order) then may take me some time to get it right. (As an aside, I can and have played blindfold chess. I once gave a simultaneous exhibition, playing 9 opponents with sight of the board while also playing one game blindfold; I won all of them, and there were several opponents in the 1400-1600 USCF range.)

    Yes, I am guilty of basing my current approach to any position on a logical process that is related to verbal reasoning. (I try to keep the verbalization silent when actually playing against another human.) I use a position-independent method of pattern analogy to determine what feature(s) of the position to focus attention toward. (I have my own thoughts about what "pattern recognition" means for chess, and it is NOT jamming 50,000-300,000 specific positions into my brain, and then hoping against all evidence that I have also stored a retrieval mechanism along with the patterns.)

    I went back and re-read your previous posts on visualization (mentalization), using Tisdall's "stepping stones" suggestion. I too like Tisdall's idea, and try to incorporate it into the calculation process, but NOT into the visualization process which precedes the calculation of variations.

  12. PART II:

    I'm going to go WAY OUT ON A LIMB now, so give me a little time before you saw it off!

    I don't think your problem is visualization skills, in the sense of carrying forward the changes in position that occur as you traverse the tree of analysis. In all probability, you do that much more efficiently and exactly than I could ever hope to do it. The problem (only as I infer it) is not relying on pattern recognition by analogy. That means you are not generalizing the "lesson(s)" from a particular problem, but instead, trying to retain the position itself or the accidental arrangement of the pieces as clues for solving future problems. That is not the method of "seeing" the motifs, and then triggering the appropriate tactical themes (devices). This process is an overview of the entire position FIRST, looking for the tell-tale signs that shout "NOW!" If there are no tell-tale signs, possibly one of two things is happening. (1) We have another tell-tale sign that must be learned, or (2) we are not looking in the right direction.

    Surely I must be joking, you think. After 100,000+ tactical problems, surely there must be SOME stored patterns mysteriously embedded in the brain, just waiting to pop out at the first sign of a tactical problem. I think that there are, but those stored positions have not been integrated into generalized PATTERNS that have accompanying narratives. It is in this generalization process that the work is required. Each "lesson" must be incorporated into the general body of skill and knowledge by analogy making. No analogy, no useful skill and knowledge for future reference. In essence, you are re-inventing the wheel each time you want to take a trip!

    Please permit me a small digression in narrative. There is a story about one night (NOT a "Knight!"), a good person walking down the street came upon a drunk, circling around a lamppole, looking down at the sidewalk, and muttering to himself, "They MUST be HERE!" He asked the drunk what he was searching for; the reply was "My car keys!" (Please note that here we have a first opportunity to digress in the story and lose the point by becoming concerned that the drunk might actually find his car keys, and then drive while drunk, thereby endangering others. That is NOT the point of this story, so leave it out of your calculations!) The good person, wishing to be helpful, begins walking around the lamppole too, searching for the lost car keys. After several trips around the lamppole together without "SEEing" any keys, he finally asks the drunk, "Where do you think you lost the keys?" The drunk replied, "About two blocks away from HERE." Bewildered, the good person asks, "Then why are searching for them HERE?" The drunk answers, "What, are you stupid? HERE is where the light is!!"

    It took me a lot of study and backtracking over ground that (I thought) I had covered to get to my current approach (circling the lamppole, searching where I assumed and had been informed that there was "light" without every SEEing any keys). Apparently, you feel the same way about your progress (and you HAVE progressed, just not as much as you feel you should have, given the tremendous effort that you have expended so far toward improvement, searching for that Holy Grail of the best improvement process.

  13. PART I:

    Please permit me to describe how I use this process. Perhaps a picture is worth a thousand words? Unfortunately, I can only draw word pictures in Blogger!

    I distinguish between solving tactics problems for "fun" and trying to learn how to play chess better. If I am just killing time for enjoyment, I will guess at the problem's solution, and spend no time analyzing the solution. If I get it wrong and my rating goes down, I don't care. I assume that what I am doing has no value toward improving play, and is just for fun. I don't care what happens to the rating.

    However, when I am training to improve, I have a completely different mindset. I started with just three motifs from Dr. Lasker: (1) the "encircling" motif, (2) the "geometrical" motif, and (most important, per Dr. Lasker) (3) the "function" motif. (I have since added the “assault” motif, the “desperado” motif, and the “Loose Pieces Drop Off” motif.) As soon as each problem begins, I try to find one or more of those three motifs in the position. Note that all three of these motifs are defined independently of any specific position of pieces and or associated squares (true of motifs in general, except for mating motifs, such as the Bishop sacrifice against the castled King). Consequently, there is nothing position-dependent that I am trying to "see." Instead, I am trying to listen for the position to shout "NOW!" (Per Tomasz) and to then focus my attention and look in the direction from which I heard the shout. I ignore the time required, and will not stop looking until I hear "NOW!" At that moment, it becomes almost obvious which tactical devices can be applied. The next stage is to calculate the individual moves and the possible counters (if any) to the moves, finally "solving" the problem. The next step is critical to me: I summarize the clues that shouted "NOW!" and how those clues led me to the tactical devices to be used. To help hammer that PATTERN into my brain, I will replay the steps of the solution several times, watching the unfolding of the position in accordance with the motifs and devices. Only after taking my time to completely understand the lesson do I move to the next lesson (problem).

    If I get stuck, and cannot seem to find the clues, then I very carefully dissect the position, using the solution for hints, looking for the motifs/clues that MUST be there. If it is a new motif that I did not know, then I add it (as a generalized statement) to my list of motifs. If it is a motif that I am currently using (thinking I have previously understood how to SEE it), then I spend considerably more time trying to understand why I did NOT SEE it quickly. Perhaps it was hiding behind a tree of variations; perhaps I wasn't looking in the right direction, but in any case, I insist on understanding WHY I DID NOT SEE IT before moving on to the next lesson.

    Lather, rinse, repeat.

  14. PART II:

    I do not try to repeat the same problems over and over when I am trying to learn to improve. Why not? Because I have already worked that accidental arrangement of pieces on specific squares as much as possible to yield its lesson, and to incorporate its "secret(s)" into my brain. I look for another problem that will reinforce the PATTERN and generalized motif for recognition the next time I SEE it.

    A digression with another story. I used to play someone who was a tactical wizard, probably on the level of a Frank Marshall when he focused his attention. However, he would pay no attention to the game until AFTER he had lost a piece. Then he played at the proverbial genius level. However, I always played as if every move of every game was critical, and I would beat him badly in just about every kind of position imaginable. He would complain a little at times, chiding me for not “experimenting” with interesting ideas (whether they worked or not was of little concern to him). I informed him that I was trying to create and maintain a serious mindset, so that when playing tournament chess, I would not have a tactical “brain fart” and just try something because it looked interesting. It is the application of an old adage: YOU WILL PLAY LIKE YOU TRAIN.

  15. @Tomasz, after looking for two ours into your position, I still find that black is lost in all variations. What is the solution?

    Speaking about a missing NOW:

    1. I am not sure if you got the IDEA, not just the solution. Of course the position is lost for black, but it is NOT important. I just wanted to show you an IDEA - how to defend (not to lose) a piece.

      You have probably solved the problem - and now you will be able to defend pinned piece with ease, right?

      BTW. You can take off the black King and a pawn if you wish - this way nothing will disturbing you at searching for solution (however FEN format does not allow creating a file without both Kings). Is now everything clear?

    2. I found the move within a second or since the IDEA is not unfamiliar to me. The reason that Rb6 took me so long in the position of the post, was not unfamiliarity but a mind in T&E mode which got no NOW! signal. The moment I composed myself and formulated what the move should accomplish, that worked as a trigger (NOW!). From that moment, I found the move Rb6 within seconds.

  16. I think that there might be a mistake in the FEN that Tomasz provided. I could "see" an immediate relative gain of material by 1. ... Rg8+ 2. Kb7 Bxd5, covering the Black Rook and opening an attack against the White Rg1. However, 3. Rxg8 Bxg8 leaves Black down a Rook with no attack. The Black Bishop has no attack against either of the White Rooks in the original position, and I cannot see any way to force either of them to a white square. Attacking the White King does not seem to go anywhere; there is no way to corral the White King into the corner for another typical mate pattern with Black Bishop at c6 and Black Rook at a8. Checking with the Black Rook at b3 doesn't seem to accomplish that pattern after 1. ... Rb3+ 2. Nb6 Bxc6 because the White Knight controls the a8 square.

    After coming to those conclusions after about 2 minutes, I entered it into Fritz 11 running Stockfish DD: Black is losing in all lines, unless a 3300+ player missed something really, really DEEP in the position. A mere mortal like me cannot hope to "see" that deep!

    I have to go to work, so I won't continue commenting for a period of time. Aren't you lucky!?!

    1. I probably forgot to add "a detail". I DID NOT intend to set up the "won position", but just give an example how to defend a piece (Bishop at this case) with two themes simultaneuosly included.

      The solution is like both of you noticed: 1. 1. ... Rg8+ 2. Kb7 Bxd5, covering the Black Rook and opening an attack against the White Rg1. However, 3. Rxg8 Bxg8... and we STOP at this point as it is NOT the real example from a game, but just an example "how to escape before your opponents captures you next piece". Is now ok? :)

  17. Robert - you are right at your approach to solving the puzzles (like you would have been playing a serious game in a chess tournament).

    Recently I have been testing the #1 puzzles for the correctness and speed. What I noticed is not the lack of knowledge (20 books read) or experience (over 100K puzzles solved), but my gaps at motifs and its implementation.

    And now I am going to test my skills at harder puzzles with SLOW approach: recognize the position, looking at chess motifs and analyze step by step the best motif(s). After that I want to look for a refutation - and the last step is to check out the solution (as provided at the end of the workbook).

    Solving millions of puzzles DOES not give you any significant progress as the real knowledge and patterns are NOT stored permanently. They do not stuck deep inside and does not have the CONNECTION to the rest of the patterns, knowledge and (chess) understanding. That's why solving a very high numbers of puzzles (50, 70 or even 100K) does not lead to improvement.

    The slower - the better. The more solid - the faster. These two sentences are my directions towards improvement :)

  18. Probably got it! :)

    We take into the consideration ONLY 5 pieces (both white and black rooks and a knight). WTM = White to move, BTM = Black to move

    Let's look at possible captures:

    - Diag 1:

    WTM - ONE (RxB)
    BTM - TWO (RxN or BxN)

    - Diag 2 (after 1...RxN - bad move):

    WTM - TWO (RxB or RxR)
    BTM - ONE (RxR)

    - Diag 3 (after 1...BxN - good move):

    WTM - ONE (RxB)
    BTM - ONE (BxR)

    Now try to replay SLOWLY both positions on your chessboard.

    A) From diag 1 to diag 2 - white had ONE capture (black TWO) and after black played bad move - white has TWO captures (black ONE). It means - playing a bad move reversed the potential (to capture) to the white's favor!

    B) From diag 1 to diag 3 - white had ONE capture (black TWO) and after black played good move - white has just ONE capture (the same as black - also ONE). It means - playing a good move DID NOT reverse the potential (to capture) to the white's favor (after the move played)! Why? It is because both sides has equal number of captures.

    Of course it is just some kind of simple explanation. The position could have been MUCH different if any of the pieces (rooks) would be defended. Anyway I think this direction may help to explain other tactics at the future. What do you think about it?