Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Role and status of the pieces

Now we have formulated the goal of our training as transcending thoughts by pictures, maybe we can draw a few other conclusions as well.

There are 30 tactical themes and 28 mating themes. These form our database of patterns. What we want, is to recognize these patterns in the actual position at hand. We seem to have problems with our cues, though. In the cloud metaphor, we have stored a series of animals in our database, yet we fail to recognize them in the clouds. We have not enough cues that trigger the retrieval from memory. If there is someone next to us who whispers in our ear "kangaroo" we would recognize the pattern immediately.

A tactical theme like the skewer of the previous post, can appear in a position in a zillion different forms. For long I believed that a verbal reasoning process should provide the cues to trigger the retrieval of the right tactical theme. But any verbal reasoning process is taking way too much time to complete. Before you know it, you are a few minutes further in time. That cannot be what we are after. We want it in seconds, not in minutes.

Due to some experiments, I get the impression that the cues should be visual cues. What exactly is the geometrical characteristic of a skewer, pin, deflection etcetera? I found that it is important to see the roles and the status of the pieces. It is not not enough to see just a knight, but you need to see both its role and its status. I haven't made a complete list of roles and statuses just jet.

  • target
  • defender
  • blockader
  • attacker
  • spectator

  • unprotected
  • under attack
  • overloaded
  • pinned

To a certain degree, squares can perform a role and have a status too.
These roles and statuses of both pieces and squares tell you a lot about of what is going on in the position. They provide clues and maybe even cues.

One of the problems I encountered was over-focussing on a piece, which leads to blindness for other pieces far away. Like the picture below, where yellow dots disappear when you focus hard on one of them.



  1. The idea about yellow dot and our improvement related to tactics is the same - HOW to make the non-relevant elements - to disappear. How to recognize which ones are relevant and which ones - are not... and AFTER that to focus only at the specific elements and piece configurations (their functions) to discover the best way to success (i.e. the correct solution).

    Have you read the paper(s) related to chess masters - they do not see at the concious level all the (legal) moves - just "the most interesting ones". As far as I remember they are much better in recognition if the King is in check and/or if the position is legal. What do you think about this idea?

  2. @Tomasz, I read a lot of papers. None of them talked about what I try to accomplish here. I'm not sure which paper you are talking about.

    @Aox, the problem here is that I know what to search for, but I have no cues that triggers retrieval of the pattern any time soon. I'm looking for kangaroos, but the cloud looks like mist to me. I just must add some cues. How difficult can that be? If you know how to do it.

    1. I am reffering to the chess paper that analyse how fast (and how many position) chess experts (masters) can regonize if the position is legal and/or if the King (or both Kings) is attacked (in check). It is probably the research conducted in last 3-4 years.

      In general - if we know (understand) and apply HOW masters filter out the unnecessary info - we can move forward. Otherwise we will just do a (very) small progress (in comparison what we could have achieved).

      Probably masters are a way better than we (amateurs) because they organize, create and structure their knowledge (patterns, experience, etc.) and apply it in a much more efficient way.

      Is it an effect (result) of hard work over the years or just much better processing power of these experts? I do not related to IQ, but some kind of analytical/syntetical power of structurizing (reorganizing) info. What is your opinion about that?

      BTW. Could you specify in points (step by step) what are you going to find (build) and what steps you have already achieved (built) and which ones you have stucked so far? Thanks in advance.

  3. By knowing what to look for, you automatically skip what is irrelevant.

    You have to learn to look at what is going on in your brains. What is happening during problem solving? If I take the position as example where I devoted a few posts to, then this is what happened: blabla for 5 minutes, then ALL OF A SUDDEN I recognized the first picture with the skewer. The main theme. Then blabla for another 3 minutes and ALL OF A SUDDEN I recognized the second picture. Now the solution was easy. If I just skip the blabla, then I will be 8 minutes faster with this problem. And that is exactly what I try to accomplish.

    The ALL OF A SUDDEN parts should alarm you that that is what we are looking for.

    I devoted about 12 years to chess improvement. Yet I always had the impression that the bulk of my improvement was achieved in only 6 weeks. I remember very well how that felt, but I never have been able to copy that. I'm still convinced that if improvement is possible, it should be possible in a reasonable amount of time. But then you must get rid of all ballast, of course.

    I don't know when I reached my peak, and I'm too lazy at the moment to look it up, but the two years before my break, my rating was plummeting a 150 points or so, EVEN WHILE I WAS TRAINING EVERY DAY. So no wonder that I became discouraged, and quit chess for a break of two years. I always had the feeling I came very close to the solution, yet I couldn't find the right method that convinced me.

    Now after the break I have a fresh look and checked all my findings, I reach the same conclusions again. The exact method I use now is:

    I solve problems at CT in blitz mode. I don't worry too much about time or correct solution. I use CT simply to present me with relevant problems. After the solution I focus on the themes that I should have recognized. Just like the example I have given you. The easy problems I repeat about 3 times, until I have the idea that I recognize the relevant themes fast. The difficult problems I copy to ANKI and repeat them from there.

  4. On the "role and status" of the pieces, I just finished a post on the six basic functional relationships: Attack, restrain, blockade (enemy pieces) and defend, limit, and shield (allied pieces).

  5. The designation of "roles" and "status" and the "functional relationships" between pieces and squares constitute the "motifs" or cues for the most important relationships which should be investigated first. I just made my first read through GM Valeri Beim's excellent book The Enigma of Chess Intuition; I got it a couple of days ago. (That does NOT mean that I have studied it in depth — yet!) Chapter Three is titled The Elements of Chess Intuition. I excerpt:

    "Gradually, I came to realize that these examples from the games of the great players were not by chance, and that the fact that their pieces always turned out to be on the right squares was not just a "happy coincidence." No, it was all the result of their having penetrated more deeply than their opponents into the secrets of the position, thanks to a greater ability to foresee the possible and most likely future developments of the battle. But this was just the first step. The next stage was to try to understand the means by which they achieved this ability to divine the future course of the game.

    I will say in brief: one of the most important means of doing this, and in addition, a universal instrument of great importance, without which it is impossible to play chess properly, is that most self-evident piece of work — the examination of the position.

    But no, things are far from being as simple as they may appear to the inexperienced player. The examination is not simply about looking at the position — it is about seeing what it contains. Not everyone is able to do this — we all have eyes, but we do not all have vision, it seems!

    There is considerably more verbiage, interspersed with the following two positions to be "seen" as examples.

    3r1k2/p1q3p1/p3Q1Bp/4b2P/4p3/P3B3/1PP5/8 w - - 0 1

    He refers to the functions and roles of the pieces, using that as the basis for the general examination of the position. The resulting moves "pop up" directly from that examination.

    Quoting: "Of course, this example is fairly primitive, but it works as a starter, because the scheme, by which the examination of the position leads to the conclusions, is always the same in principle. The only thing that changes is the level of detail which needs to be discerned, and the complexity of the data to be gathered."

    2rr1k2/p4p2/1p1b1N2/2p2N2/3n2p1/P5P1/1P3PK1/2RR4 w - - 0 1

    Quoting: This is the sequence by which to examine a position, which I suggest to my pupils, and here to the reader:

    1) the quantity and quality of the forces on each side, in other words — material;

    2) the king: its degree of safety in the middlegame, and of activity in the endgame;

    3) the coordination between the forces of the sides, which means: a full note of what is attacking what, and what is defending what;

    4) an assessment of the coordination of the forces and the development of the pieces;

    5) long-lasting factors, such as various sorts of weaknesses and strong points, the quality of the pawn structures, etc.

    It is clear that one could sub-divide each of these elements into additional parts, but this is better done at the individual level, depending on the player's strength. It is also obvious that the ability to identify these factors correctly varies with the player's standard, but it is very useful to learn such a method as early as possible.

    There is much, much more in the book, if you are interested in this sort of thing.


    1. Robert it appears you are a fellow Chessbookalcoholic ..... Welcome, Robert , Welcome. I am wondering if you may of seen Aagaards attacking manuals . Book One is on creating the conditions in which a game is won and Book Two is more specific Tactics (a modern Art of Attack). My reviews and comments found here.
      https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/2717054-attacking-manual-volume-1-2nd https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/2717057-attacking-manual-volume-2
      These are books that can take a lifetime to read and play through.

      Jim Takchess

  6. Anything written by Beim is worth reading! I've read three of his books and learned from each one...so I'll add this to my reading list. The functional relationships I am thinking of would fall into number 3 of Beim's evaluation sequence. Knowing there are only three ways for a piece to relate to its own pieces, and three ways to relate to the opponent's pieces was enlightening for me.

    1. Coming full circle. . . the function motif is considered to be one of the most important by Dr. Lasker. Dr. Lasker opines that when a piece has a particular function to perform, it is thereby constrained in a sense. Call it what you will, if you are not looking at the function(s) of the pieces and squares, you are missing some very important visual cues as to what is happening in a given position. It is certainly NOT the only motif, but it IS one that must be kept in mind at all times. Can the function be determined without the accompanying verbalization? I think so. It's just very difficult to describe what is "seen" without words. Just as the justification for a particular line of play is often verbalized using the shorthand of general "principles," the functions are longhand for what can be seen directly. I don't think it is so much that there is a specific step-by-steo process in play, but the very nature of word descriptions makes it seem that the process is linear, when it emphatically is NOT linear but often parallel in the actual vision of the position.

      On the other hand, I could be full of . . . something.