Tuesday, May 03, 2016

Maintaining the initiative

The story of a combination is the story of the initiative. We need a thorough knowledge of the "inner workings" of the initiative. Somehow the initiative always has been a kind of "changeling" for me. In books it is always mentioned rather briefly, while the more "sexy" motifs of a combination gets way more attention. The result is that I have theoretical knowledge about the initiative, and some practical knowledge that is embedded in geometrical patterns. Since the most knowledge is theoretical, the only way to apply the knowledge is by logical thinking. Which is, as we know, notoriously slow.

I measure the time usage during solving a problem. And that put me on the track of the initiative. Time and again, I use a minute here and a 30 seconds there, by thinking about the flow of the combination. A better grasp of the precise modifications of the initiative would give me a faster insight in what is going on in the position. The story of the initiative tells me both which parts of the board can be safely ignored, and when neglecting isn't safe. The initiative provides a filter for candidate moves, and precise application of that filter prevents that you are calculating unnecessary lines.

After solving a position, I always take my time during the post mortem to work out the story of the initiative, until it is crystal clear what happened. I hope that the conscious application of the initiative will help me to automate the knowledge. To make it practical, I try to solve a problem from the perspective of the initiative. Let's have a look:

Diagram 1 Black to move

r5k1/2qn1p2/6pp/1Q1Pp1B1/2p1P3/2P4P/3Nn1P1/3R1N1K b - - 0 1

The last move of white was the capture 1.Bxg5. Black is a piece down, and the most natural move is to take back with 1. ... hxg5 to equalize material.

The power of the initiative is to postpone the execution of the normal flow of the game. Such delay is only possible under certain circumstances. The preconditions limits the options where to look for drastically. And that is how it saves time. What you don't investigate, doesn't consume your time.

"If you see a good move, look for a better one" always has been the best recipe for me to end up in time trouble. The preconditions now can help me to limit my search.

The precondition in the diagram is dictated by material considerations. Since I'm a piece down, my next move must at least initiate an attack that would gain me a whole rook, a queen or the king. The attack on the king isn't going anywhere, but the move 1. ... Nxc3 forks both the queen and the undefended rook. The fact that white's queen is under attack, limits white's options. He cannot save both his queen and his rook with one move.
2.Qc6 attacks the undefended black queen. This position deserves its own diagram.

Diagram 2 After 1. ... Nc3 2.Qc6
This position is startling me = consumes a lot of time.
The original plan is:
  • I'm a bishop behind
  • I don't take the bishop back
  • In stead I grab a whole rook for free
  • With the capture of the rook I loose the initiative
  • White has the time to save his bishop
  • So I'm the exchange up

With 2. ... Qxc6 3.dxc6 I seem to hand over an attack on the black knight for free. How can the combination still work? Let me work out the flow of tempi. In order to do so, I must first introduce a few new terms. I hope you bear with me.
  • Potential gain = a CCT attack which potential gains wood.
  • Gain balance = the balance of the potential gains between black and white, seen from the perspective of the problem solver
  • Multifunctional move = a move that accomplishes two or more tasks, attack and/or defence
 Usually, to attack costs one tempo, to defend an attack costs one tempo. For a combination, the multi functional moves are important. A multi functional move comes in different flavours:
  • Two attacks
  • An attack and a defense
  • Two defences
All while consuming only one tempo!

move white black Pot.Gain W Pot.Gain B
Multifunctional move/comment
1 Bxg5
0 1 1
Nc3 0 3 3 Duple attack
2 Qc6
1 2 1 Attack + defence
Qxc6 1 2 1
3 dxc6
1 2 1
Nxd1 1 1 0 executing the gain
As long as the gain balance is positive, you win a piece. When the balance equals zero, the combination is executed. A duple attack adds to the balance, a multifunctional move of the opponent lowers the balance. The final take brings the balance to zero.

The remaining moves 4 are just captures that don't change the balance. Either white takes my knight and looses his bishop, or he saves his bishop and I save my knight. To keep the story simple, I don't bother about pawns. To make it more exact, I should not only take the amount of gains into consideration, but the value of the gain as well. Again, that would obscure the story for you.

Move 2.Qc6 startled me, because it is a multifunctional move of my opponent. I thought it would therefore spoil the combination. But since I made a duple move just before, white's multifunctional move only neutralizes my duple move, while the balance remains above zero.

1 comment:

  1. This is a nice example. There are some cultures where the counting system is 1, 2, many. I'm pretty sure my mental counting of threats actually goes 1, many. So when the Queen's double-purpose move changes it from "many" to "two less than many", I have a hard time sensing the balance is still in my favor. I don't encounter problems like this much on CT, but maybe if I get better I'll see them more often. - mfardal