Tuesday, July 12, 2016


I have been testing the three counting methods from the previous post. It turns out that only the first method is viable in practice. Counting dominated squares, or "interactions on squares" as Robert put it, is in itself not enough to solve every puzzle. A few extra characteristics must be recognized before you can figure out the whole combination. To remember them, I use the mnemonic above "M WIMP DGF"

M-Material balance
You can't do without evaluating the material balance.

You must know what the position is about.
  • W-Wood. Gaining wood
  • I-Invasion
  • M-Mate
  • P-Promotion 
It is quite possible that the theme of the position is about more than one subject. WM - you try to M-mate, and the opponent can only prevent that by giving up W-wood, for instance.

It turns out that finding the squares you dominate is essential to understand any combination.

In many positions it is key to find the defenders, and the defenders of the defenders, since "removal of the guard" is the main issue in the position. You must be able to see the (chain of) guards.

F-Focal points
If you focus on domination, it turns out that you will miss some important squares. Invasion square, attacking square and the like. Focal points comprise these squares.

When I use the mnemonic above, I usually am able to find the solution. Given the importance of domination, it is probably a good idea to isolate that as a separate exercise.

The other two counting methods, counting tempo's and counting the value of obligations, are not practical. Counting tempo's, or obligations, is in fact counting the amount of dominated pieces. You must learn to see the effect on tempo's of a move. That should be treated as an isolated exercise too. Counting tempi might be of help initially, but the sooner you change to seeing the effect of a move, the better. It is really move related. We must see whether moves are single tempo or duple tempo. After the exercise of seeing the effect of a move on the obligations has been fully mastered, we will have a look at the third counting method, counting the value of the obligations. Hopefully it isn't necessary by then any more.



  1. Tempo, my dear chess friend!

    I am currently solving the puzzles in the range of 1100-1400. Even if they are quite easy to me, there are some of these with a tricky shots. The biggest problem to me is to find the refutations and additional (not main) lines. Sometimes it is really important to be able to find out what would it be if my opponent plays in a non-standard way (i.e. sacrifice some material to gain counterplay and dynamic play).

    And I finally tested a few of your ideas. This one with "escape with the attacked piece and take another one" is a POWERFUL one! It makes the this type of puzzles very easy to analyse.

    Up to now I have solved 144 puzzles so far (12 test each one 12 puzzles). There are 50 tests in total (600 positions to solve). After I finish solving these tests I am going to give it a try the ones one level above (1400-1700).

    Two pieces of advice from testing your ideas at the puzzles I have solved so far.

    1) Try to see if SIMPLE exchange gains wood. Sometimes totally obvious looking exchange may be the key to the solution.

    2) Check out if your opponent replies are good enough to refute your ideas. (Usually) the more forcing line - the better (results).

    3) Test what happens if you reverse the moves order (play 2nd move and after that 1st) and what are the changes (position and ideas) at the board.

    Reading and analysing the positions and ideas you feed us with your great articles on the blog... has just given me the new perspective when looking at the positions. We will see what effect it would be when I start analysing more difficult puzzles.

    Anyway I am still looking for the next golden nuget of chess tactics! I have the feeling I understand the position, not just "shoot the solutions" with brute force (testing variations with the hope some of these will work anyway). Thanks for your help! :)

  2. Have you read "The Art of Attack" by Vukovic? I think you would enjoy it. He breaks down attacking positions into their component parts. His theories and conclusions are not the same as yours, but I think his quest was similar to yours except with the concept of attacking the king.

    1. In this post and the following, I talk about Vukovic. I adopted his term "focal points".

    2. Oh yes...I think when you mentioned focal points, it sparked the "Vukovic Art of Attack" neuron in my brain - probably overlooking that you mention it!

  3. I'm presently rereading Rolf Wetzell's "Chess Master at any age". Wetzell is the only Chessplayer i know who was able to improve ( 400 Elopoints in 16 Years ) >>after<< beeing a chessplayer for several years and reaching a certain age.

    One of his methods was to create flashcards with chesspositiond and a very short phrase like : why always check, convert to permanent advantage, Crippled piece and so on.

    We dont know if he was able to improve his tactical skills though but your phrase "wimp" did remind me to that.

    1. I read and enjoyed Wetzell's book as well. He does promote solving combinations, and if I remember correctly, doesn't go into too much depth other than to say that it is a good way to improve APROP and Images.

    2. If I do not improve at chess tactics at a speed of about 100 points per year, I don't consider the method I use to be the best. Although my ATH is still creeping up slowly, it doesn't point out that I'm going in the right direction. So far.

      The flashcard method of Wetzell indicates the importance of verbal descriptions as cues that help to retrieve what we already know well. We found that verbal reasoning is too slow and too taxing for the STM, and that we should only use it if anything else fails. But this is something else.

      I always found the post http://temposchlucker.blogspot.nl/2011/09/mentalization.html very important. It points to improving APROP, mentalization and calculation by the use of verbal phrases as cues.