Monday, July 18, 2016

See more, calculate less

My database with failures at CT has grown to 135 positions. After carefully studying them, I found 62 positions to be "easy". That is, I know them well enough to not make the same mistakes again in the future. I can now see the solution of them without any calculation or effort. 9 positions are too complex. Meaning that I cannot find the solution without serious calculation. I don't expect to see their solution any time soon without considerable study first. That leaves me with a selection of 64 positions which have a simple solution (with hindsight, after studying them well), but where I don't see the solution without calculation. I think I should be able to see the solution, though. I'm going to use these 64 position solely for exercising to see the solution in stead of calculating it.

I expect to need a few hours per position. What makes it even more difficult is that such exercise is definitely out of my comfort zone, and I constantly try to escape it by checking my facebook, twitter, the news, writing blogposts like this, etcetera. I now open five positions at the same time, and if I want to escape from one, I do so by going to the next position. That somewhat works.

For you to know what I'm talking about, I will give you a few example positions.

Diagram 1 White to move
 2r3k1/1R5p/p1q1rnp1/3p1p2/P7/2Q2B2/1P4PP/2R3K1 w - - 0 1
As said, what I try to do is to see the solution without any calculation. I already have done that with a few other positions, and it is possible. I focus on the story of the initiative. How do I find forcing moves, and how does that translate to the gain of wood? Which squares am I dominating, who are the defenders and how do I harass them, what are the focal points? In short: M WIMP DGF?

Diagram 2 black to move
 4r3/p1k3pp/2p2p2/8/PrRnP3/1P2R1K1/3N2PP/8 b - - 0 1
Diagram 3 black to move
5r1k/3B2pp/3P2n1/pp2p3/6P1/PP5P/1BPNpr2/3R1RK1 b - - 0 1
Diagram 4 white to move
4R3/r4kn1/5P1B/2pp1qQ1/1p5P/3b2P1/5P1K/8 w - - 1 1

I expect that what I learn from these exercises will transfer to other positions as well. I have mastered a few positions this way, and it seems that my intuition has grown. It happens more often that I can't resist to make a certain move, which happens to be the right one. In the past most of the time such moves were wrong. So it might work.

The fact that I have written this very post, already indicates that I'm still struggling with distractions though.


  1. In Diagram 1, I “see” the following things without calculation:

    1. Rb7 is attacked by Qc6 and is undefended (0:1). Bf3 is a potential “defender” (“seeing” along the diagonal from f3 to b7). With White to move, the ratio on b7 becomes (1:1) IFF Bf3 captures Pd5. Must examine ratio of “attackers” and “defenders” of d5 square; see 4.

    2. Nf6 is “pinned” to square g7 by Qc3 by mate threat. This is an instance of “seeing” through an enemy piece to the square (g7) being protected. The idea of a “pin” is typically learned ONLY as a relationship between 3 pieces, which makes it harder to “see” when the “pin” entails a target square rather than a higher-valued piece. This is the hardest thing to “see” about this position. This concept requires more (broader) training.

    3. Qc6 is “skewered” to Rc8. The Rc8 is “attacked” twice (Qc3, Rc1) and defended only by Qc6 (2:1). Black Queen is the only available defender with White to move.

    4. Pd5 is “attacked” by Bf3 and “defended” by Qc3 (1:1). Nf6 is NOT a “defender” because of 2. Consequently, the Pd5 is a B.A.D. (Barely Adequately Defended) piece.

    5. Black Queen is overloaded (because of 3. and 4.).

    Connect the dots between those points, gleaned from an examination of the salient points, and it becomes “easy” to “see” the solution. None of the observations above require much time to “see.” However, it does require "seeing" through the apparent "barriers" of pieces that obstruct the movement along lines. This was my earlier point about "looking" from the given position of a line-moving piece (Q, R, B) from the given square all the way to the edge of the board, regardless of what obstacles (same-side or opposite-side pieces/Pawns) clog the path. Paths can be cleared of obstacles by tactical themes/devices or the simple expedient of capturing, forcing a recapture that opens the path. Like the Godfather, "Make the opponent an offer he cannot refuse."

    1. Bxd5 wins material.

    Black cannot play 1. … Qxc3 without allowing the Zwischenzug 2. Bxe6+. Black cannot take 1. … Nxd5 because of mate with 2. Qg7#.

    The vulture’s eye view has much to offer us!

  2. Hello Tempo!

    Diagram 1 White to move:
    White's Rook on the 7th rank is a BIG hint. Even though I had a problem with this position I finally solved it. It took me about 2 minutes. In between I checked one crazy idea and this move could have been REFUTED in 5 seconds instead of 30!

    Diagram 2 black to move:
    I do not know why I solved this position that fast, but probably it is stricly connected to one position you presented some time ago. The solution is tricky, but I understand the position fully! I even checked the wrong variation and it could have been refuted much faster.

    Diagram 3 black to move:
    I probably saw (and solved) this type of position. The idea is simply great and that's why I had no problems with this position. The pawn fork to both rook looks impressive, but the idea behind the solution is the one I understand very well (I hardly missed it when solving positions).

    Diagram 4 white to move:
    This position was solved using "brute forced" and immediately after I saw the Black's reply... I simply KNEW what should be played (made conclusions with a blink of an eye).

    If you want to ask just go ahead. I see some solutions even without concious effort - it is the result (effect) of solving hundreds of puzzles at average level (from paper workbooks and manuals). If you ask me a good formulated questions you can help me to understand my solving (mind) process.

    BTW. "...I don't can find the solution" - it is not correct. You have to change it to: "I cannot find" (if you refer to general perspective) or "I could not find" (if you refer to the past).

  3. Let’s take a “look” at the Diagram 1 position utilizing "M WIMP DGF".

    M-Material balance

    Black has a slight (1 Pawn) advantage. White has a 2:1 Queenside Pawn majority, but Black has a passed Pawn in the center. In a heavy piece middlegame/endgame, the Pawn in the center is worth more than the (potential) outside passed Pawn.

    WIMP - (Gaining Wood; Invasion; Mate; Promotion)

    Promotion can be ruled out immediately.

    There is already an invasion of the 7th rank (Rb7), supported by Qc3 as a potential mate threat on g7.

    The position “appears” to be about gaining wood, with a latent mate threat supported by the invasion of the 7th rank.


    Let’s examine ALL possible domination/contested squares (something which I did not do explicitly in my previous post, although I did note them in passing while scanning the position and rejected some of them as of no further interest). I guess we could also refer to these as “critical squares” but that has a different connotation in the broader chess culture.

    d5, c6, c8, b7, f6, g7, e4

    An integral part of determining domination is “counting” (both current and future capturing capabilities on the given square). Note that for this purpose, the material values of the pieces involved is irrelevant. It will become significant only when the position has reached quiescence.

    Domination “score”:

    d5 – (+1/-2) – Black dominates
    c6 – (+2/-2) – Balanced
    c8 – (+2/-1) – White dominates
    b7 – (0/-1) – Black dominates
    f6 – (+1/-2) – Black dominates
    g7 – (+1/-1) - Balanced
    e4 – (+1/-4) – Black dominates


    d5 – (+1/-2) – Black dominates BUT the “guard” Nf6 does not really guard because of the latent mate threat on g7. So, an adjustment to the domination “count” is required; it is now (+1/-1) which makes Pd5 a B.A.D. piece/square.

    c6 – (+2/-2) – Balanced BUT a capture on d5 by Bf3 changes that to a (+3/-2) value.

    c8 – (+2/-1) – White dominates, so this gives us a strong hint that the solution M-A-Y involve this square. Black cannot move (in time) to protect this square IFF White continues with forcing moves elsewhere.

    b7 – (0/-1) – Black dominates BUT a capture on d5 by Bf3 changes that to a balanced value at least temporarily).

    f6 – (+1/-2) – Black dominates, and White has no effective way to change this in his favor.

    g7 – (+1/-1) - Balanced BUT the Nf6 is “pinned” to prevent mate.

    e4 – (+1/-4) – Black dominates overwhelmingly; discard this from further consideration.

    Focal points

    At this point in the examination, consideration has to shift toward the d5 square, and indirectly to the “support” given by the various threats and counter-threats against b7 and g7.

    Capturing on d5 (1. Bxd5) provokes an immediate crisis for Black. He cannot capture the “hanging” Rb7; the balance has shifted. He cannot capture with Nf6 because of 2. Qg7#. He can only eliminate the attacker by capturing it. BUT, in so doing, he loses contact with Rc8, which is already dominated.

    So, by process of reasoning (which can all be “seen” rather than calculated), White plays 1. Bxd5 and wins material. So the position is about gaining wood, as originally surmised.

    If I did not follow the process properly, please point out my mistake(s).

    1. Your Ideas are good.. but not new ;)
      Read here ( but please skip the Pages 1-11 ):

      It takes a moment to understand his ideas but his list of Tactical weaknesses ( page 30) and methods ( Page 51 ) are very enlightning and close related to your ideas.

      Read "Hazardous Elements(HE)" as Tactical Weakness


      you may read how to use this system as "thinking system" or at least as "evaluation system"

      At tactical puzzles i use this method only "condensed"

      This basic idea behind your post and Chuzhakin’s System is a form of one sided static calculation, a "calculation" where on side is doing null moves.

    2. @ Aox:

      Thank you so much for the references and your assessment of them. I greatly appreciate your comments!

      I usually have no recallable idea where MY ideas come from. I try to give credit where due, if I can remember which person or book I got an idea from. That's the only reason I include book references in my posts. I had over 500 books on chess at one time, but have given away over half of them to a local chess club. I'm not trying to claim any originality on my part. I (obviously) have been greatly influenced by Dr. Emanuel Lasker's writings and games, and especially his philosophy of Struggle.

      Link: Struggle

      "There is nothing new under the sun." This aphorism may be true, but (on rare occasions) I find something that is new to ME. I readily accept that great thinkers (NOT ME!) have probably investigated the particular idea much deeper and broader than I will ever do it. It is still an intellectual thrill to get that "Aha!!" moment of insight while studying.

      One of the things I love about this blog (and others of the Knights Errant, past and present) is that it stimulates me to actually think (much deeper than I would have done otherwise) about the chess thinking and playing processes. As a consequence, often times I will recall something similar that I have read in a book (not necessarily a chess book). When that happens, I go on a "rabbit hunt" trying to find the reference. The effort involved in the research helps "cement" the idea into my mind.

      You are correct that it is a static calculation process, and it utilizes the "null move" idea. GM Beim in his book The Enigma of Chess Intuition: Can You Mobilize Hidden Forces in Your Chess? uses the terminology "short tactics" and includes that notion in the examination process rather than in the calculation process. I try not to be one-sided while using it, but bias often creeps in unawares (especially if I'm tired). I try to "see" first the tactical strengths and weaknesses of both sides, and only then attempt to resolve the position with calculation if required. I think of the "vulture's eye view" as a preliminary "look." Most importantly (for ME), I am trying my best to wean myself away from making any decisions based on "general principles." Those are fine for beginners, but the farther one advances in skill, the less general principles can be relied upon for good decisions in specific positions. To me, "general principles" are descriptive based on "averages." Although the "averages apply to a large aggregation (across many games), they do NOT apply (necessarily) to any given specific position. I'm leery of any general purpose "rules" for that reason.

  4. It's good to see that the system we concoct has the seal of approval of mr. Chuzhakin. In his striving for completeness he created a lot of overhead that makes it easy to lose overview.

    With concocting a system we aren't there yet, though. It is about developing a sense for it. It is all about the letters DGF. I noticed that I have put them in the wrong order: it must be DFG.

    First it is about domination. Where do the pieces contact each other? I found a position where even the counting is irrelevant. Maybe we can minimize that too. Contact points c8,c6,f6,d5 in diagram 1.

    Once we have mapped the contact points, we must look for focal points. Since we might miss an important square or too, we must look a bit further. Were do my pieces converge? g7 is a focal point where the white rook and queen converge, and that is in contact with a target, the black king.

    It is logical to look at the guards only AFTER you have charted BOTH the contact squares and the focal points. Since the guards can protect both.

    Notice the importance of pawn b2. If it was on b3, the combination would not work. Well, it would work, but it would not gain you wood.