Thursday, December 22, 2016

Meat on the carcass

After a lot of thinking, reading and talking, we have build us a nice carcass. Now let's see if we can put some meat on it. To make it more attractive for the vultures view.

Diagram 1. Black to move
1r3r1k/p5bp/3p1Nn1/3q2BQ/1pp2p2/3P4/PPP4P/4RKR1 b - - 1 1

It seems logical to keep matters simple, and just ask ourselves "which piece(s) am I encircling now" without further ado. In the future things might be different, but we must not becloud our mind with that just yet. The task of the "encircling cue" is to get our attention to the right part of the board. If the encirclement doesn't work just that, then that is what we are going to think about. Can I make it work?

You can compare it to the geometrical motif. There you follow the aura of your attackers to the rim of the board, without worrying whether you can clear the line of attack or not. For the time being. Just to inventory where the line of attack is.

Which pieces am I encircling?
  • Nf6 two attackers, one defender
  • Qh5 not defended
The motif of encircling has two elements. Two sub motifs. Superior force and immobility. On both f6 and h5, black has a superior force. The two usual forms of the immobility motif are immobility due to lack of space and immobility due to function. None of them applies here, so I have to invent a third immobility: immobility due to lack of time. The previous move of white, 1.Nf6, was in essence a blunder. White can just take the piece.

The obvious line of attack is d5-h5. Bishop g5 is pinned against the queen on h5. But we have to be careful. When your attacker (Qd5) isn't protected, a pin can easily turn into a discovered attack from the other side.

1.Nf6 is a knight fork which threatens mate on h7 as one goal (connection to the next tactical element mate in one via a square), and the queen as the other target.
  • Nf6 defends Qh5
  • Bg5 shields Qh5
The reason that this  problem ended up in my database of doom, is that I reasoned "I have two ways to take Nf6: 1. ... Bxf6 and 1. ... Rxf6. I thought "well, a bishop is cheaper than a rook, so let me take with the bishop.

This gives a clear clue to which cue is missing. I'm insufficient familiar with the fact that a pin can turn into a counter discovered attack when the attacker is unprotected, and the pinned piece can do something with gain of tempo. Basically it is a lack of practical knowledge. Which is cured by now, I hope.

I'm going to put more meat on the carcass, one post per problem. So stay tuned.


  1. The genesis of my suggestion to ignore material count (based on the supposed relative value of the pieces) while determining tactical possibilities was rooted in this same analysis of MY own thinking. It is the manifestation of materialism (GM Rowson's terminology). By simply counting (as you did above) attackers/defenders on a square, you get a better idea quickly of the potential of the various pieces. Realizing the various motifs involved gives an (almost) immediate sense of what to focus attention on in the position. I will admit that it does not solve all problems in all positions; chess would be a rather poor game if that were the case. But having a flashlight to shed light along the path helps prevent stumbling around in the dark (metaphorically speaking).

    I generally start with the geometrical motif, simply because that's the one I have so frequently overlooked (not "seeing" all auras of the line-moving pieces). IMHO, the order in which you investigate and find the available motifs does not matter, PROVIDED you "see" the salient points QUICKLY.

    What surprised me when I started doing this process of visualization was how quickly the correct direction became apparent, AND how the tactical themes/devices morphed into a sequence of moves that sometimes was several moves of "looking ahead" - without the mechanical "I go here, he goes there, etc.". I think this is why the masters can "see" so much so quickly and so far ahead compared to the amateurs.

    I'll be the first to concede that starting with examination of the available motifs does NOT "solve" chess, in any sense. Playing good chess has far too many critical factors for that to occur. But I also am thrilled when I can gain just a little more insight into how masters "see" so much.

  2. @Robert, my observations are exactly the same as yours. The question is, can we take this to the next level? Can we concretize this? As you see, I'm trying to pinpoint the exact little piece of knowledge of which I think "if I was a bit more familiar with it, wouldn't I have seen the solution much faster?". In other words: which cues were missing?