Sunday, December 18, 2016

Tree of motifs

After an unexpected twist, we all of a sudden have a tree of motifs to hang our knowledge on in stead of a coatrack. At the moment, I have stumbled on three motifs. One of the things we have to do, is hanging the coat hooks we already discovered on their rightful place in the tree of motifs.

But first, let's see if we can discover what the rationale is behind the motifs.

Rationale behind the geometry motif
Geometry is everything that concerns the lines of attack. Theoretically is should be possible to have a tactic with no straight line of attack whatsoever. Yet that is highly unlikely though. Usually, a combination exists of more tactical themes. One theme, take for instance a knight fork, can be without a straight line of attack, but 3 or 4 themes combined cannot. Because 4 of the 5 duplo attacks consist totally of themes with straight lines (pin, skewer, roentgen, discovered attack), while a lot of the double attacks are based on a straight line of attack either. So if you combine, say, three or more tactical themes, there always will be a straight line of attack involved. So it make sense to investigate the straight lines of attack whenever you encounter a position. The importance of the line of attack can be judged by its "readiness". How many quiet moves are needed to get to the position where the attacker attacks the target(s) along the line. We must make a distinction here between quiet moves that lose a tempo, and forcing moves that maintain the initiative. The readiness of the line of attack is not negatively influenced by forcing moves that get the line of attack ready for use. If you need quiet moves to get the line ready, the line of attack is probably not interesting enough to consider. Geometry is about the line of attack.

Rationale behind encirclement
Which pieces are the logical targets? Which pieces are close to be outnumbered? It is related to pure value, calculated value, the numbers of attackers and the number of defenders and their values. We must develop an easy to use universal system here to get the most juicy targets in view. I don't know much about mister Laskers view about encirclement, but he says: "Where there is superior force at  a given point and immobility within the defenders ranks a combination should be present".
Encirclement is about juiciness of the target.

Rationale behind function
If a piece has a function, it has obligations. Obligations limit the mobility of a piece. It can only move as long is it fulfills its duty. There are three typical methods to exploit a piece with a function:
  • Harass the piece and make use of the fact that it no longer can fulfill its duty
  • Make use of the limited mobility of the piece by trapping it
  • When a piece is overloaded with obligations you make use of the fact that he can fulfill only one duty at the time.
 These three motifs should put you on track of any combination.
Let's see how it works in practice.

Diagram 1. Black to move

2rr2k1/pb2qppp/1p3n2/3p4/1b6/1PBQPN2/P3RPPP/2R2BK1 b - - 0 1

Lines of attack:
c8 - c1 already attacking
e7 - e1 already attacking
a6 - f1 can be ready in one move while preserving the initiative (Ba6)

c4 is under attack

Rc1 defends c3
Qd3 defends c3
Qd3 defends against the invasion at a6

All these motifs can be recognized in the position without any recognition of the tactical themes beforehand. It tells you that the queen has two duties it can't fulfill both. This means that bishop c3 = BAD. Only now you start for looking for the tactical themes to exploit it.


  1. Finally, the draft of the system I have been looking for all the time! Well done my friend! :).

    I think it should be a bit expanded and corrected:

    A. Geometry

    Lines of attack FOR BLACK:
    c8 - c1 already attacking
    e7 - e2 already attacking
    a6 - f1 can be ready in one move while preserving the initiative (Ba6)
    b7 - f3 already attacking

    Lines of attack FOR WHITE:
    c8 - c8 already attacking
    e2 - e7 already attacking
    d3 - d8 already attacking
    c3 - f6 already attacking
    c3 - b4 already attacking

    B. Motifs recognition.

    C. Analysis (comparison) of variations.

    D. Selecting the final move (based on the biggest benefits from previous point).

    E. Playing the move on the board.

    It is of course a simple task to improve upon other people work, but I cannot stop myself from doing it. Just kidding. I am just curious if you take into consideration BOTH sides potential. I think this way we can spot and kill the counterplay (refutation of our ideas/variations) in a very efficient way.

    BTW > e7 - e1 already attacking (please correct e1 to e2)

    1. A. I missed b7-a1
      I think it is a good habit to continue to follow the line of attack to the rim. That gives a better insight in the full potential of the line of attack.

      The yet to describe tree branch "initiative" must indicate whether it is necessary to have a look at the lines of attack of the enemy. If we can do without, we must do without.

      B. Geometry is one of the three motifs. Maybe you mean themes? I adopted the terminology of Robert/Lasker some time ago.

  2. @ Tomasz:

    I think (Temposchlucker, please correct me if I am wrong) that the idea is to trace out the potential lines of force ("auras") of each piece from each piece all the way to the edge of the board, so that empty squares will also be considered. Ergo, e7 - e1 from the Black Queen, rather than e7 - e2.

    Obviously, the survey of the position must consider the opponent's potential as well as ones own. However, the most important consideration in situations requiring/allowing for concrete tactical sequences starts with this crucial question: which player's turn is it to move? As long as that player can control the initiative, then other considerations recede into a subordinate position. How many problems have you solved where the losing side has lots of extra material, but cannot gain that crucial tempo needed to regain the initiative and exploit the extra material? As Mikail Tal was fond of saying (paraphrased), "It doesn't matter how many pieces I have en prise; he can only capture them one at a time when it is his turn to move."

  3. (Sorry; I left out a word in the first version of this comment.)

    The position given above exposes another consideration of importance in "seeing" cues: exchanging on the square of a B.A.D. piece. Often, a partial exchange sequence on the B.A.D. square can allow a useful diversion of the remaining defender(s). In this way, simply "counting" the possible exchanges (NOT the point count of the material exchanged) can be another of the "cues" for tactical play.

    In a sense, this idea is similar to Nimzovich's idea of exchanging on a blockade square ("Changez les blockeurs!") in order to substitute a "stubborn blockader" with a subsequent blockader which is vulnerable to being forced away from the blockade square.

    FWIW, Nimzovich's My System, chapter 5. On Exchanging details the possible motives for exchanging. If the particular situation does not fall into one of his categories, then exchanging is probably a BAD IDEA. It is a truism of the Soviet School of chess that (generally) unforced exchanging is not a good idea because it potentially reduces or dissipates the tactical tension. But, that's a subject for another day!