Monday, January 09, 2017

A closer look

The problems with the application of PLAF (PoPLoAASFun) need further elaboration. We can use the same diagram.

White to move

k7/1R2R3/pb3p2/qr6/5N1p/2r3P1/PPQ4P/1K6 w - - 0 1

PoP (Point of Pressure)

a7. What do we want to know about a PoP?
  • How many times is is attacked? 2x
  • How many times is it defended? 2x
  • Can I add attackers? Yes Qh7
  • Can I harass defenders? No
That Qh7 isn't viable, isn't immediately clear. Only when the Function of the white queen is examined, we will find that it is immobile along the c2-h7 diagonal, since it has a defensive duty against the black rook sac on b2.

  • How many times is is attacked? 0x
  • How many times is it defended? 0x
  • Can I add attackers? Yes Qe4 Qg2
  • Can I harass defenders? No
At first, I thought that when we look at the PoPs, we must keep it as clean and simple as possible, we don't look at the Function of our attackers just yet. That must be done at a later stage. But now I think about it, it seems more logical to see a PoP as a unit of assessment, and start the backwards thinking process right away.  Both Qe4 and Qg2 outnumber the PoP a8. In that case the following step must be to examine the mobility of our queen. In other words, we must answer the question "what is the function of the white queen?" Answer: to protect b2. Next question: "how does that function influence the mobility of the queen?". Answer: it must stay in contact with b2. This already tells you everything you need to know.

This leads to an important conclusion:
It is not first investigating all PoPs, then all LoAs, then all AS (Attacking Squares) and then all functions. The PoP is the unit of investigation. So far, I haven't seen a single tactical problem without a PoP playing a crucial role.

You start with these questions about a PoP:
  • How many times is is attacked
  • How many times is it defended
  • Can I add attackers?
  • Can the opponent add defenders?
  • Can I harass defenders?
 The first two questions tells you if you already outnumber the opponent on a PoP. Usually, the plus and minus score will equalize to zero. Zero is an indicator the PoP might be B.A.D. (Barely Adequate Defended). The second two questions tells you if and how you can exploit the PoP.

If you can add attackers, you must continue with questions about the attackers
  • Does the attacker has a Function?
  • How does this Function influence the mobility of the attacker?
Further you must ask the same kind of questions about the defenders
  • Does the defender have a Function?
  • How does this Function influence the mobility of the defender?
  • Can I harass-block-capture-deflect the defender? 
 We need a tree of questions.


  1. This process of SLOWLY expanding the set of motifs, using various questions, is important for training purposes, and ultimately, also for playing purposes. A few regularly recurring "cues" go a long ways toward giving structure to our "seeing" as well as to our "thinking."

    I am convinced that the set of motifs is considerably larger than mister Lasker gave in his book (since he made no attempt to be exhaustive), but (just like tactical themes/devices) the set of motifs is very limited (although somewhat larger IMHO than the set of tactical themes/devices) compared to the set of possible "ideas" (combinations of the various patterns). Just as mister Lasker opined, it is NOT important to know every possible motif/theme. Even a small number of them will give considerable opportunities for "seeing," "chunking," and subsequent combinative play.

    Obviously, there is a hierarchy based on frequency of appearance in "real" games. I suspect this is the reason that mister Lasker advised practical players against training while using studies which do not relate to actual positions that can arise in a game between two antagonistic minds.

    My training work of late has been to FIRST look for the small set of motifs that you have identified so far. It takes very little time to run through them during the position examination phase. The hard part of the training is to force myself to consistently follow the process and MAP OUT ALL LOA!

    IMHO, these very considerations constitute the basis for pattern recognition in chess. If that is so, then I question the assertion/estimate that GMs "know" 50,00, 100,000 or even more "patterns." A small number of patterns can cover a lot of positions when combined with a systematic process of "seeing" and focusing on the important points in a position based on those patterns. The patterns are geometrical/temporal/functional interrelationships, not necessarily or solely visual; a blindfold player (or an actually blind person) can still "see" the patterns and play accordingly. (Blindfold players [including ME] do not "see" specific colors and shapes of either the pieces or the squares on the board; what we "see" is the relationships of the pieces in terms of interrelationships of pieces, motifs and themes, leading eventually to moves.) What has been ground into the GM subconscious is the recognition of these "cues," not specific and unique piece configurations. As mister Lasker said, the method is plastic and can be readily applied to a wide variety of positions, without unduly burdening the memory. A very smart man, that mister Lasker!

  2. I just thought of another "cue" that I use regularly.

    Is the opponent's King totally immobile?

    If so, are there any of my pieces in the immediate vicinity that can be used to attack that King?

    If so, then focus on mating the King. Everything else is unimportant.

    I presume this might be a subset of the attack motif.

  3. "The hard part of the training is to force myself to consistently follow the process and MAP OUT ALL LOA!

    Behind the board, we are obliged to guide our vision with reasoning. For instance we say to ourselves "now I must look from the vulture's point of view". Albeit we try to eliminate slow logical thinking as much as possible in favor for vision, we can't help to be dependent on that babbling little man in our head that we - nobody knows why - call our reason. And since we can't do without, we must educate our babbling little man along the lines of it's nature. And it's nature is to think in a sequential way, and not in a parallel way.

    When I started this post, I said to myself "first I must identify all PoPs, then all LoAs, then all AS (Attacking Squares) and then all Functions." That are all parallel tasks. The discovery of this post, is to start with the very first PoP, and start backwards serial thinking from there. If it is the wrong PoP, you will find out very soon. Then you can look for the next PoP. Your citation shows a parallel approach either, and the fact that you fail to apply it is for that very same reason. It's against the nature of the little babbling man in your head.

    The next post will be about the characteristics of a PoP. A PoP must be in contact with a target. PoPs with the target on the PoP square, are a different breed than the PoPs that are only attacking squares to the target. The king assault motif is aiming for the PoPs that are attacking squares to the king, for instance. There is a lot to discover.