Monday, January 16, 2017


When developing a thinking method, we must keep in mind what we want to accomplish. We just want to retrieve from our memory what we already very well know. We must avoid the pitfall that we strive for a complete system that helps us out in every obscure and rare combination. We want to focus on the mainstream combinations that takes us tons of time, not because they are complex, but because we have an undisciplined straggly mind. We must act according the KISS principle.

This means that we must remove redundancy as much as possible, and we must prevent any unnecessary load of the mind.

Find the relevant PoPs
How do we find the relevant PoPs (Points of Pressure), in a position where the enemy pieces don't stand on the PoP, as fast as possible?
  • Start with the target with the highest value
  • Connect it geometrically with the attacker with the lowest value
  • The connection points are the potential profitable PoPs
  • Look for the PoP that is B.A.D. (Barely Adequate Defended)
  • Identify the defenders of the PoP
  • Harrass the defenders
  • No defenders? Add attackers
  • Check if your attacker has a function that limits it mobility
  • No attackers to pile up against the PoP? Choose the next attacker of low value
  • Lather, rinse, repeat
Let's see what it means in practice.

Diagram 1. White to move
  • The King is the target with the highest value
  • The knight is the attacker withe the lowest value
  • The knight cannot connect with king in one move
  • So no Pops
  • Rook b7 is the next attacker to consider
  • It connects with the king via PoP b8 and a7 (brown dots in diagram 1)
  • The black king is the sole defender of b8
  • I cannot harass  the king without loosing rook b7
  • I can add Re7 as extra attacker by 1.Re8+
  • Has Re7 a function? Yes, it must stay on the 7th in order to protect b7
  • Next PoP: a7 
  • Defenders K and B. Can't harass them without giving up the pressure on a7
  • Can I add attacker? Yes, Qh7
  • Has the Queen a function? Yes it must stay in contact with b2
  • So no viable PoPs

Diagram 2. White to move
  • Connect with the king via PoPs a7 and e8 (brown dots diagram 2)
  • a7: same problems as described before
  • e8: defender Bd8. Can't harass defender
  • problem: Re7 must protect b7
  • adding attackers to e8 makes no sense, since I already outnumber it

Diagram 3. White to move
Potential Pops a2, a4, c6, c8, e4, g2 (brown dots in diagram 3)
It should take little time to see that Pops a2, a4, c6 and c8are unreachable due to all kinds of defenders
Remain e4 and g2
Since we already saw that the Q must stay in contact with b2, e4 is ruled out
g2 is the square we want to find

Of course, the list is optimized for this very position. We have to try it with other positions as well, in order to finetune it and to generalize it.

For those who want to become really fast in recognizing potential PoPs, there are some salt mines in my sidebar that listen to the name "find all checks".


  1. Dear Tempo!

    I read this and previous articles. I am sorry, but I feel really confused.

    Could you tell me HOW can we make a difference between Qe4 and Qg2? If I would be able to simply cross out ONE move from 2 or 3 candidate moves, I could gain 150-200 tactical rating points in a month of practice.

    Is there any way to figure it out EXCEPT the failure? If yes, please share what it is and what are your findings. Thanks in advance!

    1. We have two states of mind which are somewhat mutually exclusive.

      The first state is when we circle like a vulture above the board and look with a disciplined mind at the board. We see, almost parallel, everything what's going on, without identifying ourself with whatever happens down there. We see the trains driving from station to station, and from above we can see all stations and trains at the same time (parallel).

      The second state is when something catches our attention, and we jump on the bandwagon. From that moment on, we rumble from station to station in a sequential way. We are totally identified with what we see, and it feels as if our train is driving through a tunnel. We only know about the station we just left, and the station we are heading to, and what we can see sideways from the windows of our forth thundering train. Our attention progresses from station to station in a serial way, unawre of what is going on elsewhere.

      In an ideal world, we start as a circling vulture, and see that this position contains a counter attack.

      But more often than not, something catches our attention, and we enter the serial train of thought before we know it.

      What I try to do here is to develop a logical map with stations, along which our future serial train of mesmerized attention should ride. What is in that case the most logical place for the station "Counter Attack"? Preventing unnecessary rides along stations where you have already been?

      I propose the following railway timetable. These are the stations:

      Harass Defender
      Add Attacker
      Counter Attack!

      This means that before you move your Queen to e4, the railway conductor shouts "Next station Counter Attack North!!" through the speakers. At that moment you should ask yourself "Can I really move this queen, or is it abandoning a defensive task?". When you see that Qe4 is impossible, the next station is the next PoP that connects the attacking queen with the hostile king, which is g2.

      In an ideal world, we look at our own position as if we were the enemy. But then again, in an ideal world, nobody would need mr Trump as a president ;)

    2. It is one of the best metaphors I have ever read! Simply great!

      I am wondering if focusing at refutations could bring significant progress (results). As far as I know we suffer from this EVERY time we make mistakes. And if I remember correctly (Tempo and/or Munich and Aox) stated that "with unlimited time we/I can solve any tactical puzzles - no matter the difficulty". If I understood correctly - you have to look for all possible REFUTATIONS and if you exhaust this possibility - you can have "perfect solution". Am I right? If yes, then it would be a good idea to write down the "refutation process and its implications" (to practical player).

      By the way: I am in the process of solving puzzles (rated 1800-2100) and I mark red these I cannot (could not) solve. I am very curious about the conclusions and possible explanations - why I had problems with these. There are 900 puzzles in total (Slavin workbook, volume 7) and for now I have solved 300 of these. And the level of puzzles not solved is about 20%.

      One of the simplest rules related to the general hint to describe "a very good move" is: it should make (a) big threat(s) AND defend everything possible... at the same time. Of course it is not always true, but it can help to progress out findings a big further. What do you think about it?

  2. I make a suggestion: the exact same process must be performed for the OPPONENT in order to get a complete picture. As you've indicated, this process can be done concurrently while looking at MY PoPs, LoAs, FUNs and AS, etc., taking into immediate consideration those interrelationships that seem to either aid or hinder. This provides a understanding of the contours of the position.

    One (of many) key insights that I've gained from this investigation is that the player to move has the opportunity (for at least that one move) to control the direction/tempo of play. It is an obvious "hint" (when given a problem to solve) that the correct "solution" is always favorable for the player to move. It is NOT so obvious that applying that same mindset during actual play from move to move is just as beneficial.

    1. Your suggestion is quite logical. And in an ideal world, with plenty of time, this approach would be the best. But alas, our world is not ideal. I always find it very difficult, almost painful, to jump from one train to another. To change my attention from one side to the other, I mean.

      And when a switch of attention is painful, it costs energy, it is piling up a load on my STM. So it is not likely going to happen in a sustainable way in practice, I'm afraid.

  3. Amusing: After posting my previous comment, I read The Chess Improver link to Tactics Sample. I find:

    "Having the move is an important advantage. It is similar to having the ball and the attack in basketball and American football. You get the opportunity to finish it with a few possible results (no score or score more or less points), depending on how you execute it. In chess, the execution relies heavily on tactics and TACTICS ARE DEPENDENT ON OBSERVATION."

    That seems like a pretty good summary of the direction of the present investigation.

  4. @ Tomasz asks:

    "Could you tell me HOW can we make a difference between Qe4 and Qg2?"

    I know this is addressed to Temposchlucker, but I'll take a stab at it too.

    Simple answer (for the given position): Qe4 (and also Qh7) accomplish the desired goal (increase attackers on either a7 or a8) BUT do NOT address the concurrent problem of maintaining a defense of b2. Temposchlucker pointed that out previously.

    In short, it is necessary (BUT INSUFFICIENT) to consider only your own possibilities, without addressing your OPPONENT's possibilities. GM Beim refers to this as "short-term tactics," a truncated form of calculation during the position examination (or "survey," in mister Weteschnik's book).

    I think the gist is to immediately consider potential ramifications as soon as the attention is drawn to or focused on a particular PoP. A strictly linear process appeals to the logical mind (System 2) but the speed of the intuitive mind (System 1) is more useful for initial recognition purposes.

    How to train System 1 INDIRECTLY? Work SLOWLY with a fixed logical process until the mind "automagically" inculcates the process into the subconscious. You'll know you have succeeded when you no longer CONSCIOUSLY follow the step-by-step process, and the "answers" seem to just "PoP" into your mind when you first look at the position. Until you reach that point, you still need more training.

    There IS a danger here. System 2 (when presented with a "first impression" from System 1) is quite happy with equivocation. If it looks like a duck, quacks like a duck, waddles like a duck and has feathers, System 2 is quite happy to label it a duck. The downside is that it then becomes quite difficult (if not impossible) to consider any other alternatives without severe time loss. Once the vulture's eye view has been "cemented" as representing "truth," it's extremely difficult to get back off the ground for another vulture's eye view, and we end up as road kill when hit by the "reality truck."

    1. I am not sure, but maybe "a refutation rule" may be helpful here. See my previous comment (as a reply to Tempo).

      I noticed that most of my tactical problems arise from the laziness or inability to figure out the possible refutation(s) and simply laziness to work hard. It is a really ironic that sometimes I can solve 6-8 moves tactical puzzles within 2-3 minutes and have GREAT difficulties to solve the 3-4 moves puzzle! Any remedy?!

    2. @ Tomasz:
      A "refutation rule" is built into the process already. For example (in the given position):


      Premise: Potential Pops a2, a4, c6, c8, e4, g2 (brown dots in diagram 3)

      Refutation: It should take little time to see that Pops a2, a4, c6 and c8are unreachable due to all kinds of defenders

      Premise: Remain e4 and g2

      Refutation: Since we already saw that the Q must stay in contact with b2, e4 is ruled out

      CONCLUSION: g2 is the square we want to find

      Sherlock Holmes: "Once you eliminate the impossible, whatever remains, no matter how improbable, must be the truth."

  5. Dear,
    My active english (writing and speaking) are very bad. Sorry for that.
    In the last years I read time to time your blog (congratulations for the efforts and for come back).

    In my opinion this method of training is unreal for OTB Success. Perhaps is good for correspondence chess I don't know. In a face to face the players have time limits and energy limits.
    I think that is important training and study chess with real board and with clock and pen and paper or a notebook to write the moves. Simulating the game conditions using solitaire chess techniques (also namely guesing the move) or simply analysis dedicating 20 minutes for every 10 moves etc.
    Dvoretsky in secrets of chess training speaks a litlee about three goods methods of study:
    1) solitaire chess/Guessing the move.
    2) positional cards
    3) stokyo exercises/Kotov exercises.