Friday, January 13, 2017


The PoP (Point of Pressure) has become the starting point of any attack. We need to develop an eye for PoPs. When I look at a new position, my approach is pretty incoherent. Time to have a closer look at the PoP. What are the characteristics, how do we recognize them?

Two (three) types
The first thing that pops into the mind, is that there are two types of PoPs.

The first type is where there is a a piece on the square which is under pressure. The first twenty positions in my database appeared to be of that type.  Only when I started to look at positions that have a 300 point higher rating, I noticed the first PoP with no piece on it. PoP-P can be solved with the three motifs encircling, geometry and function.

The second type has no piece on the PoP. It's just an empty square. For instance a7 in the diagram below is such PoP-S. To exploit a PoP-S, you need an extra motif: the assault motif.

I theorize that there must be a third type, which is actually a PoP-S, but accidentally there stands a piece on the square. The main subject of the attack is not about the gain of the piece though, but about the assault of the king.

It is important to realize, that there can't be a combination without a PoP.

A characteristic of a PoP is that it is always B.A.D. (Barely Adequate Defended), if it is defended at all. A PoP is about outnumbering the opponent on a square.

Contact with a target
The PoP must always be in geometrical contact with a target. Either by that the target stands on it, or the target has a geometrical connection with the PoP. Which means, that the target will be attacked directly from the PoP, when an attacker conquers it. In the diagram below, a7 is a PoP, the king is directly in geometrical contact with it. When white conquers a7, the king is attacked.

Contact with an attacker
The PoP must be in direct contact with an attacker. There is a geometrical connection between the attacker and the PoP

Exploiting a PoP
When you already outnumber the PoP, you can go on winning. But usually you are in a situation where the PoP is only B.A.D. (Barely Adequate Defended). Which means you have some work to do before you outnumber the opponent on the PoP square. Most of the time, it is necessary to make use of some kind of immobility.

Chess pieces are volatile. In a balanced game, any attack can be answered. This means that you can only find a combination in an unbalanced position. When, for some reason, the pieces of the opponent are hampered. Only then it might be possible that your attack can't be answered. The main cause for lack of possibilities is immobility. Only when your opponents pieces are immobile to a certain degree, there is a chance to carry out your vicious plans. Immobility must be seen in the minds eye. Looking at the pieces alone can bring you only sofar. But what is directly visible on the board, might be deceptive. You look at a knight, you see where it can move to. But when it is immobile, it can no longer do its knightly things. The ability to see immobility before your minds eye is paramount. That can't be stressed enough. This way you can win games. When you see things your opponent doesn't. There are three categories of immobility.
  • Immobility by function
  • Immobility by lack of space
  • Immobility by bad piece placement

Immobility by function
When a piece has a function to fulfill, it must stay in contact with its function.  The white queen in diagram 1 has to stay in contact with b2. So it is partly immobile. The queen can't move along the c2-h7 diagonal. So the interesting attacking squares e4 and h7 are out of reach.

Immobility by lack of space
The black king in diagram 1 has lack of space. When it is attacked, it can't flee into safety.

Immobility by bad piece placement
The black pieces are well placed for an attack on the white king, but badly placed for defense of the black king. The road from defender to PoP is too long. I.e. takes too much time.

Diagram 1. white to move

How to exploit the PoP
As you see, I use the same position as in the posts before. It shows both types of PoPs.
c3 is a PoP-P square. Black is outnumbered on c3, and there is a piece standing on it. But immobility vision will change this assessment.

Look at the defenders
When you consider a PoP,  you must first look at it's defenders. c3 is B.A.D., and the first attempt to exploit it is to have a look at the defenders. The defenders Qa5 and Rb5 are partly immobilized by function. Qa5 must stay in contact with c3, and Rb5 must pin b2. But there is no time to harass the defenders, since the white queen is hanging.

Add attackers
You always start with looking at the defenders, since they are partly immobilized already. Adding attackers can only be successful when your opponent can't keep up by adding defenders. Here you would like to unpin the pawn for instance. But that can't be done together with preserving the initiative. It stumbles upon the same problem: the white queen is hanging. So c3 is not the PoP that is going to lead you to glory.

I will continue with the other PoPs in the next post.


  1. Lest you think we lurkers have gone "dark":

    This is some of the deepest logical analysis of the adult training issue that I've ever seen! It also appears to be the most promising approach for (FINALLY!) gaining some consistent adult chess improvement that will last.

    I have an experiment I want to perform on myself (perhaps very similar in nature to Tomasz's approach last given). I have a new tactics book [Progressive Tactics: 1002 Progressively Challenging Chess Tactics, by Dave Couture] that I intend to use as my "test." I have not looked inside the book yet.

    I want to try a consistent approach of applying the PoPeye method first (with immediate exploration of the LoA and Fun connected to specific PoPs), followed by (hopefully!) a recognition of motifs, followed by a recognition of themes/devices, followed by a recognition of the "idea" for a combination. I intend to time every puzzle using a stop watch. One idea is to make a small square in a piece of paper (just large enough for one diagram) and use the paper to cover every other puzzle on a page as soon as I turn the page, leaving only the current puzzle visible.

    I intend to mark the PoPs with one color of highlighter, followed immediately with the LoAs (another color) and then the Funs (a third color), in whatever order occurs to my "eye." The idea is to isolate/identify what I'm "seeing" as I'm "seeing" it. After some number of puzzles, I intend to assess my process and progress, and determine if there should be a change in process. Hopefully, by the time I finish the book, I'll have a pretty solid idea of what works (for ME!) and how.

    Your posts are a tremendous help in focusing on the critical issues! THANK YOU!!!

    Another possible source of new problems for training is a book that my wife is going to give me for my birthday. It is either the Encyclopedia of Chess Combinations, 5th Edition or one of Papa Polgar's other "bricks": Chess Middlegames 1st Edition. (It's already here, but I don't know which one it is.) I already have Papa Polgar's "brick" Chess: 5334 Problems, Combinations and Games and Paata Gaprindashvili's Imagination in Chess: How to Think Creatively and Avoid Foolish Mistakes. Those books should provide more than sufficient high-level training material for exploring all of these evolving ideas for training!

  2. I am in the process of solving puzzles and I solve them in my own way.

    1. I solve as many puzzles as possible, but not just for the speed. To me quality matters. And it means - I want to make CONCLUSIONS from the puzzles I had problems, I failed or I simply missed some ideas (i.e. there was a refutation in any moment).

    2. When I cannot solve the puzzle in 8-10 minutes I write down the best variation I have found so far with additional info. Most often it is the idea and/or moves worth considering or simply the refutation.

    3. Whenever I meet the puzzle I COMPLETELETY cannot solve (neither recognize) I simply leave it and mark it red. I make a red circle around the number of puzzle and go to the next one.

    4. I use chess tricks to guess the solution. What does it mean? I have solved about 10-12K very easy and easy chess puzzles (rated 1000-1700). This way I can recognize the FINAL position without the knowledge how to get there. It is the same as the estimation in Maths, but without the knowledge to what group (ones, tens, hundreds, etc.) you have to make the estimation. It really helps, even if it is superficial (artificial) kind of solving.

    5. Every time I solve "unsolvable" puzzles I try to figure out WHAT was the reason I could not solve it "a normal way". Most often there are false assumptions (premises) and I change these into broader range of examples (i.e. building the chess database of conclusions to use it for another group puzzles in the future)

    I am not sure, but I think that EVERYONE should build his own database of incorrect chess assumptions. This way we should write down EVERY position we meet (and could not solve) and list all the problems we encountered. After that provide the list with all conclusions that you draw from the specific puzzle. Maybe this could help as we and different and everyone may have various drawbacks (flaws) with the chess solving process and (false) knowledge.

    Let me know what do you think about it. Thanks in advance!

    PS. Tempo you are doing really well! To be honest I cannot understand your recent article, but I am sure I will be able to do it when you provide more of your concepts to give me bigger picture. I really appreciate your effort! Keep up great work!

  3. @Tomasz:

    I think you have observed something which might explain why no one method seems to work for everyone. We have individual experience, strengths and weaknesses, so one particular approach to training will not have the same effect in every ccase. Perhaps this is the "truth" behind the recommendation to have a coach.

    I think your approach is quite useful - to you! I use something similar, but I try very hard to NEVER guess. It's because I tend to just slop something out if I guess, and sloppy thinking will always produce sloppy results. AS I've stated before, my martial arts instructors used to hammer this maxim into every student's body:

    PRACTICE does NOT make PERFECT; it makes PERMANENT (i.e., bad habits become ingrained permanently and become very difficult to eradicate). Only PERFECT PRACTICE makes PERFECT!

    I realize that is a life philosophy that not everyone will want to adopt, but it seems to pay great dividends for ME.