Friday, February 10, 2017

Limited mobility

Volatile pieces are hard to catch. We only make a chance when the mobility is limited. There are three ways that mobility can be impaired:
  • Time. When king and queen are knight forked, there is no time to safe both.
  • Space. When you entomb a bishop, it has no squares to flea to.
  • Function. When a piece has a duty, it has to stay in contact with its duty. Either it has to sacrifice itself, or it must give up its duty.
So always look at the most immobile targets first.

White to move

1r6/3qn1k1/R4bp1/3p3p/1p6/1N2P1P1/1P1Q1P2/5BK1 w - h6 0 1

Blacks Q, R, N and B are all more or less mobile. Only the king is immobile due to its function to protect the bishop.

1.Rxf6 Kxf6

Who is the most immobile piece now?
Q, R, N are all volatile still. But the king has now little mobility due to lack of space.


The king has four squares to go to.
2... Kg5 3. Qf4# lack of space = mate
2... Kf5 3. Qf4+ Ke6 4.Nd4# lack of space = mate
2... Ke6 3. Nc5+ lack of time = knight fork
2.... Kf7 3. Qf4 lack of time = double attack

Immobility in one form or another is the best guide for our attention.


  1. A trivial correction: in the third line of the analysis of the possible King moves - 2... Ke5 (should be Ke6) 3. Nc5+ lack of time = knight fork

    As mister Lasker pointed out in Lasker's Manual of Chess:

    This illustrates a motif of great importance — the motif of "function." The power, the domain of force of a piece is DECREASED as soon as that piece has a certain task to do, as, for instance, in the above position the power of the Knight is decreased by its having to watch the passed Pawn. A task or a multitude of tasks, such as, for instance, to obstruct a Rook or to parry the threat of a mate, if to be done by a certain piece, may be called the "function" of that piece, an expression borrowed from Biology. By studying the various functions of the hostile pieces and the effects these functions have of impeding those pieces WE DISCERN NEW MOTIFS FOR COMBINATIONS. [Emphasis added.]

    Perhaps another way of "looking" at this position is to note that BBf6 is the only B.A.D. piece in the position for either side. That Bishop also has the "function" of preventing the centralization of the White Queen. Ergo, it must be removed, even at the cost of an exchange. After 1. Rxf6 Kxf6 2.Qd4+ the White Queen is ideally placed. The Black King cannot go to the f-file because either the Black King will be mated OR the "loose" Black Rook at b8 will be forked with 3. Qf4. The Black King cannot go to e6 because of the Knight fork 3. Nc5+ catching the Black Queen.

    Can we "see" the "immobility by function" that NECESSARILY flows from a B.A.D. piece to the defending piece(s)?

    Most of us cannot "see" the Function(s) very clearly, simply because they are invisible relationships between specific pieces based on what each piece can do (dynamics). On the other hand, the status of a B.A.D. piece is readily visible because it is static. I suggest that perhaps we should start with the visible "obvious" static aspects of the position first, and then try to figure out the invisible dynamics as derivative from that static assessment.

    I'll have to experiment with "looking" for immobility as a first-order vulture's eye focal point.

    There is a tantalizing "hint" given by mister Lasker in the last part of that quote above:


    This may NOT have been mister Lasker's intention, but I think his point is that as we gain understanding of specific ways of "looking" at a position, we discover even deeper ways to "see" into the hidden (invisible) potential residing within a given position. IMHO, it is this process of searching for ways to "see" and then deriving additional insights that increases the skill. Somewhat surprisingly, I don't think that a mechanical recitation of the points (without working through the implications for oneself) provides much long-term benefit. Perhaps I am over-thinking the learning process. . . but, "no pain, no gain."

  2. Thanks for the correction. I changed it.

    You put a lot of emphasis om the vulture's view. And that is good. The more you see in this stage, the better. But you can't circle forever up in the high skies. Since even with the best eyes, you can't see every detail from a far distance. There always will eventually come a moment, that you will have to engage your conscious slow thinking brain into the game. And when you dive for the road kill, it better be there when you near ground zero. It better be not area 51. When your mind enters a tunnel, it better be the right tunnel. Your conscious mind needs something to chew on. That better be not some random interesting looking but utterly useless move like 1.Nc5

    Then I imagined Tomasz, asking, "I see all kinds of PoPs and LoAs, how do I know where to begin?". And when I tried to explain it to him, in my mind, every explanation sounds arbitrary and artificial.

    What is the use of seeing PoPs (Points of Pressure) and LoAs (Lines of Attack)? It puts you on the right track of function. What is the use of tracking function? It leads you to immobile pieces. Immobile pieces are handicapped. Handicapped pieces are exploitable.

    Lasker: Where there is superior force at a given point and immobility within the defenders ranks a combination should be present.

    And now I have an answer for Tomasz: we don't look at PoPs and LoAs that are connected with volatile pieces, but for those PoPs and LoAs that are connected with pieces with limited mobility. By space, time or function.

    Chess thinking starts with the exploitation of limited mobility.

    1. Excellent!!!

      I do not know how to explain, but the more articles you publish the more I start to get your great ideas (concepts).

      I do not want to sound rude nor irritating, but what I would like to point out to this simple (but great) article some issues:

      1) RxB - destroys the Rook's guard
      2) KxR - the King goes CLOSER to the line of fire
      3) Qd4+ - the Queen cuts off the g7 square and other pieces restritcs King mobility
      4) White Knight is important as it can support white's attack (with forks).
      5) Black Knight and g6 pawn limits Black's King options.

      And you have just hit the bing! Your loud thinking "what questions would Tomasz ask" is simply great! Now I know what elements is your mind focused and WHY the specific elements and not the other ones. If you want me to understand everything "think like Tomasz" (GM Anatoly Lein ;)) and answer his questions before he asks about these!

      BTW. I am not sure if you wrote "Qd+" to show it is the check at the d-file or simply forgot to add "4" at the end of the move.

  3. I do emphasize the vulture's eye view (in essence, the "survey" [mister Weteschnik] or the "examination" [mister Beim]). As I noted previously, we keep spiraling into the position, at great distance initially, until we have a firm fix on the exact location of the "road kill." Experience will tell us if we should "look" for immobility FIRST, or if it is derivative from something else that has been "seen" (such as a B.A.D. or loose piece). I think that it will not matter too much regarding the final vision of the requirements of the position. As you have noted, the direction we want to go is marked with speed signs; the faster we can get to a holistic complete viewpoint in a specific position, the greater our skill will be. Obviously (based on prior attempts), not all roads lead to Rome, and not all roads have "road kill" for hungry vultures.

    Elaborating on the idea of mister Lasker regarding discerning "new" motifs for combinations: I don't think he means finding "new" motifs (ideas which have never occurred before and have not been cataloged) but finding "new" derivative ideas which become "visible" in sequence because we can "see" deeper into the essence of the specific position. One good idea deserves to be followed with another one until "Madam Clearly Sees All Clearly"!

    It is interesting that we always circle back to mister Lasker's motifs, including the first one he gave: the encircling motif. It is also interesting that he explicitly identifies immobility as an integral part of that first motif.

    As I've said, I keep learning something "new" (i.e., realizing the significance of his concepts) every time I re-visit mister Lasker. The funny (not the "Ha! Ha!" kind of funny) thing is that the most surprising insights occur while contemplating the simplest of his concepts. We have not gone anywhere near his elaboration on the strategical theories of Steinitz. (Some say that Lasker actually created the Steinitzian theories, somewhat as Plato is reportedly the one who put words into Socrates's mouth. It really doesn't matter which one is the "real" source, as long as the truth is absorbed as skill.) That guy was not only a great World Champion chess player, but also a much better teacher than most, IF we can only grasp what he is trying to teach us!


    While awaiting the next installment, I thought I'd go back and see how much I've commented on this blog. (Tomasz, you are directly to blame for this digression! You should never have guessed how many times I have posted something here.) Not counting this post, I have commented 367 times, with a total page count (in MS Word) of 267 pages (single-spaced, without any diagrams or the blog posts or other people's comments) since my first post on 15 JUN 2013. I had no idea that I had written so much stuff! There were stretches [the investigation of the "salt mines", for instance] when I didn't comment much because I had nothing to add to the discussion. I merely hope that some of my comments have been useful.

    IIRC, Temposchlucker has posted around 1,000 posts or more on this blog. That is an incredible amount of very high quality investigative material on the general subject of adult chess improvement! I think there is a similar quantity (and quality) of material on other Knight Errant blogs, such as AoxomoxoA's blog (now closed to the general public).

    You guys collectively and individually have generated enough material for an in-depth study of adult chess improvement that would fill volumes!!

    So, when can we expect the first volume in the multi-volume series on what works and what does NOT work for the aspiring adult student?!? [That is a totally serious question!]

    1. I don't want to commence with "Grandmaster at 75" before I know for sure it will have a happy end.

    2. If such book is ever published (no matter if just for blog commentators or everyone), I want to be the person who asks difficult questions and have the task to refute as much as possible.

      I am more than sure that publishing draft work of your discoveries and findings (in a "draft form") can help you improving your works. It is hard work for both sides, but this way you could notice any drawbacks your theory can have (in advance).

      When I have been creating my chess theory I have to test many ideas at various positions. Beside that I have been talking about my theory with some people and asks a lot of 'stupid' questions. However this way I could see all the problems and drawbacks of my theory. And finally when I have been writing this on my blog, I had to rethink it many times.

      The final effect is a very nice bonus: most of the theory cannot be refuted in any (logical and reasonable) way. The harders part would be to present the typical positions to show how the theory can be applied to real chess positions. Anyway I am content to reach this point.