Friday, February 03, 2017

Looking for Fun

Seeing PoPs (Points of Pressure) and LoAs (Lines of Attack) is rather straightforward. Both have highly geometrical properties, and hence they can be seen by every vulture circling above the board. You can't win games by things that can be seen easily by everybody. You just order your mind "give me all PoPs", and it will obey you immediately. The same is true for all LoAs. You may miss an important one every now and then, but with a little exercise, you probably will do well. Everybody who has healthy eyes in his head can do equally well.
The most important reason to map the PoPs and the LoAs, is that it will put you on the track of pieces that are partly immobilized due to their Fun(ction).

Function is different. It can't be seen with your physical eyes. You can only see it with your minds eye. And that can give you an edge. In case of function, what you see with your physical eyes, is in contradiction with what you see with your minds eye. With your physical eyes, you see a knight that can hop around in a knightly manner, as knights do. But in the realm of Functionality, the knight is bound to the protection of h7 and d7.

We have to develop a mental eye for the partial immobility due to Function. I write Function with a capital, in order to show that we are talking about the functional motif. We must learn the different methods how to exploit  those partial immobilities.

Black to move

qr4k1/2Q1pp1p/6p1/r1nb4/P7/4PNP1/5PBP/R2R2K1 b - - 1 1

Black wants to take the knight on f3. For the physical eyes, it looks as if the black queen is participating in the attack on f3. But the mental eye sees that the black queen is bound to its Functions: defending both rooks and the bishop. The black queen is immobile, and hence isn't participating in the attack. The black rook is bound to the defense of c5, so it is immobile too.

Logical thinking in chess starts here. It starts with the Fun. Use PoPs and LoAs to lead you to the Fun. Chess thinking starts with thinking how to exploit (enemy pieces) and how to minimize (own piece) the immobilities. In this specific case, black wants to free its queen with tempo from its duties. So that the black queen can really participate in the attack on f3. Of course black must give white no chance to protect his knight.

Chess thinking starts with the Fun. The Fun starts with PoPs and LoAs.


  1. An 1858.5 problem - solved in less than 20 seconds - by a 1470.5 player! I relied on your observation that B.A.D. pieces always seem to be involved with significant PoPs. Nf3 is already B.A.D., so it's simply a matter of eliminating its potential reinforcements (the White Queen). The White Queen must be moved off its current square (to eliminate its two Functions of "attacking" the Black Rook and the Black Knight) AND not allowed to directly protect the Nf3 (from f4). The answer becomes obvious almost IMMEDOATELY. Such is the power of the vulture's eye view using PoPLoAFun as the focusing lens!

    1. After reflection, I realized that I was not as clear as I could have been about this position, and its lesson regarding PoPLoAFun.

      When "looking" at the WNf3, we find that it is "attacked" twice (BBd5, BQa8) and "defended" only once (WBg2). Geometrically, Black already has superiority on f3 (2:1) and SHOULD be able to just take the White Knight. BUT (there's always a stinky "but" stuck in there somewhere) after determining this, we MUST (to avoid jumping on a stupid move) see if there are any other INDIRECT "defenders" of f3. The INDIRECT "defenders" WILL always be either a piece with a masked geometrical relationship to the attacked square [none in this position] OR a Functional relationship to one or more of the "attackers" which prohibit that "attacker" from accomplishing the desired "obvious" attack. So, we have to look at each "attacker" and "see" the Functions that constrain it. This is how we arrive at the respective roles of the Black Queen ("attack" f3 AND "protect" BRa5). But then we ask a simple question: WHY is the Black Queen required to protect BRa5? This leads to another link in the logical reasoning chain: the White Queen attacks the BRa5. THIS is the reason that the WNf3 is "protected" sufficiently to make it a B.A.D. (Barely Adequately Defended) piece. Because of the various Functions, the White Knight IS "defended" (almost) sufficiently (2:2). Having arrived at this assessment of the interrelationships, it should immediately come to mind to either directly add an attacker to f3 (unfortunately, there are none available to Black) OR to remove a defender, thereby achieivng superiority on the B.A.D. square and allowing Black to capture on f3. Since the WBg2 cannot be eliminated, the only possible defender that can (potentially) be removed is the White Queen. Because of its location AND its Function, it is vulnerable. We only have to "see" a potentail attacker on it, which the Black Knight can accomplish with 1. ... Ne6. Coincidentally, that move also prevents the White Queen from taking up a new defensive position on f4. White loses a piece.

      Consider a "null" move by Black (one that does NOT address the requirements of the position. If White is given the move (with no significant change in the existing relationships, then a combination is available for White. The BBd5 (1:1) and BRa5 (1:1) are both B.A.D. AND "defended" by only the Black Queen. The Black Queen is overloaded. 1. Rxd5 wins a piece for White. This shows the importance of the assault motif, or if you will, the importance of Nimzovich's axio: "Thou shalt not shilly-shally." Or, "Strike while the iron is hot." Pick your own aphorism to apply and remember this idea.

      I elaborate on this concept in the hope that it might make the required reasoning process clearer. Pieces may be considered to be B.A.D. not just on the obvious visual basis of a visible numerical balance between attackers and defenders but also based on indirect (invisible) Functions constraining one or more of the attackers/defenders.

      But we have to "see" this in order to take advantage of it, and that's what PoPLoAFun helps us do. All hail the vulture's eye view!

      Notice also that by following this thinking process, we penetrate deeper into the specific "requirements" of the position. Instead of basing our play on general principles, we can "see" much farther ahead as to exactly what MUST be played in this SPECIFIC position.

      It has been amazing to me to realize how much farther ahead (AND how much clearer) I can "see" using these ideas.

  2. Supporting your points above:

    Whenever I find two (or more) masters agreeing on methods of examining a position, I try to pay close attention. There is likely to be some pearls of wisdom which have been cast out there.

    GM Valeri Beim provides a general scheme for examining a position in his excellent book The Enigma of Chess Intuition. Without going into his elaboration of the process, here are the essential steps:

    This is the sequence by which to examine a position, which I suggest to my pupils, and hereby to the reader:

    1) the quantity and quality of the forces on each side, in other words—material;

    2) the king; its degree of safety in the middle game, and of activity in the endgame;

    3) the coordination between the forces of the sides, which means: a full note of what is attacking what, and what is defending what;

    4) an assessment of the coordination of the forces and the development of the pieces;

    5) long-lasting factors, such as various sorts of weaknesses and strong points, the quality of the pawn structures, etc.

    [I always love the "etc." because it can cover a multitude of important concepts, but you can't claim the author omitted them because "etc." covers all tha missing stuff.]

    Step 3 seems to me to be the point at which we begin to apply PoPLoAFun, and it extends through step 5.

    FM Emmanuel Neiman in his book Tune Your Chess Tactics Antenna: Know when (and where!) to look for winning combinations gives another five-step thinking process, which he admits is very close to GM Beim's process.

    What shall we do when we examine a position?

    There are five important steps that we must follow in order to get the right feeling for a position.

    [See Valeri Beim’s The Enigma of Chess Intuition for a very similar explanation (he seems to involve more work in the first step, but the rest is nearly the same). The term “examining the position” is also used by Beim.]

    1. Global vision [The “vulture’s eye view]

    2. Analysis of the position [Consideration of the specific features of the position from the "vulture's eye view"]

    3. Looking for the theme

    4. Looking for candidate moves

    5. The calculation of variations

    Notice how both seem to begin with the "vulture's eye view"?

    The point is NOT to come up with a detailed thinking process that covers every nuance of every specific position. Instead, the idea is to build a conceptual framework within which we can exercise our pattern recognition AND logical thinking based on the specific position's unqiue features.

    PoPs orient us toward the critical features. LoAs allow us to "see" into the future by INITIALLY avoiding move by move thinking and calculations. The geometrical aspects begin to take a definite shape in our minds as we "look through" actual obstructions to potential (future) interactions. The Funs is where the pattern recognition begins to come into play, because those roles are NOT directly visible.

    I find it hard to understand why this "top down" (but very specific) approach is hard to understand!

    1. @Robert!

      Your comments are very valuable. As far as I can estimate you have written close to 200-250 comments so far. Have you ever thought about running a chess blog? This way you could write fantastic articles and share your HUGE knowledge!

      BTW. If you run the blog, please share the link to it! Thanks in advance!

    2. @ Tomasz:

      Thank you for the kind thoughts! However, I have merely followed the lead of our distinguished host as he has poured his invaluable insights out here. I have learned so much from this blog!

      I might create a blog in the future; I am scheduled to "retire" on 17 FEB 2017. (HURRAH!) If I do decide to write on a blog, I doubt that it will be confined solely to chess; I have many "interests" besides chess. The deciding factor will be how much "free" time I will have after the obligatory "Honey Dos" ("Honey, do this" and Honey, do that" from the distaff side) have been completed.

      As to the present topic:

      Have you gotten a better "feel" for PoPLoAFun after Temposchlucker's excellent series of examples and explanations?

    3. @Robert

      Thanks for your reply! Believe me. If you are an active person (and I believe you are) after retirement you will have LESS free time than now! However it is a blessing, because you will be free to do anything you wish (or others want you to do for them).

      Nowadays I have some lazy time and I barely can read anything beside the blog. However I am going to look into more closely and read the last 20-30 articles and make conclusions. After that I will test the ideas at the examples and puzzles I have already solved (and at these I failed to solve). And I will let you know if there are any changes.

    4. @ Tomasz:

      One of the most important things to take away from this discussion is that YOU have to "make it YOUR own." That means studying the approach and determining what works for YOU and discarding what does NOT work for YOU. Perhaps there is an assumption that "everyone" should "see" in the same way; I personally don't think that's the case. Some people will primarily rely upon pattern recognition; others (such as me) will rely primarily on logical analysis. I have always had a problem with trusting my "intuition."

      Temposchlucker is many times more conscientious about the depths and thoroughness of his investigations than I am. I "see" the contours and implications more in "jumps" and "starts," and then try to keep whatever insights I have gained as I train and analyze. (Maybe I'm just lazy!)

      One of the hard things is the language being used. English is a polyglot of other languages, with several different (sometimes contradictory) concepts bound to the same word or term. Colloquialisms are easy to slip on, especially when I forget that others here are not familiar with American cultural idioms.

      Chess is another "language" which exhibits the same confusion of terms and colloquialisms. My previous distinction between motifs and tactical themes/devices (as differentiated by mister Lasker, mister Romanovsky and others) is a case in point. My point: try to understand the concepts NON-verbally. Put as much of it as you can understand into your own native language.

      Allow your imagination to soar up to the heights of the vulture's realm, looking "wide" before looking "deep." The purpose of PoPLoAFun is to enable us to "see" what already exists in the specific position, followed by an ever-deepening investigation of the subtleties and nuances found as the investigation progresses and the implications of the interrelationships bewteen pieces and squares. (I started to use "emanations and penumbras" but then realized that non-Americans might be unfamiliar with those terms as used by the U. S. Supreme Court - an American inside "joke").

      My personal "trigger" for realizing I'm going about the process WRONG is when I realize that I'm just shuffling pieces around, trying to "guess" the right solution. I'm not so much interested in either rating or "solving" a particular problem; I'm more focused on learning a workable repeatable process that I can rely on. I'm working very hard to stay aware of when my thinking process veers off the targets, devolving into mere random attempts to find an idea, any idea. In short, what I'm trying to train is a consistent thinking method that reliably works in all positions. I'm certain that the PoPLoAFun approach is an integral piece of that puzzle, even if it is NOT the total solution, or maybe not even the bulk of a solution.

      Others may have different goals from mine. Vive la différence!