Sunday, February 19, 2017

Plugging the holes

When solving chess problems, I fail in the application of simple chess logic. Simple chess logic should guide the attention to the right parts of the board.

Actually I find it quite surprising that the application of logic is so weak, since usually it is my forte. In tests I score invariably extremely high when it is about logical reasoning. So why is it so weak when it comes to chess?

Undoubtedly, chess has so many possibilities, that the mind is easily overwhelmed. I often feel overwhelmed. The normal approach would be to study the area and simplify it. Until it becomes manageable for the mind. As long it is not manageable for my mind, I am as bad as anyone else when it comes to the application of logic.

Over the years I have studied a lot, and I always tried to simplify matters to a manageable degree. I discovered the duplo attacks, I discovered the thought process as guide to the attention, I discovered the reason behind overprotection and I found a whole lot of chess truths, yet it always felt as if I was repairing a colander with water-soluble plugs.

Only recently I felt that I'm making some progress. The discovery of the tree of motifs feels for the first time as that I have plugged a few holes in the colander with water-insoluble material. Albeit the colander is still leaking in a way that you can't fill it with water, at least I have found the right material.

Now it's time to be patient, and fill every hole systematically. Even the simplest chess logic like "when there is a pawn close to promotion, there needs to be a defender to be in contact with the path to promotion" takes eons to unearth. I wonder why that is. I mean, I'm very familiar with the quote of Nimzowitch: "A passed pawn is a criminal which should be kept under lock and key. Mild measures, such as police surveillance, are not sufficient." Yet, the realization that this quote should materialize into actual play took three days to hit home, as you can read in my previous post. Should I collect chess quotes and ponder about them until they transform into obvious and applicable chess logic?

For the time being I will continue to get in your hair with all kinds of leaks in my colander, in an attempt to discover the suitable plugs.

White to move
r1r3k1/1Q2nppp/q2N4/2p1P3/2Pp1P2/6PP/P2R2B1/3b2K1 w - - 0 1

Another tit-for-tat position where my vultures eye view drives me insane due to all the juicy road kill to choose from. I'm going to ponder about it till I find how to apply the PLF (PoPLoAFun) system or until the cows come home. Whichever comes first.

After some thinking I found the following: since black started the tit-for-tat action, it is not easy to gain some wood. Usually the beginner has the best chances. Capturing just a piece, will not be sufficient to tip the balance in a different direction. If you capture a piece with a function however, you do more than just capturing a piece. You bereave the opponent of a defender. A function that needs to be performed, is no longer performed. We know well that it is commonly a good idea to capture the defender. So why have I totally forgotten this adage here?

With this rule, we have an easy tool to judge the captures:
  • Bd1 does nothing. Capturing it is just that, taking a piece
  • Ne7 protects rook c8. Taking it doesn't improve the attack on c8
  • Ne7 shields f7. But since there is no mate anywhere near, the importance of f7 is limited
  • Qa6 protects a8 and c8. By taking it, I sacrifice an attacker at the same time, so I cannot profit from the fact that I have captured a defender
  • For Qxa8 and Qxc8 can be said the same. With the additional disadvantage that I give up a high valued piece for a lower valued piece
  • Remains Nxc8. This takes away the defender of a8, without diminishing the amount of attackers of a8. That are the kind of moves we are looking for!
Now we can generalize these findings. If we have a choice between multiple captures, we look for the pieces that perform a function. If we can take that piece without diminishing the amount of attackers, that is our target. We use our attacker with the lowest value.

So can we guide our attention to the most promising line, almost without any calculation. From here you can start to calculate. The PLF (PoPLoAFun) system thus can be used to solve my problems of the initiative. I have been elaborating on the initiative quite a lot, as you know. Recognizing its importance. But I could not find a system. Now I have found it. Capturing the pieces with a function, guarantees the maintenance of the initiative. Since the opponent must not only take his piece back, he must take care of the function either.


  1. I solved this position by intuition (patterns recognition!) and some logic. And maybe even NOT logic, but testing variation and comparison (which is good enough).

    My thought in order or appearance:

    1. QxR(a8) QxQ 2.BxQ RxB - too weak
    2. QxR(a8) RxQ 2.BxR QxB - a refutation
    3. NxR NxN 2.QxR QxQ 3.BxQ - much better attempt
    4. NxR QxQ 2.BxQ and now my mind got away in a wrong direction (I missed some important elements).
    5. QxQ RxQ 2.Bb7 Raa8 and the same results as before
    6. QxN Ra7 2.Nc8 RxQ 3.NxR+ with a good perspective due to winning a lot of material for the Queen
    and finally (after 3-4 minutes of testing ideas showed above)...

    7. NxR!!! and logical explanation
    a) the battery QxR now works fine
    b) one rook is missed and the second one will be attacked after Queen exchange
    c) black knight is attacked twice, but more important - Nc8 can take it with CHECK!

    And the rest is quite simple, I think.

    And I know this method of thinking (counting and choosing variations) is not efficient, but my mind works this way (at least unless I start using your method).

    The task related to chess quotes seems reasonable. There are about 200-300 chess quotes (and tips) and most of these are extracted from thousands of chess games (positions that were played a lot of times in the future). After that you can see how much can any of these be applied to tactics (the project you are working on now).

    I am not sure, but maybe you can use the negative side of the coin you are working on really hard. I do it on a regular basis and it helps me very much. What do I mean? Try asking the question why it does NOT work in every case you tested. Why one solution is not sufficient and the other is the best one? What are the necessary conditions, changes and relationships?

    If I remember correctly you created one rule some day (not sure if it was written as a comment, but for sure it was discovered/shared here).

    (If you do not know what to do) - TAKE the (biggest) material with the less valuable piece first! In the position the N is the least valuable and the rook is the most. I bet you can dig this a bit more to discover (or expand / created more precise) a powerful rule! This we we have only two moves to consider! (QxN for free or NxR what is best). If that's how your tactical system works I am fully interested at its application to any tactical positions! It could help me recognize tactics probably 4-6 times faster (more efficient is the exact word, because the more efficient you work the less energy and time you use)...

    I am looking forward to your summary soon with the "Tempo rules of tactics" very briefly explained and shown at the examples (positions) with very short comment! I mean some kind of table to sum up your findings (discoveries). Let's say now you know 10 rules and you can show these at the examples and explain why they work.

    1. Write down all the rules (one by one in a list).
    2. Explain WHY such rule works (what lies behind it)
    3. Present (show) 3-5 positions to EACH rule.
    4. Write down the best variaton and ask the reader to compare other variations.

    Of course it is only a suggestion. You can do whatever you wish, but if you would make such summary and table with examples... I would have understand what are you digging and if there are any refutations or improvements. Anyway your work is extremally great and I appreciate it very, very much (even if I do not understand the material explained to the degree I want).

    As I and Robert have repeated many times: "We are waiting for the first volume of your fantastic findings, discoveries and explanations". No matter if it published soon or later. We definitely want a draft, we want a draft (version) !!! :)

  2. I am a little behind the following of your blog given my hiatus from Chess. I am starting here as I think the comment about adult chess improvement not be as easy as I thought seems like a good place to start ..... you may notice a comment or two on these as I go through them.

    1. Wow, that is an ambitious way of catching up. If you feel less ambitious, you might want to start here . If you are outright lazy, you can even consider to start here. I look forward to your comments, either way.

    2. Yes. I think for now a shorter path is preferred . Thanks Jim

  3. 2230.7 - Over my head!

    PLF (from White's perspective, since White is to move):

    1. PoP: a8
    LoA: h1-h8 (2:2; B.A.D.)
    Fun: Protect a6 AND c8 (Overload)

    2. PoP: c8
    LoA: b7-c8; d6-c8 (2:3)
    Fun: Protect a8

    3. PoP: e7
    LoA: b7-e7 (1:0)
    Fun: Protect c8

    4. PoP: d1
    LoA: d2-d1 (1:0)
    Fun: Protect a2

    White is down in material. No promotion possibility in the near future, although the passed a2-Pawn and passed d4-Pawn might be important in a future endgame.

    White has a possibility of attacking the Black King, but the odds don't look good presently because there are only two White pieces available (discounting the White Pawns at the moment). It seems to take too long for White to reinforce the "attack" with either the WR or WB.

    So, regaining material appears to be the "requirement" of the position.

    Only calculations will tell which possibilities may result in restoration of material balance (or result in a gain in material).

    I started with 1. Qxe7, "threatening" f7. After 1. ... Ra7, it appears that White's "attack" has run out of steam before it gets going. (GM Stockfish would later decide that this is the second-best winning idea - +2.68.)

    I got wrapped around the axle with 1. Qxa6 Rxa6 2. Bb7 (forking the Black Rooks). Simply 2. ... R(c8)a8 allows White to regain some material with 3. Rxd1 or 3. BxR(a6) or 3. BxR(a8), but then loses the a2-Pawn. Eventually, this might be fatal to White, given the protected passed Pawn at d4.

    I fumbled all over 1. Nc8. GM Stockfish estimates this line at +5.01.) I couldn't keep everything straight in my head because I kept flitting back and forth. If I had analyzed using the PLF approach exclusively, I think (maybe!) I would have hit upon the right solution eventually. After about 2 minutes, I just gave up and went to Chess Tempo and tried the 1. Qxa6 line. It was readily apparent how I should have approached the position. 1. Nxc8! wins the prize! It removes one of the defenders of BRa8 and adds an attacker to BNe7. That alone should have been sufficient to force further exploration as the most promising line. Black is virtually forced to capture the WQb7; the sequence leads to 1. ... BQxb7. 2. Bxb7 Rxc8 3. Bxc8 Nxc8 4. Rxd1 and White retains his outside passed Pawn at a2 AND has regained material (exchange plus Pawn) with a significant advantage.

    I have more work to do on consistently following the PLF process during the examination of the position.

    1. "I have more work to do on consistently following the PLF process during the examination of the position."

      Exactly my problem too.

  4. I added an update at the bottom of the post in blue.

    1. ..."Now I have found it. Capturing the pieces with a function, guarantees the maintenance of the initiative. Since the opponent must not only take his piece back, he must take care of the function either."

      Bingo! That's what I wanted to ask for expressing clearly! :). The functions (you can call it "relationships") of the pieces are the core at chess! That's why the wrong exchanges can turn winning position into losing one... due to one false exchange! Bravo! :)

  5. You have a great way of summarizing the core ideas! Mister Lasker would be proud of you!

  6. I think I may of sent this to you in the past. Has anyone found this space repetitions makes a difference in chess tactics ?

    1. Spaced repetition is of no use in chess tactics. As you will find out if you read along my blog. It doesn't address our real problems. Personally I worked a lot with ANKI

    2. As I understand it, spaced repetition is a MEMORY technique to slow the "forgetting" process, or, if you will, extend the "remembering" process. If what you are trying to remember bears no relation to what needs to be remembered, then it cannot be of significant help in improving skill, no matter how long you can retain it.

      I give a trivial example. If you locate many examples of knight forks, and then practice "solving" those examples using spaced repetition, you MAY become very skilled at recalling those specific examples. However, it is highly likely that you will not significantly improve your chess skill (if at all). Why not? Because you are exercising and remembering something that (1) you can already "see" without the practice, (2) "seeing" a knight fork will not significantly increase your chess skill, and (3) those specific examples are very unlikely to occur in your games. (There might be other reasons as well, but I think the point should be obvious.)

      Obviously, we must learn WHAT to "see" but equally important is HOW to "see." The incessant "practice" of solving tactical problems will (with relatively decent pattern recognition capabilities) will enable one to "see" WHAT more often than before, with a small increase in chess skill. However, the current process under investigation has the potential to train HOW A-N-D WHAT to "see." This is what makes the difference.

    3. I appreciate your detailed reply. I dont fully agree and need to catch up a little in reading this blog as well as tactical training - ct-art. I need to think about this further. Cheers, Jim