Tuesday, April 04, 2017

Creative anemia

As you might have noticed, I struggle a bit to continue. Not that I have no clear direction in which I must go, but there is somehow too much that need to be said, and the thoughts are too subtle and too faint to spit them all out at once without the chance to get struck in the details and loose the overview. So if you are willing to bear my incoherent gibberish for a few posts to come, I will be able to sort my thoughts out and make them materialize. I'm convinced they will become coherent and make sense in the end. Just have a wee bit patience when I seem to be kind of herky-jerky.

Diagram 1. White to move
R7/1r2b1p1/3p4/3PkpP1/2P1Np2/2K2P2/8/8 w - f6 0 1

It took me quite some time to screw up this position. Most immobile piece: the black king.
First question answered. Sitting duck = black king.
Second question: what is the weakest defender? Answer: wrong question.
I already suspected that I needed more "second questions", depending on the type of position.
Of course this means that the second question must be "what type of position is this?"
Which means I must unearth a list of possible types, along with their associated "third questions". You might remember the "scenario's" from the title of this previous post. I failed to write comprehensible about the scenario's I had in mind back then, but hopefully you will get an impression of what I mean by scenario's now.

The first position where I unearthed the second question was in this post. What can we say about the type of position from that post? "A defender prevented the invasion".

What can we say from the position above? The black king suffers from fleas. We must prevent the black king from fleeing to f6 after 1.Nf2 Bxg5 2.Nd3+
I must overcome my creative anemia that can only think of covering f6 with Ne4 or g5, by guiding my attention in the right direction by asking the proper question "how can I cover the only flea square?

So there you have it:
Question 1: who is the sitting duck?
Question 2: which type of scenario do we have here?

Scenario 1: invasions are prevented by several defenders.
Question 3: which one is the weakest defender?

Scenario 2: king can flee
Question 3: how can I cover the flea square?

Linguistic quibblings are welcome at all time. Since becoming better in English has always been the specious reason to keep this blog in the air at times that chess progress proved to be elusive.If I still mess up flea and flee, read skedaddle.


  1. Perhaps here is a case where the visual concept of "King in a box" proves helpful. Obviously, the Black King cannot move. In accordance with patzer principles, "Always check; it might be mate!" Immediately moving the White Knight so that it can check the Black King came to my mind, 1. Nf2. Oops! White needs the White Knight to remain in place to keep the box in place with the White Pawn g5. Here is where GM Beim's old Soviet Union aphorism comes to mind: "If it doesn't work, but you really want it to, then it must work!" So, are there any White resources that enable White to keep the Black King in the box after 1. ... Bxg5? Why, of course, we have an idle White Rook eagerly waiting to cut off the Black King's escape with 2. Rf8. Black can "dump" the Black Rook, but it merely delays the mate after 2. ... Rb3+ 3. Kxb3 Bf6 (what else?!) 4. Nd3#.

    The notion of the "box" is an important perceptual triggering mechanism for me. Like every other aphorism, it's a crutch of sorts, but it certainly helps focus on Kings who have no place to go and no time to get there.

    1. In keeping with the notion of finding "analogies" (something that mister Lasker is an expert at doing), here is an idea that I used previously regarding a "box" - in music, rather than chess.

      I love to find regular "patterns" in whatever I do. I have been "playing around" with learning how to play bass guitar. On a 4-string bass, it is difficult to find a "pattern" which is applicable to all 12 keys of music. But, on a 5-string, it is possible to create a "box" which encompasses three strings and four frets. Within that "box", there is a regular "pattern" for the notes in that particular diatonic key. In effect, the "box" constrains the sequence of "patterns" needed to play in any key. Pick the tonic note, and the rest of the pattern remains the same, regardless of the key. It reduces the mental effort required to play recurring patterns in different keys. Once you have learned that pattern in one key, you can then duplicate it in any other key. In effect, it constrains the amount of knowledge that is required.

      That is the analogy to the "King in a box" of chess. Once you have figured out how to "see" the King confined to a "box" in one situation, you can then get the idea of "seeing" that same idea in myriad positions. Again, it constrains what must be "seen" in order to trigger the idea of searching for a mating sequence or combination.

      In chess, the "King in a box" is one instance (of many) of your notion of functional immobility. Once you "see" it (understand it, and grind it into your subconscious), the idea can be triggered by pattern recognition in many and varied circumstances.

    2. Sometimes it is useful to renew acquaintance with "old friends." (I've posted about this position before.) Here is the very first position in Emmanuel Neiman's outstanding (in terms of PLF ideas) book Tune Your Chess tactics Antenna: Know when (and where!) to look for winning combinations:

      Link: Lingnau v. Orso, Budapest 1992 (4)
      FEN: k7/8/P1N5/8/2K5/6p1/5bB1/8 w - - 3 65

      White continued with 65. Kd5 Bg1 66. Ke6 Bf2 67. Kd7 Bg1 68. Kc8 Be3 69. Na5+ Ka7 70. Bb7 g2 and drew the game. Please keep in mind that these are master players, not class players.

      What did White NOT "see"?

      Here's another example, taken from the research paper The emergence of choice: Decision-making and strategic thinking through analogies by Dr. Alexandre Linhares, one of the researchers of Douglas Hofsteader's Fluid Analogies Research Group (FARG).

      FEN: 8/8/7k/4pPp1/3pP1P1/2pP3K/2P5/7B w - - 0 1

      White has the superior position materially. Can White win the game or can Black hold the draw?

      Hint: the same "idea" can be used to "solve" this position as was used in the first position. In neither case is it necessary to calculate the exact move sequence to be played move-by-move.

      If you can "see" the "King in a box" idea, you should be able to "see" the solution quickly. Otherwise, you are going to spill a lot of time going nowhere near the solution.

      These are as clear examples of using "fluid" (flexible) analogies that I can think of at the moment.

  2. A small addition to your collection of English linguistic quibblings. . .

    Scenario 2: king can flee - correct
    Question 3: how can I cover the flea square? - incorrect; it should be "flight square" (related to "fleeing")

    My own way to keep the two words separated is:

    Dogs have/get fleas (those irritating little bloodsuckers).
    People flee (skedaddle) from war zones - especially Kings!

    I really like your substitution - skedaddle!

    I certainly sympathize with your dilemma regarding the details. "The devil is in the details."

    It is very similar to facing an extremely complicated position in chess. If an overview (vulture's eye view) is maintained, the significant details catch us with our pants down. If we dig too deeply into the details, it is very easy to lose the map to the plug while trying to drain the swamp. (A certain American administration comes immediately to mind. . .) That little island of "sanity" in the middle often appears to be shrinking as the waters get deeper.

    I try to follow GM Botvinnik's suggested approach in his book Computers, chess and long-range planning:

    "A simile may help clarify this notion of the horizon and its determinants. Let us suppose that a parachute-jumper has come down in a bog [swamp] and wants to get to solid ground. The bog is wide; its edges are hundreds of yards away. How does our hero proceed, if he cannot find a clear path from where he is to where he wants to be? He cannot take in the whole plot at one coup and pick out the entire path . . . he must act soon . . . darkness is falling!"

    "In all probability, he will inspect the bog in some given direction for the first five to ten yards, choose a path from hummock to hummock, as safe a path as he can find, and TAKE THE FIRST STEP. He will make the next step after a similar preparation. Our hero again inspects the five-to-ten yard horizon. It will already have changed because of his action. He accepts the solution to the second-step problem, and son on until he clears the bog."

    "We could prove that ALL THE DEVICES USED IN CHESS WAR - attack (from both sides), blockade (by either side), and (mutual) retreat - CAN ALL BE ACCOUNTED FOR IN AN INITIAL MATHEMATICAL MAP CONSTRUCTED ON AN ATTACK CONTAINED WITHIN FOUR HALF-MOVES."

    I once suggested in a speech before the USAF 15th Air Force Leadership School the following idea:

    "How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time."

    May I respectfully suggest that you just take a small bite of something that can easily be "seen" (and then "see" where it leads)?

    Another simile, if you will:

    There is an old fable of Buriden’s Ass, who starved to death because he was tethered halfway between two equally large and succulent piles of hay – he couldn’t make up his mind which one to walk over to and eat. The approach is really simple; if the outcome of a choice between two options in terms of benefit is equally attractive, then focus on the drawbacks or downside risk of choosing an option. Pick the option based on minimizing the downside. In short, PICK SOMETHING!

    You are under no obligation to produce the grand TOE (Theory Of Everything) for chess.

    Your loyal fans are still going to be here, cheering and wishing you every success, regardless of how long it takes you to crystalize your thoughts!

    1. Thanks for scratching my back with the flea thing. Without feedback there can be no improvement.

    2. I have a strong impression that Robert is a co-author or your great chess blog. Some people could say "ghost-writer", but anyway both of you are doing EXCELLENT work! :). Congratulations! I keep my fingers crossed!

    3. Credit where credit is due: I am NOT a coauthor, and am hardly even a significant contributor; I came to this site very late in its existence. I merely follow Temposchlucker's lead as he investigates these fascinating ideas.

      Thank you for the thought, in any event!

  3. My intuition doesn't have much to say about this position. Feels more like a brain teaser than a chess position.

    Also I am glad you don't use my writing as a template for the English. It is often written very rapidly on a tiny keyboard with fat fingers.

    Cheers, Jim

    1. The position attended me on the problem: how do I guide my attention towards f6? Once I know it is all about f6, the answer comes to mind rapidly. But when my mind keeps wandering around without a clue, I'm not able the find the solution.

      That is what al my shenanigans are about: how to guide my attention to the right focal point.