Friday, April 28, 2017

Simplify this!

What do the three types of immobilization have in common?

Lack of space
When a piece is under attack and has lack of space, it has a lack of time too. Imagine that your opponent was allowed to do a few moves in a row, while you had to pass and wait, then he could free himself.

When a piece is immobile due to its duties it can't abandon, it is comparable to a lack of space. Imagine that your opponent was allowed to do a few moves in a row, while you had to pass and wait, then he could free himself.

Lack of time time
When two target pieces are placed in an unfortunate way, they can be both attacked at the same time with a duplo attack. Imagine that your opponent was allowed to do a few moves in a row, while you had to pass and wait, then he could free himself.

What these three times of immobilization have in common, is that they are temporary. They all lack the time to do all necessary actions. That is why special moves, aka duple function moves, are paramount. Both for the defense and the offense.

Sitting duck
I have been inaccurate about the sitting duck. A sitting duck doesn't equal the target in al situations. In situations of lack of space and duplo attacks, it does. But when a piece has two functions which are mutual exclusive, the target is often not the sitting duck, but the pieces it is protecting.
So the question is: how to exploit the sitting duck.

Diagram 1. Black to move
r3k3/p4p1p/4p1r1/2p1n3/4nN1Q/P1PqP2P/3B2P1/2R2R1K b q - 1 1

points of pressure d2; f1; g3
lines of attack g-file; d-file; d3-f1-diagonal
function c1 defends f1; black Q defends e4
sitting duck d2

How to exploit the sitting duck?
I will update later. Comments are already welcome.

The white bishop is hanging. It is the sitting duck. The thinking starts with the question "how to exploit the sitting duck". There is no reason to think about an other idea. Unless you can prove that the bishop can't be taken.

A hanging piece is a common situation on CT. Is usually the result of an incorrect sacrifice. It is a typical example of a piece that is immobilized by lack of time

The normal reaction to a hanging piece is to take it. Cash it in. But there can be situations where the the capture should be postponed, since you first have to deal with a counter attack. As is the case in diagram 1. Notice how backward thinking diminishes the amount of things to think about.

We can't avoid to think from the point of view of white here. What are the points of pressure from whites perspective?
points of pressure e4; g6; e7; e5
lines of attack h4/d8; h-file
function Q - e4; Ne5 defends g6; h7 defends h8

1. ... Qxd2 2.Nxg6 is a triple function move. It attacks e4; e5 and threatens Qe7#

That indicates the three things black has to prevent before he can take the bishop. He can use as much moves as he needs, as long as he keeps the initiative. Since whites threat comprises mate on e7, keeping the initiative can't mean anything else than giving a check.

1. ... Ng3+ solves the first problem: it saves Ne4 for the moment with tempo. What is more, it chases the white king to the line of attack e3/g1. Which gives black a chance to gain a tempo while defending his knight on g3. Notice how important this is.

1. ... Ng3+ 2.Kg1 Qxd2 3.Nxg6 Qxe3+ the knight on g3 is save and the king has to move to h2. The rest can be easily calculated.

Backwards thinking minimizes the calculation by pruning the tree of analysis drastically. You don't have to consider a lot of options. The prize for this is that you must be very accurate about what a move actually accomplishes. Especially what effects it has on the initiative

The questions you have to ask your self are not rocket science. You have to know the standard scenario's how an attack or defense develops. We need these questions to pop up automatically. There are not that many scenario's or questions. We need to cultivate our sense for the initiative. And we have to cultivate accuracy. Two skills that aren't acquired overnight.


  1. 2067.1 - I didn't keep track of the time, but it was way too long!

    The first thing that "popped" into "view" was the Knight check on g3: 1. ... Ng3+. That narrows down the possible replies, and defers what to do about the Black Queen being under attack.

    There are only three possible replies: (a) 2. QxN; (b) 2. Kh2; and (c) 2. Kg1.

    (a) 2. QxN QxR+ 3. RxQ RxQ - Nothing like being "obvious"! Black is ahead an Exchange. Can it be that simple?!?

    That works, BUT - I kept wanting MORE! I wanted something spectacular, like tossing a Knight fork into f3, taking advantage of the Black Rook on g6 and (potentially) the relative position of the White King (if it moves to g1) and White Queen on h4.

    (b) 2. Kh2 just felt wrong: 2. ... NxR+ and White runs out of pieces faster than Black. We have a "Tal" type situation, where White can only capture one piece at a time. Black is temporarily ahead in material by a Rook. White is "attacking" the BNf1, the BQd3, and the BRg6 BUT White has to respond to the CHECK first. Capturing the Knight seems logical: 3. RxN Qxd2 solves Black's Queen problem. White can try 4. NxR (threatening mate on e7) 4. ... NxN (counterattacking the Queen) 5. Qxh7 (threatening f7 and g8) which is easily answered with 5. ... Qd7, with an extra Knight. 6. Qg8+ Nf8 prevents the skewer of the Black Rook and ends White's "attack."

    (c) 2. Kg1. Here's where I went astray, becoming "greedy" and wanting MORE! I kept looking at the potential Knight fork on f3 of the White King on g1 and the White Queen on h4, trying to "make a silk purse out of a sow's ear." Unfortunately, because of the White Rook at f1, that's NOT happening AND the Black Queen is still under attack. 2. ... Qxd2 3. NxR (mate threat on e7) NxN 4. QxN leaves White up an Exchange - not good for Black. BUT Black has two intermezzo moves after 2. ... Qxd2 3. NxR (mate threat on e7): 3. ... Qxe3+ (intermezzo #1) 4. Kh2 (forced; White can't interpose the Rook because the White Rook on c1 is hanging) NxR+ (intermezzo #2) 5. RxN NxR 6. Qxh7 O-O-O and Black is a piece up. The position of the Black King seems a little "loose" but a piece is a piece is a piece.

    So, the bottom line: White "merely" loses the Exchange in line (a) as the lesser of evils.

    That "lesser of evils" choice ALWAYS leads me astray when there MIGHT be an opportunity for more!

  2. My approach was first to guess Black's last move (...Nc5), so as to ascertain the threats. Then I did a material assessment, and noted what squares all of the material occupied. At some point, I dozed off a bit, but I must have spent a good 40 minutes on this problem.

    The actual solution (I can't remember any of these problems, since I've tried and from what you've posted, that I've ever gotten wrong on chesstempo as of yet) was not easy, and the position is not easy either. You normally want to develop that Rh1, but you are stuck resolving the situation in the center first. Like I say, I'm surprised but not surprised that the solution on ChessTempo was as easy as it was because it's actually necessary to look further into that line.

    I calculated. 1.Nb6+ (I also solved the response 1...QxNb6 first, successfully) ...Kb8, 2.QxBe7 NxRb3, 3.Qxd6+ Ka7, 4.NxRc8+ RxNc8, 5.NxNb3 Qxa2 so that White has basically won the Be7. The answer on Chesstempo was the hardest part to "find", but one still has to overcome that natural mental-barrier that wants to say "mission accomplished!" and not look for the rest of the answer in that line. When it comes to over-the-board play, it actually takes discipline to make yourself look another move or two deeper becuase you are always so naturally conscious of the "battle on the clock", if you've played enough tournament games.

    1. @ LinuxGuy:

      No offense intended, and I'm not trying to be pedantic; just trying to understand what you "saw." Your moves confused me at first. Then I realized that you were using a mirror image of the position. Please note the legend for the squares denoting the squares. I've overlooked that same thing previously. You got the colors reversed in the commentary. It was strange to see Black's move listed first, then White's move, for a given move number.

      I'll paraphrase below. If I got it wrong, please correct as needed. Thanks!

      White's preceding move was 1. Nf4. The Black Rook on a8 is out of play and not a factor. I calculated 1. ... Ng3+ ("seeing" 2. QxNg3 first, successfully) 2. Kg1 Qxd2 3. NxRg6 Qxe3+ 4. Kh2 NxRf1+ 5. RxNf1 NxNg6 6. Qxh7 so that Black has basically won the Bd2.

      Your observations regarding the mental-barrier and the required discipline are excellent! Finding a good "stopping point" in calculations is sometimes very hard to do.

  3. For me this task was not possible to solve. I quit after 5 minutes of thinking. Anyway I am really interested how to solve it and what were my problems with that specific position.

    1. @ Tomasz:

      What did you think about (calculate?) during that 5 minutes?

      Solving these problems is the least of our worries for improving!

    2. I was trying to find the solution, but after a few variations I quit. It looks like my visualization is really poor and gives me much trouble. And what's more funny - I was SURE the Bishop was protected :D LOL. It means I have to learn how the pieces moves and what it means to "protect the piece" or "pieces defended or undefended" ;)

  4. Most positions that make it to puzzles can be simplified by looking at Forced Lines First. That being said... I wasted time on the forcing move Qxf1+ as well as looking to see if the two knights could deliver mate. Nice update notes.

  5. Robert: Yeah, I have a bit of board-dyslexia - I'll double-check it next time. I noticed that the Bd2 and Rf1 were objects of attack, and also looked for checkmates with the knights, and looked at queen retreat moves as well. I too thought about giving up, but just knowing it was on chesstempo made me figure there was some forcing continuation that had to work.

    I'll try not to be lazy with the move-numbering next time; it helps to know that people actually read what I write. lol. Your process of staying with the move 1...Ng3+ seemed more structured than my method, which is more of a "loose association" way of proceeding. The downside of my method is that it tends to break down in time-pressure when the premium is on finding moves.

    Tomasz: I saw the bishop was unprotected right away, but didn't want to take this "bad piece". Only when the checking scenario against the king came into place was I suddenly crazy about the bishop, or "tall pawn" capture.
    I figured the Black king was safe, and that the Black queen is in position for a concrete attack, but that the only interesting retreat squares for her, without giving up the initiative, are on f5, and e4, after playing 1...Ng3, of course.

    It is important to recognize the board, just as Canadian GM Kevin Spraggett states here in his improvement article:

    Lipnitsky, in his book, mentions to calculate all the way through to a stable position, and not to stop when it is still unclear (with the board still in flames). He says that this calculating, deeper than your opponent, besides blundering and flagging, is generally what sets your playing strength. Figuring that Qxf1 would come in as an intermezzo was the secret of this puzzle, IMO.