Thursday, June 29, 2017

Dissecting the desperado

The post about the problematic initiative revealed a major flaw in my chess education. I'm sure that I fail quite a lot of positions because of this flaw. The position in the post can of course be solved with calculation. But I try to get rid of calculation whenever possible. If I can learn the essential patterns, I should be able to get rid of the flaw, making it possible to see the solution of such positions in a glance, without any calculation.

My approach is to generalize the idea, so that it becomes loose of a specific position. At first glance, this might look a boring approach, but if you make the effort to dive deep into the matter, it might very well prove to be very exciting!

I use white and black circles, which represent pieces of equal value. I should rather not have used a board as background, since that leads to associations with a position. But, well, I used it anyway.

White to move
The arrows show the mutual contacts between the pieces. In this position there are two threats of  white:
  • A
  • B
There are currently two counter threats of black:
  • a
  • b
Say that the following move sequence is played:

 1st move sequence
1.c2xc4 f2xf4
2.c4xc6 f4xf6

Now both sides have captured two pieces, so neither side has an advantage. The position has returned to quiescence. Remember, it is not a chess position, there are no contacts between the c- and the f-file.

Consider now the following move sequence:

2nd move sequence
1.c2xc4 c6xc4

Now white has captured two pieces, and black has captured only one. The position is in quiescence again, so where has black lost a tempo?

1.c2xc4                ;white captures a piece AND threatens to capture c6
1.  ...        c6xc4   ;black captures a piece AND is NOT threatening something from c4
2.f4xf2                 ;white captures a piece AND has no threats left to deal with

In general: in a tit for tat situation, look for the captures with an additional threat.

When you replace c6 with a black king, move sequence 1 isn't even possible. Then you have a desperado or intermezzo scenario.


  1. This is a pattern / chunk or template of a situation in combination with a solving strategy
    If you want to benefit from the work you did put in this pattern you not only need to remember it in the future and the solving need to recognize! the pattern when it appears ( and not after hours of thinking about it )
    I see here one of the main reasons for non improvement, a one time insight at home is not the same as a skill at the board.

  2. No worries. That's why the tree of scenarios is invented in the first place. So that I can find back what I have learned.

    You have to start somewhere. My starting point is always the feedback from the puzzles. If I fail, or use excessive time, or feel confused, I take the time to find out why. When I have diagnosed my problem, I start the search for a remedy. Usually I feel that matters should be simple, while my mind is nagging in confusion.

    I've been busy for days to iron out the wrinkles in my thought process. Now it has become simple, while it was confusing at first. Before you can learn something useful, you must first discover it.

    I gave this knowledge its rightful place in the tree of scenarios. When I solve problems, the tree of scenarios is always on the right screen. When I don't see the solution, I work my way through the tree.

    Whether or not it will transform into a skill we will find out later.

    I think that only simple knowledge can transform into a skill. This means that we must simplify complex knowledge first, before we can digest it. After which the knowledge might pick up complexity again due to the magic of the subconscious. But that complexity is no longer confusing and contradictory.

    In fact I think this is one of my best posts ever. It addresses a major source of confusion in my thinking, so learning to see the pattern and to recognize it might have a huge effect.

    Hattip to Tomasz, who kept me thinking with his comments, while I thought I already had simplified matters enough.

    The fun thing is that if you look superficial at the post, it probably will look somewhat boring, or maybe even childish. But the devil is in the details, and thinking that we already master this basic stuff is a huge self-delusion.

  3. At present I test my skills and hypothesis at REAL CONDITIONS - I am playing a tournament - all games on the board (live). The time control is 90+30 (90 minutes + added 30 seconds after each move).

    I cannot test most of your discoveries, because my games finish too fast due to TACTICS! Of course I have to play correct in the opening and play middlegame with a good plan, but overall I set up a "tactical radar" and every time I can do it - I am searching for tactical shots. Maybe that's the reason I scored 6 out of 6 (perfect score).

    However I can say my mental habit (problem) has been broken (overcome) and now I simply try to do my best and I DO NOT GIVE UP after I cannot see good enough solution! Sometimes I can ponder up to 25-30 minutes to dig up as much info as possible. Without this ATTITUDE (!) I could not win 30-40% of my games so far.

    And I think sharing such interesting positions with some ideas is beneficial for all of us. That's why I do it as I discover a lot of new things, too!

    Here is another position to solve: I give the specific position from my tournament game... and the more serious you approach (threat) it, the biggest benefits you can get. At least it is in my case!

    White has just played 7.c3 - was it a good move?

    [FEN: r1bq1rk1/ppp2ppp/2np1n2/2b1p3/2B1P3/2P2N1P/PP1P1PP1/RNBQR1K1 b - - 0 7]

    Try to find the best move for black and list all reasonable replies. In this specific case you have to find TREE white's replies and evaluate it with a comment (not in numbers!). If you can do it without an extrenal help (an engine or chess friend/instructor) you will learn a lot!

    Of course try to solve this task WITHOUT moving the pieces. Write down every variations and comments you can find. After that you can check out your solutions with a chess engine and/or chess instructor.

  4. i think we did already "proved" that only simple knowledge can be transformed to skill ;)
    Might be a good exersize to screen for other puzzles of this pattern, at least, thats what i did

  5. After the tournament is over I will share my findings. Up to now I have tested at least two hypothesis and each one of these worked in my games in an excellent way!

    Aox (and Tempo?) was definitely right - "if Tomasz could NOT to give up to quickly he could find the correct solution" - yes, it was correct. Nowadays I can do it even if it requires A LOT OF (mental) work. However the results are really nice and I like this approach!

    Sometimes REAL understanding is connected with hard mental work (theory and home preparation) and hard practical work (tournament games, matches, league games). It is the best approach in my opinion as these two elements help each other to grow!