Friday, June 16, 2017

Problematic initiative

The PLF (PoPLoAFun) system is very useful for certain types of position. But there are positions that remain to cause problems. Especially position where making moves that maintain the initiative are paramount. I clearly haven't grasp the full idea of the initiative.

Diagram 1. White to move
r3rbk1/1p3ppp/2pn1qn1/p2p1b2/P2P3P/2PB1NB1/1PQNRPP1/4R1K1 w - - 1 1

Feel free to comment already. That is helpful.
I will update when I have learned something from the position.
I have elaborated a lot on the initiative in the recent past. But it has become still no skill by far. I feel dumb. I can only talk about the initiative.

It took me quite a while to understand this position. After a few days it starts to dawn on me. I have been struggling with intermezzo moves and desperado's.  I have been struggling a lot in the past, and the final conclusion back then was that the length of the series of captures was paramount, in combination with who starts with the first capture.

But there is another point that is even more paramount. And that is: which capture has the most follow up pressure.

With 1.Rxe8 Bxd3 black has captured the piece with the highest follow up pressure: the black bishop  threatens the white queen. But white can do even better: Rxf8+ and threatening the black king.

I was haunted by wrong patterns of the past, which invited me to look for capturing the piece with the highest value (2.Rxa8). Now I have shaken of this purely materialistic view, and look for the most threatening capture. And I don't bother if that is a desperado, an intermezzo or just a capture. Just tit for tat with the highest follow up threat. Maintaining the initiative is paramount.

Finally the position starts to look simple. It takes an effort to identify things I have learned wrong in the past. Finally the sky cleared.


  1. solved it in 56 sec

    Material : equal
    What is the puzzle about? Material, Checkmate,Promotion? Material!
    Main Tactical Weaknesses Re8,Bf5,Bd3 ( and not that strong h4 Nd6 Ng6 ... )
    My candidate moves where Rxe8 and Bxf5 and i saw the reply's Rxe2 and Bxd3
    Starting with candidate 1.Bxf5 i got aware of the overload of the Ne6 but after 1...Rxe2 i did see nothing anymore ( postmortem i say its a tit for tat without winning method )
    Now i did test 1.Rxe8 Bxd3 a tit for tat but with the standard winning method desperado with gaining a tempo : Rxf8+
    Now i was sure that this is the solution but it did take me a moment to check is for potential errors.

  2. Spent 20 seconds doing the material count, as I usually do on Chess Tempo, then it took approximately two minutes to solve the problem, so, I'd say almost exactly 2 1/2 minutes total.

    After the material count, I looked at Bxf5 and noticed it was protected, so then I looked at Be5 to try and drive the queen away, but then I suddenly noticed the reply 1...RxR to 1.BxB (I'm scatter-brained like that - because it's just as important to pick up all the defensive resources in a position as it is to calculate anything), and so I immediately wanted to look at the consequence of trading both rooks, and that's when I found the intermezzo RxBf8. Whenever a queen is attacked, I automatically think "intermezzo" because most intermezzos involve either knights or queens. For me, this was a relatively easy problem, and I figured it would be as soon as I saw the puzzle (I noticed GM Simon Williams can immediately tell whether a puzzle should have a simple solution or not, as well, although he's better at that than I am).

    I would never classify this puzzle as "initiative" because there is no attack, it is strictly a material situation, and actually it gives up the attack while still being obviously winning for White.

    1. Maintaining the initiative is maintaining tempo is maintaining threat. You call the shots, and your opponent can only follow.

    2. My definition of the initiative is definitely wrong, and yours is right.

      It's just that, from a practical point of view, I have such a disdain for calling anything initiative where I don't have the move. I should be more patient, maneuver more, and realize I am building or sustaining initiative.

      Like I say, your definition is correct, and mine is incorrect, but OTB I've always had this attitude that whoever's turn it is to move must be winning. lol, okay I'm exaggerating a bit, but that's how much I tend to value it. Other players would rather give up the move just to give you a chance to go wrong. OTB, from player to player, each will have a certain subjective view which they go by which tends to work for them. It's okay, if you are building a computer algorithm or model to find best moves, but that's not the way everyone actually thinks at the board.

      OTH, I would also point out that White's initiative at the end of the combo is a latent one, not a dynamic one. White has expended the dynamic in order to win material.

  3. I'm having a hard time grasping all intricacies of an intermezzo move.

  4. One man's intermezzo may be another man's desperado of sorts. Just sayin' . . .

    1. I have looked at the position for about five hours now, and the word "desperado" is indeed in my notes already. I'm still feeling lost, though. This position reveals a huge hiatus in my chess education. I lack a few patterns in my database.

      I have reread my posts about maintaining the initiative. They are actually quite impressive, even if I say it myself. But they didn't address this hole in my reasoning about tempos.

      I have the frustrating feeling that this should me very simple. But somehow my mind stalls when trying to think about it.

      The tree of scenarios probably gets a new branch, "initiative".
      Just muddling through now.

    2. I am sorry, but for me this position looks like "overloading" motif. And it is connected with "escape with your attacked piece (Rook) with sacrifice BEFORE you re-capture another piece (Bishop)" type scenario.

      Just have a look at Nd6! It is overloaded as it protects Rook and Bishop simultaneuously - and therefore white can take advantage of this motif. And it is a way more interesting to understand this concept (desperado) when you do not have to sacrifice the piece with check! That's the way you can got the core idea of this motif.

      From my experience I noticed I miss this motif very seldom. I am not sure why but probably because I always try to check if I can "take another piece BEFORE re-capture the neccessary piece" - to avoid losing more important piece (most often the Queen).

    3. "escape with your attacked piece (Rook) with sacrifice BEFORE you re-capture another piece (Bishop)"

      Tells me I'm not done with this position yet. There is still the notion that I haven't ironed out all wrinkles in my thinking when I read this. Those wrinkles are the result of bad (non existent) chess education in the past. I feel it must be simple, but I am not able yet to see it this way.

    4. I replaced the chess men with checkers pieces, so I'm no longer confused by the value of the pieces. I got rid of every piece that is irrelevant to what is the core of my problem: to understand where the extra piece capture comes from. I'm definitely not in my comfort zone.

      Finally I see the light:
      After 1.Rxe8 Bxd3 two white pieces are hanging. With the desperado act 2.Rxf8+ I save one of my pieces with tempo. The tempo is gained by the following threat. In this case the check, but it could have been any threat when the values play no role. But since the values do play a role here, only the check is sufficient to meet the counter threat against my queen Bxc2.

      Finally I can see the mechanism of the initiative separate from the effect of the value of the pieces. The value of the pieces only limits the mechanism of the initiative, since my threats must be strong enough to overpower the counter threats. The values don't change the mechanism of the initiative, they only prune certain possibilities.

      Pfeww, that was a difficult labour.

      Tomasz, thanks for formulating it the way you did.

  5. I am the queen of desperados (if they actually worked more often than not, then I'd be the king).

    After 1.RxR BxB, 2.RxB+ (as far as you need to see, really, just won the Bf8) RxR, 3.QxB it is Black's turn to move, so Black has the initiative in the resulting position. What White has is "the attack". Black has no attack to speak of whatsoever, but does have the intiative. I define the intiative as the turn to move. However, a position with a lot of space will have a latent/static initiative that can far outweigh the dynamic initiative. So, basically, turn to move = initiative, position with initiative = the attack, in my rule-of-thumb lexicon.

  6. I'm asking a lot of "what ifs" about the position. Most may sound silly, because they are impossible, but nevertheless they reveal certain aspects of the position I didn't found otherwise. After all, it is not about this position, but about the holes in my bucket.

    What if after 1.Rxe8 Bxd3 the white queen would change into a bishop?
    What if 2.Rxf8 wasn't a check?

    If you look at my shenanigans about the initiative, a pretty consistent story arises. Duplo attacking moves make you gain a tempo, while duplo defending moves can save your opponent from a duplo attack. He who has the most obligations loses a tempo loses a piece. But there appears a tempo out of the blue, so it seems. I must understand where that tempo comes from.

    1. Your approach is very creative and beneficial to any discoveries and I fully agree with that.

      Just a hint. Try to make some fun and play with such idea as:
      1. White makes 2 moves in a row.
      2. Black makes 2 moves in a row.
      3. White makes 2 moves in a row AND then Black makes 2 moves in a row.
      4. Black makes 2 moves in a row AND then White makes 2 moves in a row.

      To me it gives a new perspective especially if you check out various continuations (variants/lines) and include/exclude another conditions like "no check", "captures only piece that moves in a line like R, B or Q", etc.

      Let me know if that helps!

  7. I missed the answer to this although it makes sense when one counts and tallies the score..... let me try an explanation.

    It is as if it is an intermesso which takes advantage of an overworked piece the Knight on d6. Not so much an initiative problem more of an Uneven balance of power/overwork problem.

    If the bishop was guarded by an additional piece Then the knight on d6 could capture the rook on e8 and it would be even.However in this example a capture of e8 leads to the lose of the f5 bishop. Since this overwork situation causes the rook not to be captured by the other rook immediately. due to rook x rook x rook then taken by knight leads to an immediate capture of the bishop. Black lost a piece not due to initiative but due to inadequate protection.

    This overworked piece is forced to do two things and that shifts the balance. So taken in its totality although the defense count looks equal it is actually unequal.

  8. here your standard ratings according to the tactical pattern at chesstempo
    Mate - Pillsbury's -
    Mate - Escalator -
    Mate - Damiano's -
    Mate - Lolli's 2355
    Mate - Vukovic 2235
    Mate - Boden's 2139
    Mate - Double Bishop 2137
    Mate - Triangle 2125
    Mate - Anastasia's 2123
    Mate - Swallow's Tail 2092
    Mate - Lawnmower 2035
    Mate - Railroad 2011
    Mate - Kill Box 1999
    Mate - Pawn 1964
    X-Ray Attack 1959
    Simplification 1953
    Mate - Damiano's Bishop 1941
    Trapped Piece 1938
    Back Rank Mate 1933
    Exposed King 1927
    Skewer 1920
    Coercion 1913
    Interference 1911
    Mate - Dovetail 1910
    Clearance 1893
    Pin 1891
    Weak Back Rank 1874
    Overloading 1873
    Discovered Attack 1872
    Avoiding Perpetual 1868
    Mate - Blackburne's 1868
    Mate - Balestra 1867
    Capturing Defender 1867
    Mate - Smother 1866
    Zwischenzug 1865
    Fork/Double Attack 1860
    Sacrifice 1859
    Counting 1859
    Mate Threat 1851
    Distraction 1850
    Attraction 1849
    Double Check 1848
    Mate - Arabian 1841
    Zugzwang 1841
    Mate - Epaulette 1840
    Hanging Piece 1838
    Blocking 1838
    Quiet Move 1836
    Defensive Move 1835
    Unsound Sacrifice 1834
    Needs Different Opponent Move... 1830
    Unpinning 1825
    Needs More Moves... 1823
    Mate - Hook 1820
    Advanced Pawn 1805
    Mate - Opera 1787
    Desperado 1732
    Mate - Suffocation 1631
    Mate - Dovetail - Bishop 1601
    Mate - Morphy's 1482
    Avoiding Stalemate 1456
    Mate - Greco's 1452

    1. I'm not quite sure who's numbers these are.

    2. these are your nombers, i did copy them from your statistic at CT

    3. I lack clearly a few basic patterns here concerning the desperado. Interesting that I score much better with the zwischenzug.

  9. Replies
    1. Strange so i try again:

      This puzzle is in my eyes a sequence of "tit for tat"

      A "tit for tat" is a situation of this type: when i take this he takes that and/or when she takes this i can mate there and so on. So its a double thread in 2 directions.

      In this example we have at the beginning the both rooks and both bishops in contact. Now in almost every next situation we still have a "tit for tat" so i like to think of a sequence of tit for tats

      The Situation : tit for tat has a standard method to gain wood : desperado with gaining a tempo, i prevent the revenge of my opponent and try to keep my options

      Here after 1.Rxe8 Bxd3 you have the tit for tat : if i save my queen then you take my rook.

      By Rxf8+ i "save my rook" and keep the option to take the bishop with the quen

    2. You are quite right. I was thinking way too complicated.

  10. I agree this is an overloading tactic. If you want to see the overloading theme in action, for some reason Paul Keres best game wins have an extremely high percentage of victories won with an overloading tactic. The greatest players of all time, as Kramnik once said, bring something new. Keres virtually created his own overload tactics, by getting opponents weak spots to get overworked - it was his M.O.(modus operandi), as they say.

    1. Yes, overloading is an important theme here. But I had no problems to see that pattern. I had problems to see what the base was of winning a piece here, though. That base is now clear: in a tit for tat situation, you must look for the captures with the most "follow-up-punch".

  11. I was curious as to how GM Stockfish would "interpret" (evaluate) this position - and why that evaluation was made. I also plugged the position into Fritz (running Stockfish DD64) to get suggested variations ad evaluations more dynamically.

    I set up the Stockfish Evaluation Guide with the original position. Here are the STATIC evaluation stats, before White makes his first move:

    Main evaluation: = 174 (0.70)

    TABLE (Total) Evaluation:
    (M=Middlegame; E=Endgame)
    Imbalance: 0 (M); 0 (E)
    Initiative: 0 (M); -8 (E)
    King: -13 (M); 0 (E)
    Material: 64 (M); 54 (E)
    Mobility: -7 (M); 14 (E)
    Passed Pawns: 0 (M); 0 (E)
    Pawns: -6 (M); 1 (E)
    Pieces: -15 (M); 9 (E)
    Space: 0 (M); 0 (E)
    Threats: 135 (M); 75 (E)
    TOTAL: 154 (M); 145 (E)

    After 1. Rxe8 Bxd3 2. Rxf8+ Black has only three choices: 2. ... Nxf8; 2. ... Rxf8; and 2. ... Kxf8.

    r4Rk1/1p3ppp/2pn1qn1/p2p4/P2P3P/2Pb1NB1/1PQN1PP1/4R1K1 b - - 0 1

    Analysis by Stockfish DD 64 SSE4.2:

    1. +- (5.95): 2...Nxf8 3.Qxd3 Qd8 4.h5 h6 5.Bxd6 Qxd6 6.Nh4 Ne6 7.Ndf3 Qe7 8.Qf5 Rd8 9.Qg4 Qf6 10.Nf5 Kf8 11.Ne5 Qg5 12.Qxg5 Nxg5 13.g3 Ne4 14.Kg2 Nd6 15.Nxd6 Rxd6 16.f3 Rd8 17.g4 Kg8 18.Nd3 Kf8 19.Kf2 b6 20.Ne5 c5 21.Nc6 Rd7 22.dxc5 Rc7 23.Ne5 bxc5

    The Stockfish Evaluation Guide gives the following values:

    Main evaluation: = 1124 (4.53)

    TABLE (Total) Evaluation:
    (M=Middlegame; E=Endgame)
    Imbalance: 87 (M); 87 (E)
    Initiative: 0 (M); -8 (E)
    King: 15 (M); 0 (E)
    Material: 924 (M); 920 (E)
    Mobility: 103 (M); 108 (E)
    Passed Pawns: 0 (M); 0 (E)
    Pawns: 0 (M); 0 (E)
    Pieces: -18 (M); -48 (E)
    Space: 0 (M); 0 (E)
    Threats: 77 (M); 49 (E)
    TOTAL: 1162 (M); 1109 (E)

    2. +- (6.46): 2...Rxf8 3.Qxd3 h6 4.c4 dxc4 5.Nxc4 Nxc4 6.Qxc4 Qf5 7.Qc5 Qxc5 8.dxc5

    Main evaluation: = 1092 (4.45)

    TABLE (Total) Evaluation:
    (M=Middlegame; E=Endgame)
    Imbalance: 87 (M); 87 (E)
    Initiative: 0 (M); -8 (E)
    King: -6 (M); 0 (E)
    Material: 857 (M); 913 (E)
    Mobility: 85 (M); 122 (E)
    Passed Pawns: 0 (M); 0 (E)
    Pawns: -6 (M); 1 (E)
    Pieces: -14 (M); -43 (E)
    Space: 0 (M); 0 (E)
    Threats: 115 (M); 38 (E)
    TOTAL: 1118 (M); 1110 (E)

    3. +- (7.25): 2...Kxf8 3.Qxd3 Kg8 4.c4 Qd8 5.cxd5 cxd5 6.Qb3 Nf5 7.h5 Nf8 8.Re5 Nxg3 9.fxg3 Qc7 10.Qxd5 g6 11.Qc4 Qc6 12.Rb5 gxh5 13.d5 Qxc4 14.Nxc4 Nd7 15.Rxb7 Rc8 16.Nfd2 Nc5 17.Rb5 Nxa4 18.d6

    Main evaluation: = 1181 (4.76)

    TABLE (Total) Evaluation:
    (M=Middlegame; E=Endgame)
    Imbalance: 87 (M); 87 (E)
    Initiative: 0 (M); 0 (E)
    King: 68 (M); 29 (E)
    Material: 916 (M); 886 (E)
    Mobility: 82 (M); 99 (E)
    Passed Pawns: 0 (M); 0 (E)
    Pawns: -6 (M); 1 (E)
    Pieces: -5 (M); -48 (E)
    Space: 0 (M); 0 (E)
    Threats: 115 (M); 38 (E)
    TOTAL: 1257 (M); 1092 (E)

    I was a little surprised that the Fritz/Stockfish DYNAMIC evaluation seemed to be that (after 3. Qxd3) White has a winning advantage, perhaps worth at least a Rook and Pawn. The position seems slightly favorable to White IMHO because White has the more active potentialities, as well as control of the only open file (at least for the time being).

    Anyone care to interpret those evaluations in human terms?

    Why does White have a "winning" advantage after a "tit for tat" equal material exchange?

  12. "Why does White have a "winning" advantage after a "tit for tat" equal material exchange?"

    LOL. Since it isn't an equal material exchange. White gains a bishop.

    1. DUH! I was so engrossed in figuring out positional factors that I overlooked the obvious! Mea culpa!

    2. In fact I had the same. Suddenly the variant had gained a piece which materialized out of the blue, without me even noticing it, since the method of gain was not familiar. Only once I noticed it, I decided to find out why I missed it. Hence this post.


    3. @Robert The Stockfish Evaluation Guide gave a hint, the biggest evaluation factor is : Material

      As Takchess pointed out :
      "Its like getting the first and last punch in at a fight."

      We did discuss that years ago: in a sequence of takes you better start and! end the sequence to gain wood. Then you have a piece more.

      The move 2.Rxf8+ xf8 disables black to take something after 3.Qxd3. This line of takes stops with a take of white and is so beneficial for white.

    4. After my debacle of "blindness" regarding the relative material situation, I went back this morning and took another look at the position.

      When I had first looked at it, I was somewhat overwhelmed by the number of contacts to be resolved.

      PoPLoAFun to the rescue!

      The Black Rook on e8 and the Black Bishop on f5 are B.A.D. (PoP) The Black Knight on d6 is overloaded: it "protects" both e8 and f5 (Fun). Critical LoA are e1-e8 and c2-h7. I think that information is sufficient to start investigating how to take advantage of it by forcing Black to choose which piece (Re8 or Bf5) is more important to defend.

      Using Heisman's (and others) "null move," if given time, Black can get rid of one of the B.A.D. pieces by either capturing with the Bf5 (the most forcing with an attack on the WQd3) or Re8. So, we would like to deny Black that opportunity. That can be best done by exchanging on one of those squares.

      Which exchange should be done first?

      The Rook on e8 should be captured first because there is the additional possibility of second extremely forcing capture on f8 (with check).

      I don't know why, but this morning I could "see" (count) the relative material gain almost too easily. White captures Re8, Bf8 and Bd3; Black captures Rf8 and Bd3. Therefore, White ends up ahead a piece.

      Sometimes, a piece ahead is just a piece ahead!

      Your points regarding the initiative are invaluable!

      @ takchess:

      "It's like getting the first and last punch in at a fight."

      That is an excellent analogy! The Zwischenzug (also Zwischenschach) is that subtle little "double tap" in-between to set up the knockout. I'll have to remember that as a mnemonic device.

      @ Aox:

      Thank you for the references back to your blog! Lots of food for thought.

  13. Here an other tit for tat
    If i take the rook , they take the bishop, if i save my bshop then they save their rook
    we save our Bishop and the rook remains attacked

    tit for tats are the result of counterattacks and funny: counterattacks are very! often wrong

    1. Interesting observation about counterattacks!

      The usual Grandmaster advice regarding potential exchanges is: Don't do it. The rationale is that exchanges tend to reduce the tension in a position. The amateur is usually uncomfortable with tension and will seek to resolve it as soon as possible. The Master realizes that the complications with accompanying tension are the best way to induce the opponent into an error. Master Heisman in Looking for Trouble: Recognizing and Meeting Threats in Chess recommends that beginners avoid using counterattacks because of the likelihood that they will overlook a counter-counterattack.

      I can speculate as to why in the given problem the master playing White (rated 2345) made the mistake of capturing on f6. Prior to the capture by the WRd6, that Rook prevented the Black Bishop from checking on d3. It appears to be a retained image problem at the root. Capturing on f6 removes the defender of the BBe4 and BRe8. If Black captures the WNf5, then WRf6xf5 restores the material balance in White's favor. The Zweischenschach BBd3 CHECK was overlooked. It removes the Black Bishop from attack and allows the WRf6 to be captured, leaving Black ahead by a Rook.

    2. the main(?) problem with exchanges is not the reduction of tension, is the loss of activity! This is a video of GM Smirnov about it :

      There are Situation = configurations of ( tactical ) weaknesses, there are methods to make use of these situations and there are countermethods against these methods.

      Situation : 2 pieces at the same diagonal
      Method : pin,...
      Counter-method : unpinning

      So theoretically chess is : detection of all weaknesses, selection of the most important weaknesses, searching for a method to make use of them, checking for counter-methods

      But in real that's all mixed together , a weakness is only a weakness if there is a method to make use of it; and a method to make use of a weakness, simply has no successful counter-method

      For a while i was thinking that a awareness to such things as weakness, method, and counter-method could help to improve in tactics but i am getting more and more skeptical.

      I suspect that chess is mainly about tacit knowledge and not that much about explicit knowledge , chess is simply to complex to transform it in explicit knowledge. But it might be beneficial to translate a tactical puzzle into the scheme to guide the attention though, and the improved attention might help to store the puzzle at the right place in the LTM which hopefully generates some tacit knowledge. My experience with it was not positive though.

    3. I note that at 4:50 of the referenced video, GM Smirnov states:

      "That's why White should KEEP THE TENSION, and allow Black to take."

      Or, as he put it in a cute aphorism: TO TAKE IS A MISTAKE!

      GM Smirnov is one (among many) sources for the notion of "keeping the tension" by NOT exchanging willy-nilly. I implicitly accept that loss of potential activity occurs concurrently with exchanging.

      I like your ideas about weaknesses and the corresponding methods for making use of them. I think that's an integral part of PoPLoAFun. Motifs imply appropriate tactical themes/devices. Perhaps it is merely a terminology issue. . . I don't know. In any case, I don't think it significantly matters, as long as the resulting insight(s) prove useful!

      "I suspect that chess is mainly about tacit knowledge and not that much about explicit knowledge. . ."

      I concur wholeheartedly! System 1 is the engine and drive train that provides the MOTIVE (in the MOTIF sense) power; System 2 is merely the steering wheel that directs the application of that power.

  14. Here my post from 2013 about tit for tats

  15. Its like getting the first and last punch in at a fight.