Saturday, October 28, 2017

Educating the eyes of the vulture

I have done a few exercises in "vulture mode", lately. It gives a clear idea of what the problem is.

White to move
3r2k1/5p2/1p5p/p1qb4/5R2/P1N1p1P1/1P2P2P/2Q3K1 w - - 1 1

I circled above this position for a few hours. I have dived into a few tunnels now and then, but I always managed to get back to circling again. So I could avoid to get stuck in a tunnel. Yet I wasn't able to guide my attention into the right direction. I totally missed the zwischenzug.

That perfectly cuts out my work for me. During the flight of the vulture, my attention must be guided by the tree of scenarios. Apparently, almost nothing of the tree has been internalized, so far.

Maybe the culprit for that is that I tried to do two things at the same time: developing the tree of scenarios and internalizing it. Now the tree of scenarios has reached some maturity, I can focus on the latter aspect alone.

The pictures I made in order to summarize the tree of scenarios are too compact to be useful as of yet.  I'm simply not familiar enough with the scenario's. That's why I plan a series of diagrams with the scenarios written out fully. For the diagram above:

Move 1: Immobilize the bishop by pinning it.
Move 2: Add attackers to attack the immobilized piece.
Move 3: Gain a tempo by the double function move that frees the rook and attacks the king in one go.

It is the double function move that gives white the edge.


  1. PART I:

    It might seem important to develop a complete tree of scenarios before trying to internalize it; I think not. Even an incomplete tree of scenarios should improve the "vulture's sight". If some additional (previously undiscovered) aspects come to light during training, then modify it and then incorporate the new aspect(s) into the training regimen LATER.

    I'm still working with PoPLoAFun and the various Lasker motifs. I especially concentrate on "seeing" PoPs and LoAs, "looking" through to the edge of the board when considering line-moving pieces (Q, R, B). I'm still working through various tactics books, using a highlighter to draw PoPs and LoAs for ALL pieces on both sides, including Knights and Pawns (and sometimes, even the Kings).

    I began examining the position above by "seeing" LoAs and PoPs: between c1-c5; c3-d5; c5-d5; d8-d5. Black has superiority (2:1) on d5. The Black Rook is LPDO (unprotected), which suggests a pin might be available. The Black Bishop can neither protect the Black Rook, nor "discover" an attack against the White King. Even better! The White Knight at c3 is presently relatively pinned. The encircling motif comes into play on d5. If BBd5 is pinned by the White Queen against BRd8, d5 becomes B.A.D. AND there is an extra White piece (the White Rook at f4) which can add an attacker (giving 3:2 superiority) to d5. So, it appears at this point that the immediate future is going to revolve around d5. 1. Qd1 seems appropriate as the first candidate move.

    How can Black overprotect d5? He can't; there are no reserves to be added to the defense. So, protect the Black Rook by 1. ... Rd6. Aha! That allows for a "discovery" against the WQd1 with ... Bb3!, with a counterattack against d4 (2:1) if White attempts to add the White Rook to the attack on d5 with 2. Rd4. soo, is the position after 1. Qd1 Rd6 2. Rd4 Bb3 a terminal position which should be evaluated? NO, because the position is NOT quiescent; White has CCT (check) available, which MIGHT extricate the White Rook, allowing the White Queen to grab the BBb3.

    I’m guessing (based on my own experience) but I think this MAY be where you went back up to the vulture’s eye view for another look around. IMHO, this is one of the MAJOR problems for us amateurs. We don’t recognize that a position reached during calculation is NOT quiescent, and so we abandon any further consideration of the position as if it is terminal. Unfortunately, once having convinced ourselves that the variation is “wrong,” once we jump back up WE WILL (USUALLY) NEVER LOOK AT THE RIGHT CONTINUATION AGAIN DURING OUR ANALYSIS! Or, putting it into your terminology, once you dived into this particular tunnel and ran into a rock slide (the duplo attack on d4 and d1), you abandoned the tunnel altogether PERMANENTLY, without further consideration, which is guaranteed to spill considerabe time without ever finding a satisfactory solution.

    BBb3 is NOT protected, so if there is an "out" (not losing the White Rook after WQxb3) then that will allow the White Rook to escape (ending the duplo) AND allowing the cheeky BBb3 to be captured. 2nd Aha! The White Rook can give check on g4 (removing it from the 2:1 "attack" by BQc5 and BRd6, while leaving the BBb3 as a sitting duck.

    1. Qd1 Rd6 2. Rd4 Bb3 3. Rg4+ Kf8 (if 3. ... Rg6 4. Rxg6+ fxg6 5. Qxb3) 4. Qxb3 and in either variation, White is ahead by a Knight and should be able to win fairly easily (if Black does not resign immediately).

  2. PART II:

    It took less than 30 seconds to work through that process, which pretty accurately describes the sequence I used to arrive at the continuation.

    I'm guessing that you "saw" everything I described up until you "saw" that the WRd4 would be hanging if the White Queen captured the BBb3. At that point, it "appears" that piling up on d5 might lose the Exchange, rather than winning a Bishop. When that kind of thought occurs to me (AND the position is NOT quiescent), I try to remember GM Valeri Beim's description of an unknown "principle" in How to Calculate Chess Tactics, pg 31:

    And thus, the principle which applies is one which is hitherto unknown in chess literature, although well known in practice, and which is the basis of all tactics. It is also well known to anyone who lived part of their lives in the former Soviet Union, and runs as follows — "IF IT DOESN'T WORK, BUT YOU REALLY WANT IT TO, THEN IT MUST WORK!"

    Although this may seem at first glance to be a joke, IT DESCRIBES VERY WELL THE ESSENCE OF TACTICS IN CHESS — by means of the real strengths of a position, one can achieve things which at first glance appear impossible."

    One should not be frightened by the apparent complexity of the process of overview and conclusions described above. With a little regular practice, you will be able to carry out the whole of this logical analysis within a few minutes.

    I've found it very useful to consider a position such as the one reached after 1. Qd1 Rd6 2. Rd4 Bb3 to be a "stepping stone" position ala GM Jonathan Tisdall in Improve Your Chess NOW. I then apply GM Beim's "principle" and try to "see' further what is available from the vulture's eye viewpoint. Surprisingly (to ME), I often can "see" the correct continuation, even though on first thought it appears that the line is refuted. Maybe that is something that might be of help to you. It has certainly helped me!

  3. The advantage of a break is that you forget what isn't properly internalized. When you come back, you are no longer misleading yourself with things you THINK you have internalized. That provides a clear picture of the problems you (I) need to tackle. I looked at the points of pressure and I looked at the lines of attack, but I totally forgot to look at the initiative.

    I have written a lot about the initiative, so I HOPED I had internalized a thing or two of it. NOT.

  4. i had this problem 11 times since 2009. I blundered it the first 2 times. Today i think its "easy"

    1) Material is =
    2) What is the puzzle about? Material,Mate,Promotion? : Material
    3) so which piece do i win and how
    i think there are 2 possible ideas: pin the bishop to the queen and pin the bishop to the rook
    4) calculate both


  5. off topics:

  6. off topics:

    Paul Morphy at age nine (according to his uncle) showed his father and uncle what had been missed in a game given up as a draw, without ever having been formally taught the rules of chess.

    José Raúl Capablanca (according to Capablanca) learned the rules of the game at the age of four by watching his father play, pointed out an illegal move by his father, and then beat his father twice.

    Samuel Reshevsky was giving simultaneous exhibitions at the age of six.

    The prodigy phenomenon is not new, just more widely publicized. It is sad when some prodigies show so much promise so early in life but then disappear, never to achieve the anticipated greatness later in life. On the other hand, it is wonderful to see a promising youngster realize his potential ad rise to the top tier.

  7. I too looked at this position for an unreasonable amount of time (compared to what time that I could allot OTB). I too missed the Rg4+ zwishenzug (seeing 2.Qd4 or 2.Qd3 instead).

    The problem with the whole premise of studying of these hard to see tactics is that you are showing a problem that is hard to "see" to the human eye - moving a rook and then moving it back again.

    Then you do the classic, classic of asking someone whether or not they see the solution. This it the classic setup because now you want to "look" at the position/board forever, in an effort to try so hard not to be tricked, and admit that the trick wasn't "seen".

    The whole problem with all of these types of tactics is that the person is goaded into looking to prove that they can visually solve an optical illusion.

    If one blindfolds this problem, it would be much easier to solve, once they figured out the first move 1.Qe1 which contains the idea of the pin. If you solve the problem blindfolded from there, it should be nothing difficult, but we are goaded into "looking" for something all the time with tricky tactical puzzles where we are subconsciously told that other people didn't "see it" (or why else would this even be a puzzle, right?).

    When one blindfolds there is more to it than just that, one can use other parts of the brain as well. When one visualizes, one easily gets stuck on visualizing, and then misses the visual anyway. It's like looking at a mirage.

  8. I meant 1.Qd1, was thinking that square when I wrote 1.Qe1.

  9. I feel it a bit enlightening how I tried to solve this puzzle. I found 1.Qd1 after quite a long think, because of course, I was looking for "a tactic". Once I settled on 1.Qd1, I forgot about going to Chesstempo, scrolled down, and saw a phrase in the comments like "I missed the zwischenzug or in-between move" (I won't look at how it was said since that would cheat the impression that I had upon my second look).

    So, now I remember to go to Chesstempo, and that there is an in-between move, and say to myself something like "Ho*y crap, where is the in-between move (thinking it's a second tactic)" and spot 2...Bb3. Now I am just sort of dazed and confused since I also noticed you said you had spent a long time on it.

    Actually, the in-between move is not a tactic (not saying you said it was), since it doesn't work. 2...Bb3 isn't anything other than a direct threat, it's simply part of a line, a continuation.

    I think that part of the problem, when it comes to tactics training/solving, is just cutting analysis short, and thereby making a judgment too few moves deep. This happens to me quite often in games, as well, and it's an indication of weak analysis (I have been routinely guilty of this), seeing "wide" even, and so hung up on missing something, but not seeing deep enough.

    It may seem this was a "missing a threat issue" or etc, but I would classify this as a depth issue. The tactic was a pin, that is all, the rest of it are forcing moves and analysis, but not tactics. The rest of it was simply a test of whether or not we are looking deep enough into positions when we calculate, before forming a conclusion.

    It's better to calculate from the minds-eye than to keep looking at the board, when calculating. The board will scare the bejes*s out of someone and keep focusing them too look all over the freaking place in sheer terror of the bogeyman (even if that means not finding the bogeyman but simply deciding there might or must be one). Eventually, one can build up such a threat of a bogeyman by scanning the board, that calculations can be cut embarrasingly short and then we have this terrified look on our face that says "He's out there, I _saw_ the bogeyman!"

    1. Often when I read your comments, I get the impression that you have a strong projective mind. You ponder how the world looks like, and then you project your image upon the world, and in stead of what is going on in the real world, you see your own image and say, "hey, what I see proves that I'm right!".

      Most people do that, one way or another, but usually they cover different areas of reality with their projections. Both Robert and Aox, for instance, see this problem as simple, while you and I see this problem as "problematic". We share the same blind spot. In this case.

      For Robert and Aox it is difficult to learn something from my musings for the very reason they don't have the problem in this specific case. Robert does a brave attempt by trying to imagine what my problems with the position might be. And he comes certainly close.

      I have a strong projective mind too. That is both a blessing and a curse. The good thing is it helps us to maintain directional focus in a world which throws the sink at us. But the bad thing is that it makes us blind for certain areas.

      Maybe you remember that Larsen provided me in his book with a "positional problem". After a few hours analizing, I looked up the answer. He said there that he hoped that I had not wasted my time with looking for positional clues, since it was a mate in three. Which took me 20 seconds to find from that point.

      If my mind is looking for positional clues, it is able to stick to that, without loosing focus to other considerations. As said, the good part is being able to focus without being distracted. The bad part being of course the resulting blind spots when you are in the tunnel.

      The exercise I did was about maintaining the helicopter view, without entering any tunnels prematurely. What it showed, is that maintaining the helicopter view is not beatific. Even in helicopter view there remain blind spots.

      Apparently, there must always be some focus. Even in helicopter view. And when there is focus, there are areas that are out of focus. And if you have a projective mind, what is out of focus usually stays out of focus. For a few hours or so.

      The solution to this problem is, as I see it, automatic guidance. The scenarios of the tree of scenarios are developed to guide the attention to the blind spots. The only problem now is, that the guidance isn't automatic. As of yet.

    2. Projective minds, right, but I think we also share the ability of "suspension of disbelief" to some degree or other, which a lot of adults lose - I have lost quite a lot of it in the last few years. So, if a "super GM" were to tell you that you need to solve the positional problem in front of you, when it turns out that it was really a mate-in-three, then that would be considered a distraction, for example, while many others might raise their hand and say something like "But I think there might be a checkmate here." Perhaps a good non-chess example might pertain to the worth of getting a certain college degree.

      Solving a chess problem can sometimes have to do with that part of the brain. We want to say that if you are up a rook then that's like you have $5 and your opponent is broke. Surely, even chess programmers create their algorithms to be influenced by these values, and thus their programs could have certain blind-spots without sufficient brute-force.

      A helicopter-view has to contain an overwhelming sense to the viewer, else the truth can only be discovered in the tunnels. There are such sayings in chess as "long analysis wrong analyis", which I have never agreed with but is besides the point (often, that means to me that the analysis was both longer than it should be yet paradoically not long enough), so that that particular statement refers to a "practical" illusion. I have sayings I use on myself, and one of them is something like "Looking at a position to solve a problem is not reliable, it has to be blindfolded as well." You can gain a judgement by looking, but actual tactical calculations usually defy "sight rules" else we probably wouldn't give these positions magical properties like calling them tactics.

      I know that to you, tactics are likely very practical constructs; e.g., interference, deflection, etc, and these are useful to all of us for determining what the problems are, but they aren't that useful, IMHO, when it comes to solving those problems, which is more of a tree and depth type of analysis. This is where I think our blind-spots came in on solving this problem, it's that we were "caught looking" (a saying they use in baseball when a batter strikes out by looking at the ball, but not swinging at it) at the position.

    3. Another example of this projection might be "Don't call a queen a queen". A queen may not be a queen in a certain position, think of all pieces as circles with their specific properties. Maybe a queen can only ever control two squares on the board in some position. The "This is a queen!" observation from the Disney movie on chess, set in Africa, that is what you tell beginners. To me, saying it's a queen is more helpful to locating where it is on the board, and how it moves, it's value is completely relative.

    4. I cannot (and would not) attempt to speak for Aox, but only for me: I gain considerably from your musings! This blog has been the best thing I've found on the subject of adult chess improvement - PERIOD. The discussion here has brought many new ideas to mind, and clarified many others.

      I have no idea what a "projective mind" is, so I have no idea whether I possess one or not. I certainly ponder over many aspects of "the world" of reality, but (I suspect, from your description) that I do not have this type of mind. I CAN be extremely focused when I choose to be. I have been known to be literally blind and deaf to any outside stimuli when intensely focused. I don't wish to sidetrack or distract you, but pointer(s) to definitions/examples would greatly help me to understand this idea.

      I have long postulated (without actual proof) that each of us is sufficiently different internally as well as through life experience that it is impossible to develop a "one size fits all" successful approach to chess improvement. Maybe this is why it is considered to be so important to have a chess coach or mentor, especially after reaching a particular level of skill (perhaps Elo 1500-1600). Sometimes it takes an outsider's view to grasp what the problem(s) might be.

  10. One of my favorite questions Magnus gets asked is "Which is your favorite piece?" to which Magus replies truthfully "I don't have a favorite piece". Another way of putting this would be "Honey badger doesn't give a sh*t about pieces, honey badger calculates til checkmate and takes what he wants!"

  11. Okay, true story. I showed one of my games this weekend to WGM Katerina Nemcova and her reaction upon seeing Ne5 was "You did this, you sacrificed your queen?", and I could have replied "Honey badger doesn't....., he just takes what he wants!" Actually, the way I saw the position wasn't that my queen was hanging but that her ...Bg4 was hanging! Luckily, my opponent didn't reply ...f5, as I would have had to figure that out (I was looking at Bxf7), but in any case the position was like +12 or so anyway, according to Houdini.
    It was my Round 5 game.

  12. I solved that one without too much difficulty; in fact, that was the same sort of tactic that I had to calculate around in my game last night.

    I just solved this problem on Chesstempo:

    It's says the problem is 1848. Since I haven't been on Chesstempo in over half a year, my rating syrocketed 47.9 points to 1946, after that one and only problem that I tried. Oh, and no I didn't solve it from the beginning, I simply guessed correctly throughout the problem, and I'm sure would have been convinced this was a fine way to go about chess until an answer was missed.

    The funny thing about Chesstempo problems is that I see them more as game situation problems that are tactical, rather than sheer tactics problems. So, there's this temptation to breeze through them and then think "Oh, I should have got that one!" while one doesn't nearly give themselves enough credit for the ones they did breeze through correctly. The sum outcome of what this site "trains" you to do, when it comes to your rating, is to think that it's possible, and low even expected, to solve difficult, critical problems in time-pressure because "This is why you get paid the big bucks!" Then you get into a real tournament game and lose winning positions due to poor clock management - the stark reality of it all.

    Tough problems are meant to be solved slowly, and not solved as if they are cutesy "tactics" problems, but rather treated as real problems. But don't worry, a Master can fall into this line of thinking OTB, and get burned by it occasionally as well.

    I've gotten to the point where I've begun to understand different Masters' mindsets, and as you say they all think rather differently, IMHO, as well. I remember once that Brad Gilbert once said something like "each tennis player has their own shtick" (he didn't say every player had one, but...) In chess, I feel it's kinda the same way. I mean, if someone set up a problem and said "White to move and draw", one could call that an Anish Giri puzzle. hehe.

  13. I just tried some tactical problems on Chesstempo, and I can see how it would be easy to not improve so much based on spending time there versus spending time somewhere else.

    Chesstempo problems are mainly game type problems where it is testing basically stuff you already know. Like I am easily playing moves there based on my accumulated "chess I.Q." rather than trying to calculate them out so much. If one doesn't have access to a steady source of their own tournament games, then this can act sort of replacement-ish. To train on tactics, I think something like CT-Art is better, even where the problems are easy, because it forces you to focus on, and retain the motifs. Chesstempo is more like a status-check than a trainer, unless you want to use the accumulation of experience as your trainer.

    With Chesstempo, who cares what the sidelines were, all that matters is wrong or right, and if you "calculated" like this all the time, there could be some big holes from time to time when it comes to OTB positions and practical results.

    So yeah, I think like thematic tactics positions like in Maxim Blohk's books and software, or combinations like in Combination Challenge or even Volokitin's book where the problems are very hard in the sense of needing to calculate like three or more different lines with each problem.

    I'm not saying you can't find super-hard problems on Chesstempo, but it seems they are typically problems of a more practical sort where it is testing your eye, and observational ability, more than your slower ability to calculate positions OTB where you have to make determinations and work through many different lines as quickly as possible.

    Chesstempo strikes me as eye-candy, and sort of addictive in a way, except that it's easier to burn out more quickly solving problems than it is to burn out on playing blitz, for example, so that one is less likely to overdo in on Chesstempo (but I have definitely overdone it on Chesstempo before as well - I've tried overdoing everything in chess once). ;-)

    1. Chesstempo has different settings. Chose standard or mixed mode with the difficulty "hard" for calculation training and blitz mode with the difficulty "easy" for pattern recognition trainging.
      At CT you have in the tags with the tactical motives of the problem, comments of other tacticians about how they think about it. As premium you get a detailed statistic about your performance in every tactical motiv and a in depth computer analysis. You can analyse different lines of the problem against an engine and and and and.

      If you use ct wrong.. the result is bad.. to spend some time reading the instructions of a training tool often payes off.

  14. It is of the same type as the "zwischenzug" in the problem of the post.
    I call this type of problems a "tit for tat" problem. These problems are of the type: If i take a, you take b.... Then bye moving b with tempo.. i can take a without negative respons. I was analysing plenty of "tit for tat"s and know now the different methods how to treat them.
    In chess you have to recognise the situation and to know the (satndard) methods how to treat them

    1. "In chess you have to recognise the situation and to know the (standard) methods how to treat them"

      Yes, that is what I was trying to say.

  15. In the vein of over-learning or deliberate, I spent two hours solving this position: 4r1k1/1pb3pp/p1p2p2/2P3r1/1P1PP2n/P6q/2Q2RP1/2B1RNK1 b - - 0 1
    This position is #485 in the book Combination Challenge!, and I have memorized the position - set up the FEN position from memory. Henceforth, I will be able to trot out this position on demand, for example if I wanted to produce a problem for someone to solve, from memory. This position is one that I have failed at every time I've gone through the book, marvelled at it's solution, and yet somehow never remembered the solution.

    Okay, so one thing that this position is great for is that I have found it really difficult to visualize the solution without blindfolding the position, and solving it from the minds-eye. IOW, it's difficult for me, and barely if at all possible, to simply look at the board while I am producing the solution, as the current position is just too big a distraction for me.

    I imagine at least one of you will spend a lot of time, since there are all kinds of moves and lines to try, and at least one of you will solve it relatively quickly. I went into some deep board and piece visualization exercises after solving this one.

    Have you ever noticed that Experts and Masters are better at looking at someone's game, and then setting it up from memory? This is what I call "In-game memory utilization". It's like how good you are at "remembering the present" at any distinct point in time, it's that type of memory, and we know for example that Magnus Carlsen had an excellent memory as a child before he took up chess.

    It's easy for adults, the adult-brain, to look for ways to simplify and remember less, as a more efficient way to solve problems quickly. This is often great for real-life, since adults can draw upon experience, and don't need as much observation as children do, to come to a conclusion. However, in chess we know that the child-brain totally kicks butt. lol. Part of deliberate practice is forcing ourselves to improve our child-brain take on the position. We have to reach our inner-Capablanca child who sat on the chair, and whose legs didn't reach the floor. lol.

    I understand that a few of you might not be as interested in how I am trying to improve and may have some style of your own that you are working on, or whatever may be the case, but I feel this is as good a place as any to stir up some discussion, and sharing our journeys at adult-improvement (I'm pretty sure we are all at this stage).

    1. About Magnus Carlsen
      I speculate that he does not got a great memory by birth ( or at least not only) , but that he aquired it by learning a lot ( by heart ). I quess its a "touch" of autism which make them like to repeat and learn a lot.
      Many famous gandmaster learned geographical informations like for example nations with their capital , flag and so forth in their youth, they like to memorize

      A nice summary about chess - memory - chunking :

  16. maybe this helps?

  17. Something to ponder until Temposchlucker comes in from the garden. . .

    The trouble with people is not that they don't know but that they know so much that ain't so.

    American humorist Josh Billings (Henry Wheeler Shaw)

    Einstellung is a German word that translates to setting, mindset, or attitude. The Einstellung effect occurs where preexisting knowledge impedes one’s ability to reach an optimal solution. This effect presents across disciplines and skill levels. Whether or not we know it, we all experience it. The brain attempts to work efficiently by referring to past solutions [pattern recognition?] without giving the current problem much thought. Instead, we get stuck in a mindset. We apply previous methods to a seemingly similar problem instead of evaluating the problem on its own terms. We become unable to consider other solutions when we think we already have one, even though it may not be accurate or optimal. It leaves us cognitively incapable of differentiating previous experience from the current problem. So we may solve a problem but in a suboptimal way.

    It is “common knowledge” in chess (and a lot of cognitive psychology) literature that chess masters “know” large quantities of patterns [chunks] and that this is the most significant differentiator between strong and weak players. It is “estimated” that the master player accumulates 50,000 or more of these “patterns” in long-term memory (LTM) over the course of at least 10,000 hours of “deliberate practive” (as defined by Dr. Anders Ericksson and other researchers).

    Theories of chess skill - Dennis H. Holding

    It is concluded that chess skill relies on thinking ahead rather than on pattern recognition.

    Psychol Res (1992) 54: 10-16 Psychological Research Psychologische Forschung © Springer-Verlag 1992

    Suppose, merely for argument’s sake, that our “common knowledge” is not quite as definitive as we accept it to be. Suppose that Dr. Holding is correct in his conclusion.

    I started thinking about this on the basis of my own training. I’ve found that when I focus on the specific position, without trying to “remember” and then apply an appropriate pattern to “fit” to the current position AND I FOCUS and try to “see” as far ahead as I can (at least to the point of reaching quiescence – no more checks, captures, or threats), I am more successful at solving all types of problems, as well as playing stronger OTB. Obviously, recognition of “patterns” (of some sort) is a necessary precondition for skill. But is it the most important factor for improvement?

    How important is focus and mental discipline in “thinking ahead”?

    What change(s) would we need to make to our training regimen if thinking ahead is more important than pattern recognition?

  18. Pattern-recognition, between two humans, becomes more and more important the less time one has on their clock. This is a practical aspect of chess, much like tactical proficiency.

    Given lots of clock time, or more clock time, thinking ahead becomes more and more important. When thinking ahead, you branch out more, look more deeply, and use patterns that could occur, not just the ones that have appeared on the board.

    When looking ahead, assuming one has that requisite ability - through blindfolding, etc - then efficiency and correctness become critical. I would say thoroughness is part of correctness.

    Efficiency is about keeping lines separate in your head, knowing and remembering which lines can be discarded and why, and calculating deeply in the minimum amount of time.

    Correctness involves finding, discovering, and applying patterns. It also implies correct evaluations, often correct positional evaluations. I've sort of given up on this concept of a fully quiescent position. I mean, we know that even the most boring looking chess positions and games can explode at any moment. I think there is a point we can call a "surety" for lack of another word, although that word totally fits. The definition of a surety "a person who takes responsibility for another's performance of an undertaking", so think of it as a future position that you as a "second" would be willing to hand off to the competitor you are seconding for.

    This surety position should have a lot of positional trumps, but it's your job as the second to make sure that those positional trumps outweigh the drawbacks, or etc, and may require you to see deeply enough to pull out those positional trumps. At the end of the position, it can be close to equal or equal, but of course the main thing is that there are no immediate tactical shots by the opponent in that position, such that you could be unclear about the position, but in which the stronger player has the chance to outplay the other from either side of the position.

    One would need to practice calculation skills in their training to be able to perform these abilities listed above. Ideally, a position complex enough in which multiple lines have to be discarded or validated.

  19. "Thinking ahead" is not the same as "calculation", strategy, positional play and so on, is "thinking ahead" too. When im playing a french pawnstructure as black (pattern of pawnstructure) i may plan to attack the white pawnchain via c5 and/or f6 which is a typical pattern ( of moves! / plans! ). Thinking ahead is a pattern, using evaluation of potential future positions which is pattern recognition again.
    A good player can find better moves in bullet than an unexperienced player after days of calculation.

  20. I can't argue with what you just said, but it doesn't paint a whole picture. As far as pattern-recognition goes, said person might not have much to discuss as they mainly need more patterns. It's kind of like saying the winner of a race is the one who outruns everyone else, it's a true observational fact. Patterns are powerful, indeed!

    Here is a "combination": 4rbk1/3q1ppp/r7/p2p1N2/1n2PB2/6RP/1P3PP1/3QR1K1 w - - 0 1
    I'm going to throw in a bit of a spoiler. Also, thinking about what is a "combination" might also be helpful. A combination is a lazy man's way of saying "This line wins." A combination is not a tactic, and yet this book I have, "Combination Challenge!" classifies this problem as a "discovery".

    Well, a "discovery" is a tactic contained within a combination, or winning line. The problem with "tactics books" like this one is that sometimes a "discovery" means an immediate discovery tactic, while other times it simply means that such a tactic occurs somewhere within the solution.

    Very often, when the tactic is not found in the present position, in a combinations problem, it means that there is a "setup sacrifice" that must occur before said tactic will exist. This is also the case for the problem I just gave the FEN for.

    If one jumps ahead two moves from the initial position, then the tactic would become apparent to even a much lower-rated player, as the initial two-move sacrifice has already occurred.

    One could call the first two moves of the combination a "set-up pattern" for the tactic - which is, of course, also a pattern.

  21. Most of calculation is "process of elimination", and thus it's results are not seen, nor generally appreciated by the spectator. For example, from the initial position, there are literally about a dozen moves or so that one could choose to calculate, with most ending in failure. A plausible continuation might go something like 1.Qd4 f6, 2.Bh6 g6, 3.BxB RxB, 4.exd, winning a pawn (4...Qxd5??, 5.Ne7+ forks, for example), with a likely possibility of winning the game (naturally, this is not the solution to the combination). Also, one can spot the tactical pattern, but then calculate the wrong move order, assuming one doesn't do the process-of-elimination with due diligence.

    Okay, I flipped on the Houdini engine. In that line above, I also looked at 1.Qd4 g6, 2.Bh6 but missed 2...Nc2! here, and I also missed simply 1.Qd6 Rg6! I completely missed the critical candidate reply. This happens to me all the time in OTB competition, although with plenty of time on my clock, I nearly always catch it, just not reliably if I'm getting blitzed in time-pressure. This is actually a huge source of time-waste in my rated tournament games, not identifying all the candidate replies before calculating one candidate reply line after another, deeply, until I notice that this was all unnecessary and futile because I missed the key candidate reply.

    I picked 1.Qd4 as a plausible continuation, knowing that it wouldn't be the answer to a discovery problem, for the sake of argument, and an exposition of calculation.

    It's easy to say that the player is best of to know the pattern, and then can calculate the rest. The only problem with this is that calculation serves, OTB, because we generally don't see or know the pattern when we begin to rely heavily on calculation to find a playable way to proceed - which becomes necessary. The other thing is that someone could know/recognize the (optimal) pattern, but then blow it in the move-order calculation. Blowing it in a combination is very easy to do OTB because one might be low on time, quite excited they've recognized the pattern, not able to sit on hands and calculate it out, miss a crucial detail. Granted, stronger and more experienced players (veteran Expert and up) might not miss such a detail, and not be distracted by any external factors or uncontrolled emotions - I fear a player this strong might have less use for this blog, though.

  22. The actual "winning continuation" after plugging it into Stockfish, turned out to be a +4 fortress draw. That's okay, though, because between two human opponents, a lot of chess is simply psychological. Aox, plumps out said combo at the drop of a hat, opponent dazzled by this display sh*ts his/her pants and quickly blunders away the game as if it were almost a given. A lot of really young kids however, that don't know any better, will try to hang on in this situation, and now it's easier to see why this behavior frequently pays off.

  23. the game to the puzzle :

  24. Thanks for the link! How did you find the game?
    BTW, the combination starts with finding White's 27th move for those who haven't tried it.

    Spoiler Alert!!

    Stockfish finds this continuation:1. Rxg7+ Bxg7 2. Qg4 Qxf5 3. Qxf5 Nd3 4. Re3 dxe4 5. Rxe4 Rxe4 6. Qxe4
    Nxf4 7. Qxf4 Rb6 8. Qg5 Rxb2 9. Qxa5 where queen and three kingside pawns versus bishop, rook, and two kingside pawns appears to be a draw with best play.

    I found the tactical pattern in the original diagram after spending much time. I was so relieved that I wanted to look up the answer, and then noticed that I had botched up the move-order (I typically do this, so excited to find the pattern, and botch the move-order, can't sit on hands).

    What's interesting is that Keres revisits this same tactical pattern on move 39, and once again I miss it!
    39.Bh6! If 39...RxBh6 (hmmm, free bishop?!??), 40.Qg4 Rg6, 41.QxRc8+ Bf8, 42.RxR hxR, 43.QxNc6 wins a whole rook!

  25. BTW, I notice that when I go over a puzzle slow, and blindfold the solution, my blitz strength/rating, for example, picks up. Going over that same pattern, twice in the same game, is like an immediate shot in the arm for my playing strength.

  26. In the given position (from Keres vs. Gligoric), I recognized the "pattern" from previous tactics training. Consequently, this is not a good position (for ME) to differentiate between "thinking ahead" and "pattern recognition." The "trigger" is the identification of two factors: (1) BQd7 (LPDO) and (2) potential mating attack along LoA (g3->g8). The key "idea" is WQg4, threatening mate AND a check on h6 by the WN, "discovering" an attack on the loose BQd7. Lots of good variations to contemplate! The most interesting line (for ME) was to NOT capture the WR after 27. Rxg7+! 27. ... Kh8 and I can't find anything that leads to immediate checkmate. That's almost always my first attempt after getting hammered with a "SURPRISE!" capture. Capturing 27. ... Bxg7 28. Qg4 sets the table to win the BQd7 plus a Pawn in exchange for Rook and Knight, for a (hopefully) winning advantage. White still has some work to do, but should prevail in the end. I know Keres won the game, so it's obvious that it's possible. However, I suspect that, at my current level of play, it might prove to be much harder to bring home the full point. Observation of a single tactical point does not mean that the rest of the game will be a piece of cake to win: Gligoric continued to play until after move 45, so he must have had a good reason to hope he could survive it.

    1. Consequently, this is! a good position (for ME) to show similaritys between "thinking ahead" and "pattern recognition." ;)

      I always wondered how to "see" a line in a position, now i think i know it: To see = to remember. You "see" more if you "memorised" more.
      Papa Polgar was right, his bricks are the clue. To learn these 12000? game fragments (by heart) makes you seeing more and faster.

  27. @ Linux-Guy:

    "Going over that same pattern, twice in the same game, is like an immediate shot in the arm for my playing strength."

    It is the repetition while you are focused and your interest is "high" that helps "cement" the "knowledge" (pattern) into LTM.

    @ Aox:

    It would take very little to convince me of your position that "to see = to remember" (and vice versa). I know from experience that I can easily "see" recurring patterns and that pattern recognition significantly aids (or just "is") "thinking ahead." Sometimes the recognized patterns follow in rapid succession, allowing fast and accurate assessment of what to play for several moves in a row, without doing the "I go there, he goes here, etc." kind of calculations. I also concur that "thinking ahead" encompasses everything involved in playing strongly; tactics are just one overemphasized aspect. I suspect this is because we often equate mindless repetition of tactics problem solving with (eventual) acquisition of tactical "sight."

    This is what makes Temposchlucker's investigations and insights so valuable!

  28. I agree with the things you guys have been saying, and that this is valuable information.

    Recently, the past few days I've been playing a lot of OTB blitz, nearly 8 hrs over about 6 sessions, 10 minute and 5 minute chess. Hopefully, this will improve my OTB time-management skills, which is why I've been interested in doing it, but it doesn't help the things I've been working on at all.
    1. Calculation
    2. Identifying many candidate moves and many candidate replies.
    3. "In-game memory"

    The problem with blitz is I have no time to implement these things, and the time shortage makes them worthless anyhow. #2 is most desirable, but I can't even do that in time. Blitz emphasizes "novel solutions" to positions, and also pattern-recognition over exploring a position through calculation.

    So, part of me realizes I've neglected study of tactics, openings, endgames, etc, through too much percentage of study time on blitz. The other "study time" would be spent on watching the St. Louis matches - just a little of them. All in all, total BS when it comes to study, but practical when it comes to gaining various experiences, particularly since I've been more experimental with my blitz openings, which goes back to the using blitz for "novel solutions" part. It also lets me know how many study-holes I have to work on in my openings repertoire/lines.

  29. Here is a game played last Sunday. Find the winning continuation at the end of the game. So resigned, what is the continuation that made him resign?

    The answer is in the comments. Curiously, I found the first move/idea, but not the last two moves. When I saw the answer, it tipped me off to find the last two moves.

    This is an example of okay yes, you need to see the pattern, but still also need to calculate the last two moves.

    The announcers left off this game with the feeble comment "Wesley resigned because Lernier had an overwhelming position!" LAME!

    I used this position as one of those where you try to memorize the position, and then calculate it in your head blindfold-style. This builds your "in-game memory" strength, which in turn makes it easier to visualize and calculate further into combinations, down the road.

    I imagine that when Magnus is "thinking about chess" during the lulls of a conversation, that he is actually blind-fold analyzing some position like this.

  30. [FEN "r2q1bk1/pp3pp1/2p1r2P/5Q2/3Pp3/3B4/PPP2P2/1K4RR w - - 2 25"]

    Without looking at the comments:

    25. Qh7+! Kxh7 26. hxg7+ Rh6 27. g8(Q)# (Or 26. ... Kg8 27. Rh8#.) Black can toss the Black Queen onto the funeral pyre for an additional 1-move delay with 26. ... Qh4 27. Rxh4+ with the continuation as given previously, but it doesn't stop the mate, so there is no point to it, especially among the top 25 players.

    The "pattern" (to me) was two Rooks on adjacent files (g and h), plus a potential Queen sacrifice to gain the necessary tempi to checkmate, with the possibility of a Pawn promotion. Perhaps it's because I have been slowly working through the exercises for Chapter 6. Two Rooks in Victor Henkin's excellent book 1000 Checkmate Combinations. This position makes an excellent addition to the book collection! Thanks!

    GM Tal wrote the Foreword and had this (in part) to say:

    Don't reinvent the bicycle.

    When I'm studying a SPECIFIC POSITION, above all I note its PECULIARITIES, the RECIPROCAL POSITIONING OF THE PIECES, their CONNECTIONS. [Contacts and PoPLoAFun, anyone?!?] And suddenly (in the majority of cases this occurs intuitively) somewhere nearby the indistinct features of some new teasing and appealing position become faintly perceptible. It isn't on the board yet, of course, but everything points to the fact that it may arise. The hunt for the blue bird begins.

    GM Henkin gives this advice in the Foreword:

    I recommend that you READ THIS BOOK WITHOUT A CHESSBOARD. This method will not only help you to develop your tactical vision, but will also make the use of technical means of achieving your aim become automatic.

    YOU SHOULDN'T TAKE 'TACTICAL MEDICINE' IN LARGE DOSES. Even the most beautiful combinations can set your teeth on edge if you swallow them with the greed of a hungry pelican. On this topic there are many wise sayings, for example a Chinese one: 'Don't bite off more than you can swallow', or a French one, 'Too much of anything is a bad thing...' In general, as the satirical pseudonymous Russian author Kozma Putkov said, "One cannot embrace the unembraceable!"


    I've been trying to follow his advice. I also continue to "mark up" each and every diagram with PoPLoAFun with a highlighter as I work through the preconditions and I also place a 'box" around the enemy King wherever it is finally 'cornered'. It seems to be improving my ability to "zero in" and focus on the important features in a specific position.

    What's surprising (to me) is that GM Wesley So, the FIDE World Number 6, could lose so quickly in a Petroff Defense, even in a blitz game. GM Dominguez Perez is rated FIDE World Number 21, who is obviously not to be taken for granted. Perhaps GM So lost his sense of danger in a supposedly "drawish" opening. I started feeling a sense of "UH OH!" around move 10. White was gaining lots of tempi.

    Temposchlucker is absolutely correct about maintaining the initiative during tactical play!

  31. The "feeble" comment of the announcers brings it to the point: its not necessary ( and usually not possible ) to calculate everything.. you can see that the positon is lost without calculation: 2 rooks, the queen and a pawn are directly attacking the black king, even the white bishop is x-raying to the black king and there are only 2 bad defenders. Virtually every legal move of white is winning ( at least 29 of them says stockfish ), h7 #3, Qh7 #4, hxg7 #6, Bc4 #11 and so forth.
    You need to be able to simply "see" that in order to be able to find the right moves to get such a position in a game.

  32. I just felt that Wesley So (immediately after playing ...Re6), and the commentators, quit on the position abrubptly. They could have at least casually suggested a variation and moved on, but they did not. Frankly, I watch to learn and do not care about the result, as I could hardly take a blitz result that seriously in the first place. Sure, given time the position is a mop-up in more than one line, but blitz can show how any deficiencies in how a player thinks and uses their time.

    I don't give anyone a free pass in a blitz game. A lot of inaccuracies go unpunished in these blitz games, as is typical for blitz, endgame inaccuracies for example, with pawn structure and so on. Blitz runs into the tragicomical even on that level, from time to time. Caruana made a number of gaffe's, as he often does when blitzing, that cost him points, gaffe's that even I would not have made blitzing, and yet he still won his match with Grishuk, who has a lightning fast hand.

    Your point about pattern-recognition and worrying more about seeing the position than calculating, is well-taken, however.

    I had the book by Henkin, but sold it as it worth a lot. The diagrams are small. I actually got the CT-ART program with the Tal's combinations from the Henkin book on it - so, supposedly the same thing but in electronic form, and hopefully that will work just as well for me, as I intend to get to them at some point. The CT-Art program is great and useful (I also have Blohk's book, same thing). They sent the book to me from Russia, Russian postage stamps and all! ;-)

    I think both approaches are very useful, treat the position as a pattern, employ your descriptive adjectives that Temposchlucker has come up with to discover the answer. I also like Robert Cole's approach of tackling long problems, which probably also require calculation to find, and not just patterns. At the board, it's great to be observant and look for patterns because there simply is no time at these ever faster time-controls. However, it only makes the slow-practice all that more indispensible, because the quick move, tit-for-tat way of playing, in general, is easy to have littered with errors and suboptimal moves.

    If time-controls were really long, the game could serve as your study more, but with faster time-controls one needs more study away from the game. Sure, it's easier for the organizer "Hey everybody, it only takes ten minutes to play a chess game!", but it can be hell on the players who now have to have looked up and memorize every line in their opening system cold, or suffer an opening debacle due to their "ignorance."

  33. I just made a quite lengthy post on the analysis of one of my games, and if you drop down to the end of it, I put what I think the secret for success in chess is:

    Granted, this won't fix the need to drill on tactics and such, and whatever other personal qualities that a Master or GM might possess, but it's a method (and one might think an obvious one) for improving at chess. However, many players these days play and play and don't even desire to keep score (once the opponent is under 5 minutes on a 5 second delay). For many of them, the key is to blitz your opponent in their time-pressure!

  34. @ LinuxGuy

    I like your assessment of the value of "comparative analysis." Congratulations on your win. Thanks for providing the game and the analysis!

    I copied the PGN and put it into Fritz so that I could play through the game while also looking at your comments.

    It's amazing what gets overlooked, especially in time trouble. There seems to always be hidden resources for saving a game, at least up to the point that it becomes trivially obvious that the game cannot be saved.

    Leah should have maximized her advantage in time to find and exploit every opportunity you gave her to draw. The old Reagan maxim, "Trust - but verify!" is definitely applicable when trying to save a game. She had plenty of time to do that, but perhaps assumed (incorrectly) that to take her time would allow you (the stronger player) to have more thinking time. The player who is short of time remains under psychological pressure, even if the opponent takes her time. The "threat" of having to be ready to move as soon as possible weighs in, especially if there are tactics to be solved. "The threat is stronger than the execution!" - Nimzovitch. The Botvinnik approach of thinking about strategic plans while the opponent is calculating must go out the window when really short of time.

    I've got the CT-Art 4.0 program. It's been a while since I worked through it.

    A minor quibble: some of the move numbers in your commentary don't match the game or the player moving (White or Black) is reversed notation-wise. It didn't bother me much, because you gave the actual game, and I could figure out what you intended.

  35. Thank you, and your welcome!

    Robert, I believe you are spot on with your psychological comments of how she was thinking! Yes, she was a little too emotionally sensitive to who was winning, etc. Often, when you (I've been on the other end, countless times) push your opponent around all game long, the opponents who don't show up with a strong or enduring willpower get "Stockholm Syndrome", so that even when they have the chance to run away or club you over the head, they refrain and follow the script, only anticipating taking a beating.

    I played a rapid game of chess tonight (Round 3 from my blog) which was something out of "from the ridiculous to the sublime". It was my only loss of the tournament, but you may find it interesting to see how you would defend as Black in this game. I didn't find it an easy thing to do, with the result that the game looks very silly on the surface, however it begs the player the question how well they can defend in a G/24 game.

    During this game, as I reached to play ...Ng6 instead of ...Nc6, thought about playing ...Nc6, but then said to self "Well, it shouldn't matter, it's only quick-chess", but that wasn't even the worst part of my defense.

    I missed some obvious defensive moves, and this game appears appalling, but it's a decent test for one's ability to find defensive moves, whether they appear obvious to you or not (I missed the moves).

    Yes, it is amazing what gets overlooked in time-trouble, and what gets blitzed by. It's as if the whole game didn't matter, though I was pushing Teah around in that other game for most of the time, but for a series of late howlers. That game gives the impression that my opponent could have simply left the board and come back for the last five minutes when I would drop everything and give it all back, like one long orchestrated joke.

    Yes, I write a lot of analysis with 10.Re1 instead of 10...Re1, etc., and my writing style was pretty convoluted there, I have to admit, needs a lot of cleaning up still.

    Sometimes, in time pressure, I have stopped analyzing and simply went with my intuition, but intuition can be horribly wrong! Only Magnus gets to act like his intuition doesn't stink, for the rest of us such a simple-minded approach can destroy one's ability to maintain a consistent rating.

    "There seems to always be hidden resources for saving a game, at least up to the point that it becomes trivially obvious that the game cannot be saved."

    Actually, I believe this is the biggest practical difference between players and much stronger players. The players who are hundreds of points stronger than oneself will find all of the ways out of your attack, side-stepping it, taking the air out of it, they will not lose unless it's really, really obviously lost.

    Sometimes, when I study from my tactics book (been through the whole book a couple of times) I just draw a blank, and look and look for the solution and sometimes find it after much trying, and sometimes don't. It's as if some of the patterns never fully stuck, and I'm just brain-dead ignorant of them, but of course I'll know to look for them next time I see such a pattern in a position. However, when I am playing, even when my blitz rating is going up I am never at a loss to find a lot of tactics, and neither is my opponent. One never feels at a loss while playing blitz, for example (unless one is new at it). I think that tactics problems are hard because the positions are usually irrational (without that combination), and you know you have to find it and can't simply look to play a positive continuation.

  36. This is interesting, a speed learner takes one month to learn chess, or how to prepare for Magnus and then plays Magnus Carlsen at the end of the month. Their game together is given at the end of the article.

    I found this game interesting, also for the sake that I play this Cozio Defense line as Black against the Ruy Lopez. It is a very tricky line to play as Black. I've always had White play c3, then d4; never faced d4 push by itself (in that line, Black generally plays ...exd4, followed by ...d5).

    It's not easy to see how to play as White. Theory is tough to figure out, OTB. For example, if instead of 9.Nd5, White puts a knight on e2, then Black would have ...a6, ...b5.

    However, once "a chess game breaks out", players of a certain calibre (according to their rating) will know how to respond in a given situation. The amateur plays 11.Re1, when a Class A or better tournament player is likely to see, or sense the danger, and play the more prophylactic 11.h3, easy call. A tougher line for White to decide on might be 11.c3 Ng4, 12.Bf4 Qf6, 13.Bg3 h3, 14.Be2 Bd7 with the idea of 15...c5. White stands better here, and it's more active than 11.h3. But, of course, Black doesn't need to play ...c5, and without it the Bg3 is stuck there looking like a statue.

    In the game, the neophyte player as White fails to sense the danger, and thus doesn't calculate a prophylactic line the way a stronger player would.

  37. How to Spot Tactical Motifs with IM Anna Rudolf [Master Method]

  38. @ LinuxGuy:

    A couple of minor things:

    ". . .but then said to self "Well, it shouldn't matter, it's only . . ."

    I find this to be one of my most significant failures while playing OTB. It is a lack of resolute determination/focus on every move of the game. Sometimes it's an "I'm just not in the mood to work out the variations" attitude. At other times, it's an "I'm winning this easily, so I can just let the position play itself" attitude. And so forth. . . Regardless of the rationalization given, it's the WRONG attitude! As NM Dan Heisman once opined (paraphrased), if you get this BAD attitude just ONCE in a 40-move game, you will consistently fail to rise above the amateur ranks.

    "It's as if some of the patterns never fully stuck, and I'm just brain-dead ignorant of them, but of course I'll know to look for them next time I see such a pattern in a position."

    I suspect that most of the common patterns ARE embedded in the subconscious of anyone who has played for a long time (and has reached your level of skill), but the route(s) to pattern recognition becomes unavailable for various psychological reasons. This is why I keep working on PoPLoAFun in my tactics training. By reinforcing the neural paths while searching for patterns, I hope to combat this problem.

    One of the serious problems of trying to use a logical thinking process (including trying to CONSCIOUSLY remember specific patterns) is that (1) it's S-L--O---W, (2) it uses working memory, which has severely limited capacity in comparison with long-term memory, and (3) in the process of trying to remember one thing, it's very easy for that one thing (if actually CONSCIOUSLY recalled) to obscure everything else, with the inevitable result that the things obscured are the ones that may be most important in that specific position. The patterns have to come from the subconscious as a "feeling" which must NOT be ignored.

    As a self-defense instructor for many years, I taught that if you have a "feeling" of unease in a situation, PAY ATTENTION! Better to be safe than to be sorry! The same is true in chess. I know that I play considerably better when I "listen" to that itching "feeling" in the back of my mind. Not to just play the first impulse that occurs, but to pay attention/give focus to it, and then try to find every reason why I should IGNORE it. I know that seems backwards, but finding the refutation is more important than trying to "prove" that the impulse is the right thing to do. That impulse is the vulture's "smell" of the target, before you can "see" it. Trying to disprove it involves being as objective as possible about all of the opponent's possibilities for refuting it. You have to be "right" in all variations; the opponent only has to be "right" in one refutation. "Sitting on the hands" (presuming sufficient time) is absolutely essential for playing at a higher level of skill and taking advantage of this approach.

    My apology to Teah: I mistyped her name as Leah in a previous post.

  39. That tactics video by Anna Rudolph was quite helpful, thanks!

    Robert, I read your comment about the one bad-attitude move (agree with everything you said), but what did I do? Promptly did it in my next game anyway, disgustingly made a losing a move when I could have taken a pawn (posted it on my blog today) and drawn. I realized it was a fatiue issue (I can tell when I look in the mirror after a game, and my eyes are half-closed). In this specific case, I should have raised my head back from my analysis-mode, and said to myself "Are you seeing all the moves in the position, to consider?" One can't make an informed decision in chess, often times, without the list of decisions to consider to begin with - this gets back to recognizing the patterns in the current position, like Aox likes to guide the discussion back to (from one of calculation).

    A lot of this, while true, is also kind of easier to see after the fact than before. The coy, but rather true answer is to "just become a better chess player."

    I got into a position, in the opening of that/my Tuesday night game, it was sharp and hadn't seen it before, and I literally spent an hour of my own time on move 7. At the board, I was quite unsure how to approach the selection of which type of solution that I should be going for.

    Now, I've figured that I do like one of your earlier suggestions that a Master or GM said, I think they said look at the most forcing move first. I would add to that, go with the most forcing move, if you can, just to save time OTB. You can have a look at that position if you want, but I will put in a spoiler below.

    -----Spoiler Below------------




  40. ---------------Spoiler-------------------------


    For OTB, I would actually recommend something like 7.exf Nf6, 8.dxe5 (this last move is not the best, but it illustrates the point of, just by looking at the position, which side is dominating there, both positionally and materially.

    I didn't want to play 7.BxNg8 on principle, and for some reason it's not as strong (only looked at the eval), even though I found a nice variation for it - it probably is ignoring a principle reply, and I think I know what that is, much like the game continuation.

    Anyway, after navigating this position, for the rest of the game I played much below my level whenever I tried to think out something and not just play on instinct, but this had to do with my "energy level" factor, as well. I played the next night and actually ate a granola bar during the game, and it came in handy later - I virtually never eat during a game, can't recall another time that I have (to me, it would normally appeal to me as much as eating a granola bar during the middle of a race).

    One positive argument about going with a principled, yet forcing variation is that you can always go home "Fritz it" and decide what you like best later, but your working solution at the board will resemble "A decision made at that time."

    A practical decision, OTB, should be principled, and have as much "one-way play" type of force behind it as possible. In my game last night, my opponent could have sacked a piece, but retreated his knight instead back to f3, in a show of force, for example, of how much his side controlled the position. I saw both moves during the game and told him I liked both of those moves as best for him.

    I haven't really "Fritzed" these games yet, only did it here or there after I already found a variation, just to double-check that variation.....and not to mindlessly flip-the-switch and feel my brain go numb as the answers (all moves work) scroll endlessly before me - this defeats the purpose of becoming a better chess player and working things out. Often, people may get the impression, perhaps absent-mindedly, "Oh, Fritz just said to do this and then that on your next move." That simple two-mover solution can represent the end-product of a whole ream of analysis, synthesis and summation of a ream of different ideas. Chess can be deceptively simple.

  41. @ LinuxGuy:

    I'm curious: Why 3. f3? Why not either the advance 3. e5 or the exchange 3. exd5 followed with the Panov-Botvinnik 4. c4? Did you not see that after 3. f3 Black is almost "forced" to continue in tactical style with 3. ... dxe4 4. fxe4 e5? I was (somewhat pleasantly) "surprised" that Michael continued (after 5. Nf3 Bg4 6. Bc4) with 6. ... f5!? He certainly was "telegraphing" that he was going to throw everything at you! There should be some way to take advantage of his opening, especially given that you could only find one game in your database with this line. Did Michael find this OTB, or did he have it already prepared? Shock value alone made it a worthwhile variation OTB, because it threw you into an hour-long thinking session!

    I'm not an e4-player, so I guess I might look at the position differently. I would have started looking for a way to "ratchet things down a notch" with regards to the tactics, given the difference in your ratings. But then, I don't know your past history of playing each other or how much knowledge and experience you have of his playing "style" (if there is such a thing for amateurs), so that "slowing things down" approach may have been totally wrong for you.

    I didn't expect 7. c3. Black's King position is beginning to look a little "airy" to me, and the short-term tactical shots for Black may turn out to be insufficient compensation. You were right that you had to solve the immediate tactical problems with calculations! The immediate PoPs appear to be d4:e5, e4:f5, f3, f7, g8. LoAs are d1:d8, g4:d1, c4:g8. Funs are d4 can't take e5 without allowing the Queen exchange on d1, followed by trying to take advantage of the pin on f3. The e4 point seems to require overprotection. The d4 point also could be nasty later on, because the White f-Pawn is missing, leaving a LoA into the White King position with a potential check on d4. All of that is just general "vulture view" information, which MIGHT have been used to cut down on the size of the briar thicket of variations to consider. Or, it could just be that I'm LAZY!

    For White, the most urgent threat IMHO concerns e4:f5, since Nf3 is relatively pinned. Either 7. Nd2 or 7. Qd3 comes to my mind. 7. Nd2 "protects" e4 (at least for one move and develops a piece. 7. Qd3 removes the pin and "protects" e4, while not committing to anything else. As for what comes afterwards, "wait and see" what Black has in mind for followup. I recall Dr. Lasker's maxim to make the smallest possible concession when "defending," only responding to actual concrete threats as they arise.

    Thanks for sharing your games and your thoughts!

  42. "I'm curious: Why 3. f3? Why not either the advance 3. e5 or the exchange 3. exd5 followed with the Panov-Botvinnik 4. c4?"

    Against the Main-line, White gets so little that I very often over-press and lose as White. 3.e5 creates a lot of weaknesses for White, and also puts the onus on White to play sharp. Panov-Botvinnink, is like tactical w/o an advantage, or at least in my own experience, so Black is getting shots in after the opening.

    f3 is a the Fantasy Variation and is okay even at the super-GM level. I get the feeling you haven't seen it much, and so hold it in disdain for White (since it's not as if everyone's chess heroes of the past play it).

    6...f5?! is obviously very sharp but also dubious. 6.exf5 is the refutation, but does require adroit follow-up as well.

    My opponent is very tactical and made up the ...f5 move impromptu, but a bunch of people were standing around who otherwise never watch my openings, and that also threw me off. They wanted to see a brawl in the opening, and they were standing there before he played ...f5. I even get the impression you wanted to see what happened next as well. So you have to imagine the added and completely unexpected extra pressure, OTB, and I wasn't feeling so well before the game to begin with.

    You can't always wratchet things down in 1.e4 openings, that is part of the problem, and why there are so many miniatures possible in 1.e4 openings. 7.Qd3 was a way to try to wratchet things down, but OTB there were so many other variations, and this one did look quite scary at the time - I didn't see it all the way through, and it's also a concession after 7...BxNf3.

    Our past history is that someone usually gets knocked out in the opening, mostly him.

    The key to understanding this position is to negate that pin from Bg4, as you noticed, point-of-pressure. The other key is that ...BxNf3 is thematic, and you want to negate that (which I wasn't sure of OTB, understandably). So the most principled reply is 7.exf, and secondly 7.Nbd2, because they both address the ...BxNf3 threat directly - at least in terms of time they do, if not also in terms of position.

    I played horrible after that. He comes out with a hay-maker, that is his style, and it can lose just as quickly for him. He had no idea of the correct move, which is also why he played ...f5.

    In a lot of 1.e4 openings, particularly 1.e4 e5, you often have to either know or figure out theory, OTB - it can be very challenging in this regard, and not as forgiving as 1.d4 tends to be in the opening.

    Thanks for your insights, as well!

  43. @ LinuxGuy:

    Brian, sorry for the delayed response: my special needs granddaughter Rizzy was visiting this weekend, and always gets highest priority.

    As I noted previously, I am not generally an 1. e4 player, so I am NOT familiar with most lines outside the variations of the Sicilian that I usually play against 1. e4. I had not seen the Caro-Kann Tartakower or Fantasy variation before, but have no disdain for any particular opening per se. If it works for YOU, then PLAY IT!

    I presume you were not interested in transposing to some form of the Blackmar-Diemer Gambit with 4. Nc3. According to Wikipedia, several of those lines seem to favor Black, but it MIGHT have been something Michael would not have expected. It also might have been possible to get into either the Milner-Barry or von Hening gambit variations. In any event, you have to focus on concrete tactics right from the start, regardless of the variation chosen. That's hard to do successfully when you are surprised AND with low energy.

    My own approach to opening theory is somewhat lackadaisical at best; I don't really try to memorize opening lines generally, but do try to follow Dr. Lasker's general advice to Sortez les pieces!. However, I am "guilty" of using whatever information I have about my opponent in an attempt to find something that is generally "uncomfortable" to his opening proclivities and general approach to the game. Sometimes it works; sometimes it doesn't work. On the other hand, I also have used "psychology" to allow a stronger player to play his favorite lines, just to lull him into a false sense of security. Since I don't have any particular opening preferences, the opening is not where I generally focus my attention.

    When I was competing regularly, I would keep information about each player I had played or was about to play in a file and try to find games that they had previously played. The "research" was more for determining any apparent (to me) weaknesses than for determining a specific opening choice.

    In my first Selma (AL) Chess Club Championship in 1970, the highest rated player was 1833 USCF, I was unrated and had only been playing informally for about 3 years (actually learned how to play chess in 1967 at age 19). I knew from experience that he liked to play the NimzoIndian as Black, so I played to give him that option. As a result, he played it, assuming (correctly, on the basis of previous encounters) that he should be able to eventually take advantage of my relatively poor skills. He quickly took things out of the book (as I learned afterwards) in an attempt to snooker me, but I was able to draw him in that game because I kept focused throughout the game, especially when he left theory.

    In the California Class Championship in 1973, I had my best performance (winning Class B on tiebreaks) and my best game against a 1998 USCF player. I had never played him, but knew several players from his local area. In preparation for our game after the pairings were posted, I queried my friends about his preferred opening line as Black, and found that he liked the Queen's Gambit Declined. I quickly ran through the main line out to about 14 moves using MCO-14. I spent 15 minutes getting to move 14 (mostly trying to remember the correct moves), while he spent 40. He eventually lost on time, rather than resign (in a losing position, down 4:3 in Pawns in a single Rook ending and about to lose more Pawns) to a lower rated player. Ah, the faded glories of "the old days"!

  44. The Diemer type line is not as objectively strong (Nc3 instead of Bc4). Many players, online too for some reason, will simply play ...e6, ...c6, and of course online they get even worse positions than with OTB players, so this is an ideal line for White to train with an engine instead of with a human, unfortunately.

    I rarely get that ...e5 line. I was winning in the post-mortem, in a way that suggested I had a much stronger grasp of the tactical realities of this opening, so he got a bit lucky with the way the opening turned out. That ...e5 stuff may look good to you, and you are perhaps strong enough to pull it off, but a lot of players as Black aren't.

    I try to prep, haven't seen him play Caro-Kahn before, he normally plays ...e5, but will probably play anything. He threw me off, since Caro is usually for when tactical players want to duck a fight, but he used it to fight with so kudos to him! :-)