Monday, November 04, 2019

Mein System REDUX

The past week I have been frantically searching for more information about the center. Aox has put me on the right track, and I had a clear picture in my mind how such information should look like.
All of a sudden it dawned on me that I might have already exactly the book that I'm looking for in my library!

I never have taken My System of Nimzowitch too serious. It contained an incoherent set of rules, in my not so humble opinion, and I would certainly not think of it as a system.
But I might be quite wrong!
Suddenly I see the coherence in his ideas. Pawn chains, blockades, the rest and even prophylaxis might very well make sense! The coming weeks I will reread the book.

I will keep you posted. . .


  1. My System is good book .. but Euwe/Kramers: Middlegame
    is way better.

  2. Quality Chess has the most uptodate version of My System:

    One of the byproducts of improving at "seeing" more complex tactics is that positional ideas begin to make a lot more sense.

    Euwe/Kramer's two books (The Middle Game)are encyclopedias. Since these books were originally written in Dutch, I presume you already have copies. My copies have a copyright date of 1964, which means that they are definitely dated.

    John Watson's Secrets of Modern Chess Strategy is a detailed comparison of Nimzovich's ideas (pre-1935) to "modern" chess play (post-1935). He also notes that 1970 is another approximate date when a major shift in emphasis occurred from "rules-based" (static orientation) play to "rules-independent" (dynamic orientation) play.

    Another "modern" book is Mihail Suba's Dynamic Chess Strategy: New Edition of a Modern Classic, based primarily on Suba's games.

    Alas, there are far more books available than I can afford to buy - and study!

  3. Its true that Nimzowitsch gives a lot of rules. I'm writing all his rules down lately, so I know. But My System is not about rules, it is about goals. Which goals are appropriate to pursue.

    There is diagnosis, and there is remedy. Which relate 1 : N. Rules are in the realm of remedies. What Watson did, was showing us that other remedies would work as well when the diagnosis is the same.

    My goal is to find the coherence between goals. I worry about the remedies later.

    Lasker helped us to unearth the PoPLoAFun-system. Maybe Nimzowitsch can do the same for us in the realm of positional play.

  4. Though I never really understood Nimzowitch, I do play the Nimzowitch Defense (1.e4 Nc6) as my main weapon against 1.e4.
    This black defense is statistically one of the best. After 1.e4 Nc6 2.d4 d5 the winning statistics tell me 41.1% (white) vs 37.1% (black). Most other black defenses are worse.

    (the Petrov is a black defense on the weaker end: 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nf6 --> winning statistics: 40.1% vs 21.6%)

  5. Chess Tempo:

    Nimzowitch Defense:

    1. e4 (35% - 38.1% - 26.9%)

    1. ... Nc6 (39.9% - 31.5% - 28.6%)

    2. d4 (40.4% - 27.1% - 32.6%)

    2. ... d5 (42.7% - 25.2% - 32.1%)

    A move order transposition ends up in the same place:

    1. d4 (35.3% - 40.3% - 24.4%)

    1. ... Nc6 (44.5% - 29.7% - 25.8%)

    2. e4 (40.4% - 27.1% - 32.6%)

    2. ... d5 (42.7% - 25.2% - 32.1%)

    Petroff Defense:

    1. e4 (35% - 38.1% - 26.9%)

    1. ... e5 (34% - 41.7% - 24.3%)

    2. Nf3 (33.8% - 42.6% - 23.5%)

    2. ... Nf3 (33.4% - 51.5% - 15.1%)

    Based on those statistics (limited to the Chess Tempo database), it
    appears that if Black is seeking a draw, Petroff's Defense would be
    better by 2 times but, if seeking a win, Nimzowitch's Defense would
    be over 2 times better!

    I've never given much thought to choosing an opening variation based
    on statistics (but I will now). Unfortunately for ME, my opponents
    play in total ignorance of statistics, and I don't play sufficiently
    good to reach the statistical results consistently.

  6. As usual whenever I re-read a book, I "see" things that become significant that seemed obscure or trivial during my previous reading.

    Turning to Nimzovitch's My System regarding the center and development:

    "2. A pawn move must NOT be considered IN ITSELF to be a developing move, but rather simply a move which helps development."

    So obvious, yet so easy to forget!

    One of the "insights" (yes, sometimes I'm rather slow at "seeing" the nuances and keeping them fresh in my mind) that aided me in "seeing" PoPLoAFun is that occupation of a square (whether by Pawn or by a piece) eliminates any control over that particular square by that occupying Pawn/piece. If that Pawn/piece is immobilized, then it effectively radiates immobility backward through the ranks of the pieces/Pawns which might otherwise be able to travel along the Lines of Attack going over/through that particular square. Those immobilized pieces/Pawns (in effect) are reduced to protecting the immobilized Pawn/piece from attack. The encircling motif of Lasker (first among the motifs) comes into play through this idea, which is the precursor to Nmzovitch's notion of the blockade.

    A second insight is that there is no difference between the Pawns and pieces in terms of capturing capability on a particular square at a given time. Each and every chessman has the capability of capturing (or not) on a particular square, effectively a binary option: it can either capture (move to) or not capture (not move to) a particular square at any given time. The chess time required for this is one tempo. Either a piece can capture/move to a square in one move or it cannot. In this sense, there is no difference in value between that various Pawns/pieces. This allows for a much more flexible evaluation of material DURING consideration of a specific tactical continuation. The general material values (1,3,3,5,9,∞ for Pawn, Knight, Bishop, Rook, Queen, King respectively) do NOT apply DURING a tactical operation. As the old Zen (chess) saying goes:

    “Before one studies Zen (chess), mountains are mountains and waters are waters; after a first glimpse into the truth of Zen (chess), mountains are no longer mountains and waters are no longer waters; after enlightenment, mountains are once again mountains and waters once again waters.” [Quote by Dōgen]

    Total mystical BS? Not really; it all depends on what one "sees". A change of perspective can do wonders for one’s vision!

  7. Nimzovitch defines the “elements” of his system of STRATEGY to be:

    1. The center
    2. Open files
    3. Play on the 7th and 8th ranks
    4. The passed pawn
    5. The pin
    6. Discovered check
    7. The pawn chain
    8. Exchanging

    If strategy is defined to be “what to do” and tactics are defined to be “how to do”, then there seems to be a blurring of the lines in Nimzovitch’s system. Yet, if we don’t consider strategy to be a monolithic concept that carries through the entire game, but, instead, merely a plan of action for the immediate (foreseeable) future, then it is possible to use tactical devices/themes as the basis for a near-term plan. The various motifs are the justification for a plan, which may involve moves, maneuvers and combinations of tactical devices/themes in the short term.

    Most of the chess “rules” (whether based on logic or experience) are generalities that may (or may not) apply in any given concrete situation. Strong players do NOT PLAY by applying these generalities. The subtleties and level of detail examined on virtually every move is astounding. This jump into detailed examination occurs from the very first move for both players, unless one is (or both are) following a predigested variation to a known tabiya. Even in this situation, “surprises” are common.

    I have a question:

    How can we discuss the center and development without examining concrete positions in terms of PoPLoAFun?

  8. I finished chapter one about the center. I will have to reread it a few times in order to digest it. I found rules in relation to three subjects:

    Development. Mobilization of your pieces towards the front line.

    Pawns. Protect your developed pieces. When to make a pawn move. Mobile pawns. Immobile pawns.

    Tempo play. Don't move a piece twice. Only waste a tempo when your opponent does the same. Chase only enemy pieces to a worse place. Don't grab pawns before full development. Exchange enemy pieces which have consumed a lot of tempo's.

    points of pressure must be build ->mobilization.
    lines of attack must be created -> pawns can open lines
    functions -> are subject to tempo play

  9. In my latest game, I had a strong pressure against a single point of pressure.
    It was not enough. You need two points of pressure. In the mean time, your center must be strong enough that it not collapses.

    The duplo move needs special attention. It has a positional twin which looks different, but acts the same.

    As in tactics, only duplo moves can win you a war. A duplo move falls under tempo play.

  10. PART I:

    Here’s a recent game against a lower rated player. This is a talented (rising star) youngster, who has taken some 1600-1800 scalps in our tournaments. The game moves are in BOLD font; annotations by GM Stockfish 9 64. The last part of the game is not very interesting; it was just a slow kill, making sure that I had plenty of time left. The time control was 8 minute game with a 3 second delay.

    The opening emphasizes the points Tempo has made about the center and development. I had no idea we would end up in a Taimanov Sicilian. I’ve inserted my own comments on my reason for playing this way.

    [Event "Ricochet 24:5 Delay"]
    [Site "?"]
    [Date "2019.10.19"]
    [Round "?"]
    [White "Sriram, Tanush"]
    [WhiteElo "1023"]
    [Black "Coble, Robert"]
    [BlackElo "1578"]
    [Result "0-1"]
    [ECO "B46"]
    [Annotator "Stockfish 9 64 (60s)"]
    [PlyCount "104"]
    [EventType "game (rapid)"]
    [EventCountry "USA"]

    {B46: Sicilian: Taimanov: 5 Nc3 a6}

    1. e4 c5
    2. Nc3 a6

    I played this move to avoid the typical Closed Sicilian with White Bishop on c4. White still plays this move, but it allows Black to gain a tempo. It also prepares for a potential queenside expansion with b4 at some point.

    3. Nf3 Nc6

    Played in the hope (Hope Chess?) that White would try to transpose to the normal Open Sicilian – and he did.

    4. d4 cxd4
    5. Nxd4 e6 {last book move}

    We are now in a stereotypical Taimanov Sicilian. I expected Tanush to either create a weakness on c6 or to continue development. Instead, he simply loses time.

    6. Nf3 (6. Be2 Qc7 =)
    6... Qc7

    Just developing and waiting clarification of Tanush’s plan.

  11. PART II:

    7. Bc4 {Black's piece can't move: c8} (7. Bd3 Nf6 =)

    I expected this a move earlier. Now Black begins to take the initiative. (I was amused by GM Stockfish’s assessment of my BBc8.)

    7... Na5 {Black threatens to win material: Na5xc4} (7... b5 8. Bd3 =)

    I was aware that I could expand with tempo by 7... b5, but decided to try something else, being quite happy to pursue the two Bishops.

    8. Be2 {Black is behind in developement. Black's piece can't move: c8} (8. Bd3 Nf6 =)

    GM Stockfish seems to be obsessed with the c8 Bishop. I’m quite happy with my mini-initiative, given that White has wasted two tempi so far.

    8... Bb4 (8... Nc6 9. Be3 =)

    I “saw” the possibility of getting the two Bishops.

    9. Bd2 {White has an active position} (9. Qd4 Bxc3+ 10. bxc3 Nf6 ²)

    White is responding to my ideas, rather than pursuing his own ideas. GM Stockfish cannot see this.

    9... Nc4 {Black threatens to win material: Nc4xb2} (¹ 9... Nc6 =)

    Actually, I wasn’t trying to win the b-Pawn; I am still pursuing the two Bishops. Either White exchanges on c4, I capture the d2 Bishop or White losses more time by retreating back to c1. In any event, White loses more time or allows doubled pawns on the c-file. Since I already have pieces on the c-file, I’m reasonably happy so far.

    10. a3 ?? {lets it slip away} (10. Bxc4 Qxc4 11. Ne5 =)

    Forcing me to do – exactly what I wanted to do! I would have retreated the Queen to c7 in the suggested alternative line.

    10... Nxd2 (¹ 10... Nxb2 {and Black can celebrate victory} 11. axb4 Nxd1 12. Bxd1 Ne7 °)

    Still pursuing the two Bishop strategy – and not realizing the importance of White taking control again in the center.

    11. Qxd2 (¹ 11. axb4!? Nxf3+ 12. Bxf3 °)

    Oh well, I “saw” this alternative, but misevaluated the resulting position as being at least equal.

    11... Bxc3
    12. Qxc3 Qxc3+

    Creating a permanent weakness on the c-file. Unfortunately, one weakness is not sufficient; two weaknesses are needed to really have good winning chances.

    13. bxc3 d6 {Controls e5}
    14. e5 d5 (14... dxe5 15. Nxe5 Nf6 16. Rb1 =)

    I felt like I had a slight advantage here. Yes, that pesky c8 Bishop still needs to find something useful to do.

    15. O-O (15. Nd4 Ne7 =)
    15... Ne7 {Black should quickly conclude development.} (15... Bd7 16. a4 Rc8 17. Rfb1 ³)
    16. Bd3 (16. Rfb1 Nc6 =)
    16... Bd7
    17. Rab1 (17. a4 Rc8 ³)
    17... Bc6 (17... b5 18. Nd4 ³)

    Getting that Bishop on a long diagonal, protecting b7.

    18. Ng5 {White threatens to win material: Ng5xh7} (18. a4 b5 19. axb5 Bxb5 20. Bxb5+ axb5 21. Rxb5 O-O =)

    White decides on a short-lived adventure.

    18... h6 {Black threatens to win material: h6xg5}
    19. Nf3 O-O (19... b5 20. Nd4 ³)

    I was not sure I should take the King away from the center.

    20. c4 (20. a4 a5 =)
    20... Rfd8 (20... dxc4 21. Bxc4 b5 22. Bd3 µ)
    21. cxd5 Bxd5

    White has gotten rid of the doubled c-Pawns. I’m still quite happy with my position.

  12. PART III:

    22. Rfd1 (22. Rfe1 b5 µ)
    22... Rac8 (22... b5 23. Nd2 µ)
    23. c4? (23. a4 Bc6 µ)
    23... Bc6 (¹ 23... Bxc4!? 24. Bxc4 Rxd1+ 25. Rxd1 Rxc4 26. Rd8+ Kh7 °)

    I was not considerinng tactics here, and missed this possibility. White’s Bishop sucks on its current diagonal.

    24. Be2 µ
    24... Kf8 (¹ 24... Rxd1+ 25. Rxd1 Kf8 µ)

    I started thinking about putting my King on c7, freeing my Bishop.

    25. Rb2? (25. Rd6 Ng6 ³)
    25... Ke8 {Black king safety dropped} (25... Rxd1+!? 26. Bxd1 Bxf3 27. Bxf3 Rxc4 28. g3 °)
    26. Rbd2 (26. Rxd8+!? Rxd8 27. g3 ³)
    26... Ng6

    Setting up a strong threat on e5.

    27. Rxd8+ Rxd8
    28. Rxd8+ Kxd8
    29. c5? (¹ 29. Nd4 °)

    I have no idea what this was supposed to do. I was quite happy to now have e5 and c5 as targets.

    29... Kc7 °
    30. Nd4 Nxe5

    Target 1 drops.

    31. Nxc6 (31. f4 Nd7 °)
    31... Kxc6 (31... bxc6?! 32. Bxa6 Nd7 33. Kf1 °)
    32. Kf1 (32. f4 Ng6 33. Bf3+ Kxc5 34. Bxb7 °)
    32... Kxc5

    Target 2 drops.

    33. Ke1 Nc4
    34. Bxc4 (34. a4 ° {the only chance to get some counterplay}) 34... Kxc4

    The rest of the game is a simple slaughter. I wasn’t trying to prolong the game, just trying to stay ahead on the clock. I usually have more than my fair share of time trouble, especially at short time controls.

  13. PART IV:

    35. Kd1 Kb3
    36. Kd2 (36. a4 {is not much help} 36... Kxa4 37. f3 Ka3 38. g4 b5 39. h3 b4 40. f4 b3 41. h4 b2 42. Kc2 Ka2 43. Kc3 b1=Q 44. Kd4 Qd1+ 45. Ke3 Qxg4 46. Kd4 Qxf4+ 47. Kc5 Qc7+ 48. Kd4 Kb3 49. h5 Qc3+ 50. Ke4 Qg3 51. Kd4 f5 52. Kc5 Qc7+ 53. Kd4 Qc3#)
    36... Kxa3
    37. Ke3 b5
    38. f4 (38. h3 {is no salvation} b4 39. g3 b3 40. Kd4 b2 41. Kc5 b1=Q 42. Kd6 Qb6+ 43. Ke7 Qxf2 44. g4 f5 45. gxf5 Qxf5 46. Kd7 Kb4 47. Kd6 Kb5 48. h4 h5 49. Kc7 Kc5 50. Kd8 Qf7 51. Kc8 Kc6 52. Kd8 Qd7#)
    38... b4
    39. Ke4 (39. g4 {cannot change destiny} b3 40. Kd2 b2 41. Kc2 Ka2 42. Kc3 b1=Q 43. Kd4 Ka3 44. h3 Kb4 45. Ke3 Kc3 46. f5 Qg1+ 47. Kf3 exf5 48. gxf5 Kd3 49. f6 gxf6 50. Kf4 Qe3+ 51. Kg4 f5+ 52. Kh5 Qxh3#)
    39... b3
    40. Ke5 (40. Kd3 {hardly improves anything} b2 41. Kc2 Ka2 42. f5 b1=Q+ 43. Kd2 exf5 44. Ke2 Qe4+ 45. Kf1 f4 46. Kf2 Qe3+ 47. Kf1 h5 48. h4 Ka3 49. g3 fxg3 50. Kg2 Qf2+ 51. Kh3 Qh2#)
    40... b2
    41. Kd6 (41. h4 {doesn't change the outcome of the game} b1=Q 42. Kd6 Qg6 43. g3 Qxg3 44. Ke7 Qxh4+ 45. Kf8 Qxf4 46. Ke7 e5 47. Kd6 e4+ 48. Kc5 e3 49. Kc6 e2 50. Kd7 e1=Q 51. Kc6 Qee4+ 52. Kd7 Qe6+ 53. Kd8 Qfd6#)
    41... b1=Q
    42. Ke7 (42. h3 {a fruitless try to alter the course of the game} Qf1 43. Ke7 Qxg2 44. Kd7 Qxh3 45. Ke8 e5 46. f5 Qxf5 47. Kf8 e4 48. Ke7 e3 49. Kd6 e2 50. Ke7 e1=Q+ 51. Kd6 Qee5+ 52. Kc6 Qb5+ 53. Kc7 Qfd7#)
    42... Qg6
    43. g3 (43. h3 {doesn't get the cat off the tree} Qxg2 44. h4 Qg3 45. Kf8 Qxh4 46. Kg8 Qxf4 47. Kh8 e5 48. Kxg7 e4 49. Kh8 Qg3 50. Kh7 e3 51. Kh8 e2 52. Kh7 e1=Q 53. Kh8 Qee5+ 54. Kh7 Qg6#)
    43... Kb4
    44. g4 (44. Kd8 {does not improve anything} a5 45. h3 a4 46. g4 a3 47. f5 exf5 48. h4 a2 49. h5 Qf6+ 50. Kc7 a1=Q 51. g5 hxg5 52. h6
    Qa8 53. h7 Qfc6#)
    44... a5
    45. g5 (45. h3 {does not win a prize} a4 46. h4 Qxg4 47. f5 Qxf5 48. h5 a3 49. Ke8 a2 50. Kd7 a1=Q 51. Ke8 Qa7 52. Kf8 Qh7 53. Ke8 Qh8#)
    45... hxg5
    46. fxg5 (46. f5 {does not save the day} exf5 47. h3 a4 48. h4 a3 49. h5 Qf6+ 50. Kf8 a2 51. h6 a1=Q 52. Ke8 Qa8+ 53. Kd7 Qac6#)
    46... a4
    47. h4 (47. Kd7 {is not the saving move} a3 48. Ke8 a2 49. h4 a1=Q 50. h5 Qxg5 51. Kd7 Qa7+ 52. Kc8 Qxh5 53. Kd8 Qh8#)
    47... a3
    48. h5 (48. Kd8 {cannot change what is in store for White} a2 49. h5 Qxh5 50. g6 a1=Q 51. Ke8 Qa7 52. gxf7 Qaxf7+ 53. Kd8 Qh8#)
    48... Qxh5 (48... Qxg5+ 49. Kd6 a2 50. Kd7 a1=Q 51. h6 Qa8 52. Kd6 gxh6 53. Kd7 Qgd8#)
    49. Kf8 (49. g6 {cannot undo what has already been done} fxg6 50. Kd6 a2 51. Ke7 a1=Q 52. Kd6 Qd5+ 53. Ke7 Qf6+ 54. Ke8 Qb5#)
    49... a2
    50. g6 (50. Ke7 {doesn't do any good} a1=Q 51. Kd7 Qa7+ 52. Kc6 Qxg5 53. Kd6 Qgc5#)
    50... Qxg6 (50... a1=Q 51. Kxf7 Qf6+ 52. Kg8 Qhxg6 53. Kh8 Qd8#) 51. Kg8 (51. Ke8 {doesn't change anything anymore} a1=R 52. Kd7 Ra7+ 53. Kc6 e5+ 54. Kd5 Ra5#)
    51... a1=Q
    52. Kh8 (52. Kf8 {does not solve anything} Qgf6 53. Kg8 Qa8+ 54. Kh7 Qg6#)
    52... Qa8# 0-1

    NOTE: I could see the Fritz annotation symbols inside the Word document I used for editing, but they disappeared (replaced with weird symbols - gibberish) when I pasted into Blogger. Sorry about that.

  14. I have improved in bullet play. My ATH without tricks has been 2014 (reached today).
    whithout tricks? Well, I admit I was seeking 0+1 games and challenged randomly week players. Most of them didnt accept my challenge, but some did, and the time controlls mean they started with 3 sec and only get 1 sec per move. Most games were won on time as early as on move 3. So I tricked them. Maybe the thought is is a 1+0 time control (and not 0+1).
    I reached a bit 2000 bullet rating with that trick. This isnt cheating, because it is within the legal limits. But in a way it is not honorable, is it?

    Well, without that trick, I was mainly in the 1600-1800 range. Meanwhile I keep above 1800 for some months now, and reached today 2014.

    I seems to have affected my rapid rating - I got worse in rapid. Somehow more impatient. I guess I can repair my rapid rating by making sure I am in the right mood for longer games.

    Anyway: how have I managed to become a considerably better bullet player?
    I tried to get my eye movement a bit under control. I am not trying to move my eyes less and try to see more of the board. Otherwise I am trapped to much in a tunnel-view, and dont notice fast enough when my opponent moves something not in the centre of action.
    I also managed to let go a bit, not really knowing what happens. This was hard, because when I am material up, I would like to try to convert my material advantage. But I can not afford much thinking in how to reduce material and enter the endgame. So instead I just have to be content of keep everything safe, while also player a tad more active (in longer games I am waiting for my opponent to do mistakes, but in bullet, I try to give him more problems).

    Is it helpful to overall strength? I am not sure. But master players usually have not a huge gap in their own bullet/blitz/rapid rating.
    So I thought that getting rid of my bullet weakness might trigger something in my brain.
    Compared with other expert/master players I was really a poor bullet player, and even now with my ATH of 2000, it is only acceptable, some expert/master player have such "weak" bullet rating, too. But 2000 is still a bit weak, just not completely out of the world.

    Maybe it has changed something in me. Time will tell. I try to repair my rapid rating now, and maybe (I hope) my bullet skill influences my strength in rapid games somehow. What I am hoping for is: if in time trouble, I can handle the pressure better, and I can maybe also think faster (see more tactics with less eye movements). It can happen that time gets a bit tight in rapid games.

    Here my profile (the red ban-sign is a joke of mine. It is just a picture, not really a official red ban):

    Nimzowitch's book is for strategy. And even though I think strategy is important, I think you need to implement what you have learned in your own games. That might sound funny, but a lot of people read something, and then they continue to play their usual stuff. The strategy they have just learned was interesting but it doesnt fit to their openings and usual crap play.
    So reading strategy can become useless, if you are not able to implement something of it in your own games.

    I found Nimzowitch's book a bit hard to implement in my games (oddly enough I play his Nimzo-Defense as my main weapon: 1.e4 Nc6). So for me his book wasnt so valuable, but I am aware why that is so, and thus - I repeat myself - you need to be able to gain something out of it. Try to ask yourself: "ok, and how can I test this strategy piece of advice (from Nimzowitch) in my own games?"

    I am a fan of repetition. If you have already read it, do it again: Silmans reassess your chess.
    or any other favourite book you like. Reading it again will make you remember things you somehow forgot to implement in your own games.

  15. PART I:

    Here are Lasker's "rules" in Book Two - The Theory of the Openings.

    1. Sortez les pieces - Get the pieces out.

    2. Move that one of your pieces which is in the worst plight, unless you can satisfy yourself that you can derive immediate advantage from an attack.

    3. Avoid the moves of Pawns in the Opening as far as possible.

    There are Pawn moves that are effective, for instance, such as lay hold on important points in the centre of the board or remove an obstruction; but there are very many Pawn moves that really are not effective. Distrust a Pawn move, examine carefully its balance sheet.

    4. Get the Knights into action before BOTH Bishops are developed.

    The opening moves give some indication of the general intent of each player. Aggressive attacking players will often exchange material (gambit material) for center superiority and active pieces. Defensive players will try to create an impregnable defensive structure, responding to each threat as it is created. Each of the various mainline openings provide clues as to the intention of the players. Points of pressure and lines of attack naturally develop first. As the two side maneuver, the pieces acquire various functions. All of these PoPs, LoAs, and Funs help build the tension and lead to motifs and tactical themes/devices as the game progresses.

    It is often possible to start in one mode (attacking or defending) and then switch to the opposing mode as the opening progresses. General "rules" are useful for the beginner as an orientation of "what NOT to do" but as the level of play improves, the general "rules" become less and less important. The concrete tactical considerations come to the forefront whenever the Pawns and pieces come into conflict on either points of pressure or along lines of attack.

    Each of the major classical openings has a sequence of opening "threats" and "counter threats". For example:

    1. e4 e5
    2. Nf3

    White "threatens" to capture the Black e5-Pawn, thereby creating a PoP. Black can defend it (2. ... Nc6), or counter attack (2. ... Nf6). If he defends, the BNc6 acquires a defensive Function. If he counter attacks, White has to choose whether to continue his attack by capturing the e5-Pawn, or whether to switch to defensive mode and defend his own e4-Pawn. SINGLE MOVES DO NOT TELL THE ENTIRE STORY! In either case, there is a "tit-for-tat" between the intentions and the moves of the two players which is tactically based.

    These tactical considerations can be ignored (or, more accurately, applied without realizing the tactical aspects) by using general "rules" (principles). In the specific opening sequence above, Black can apply Lasker's "rules" 1 (getting a Knight into play), 2 (avoiding d6) and 4 (developing a Knight before BOTH Bishops).

  16. PART II:

    But what does one make of the "modern" approach to the opening?

    GM Andrew Soltis, in The Art of Defense in Chess on pages vii-viii gives his very first example:

    “A relative obscure game from a relatively obscure event:”

    Khlyavin-Zhdanov, Latvian Championship 1961

    1. e4 c6 2. Nc3 d5 3. Nf3 g6 4. d4 Bg7 5. h3 a6?! 6. Bf4 Nf6?! 7. e5 Ng8 8. Qd2 b5 9. Be2 h6 10. O-O-O e6

    “It doesn’t take long to conclude that WHITE has a very strong game. He has developed nearly all of his pieces while Black’s only developed piece, his King Bishop, bites on granite. Black’s queenside is full of holes on black squares and he has just locked in his Queen Bishop. A quick mating attack is assured, you might conclude. And you would be right:

    11. g4 Nd7 12. Bg3 Bf8! 13. Rdf1 Nb6 14. Nd1 a5 15. Ne1 b4 16. Nd3 Nc4 17. Qe1 Qb6 18. b3 Qxd4! 19. bxc4 Qa1+ 20. Kd2 dxc4 21. Nf4 Qxa2 22. Ke3 Bb7 23. Qd2 g5 24. Nh5 c3 25. Qd3 Rd8 26. Qe4 Bc5+ 27. Kf3 Rd4 28. Qe3 Qd5+ and mates.

    “Yes, BLACK delivered the mate.” . . .

    “Consider for a minute the instructional books you’ve read. One group tells you how to gain the initiative in the opening. Another group explains how to convert that initiative into a solid advantage during the middlegame. The endgame books go the final step and describe how that tangible advantage is transformed into a decisive margin that forces mate or resignation.”

    “The trouble with this is two-fold: (1) For every player who has the initiative, the attack or a material advantage there is another player—his opponent—who is fighting to minimize this and turn the tables, and (2) Most chess games are not won; they are lost. That is, with precise play even a very bad game can be saved. It takes several mistakes to lose.”

    IM John Watson uses this same example in his book Secrets of Modern Chess Strategy: Advances since Nimzowitsch. He concludes with the following generalities:

    “A clever rhetorical device by Andy. One might also notice a few other features of this example which he doesn’t mention. By move 17, Black still only has ONE piece not on its original square. And it is a piece he has moved three times, whereas two other pieces he has moved twice each … back to their starting positions! Having violated every RULE in the book, what does he do then? Moves his queen out, of course, and conducts a little one-piece attack which wraps up the game.”

    “Soltis’s point is about the art of defending well, but it’s not clear that much defense was involved here. More relevant, it seems to me, was Black’s violation of classical precepts in favour of concrete structural goals.” . . .

    “A number of traditional RULES are jettisoned in seemingly casual fashion, such as: developing one’s pieces; not moving a piece twice in the opening; not making too many pawn moves in the opening (7 of the first 10 moves), and especially not flank pawns (here, advanced versus no corresponding weakness in the opponent’s position); and finally, not moving the queen out before the other pieces.”

    To paraphrase GM Mihail Suba:

    Modern chess requires a respect for the rights of the other player. There is no longer the possibility for “one player doing, the other player applauding”.

  17. Rules are formulated for a certain purpose. We must not worry about the rules, but about the underlying purpose.
    The reason why the rule is invented in the first place.

    Of course there are circumstance that a rule isn't beneficial for the purpose where it was invented for. That is not discovered by mere calculation, but by knowing the purpose.

  18. Rules tend to be inherently vague. When exactly is a piece developed? Why is a bishop on e2 considered to be developed, while it is not on f1? When do we consider a piece as active? What does it mean that a piece that overprotects a strategic point becomes enveloped in its halo? When is a square strategic?

    If you are a very positive person, you might call some descriptions of Nimzowitch "artistic". But from a pedagogical point of view it is often a disaster.

    This means that it is easy to dismiss the rules of Nimzowitch as being of not much use. I used to underestimate him too. Even gm Donner and gm Euwe tended to downplay his ideas because of this.

    But careful reading and rereading is what is really needed here. That's why it takes time to brew a new post.