Tuesday, January 28, 2020

The grand scheme

There are four types of centers which are more or less stable.
Two of them comprise the two extremes:
  • The closed center, where two pawn chains are standing opposite to each other
  • The open center, where there are no pawns on the center files
And two centers that are somewhere in between:
  • The half open center
  • The pawn center, where one side has two center pawns against no pawns on the other side
Each center has its own standard positional plans.

But before you reach one of the more or less stable centers, there is a dynamic struggle going on, from which it is impossible to say beforehand which type of center is going to emerge. Yet even in this not yet crystallized situation there is a plan: conquer the center and try to get a favorable version of one of the four center types.

I have subscribed for a nine round tournament in July. So the work is cut out for me. I intend to focus the first two month on positional play. The following two months I will focus on endgames. Since with my positional approach I already start to get endgames on the board. Only in June I will have a few sessions to strengthen my new openings of choice.

And what about tactics?
I have trained during quite a few months every now and then in accordance with my newly developed training system. Due to the illness of Margriet and my mother passing away lately, the training has been very infrequent. I have tried all sorts of methods for trying to reach tactical prowess the past twenty years. For the first time I think I'm still on to something after more than half a year of training.
So until the tournament I intend to flick in half an hour tactical training per day, every day.

Language is rich. Which means that a single term can have a lot of different meanings, dependent on the context. Take for instant the term "attack". We use the same word for attacking a piece which is well defended and a piece that is B.A.D. (Barely Adequate Defended). The effect is not the same though. I hope I can express myself well enough to avoid the invention of new oddball terminology. If not, please bear with me.


  1. well, good luck for your tournament.
    Polishing tactics and going over strategy again - it will help you confidence.
    However, much more valuable is: time management!

    Move your known moves fast, dont waste time writing the date, or the round number while waiting for him to move. Instead, focus on the board. Think of 2 moves he could play. Even if he has like 10 possible moves. Think of 2 of his possible moves. If he moves one of those moves - you already spent quite some time. If you feel ready, you can reply with your move within 10 seconds (because he moved what you guessed correctly could be his move).
    But only if you feel you have thought about his move long enough. Sometimes, you start thinking about one of his possible moves only after some time, and when he moves indeed that very move, you only had a look at it for a minute or so.
    Or it is indeed complicated. Dont play fast just to play fast.
    But do try to save time. Guess his moves in advance. We all know we could use our opponents time to think about the position - but the truth is: we hardly do think on his time until we are in time trouble.

    Also a nice trick is: stand up, watch him from the distance. Where are his eyes focused on?
    Or if you have the impression he is wasting too much time, also stand up, and let him get lost in thoughts.
    Observe him from the distance - when his body language changes, this means he is ready to move. Return to the board imediatly, sit down, and think hard about the position. Put your head in both your hands and act as if you would really think hard. This occasionally makes him think you suddenly spotted something from the distance, and then his body language changes again and he gets lost in thoughts again... It is funny how often that works! Try it!

    Bottom line is: save time in the openings, dont play slow on purpose. Use his time.
    This will help you much more than polishing your tactics again.

    I recommend to read the book "chess for tiger" (again, in case you already know it).
    It is full of tips and tricks, such as what I just wrote here about changing body language.
    You can make conclusions from the age of your opponent, too, etc....

    1. I used to be a time trouble addict. Mainly because I thought about a position where I had no clue what to think about. Now the game plan is more simple, i.e. attack in the center, life has become easier, and I already start to play much faster. Since now I know when there is nothing to think about.

  2. If you have the pawn center (a la Pirc defense, or the modern) - at some moment black will strike in the center, and by tendeny it is the e7-e5 move, but you'll never know.

    I had trouble with that kind of position, until I did it that way:
    a) I did nothing. Nothing in the sense of not attacking, not going forward. Simply holding the center.
    b) you have to do a move, or your time will tick down. So I move unimportant moves. Most useful I found to shuffle my rooks. If I move my king from g1-h1, my opponent would know I am simply waiting. So that is too obvious. But rook moves, and occasionally a bishop move seem to work best.
    c) of course I always have to consider that black strikes, and what would I do then? Since I can not predict if he is going to play e7-e5 or c7-c5 - well, I do think a litte bit about it, but really - my main aim is to accumulate time, and wait until he does his strike.
    d) as Aox pointed out - if double your thinking time, you play 100 Fide elo points stronger. So if you do it like I do, you usually have a lot more time than your opponent once he does counter-strike in the center.
    So this is the secret in how to crack such hypermodern defenses: You just don't! That's the trick. You wait, and shuffle your rooks (and sometimes a piece) from right to left, and from left to right. You do your move faster than he does his.

    Try this, it is quite pleasant to play it like this with white. Risk free, and accumulating time. Later, it will get complicated - so dont burn precious time when the pawn structure can still morph into anything.

  3. PART I:

    There’s a good chapter on weak squares in IM Jeremy Silman’s excellent book How to Reassess Your Chess, Third Edition. Consider the game between Walter Michel (misspelled by Silman as “Mitchel”) and Aron Nimzowitsch. (I looked for the game on Chess Tempo but couldn’t find it in that database.) Here’s a link to the game on ChessGames.com:

    LINK: https://www.chessgames.com/perl/chessgame?gid=1549634

    Caveat: IM Silman is without a doubt a MUCH stronger player than I will ever be; I respect his prowess and proven ability to teach good chess concepts. I just don’t think he gave this position due diligence from both players perspective.

    Background info:

    IM Silman’s “thinking process” is based on the concept of “imbalances,” defined as “any difference in the two respective positions.” Identifiable differences are:

    (1) Superior minor piece (interplay between Bishops and Knights).
    (2) Pawn structure
    (3) Space
    (4) Material
    (5) Control of a key file[, diagonal,] or square
    (6) Lead in development
    (7) Initiative

    The “thinking process” stages are:

    (1) Figure out the positive and negative imbalances for both sides.
    (2) Figure out which side of the board [or in the center] you wish to play on. You can only play where a favorable imbalance or the possibility of creating a favorable imbalance exists.
    (3) Don’t calculate. Instead, dream up various fantasy positions, i.e., the positions you would most like to achieve.
    (4) Once you find a fantasy position that makes you happy, you must figure out if you can reach it. If you find that your choice was not possible to implement, you must create another dream position that is easier to achieve.
    (5) Only now do you look at the moves you wish to calculate (called candidate moves). The candidate moves are all the moves that lead to our dream position.

    First find a plan and then develop your forces around it. Never mindlessly develop and expect to find a plan at some later point in the game.

  4. PART II:

    Game Analysis:

    IM Silman’s discussion of the referenced game starts after Black’s 14th move:

    FEN: r4rk1/pp3ppp/2n1q3/8/8/P7/1P3PPP/R1BQ1RK1 w - - 0 15

    IM Silman states that this position comes from what “appears to be a hopelessly boring game that is heading for a draw.” Instead, “It is actually a fantastic illustration of a battle for one little square (revolving around the minor pieces) waged by almost every piece from both armies.”

    He breaks down the relevant aspects of the position:

    (1) Things seem pretty equal (GM Fine’s strategical components of material, pawn structure, mobility, king safety, and combinations are balanced).
    (2) There are no pawns on the center files. There are pawns on both the left and right sides of the board for both players; this type of structure usually favors White (with the Bishop).
    (3) Many pieces have already been traded off.
    (4) Only two significant imbalances exist:
    (a) Black has a temporary lead in development (2 tempi: Queen and Knight developed, Rooks connected).
    (b) White has a Bishop, and Black has a Knight.
    (5) Black’s problems are:
    (a) Prevent White from getting his Bishop to c3 (where it would dominate Black’s Knight).
    (b) Find an advanced support point for his Knight.

    What are White’s problems? Crickets.

    White then makes a “mistake” on his next move: 15. Re1?, according to IM Silman.

    What alternative plan or move(s) did White have? Crickets.

    Let’s consider what has already been uncovered for White while discussing what Black should do. White is to move – a very important consideration, because he is under no direct threat at the moment. Is it possible to improve his development immediately? Yes, the Bishop can be developed to e3 or g5. 15. e3 develops the last minor piece, clearing the first rank and connecting the Rooks. The Bishop is not subject to any tactical threat, helps control d4, and places the Black pawn on a7 under pressure. 15. Bg5 leaves the Bishop somewhat unprotected and exposed, but does help prevent Black from moving a Rook to d8. Either of the moves eliminate the potential White back rank weakness.

  5. PART III:

    I entered this position into Chess Tempo’s database game board, and gave GM Stockfish plenty of time to analyze this position. Here are the viable alternatives by score (after 3 hours running time):

    (1) 0.00 15.Qa4 Rfd8 16.Be3 Rd7 17.Rfe1 Qf5 18.Rad1 Rad8 19.Rxd7 Qxd7 20.h3 h6 21.Qb5 Kh7 22.Qb3 Kg8
    (2) 0.00 15.Bg5 Rfe8 16.Be3 Rad8 17.Qa4 a6 18.Rad1 h6 19.h3 Ne5 20.Rxd8 Rxd8 21.Rd1 Rxd1+ 22.Qxd1 Nc4 23.Bd4 f6 24.Bc3 Kf7 25.Qf3 Qc6 26.Qh5+ Kg8 27.Qe2 Nd6 28.Qe6+ Kh7 29.a4 Kg6 30.Qg4+ Kh7
    (3) 0.00 15.Be3 a6 16.h3 Rad8 17.Qc2 Nd4 18.Bxd4 Rxd4 19.Rad1 Rxd1 20.Rxd1 g6 21.Qd2 Re8 22.Qf4 Qe5 23.Qxe5 Rxe5 24.Rd7 b5 25.Rd6 Re1+ 26.Kh2 Re2 27.b4 Rxf2 28.Rxa6 Kg7 29.Ra5 Ra2 30.Kg1 h5 31.Rxb5 Rxa3 32.Rb8 Kf6 33.b5 Rb3 34.Rb6+ Ke5 35.Rb7 Ke6 36.Rb6+
    (4) 0.00 15.Qe1 Qb3 16.Qe3 Qd5 17.Qe2 Nd4 18.Qd1 Rfd8 19.Be3 Rac8 20.h3 g6 21.Rc1 Rxc1 22.Bxc1 Nb3 23.Qe2 Nxc1 24.Rxc1 Kg7 25.Rc7 Rd7 26.Rxd7 Qxd7 27.Qe5+ f6 28.Qe3 a5 29.g4 a4 30.Qe4 Kf7 31.Qc4+ Ke7 32.Kf1 Kd6 33.Qb4+ Ke6 34.Qe4+ Kf7 35.Qc4+ Ke7 36.Qg8 Qd3+ 37.Kg2 Qe4+ 38.Kh2 Qe5+ 39.Kg1 Qe1+ 40.Kg2
    (5) 0.00 15.b4 Rfd8 16.Qf3 Nd4 17.Qxb7 Rab8 18.Qxa7 Ra8 19.Qb7 Rdb8 20.Qc7 Rc8 21.Qb7
    (6) 0.00 15.h3 Rfd8 16.Qf3 Rd5 17.Be3 Rad8 18.Rfe1 Ne5 19.Qg3 Nd3 20.Re2 b6 21.Rb1 Qf5 22.Rd2 h5 23.Rbd1 Kh7 24.Qc7 R8d7 25.Qc4 Qg6 26.b4 R7d6 27.Qh4 Re6 28.Qc4 Red6
    (7) 0.00 15.Qf3 Nd4 16.Qxb7 Rfb8 17.Qc7 Rc8 18.Qb7
    (8) 0.00 15.Bd2 Rad8 16.Re1 Qg6 17.Rc1 h6 18.Qc2 Qxc2 19.Rxc2 f6 20.Bc3 Kf7 21.Rce2 Rd5 22.f3 h5 23.Kf2 Rh8 24.Re3 Rd7 25.R1e2 Ne7 26.a4 Nd5 27.Rd3 Rhd8 28.Red2 Ke6 29.Re2+ Kf7
    (9) 0.00 15.Re1 Rad8 16.Bd2 Qg6 17.Rc1 h6 18.Qc2 Qxc2 19.Rxc2 f6 20.Bc3 Kf7 21.Rce2 h5 22.f3 Rd7 23.Re4 Rc8 24.h4 Rh8 25.Kf2 Ne7 26.Bb4 Nc6

  6. PART IV:

    GM Komodo has a similar opinion:

    (1) 0.00 15.Be3 Rfd8 16.Qa4 Rd7 17.Rfe1 Qf5 18.Rac1 h6 19.h3 Rad8 20.Red1 b5 21.Qb3 Nd4 22.Bxd4 Rxd4 23.Rxd4 Rxd4 24.Qc2 Qd7 25.Re1 Rc4 26.Qe2 Rd4 27.Qe5 Kh7 28.Qc5 Rc4 29.Qe7 Rd4 30.Qc5
    (2) 0.00 15.Qa4 Rad8 16.Be3 a6 17.Rfe1 Ne5 18.Qc2 Qg4 19.Red1 Nf3+ 20.Kh1 Nh4 21.f3 Nxf3 22.Bc5 Qf4 23.gxf3 Qxf3+ 24.Kg1 Qg4+ 25.Kh1 Qf3+
    (3) 0.00 15.Bg5 Qe5 16.Qg4 Rae8 17.Rab1 Re6 18.Be3 Rg6 19.Qc4 h6 20.Rfd1 Rd6 21.Rxd6 Qxd6 22.Re1 Rd8 23.h3 Qd3 24.Qxd3 Rxd3 25.Rc1 f6 26.Kh2 a6 27.Rc2 Kf7 28.g3 Ke6 29.Kg2 Kf7 30.Rc1 Rb3 31.Rc2 Rd3
    (4) 0.00 15.b4 Rad8 16.Qe1 Qb3 17.Be3 Rd3 18.Qb1 Qxb1 19.Rfxb1 Rfd8 20.g3 g6 21.Kg2 Kg7 22.a4 R8d7 23.b5 Nd4 24.Ra2 b6 25.Bxd4+ R3xd4 26.a5 Rd2 27.Rxd2 Rxd2 28.a6 Rd5 29.Rc1 Rd7 30.Rc6 f6 31.Rc3 Kf7 32.Rc6 Ke7 33.Rc3 Kf7
    (5) 0.00 15.h3 Rad8 16.Qa4 Rd3 17.Be3 Qb3 18.Qe4 Rd7 19.Rae1 Qd5 20.Qxd5 Rxd5 21.Rc1 Rfd8 22.Rc3 f6 23.Re1 Rd3 24.Rxd3 Rxd3 25.g3 a6 26.Kg2 Kf7 27.Rc1 Rb3 28.Rc2 Rd3 29.Rc4 Rb3 30.Rc2
    (6) 0.00 15.Qf3 Rad8 16.Be3 Qb3 17.Rab1 Nd4 18.Bxd4 Qxf3 19.gxf3 Rxd4 20.Rfd1 Rfd8 21.Rxd4 Rxd4 22.Rc1 g6 23.Rc7 b5 24.Rxa7 Rd3 25.b4 Rxf3 26.Kg2 Rf5 27.Rb7 h6 28.Rd7 Kg7 29.f3 Kf6 30.Rb7 Ke6 31.Kf2 Rh5 32.Rb6+ Ke7 33.Rb7+ Ke6
    (7) 0.00 15.Qe1 Qb3 16.Qe3 Qd5 17.Qg5 Qc4 18.Be3 Qb3 19.Qf5 Rad8 20.h3 Rfe8 21.Rac1 Qxb2 22.Rb1 Qxa3 23.Rxb7 Re7 24.Qb5 Rxb7 25.Qxb7 Qd6 26.Bxa7 Nxa7 27.Qxa7 Re8 28.Qa5 g6 29.Qc3 Qe7 30.Qd4 Rd8 31.Qc3 Re8
    (8) -0.08 15.Bd2 Rad8 16.Qe1 Qb3 17.Bc3 Nd4 18.Bxd4 Rxd4 19.Qe2 Rfd8 20.Rac1 g6 21.h3 Rd2 22.Qe7 Rf8 23.Rc3 Qxb2 24.Rc7 Re2 25.Rxb7 Rxe7 26.Rxb2 Kg7 27.Rfb1 Rc8 28.g3 Re4 29.Kg2 Ra4 30.Rb3 h5 31.Ra1 h4 32.Rb4 Rc4 33.Rxc4 Rxc4 34.Rd1 hxg3
    (9) -0.10 15.Qh5 Rad8 16.Be3 Rd5 17.Qh4 Rfd8 18.Rfe1 Qd7 19.h3 f6 20.Qa4 b6 21.Rac1 Ne5 22.Qxd7 R8xd7 23.Rc8+ Kf7 24.Re2 h6 25.Rec2 g5 26.R8c7 Kg6 27.Kf1 Kf5 28.Rxd7 Rxd7 29.Ke2 h5 30.f3 h4 31.Rd2 Rxd2+ 32.Bxd2 Ke6 33.Bc3
    (10) -0.12 15.Rb1 Rad8 16.Qa4 f5 17.Be3 f4 18.Bc5 Rf5 19.Rfe1 Qf7 20.b4 f3 21.Qb3 Qxb3 22.Rxb3 b6 23.Be3 Rd7 24.Rbb1 Rd3 25.Rbc1 Ne5 26.Rc8+ Rf8 27.Rxf8+ Kxf8 28.Bf4 Ng6 29.Bg3 Rxa3 30.gxf3 Rxf3 31.Ra1 Rf7 32.Bd6+ Ke8 33.Bb8 Ne7 34.Bxa7 Nd5 35.b5 g6 36.Bb8
    (11) -0.17 15.Kh1 Rfd8 16.Qf3 Rd5 17.Bf4 Nd4 18.Qd3 Rad8 19.Rfe1 Qb6 20.b4 h6 21.Rac1 Ne6 22.Qg3 Nxf4 23.Qxf4 Rd4 24.Qe3 a5 25.bxa5 Qxa5 26.Kg1 Rd3 27.Qe4 b6 28.Rb1 R3d6 29.Qe7 Qxa3 30.Rxb6 Rd1 31.Qe5 Rxe1+ 32.Qxe1 Qc5
    (12) -0.17 15.Re1 Rad8 16.Bd2 Qf5 17.Rb1 Ne5 18.Qe2 Nd3 19.Bb4 Nxb4 20.axb4 h6 21.g3 Rd4 22.Qe7 Rd2 23.Qc5 Qg4 24.Qxa7 Qxb4 25.b3 Rfd8 26.Qe3 Qb5 27.Qf3 R2d3 28.Qe2 Qc6 29.b4 Rd2 30.Rbd1 Rxd1 31.Rxd1 Rxd1+ 32.Qxd1 Kh7 33.Qe1

    White is NOT strategically lost after the move actually played in the game!

    The moral of the story:

    White missed chances along the way. There is an ebb and flow to this game, just as Munch described it.

  7. PART IV (corrected): "Munch" should have read "Munich" - sorry about that typo!

  8. We need a simple coat rack to hang our game on. The 162 steps evaluation bible of Silman doesn't match the term simple.

    The evaluation of a dozen of books about positional play leads to the following game plan:
    - attack in the center
    - when you cannot make progress in the center anymore, switch the attack to a flank where your pieces coordinate best
    - but even then you should always keep an eye on the center

    Every rule in the book has at its the essence:
    - maximize piece activity
    - minimize piece activity of your opponent
    That way you have always a tool to evaluate whether a rule is applicable or not.

    I have a problem with Stockmodo evaluations: I'm no computer. Without an interpretation of the suggested moves, I have no idea what I'm talking about.

    Computer evaluations show that there are a lot more moves playable than a thinking system like Silmans can come up with. I don't think that is something to worry about. We need a move that is good enough. Not necessarily the best one.

    1. Silmans bible ist not bad at all. To find the imbalances while your opponent is thinking about his move is no big deal, to recall the related goals dont either. If its your move, find candidate moves according to these goals and evaluate

  9. Here's a recent game, in which I followed Munich's strategy of "doing nothing" until I gained a significant advantage. Norm and I are fairly evenly matched.

    [Event "Quick Study 65"]
    [Site "Asheboro, NC"]
    [Date "2020.01.22"]
    [White "Coble, Robert"]
    [Black "Askew, Norman"]
    [WhiteElo "1620"]
    [BlackElo "1590"]
    [ECO "D04"]
    [Round "2"]
    [Result "1-0"]

    1.Nf3 d5 2.d4 Nf6 3.e3 Bg4 4.Be2 e6 5.Nbd2 Nbd7 6.O-O Bd6 7.c4 c5 { This seems ambitious, since Black has not castled. } 8.b3 cxd4 9.Nxd4 Bxe2 10.Qxe2 O-O 11.Bb2 Rc8 12.Rfc1 a6 13.Rc2 dxc4 { "To take is a mistake" - Black wants to reduce the center tension. White gains a tempo and good placement of the Knights. } 14.Nxc4 Be7 { Better would have been 14. ... Bb8, keeping an eye on e5. } 15.Rac1 Nd5 16.a3 { Keeping the Black Knight out of b4. White has a slightly freer development. } Bg5 { Putting pressure on e3 and preventing White from playing e4. } 17.Nd6 { Shifting the Knight toward the kingside and gaining control of the c-file. } Rxc2 18.Rxc2 Qb6 19.Ne4 Bf6 20.Qc4 { Planning an invasion of the 7th rank. } Ne5 21.Nxf6+ Nxf6 { To avoid strutural damage (with the White Bishop aimed directly at it), Black allows the 7th rank invasion. } 22.Qc7 Qxc7 23.Rxc7 Rb8 { A mistake - Black should have counterattacked with 23. ... Nd3. White now has a clear advantage. } 24.Nxe6 { Tactics, tactics, tactics! } fxe6 25.Bxe5 b5 { 25. ... Rd8 (threatening a back rank mate) would gain time to protect b7 with 26. ... Rd7, either exchanging that annoying Rook or forcing it off the 7th rank. } 26.Rxg7+ Kxg7 27.Bxb8 { With Pawns on both sides of the board and the Bishop, as well as being two Pawns up in material, White is winning. } Ne4 28.Be5+ Kf7 29.a4 Nc5 30.axb5 axb5 31.b4 Nd3 32.Bd6 Kf6 { Black should have tried 32. ... e5. } 33.Kf1 e5 34.Ke2 Nb2 35.f4 { Getting the Pawns moving! } exf4 36.exf4 Ke6 37.Bc5 Nc4 38.Kf3 Kf5 39.g4+ Ke6 40.h4 Kf6 41.h5 Ke6 42.Bd4 Kd5 43.Bc3 Nd6 44.Be5 Ne4 45.g5 Nd2+ 46.Kg4 Ne4 47.g6 hxg6 48.h6 1-0

  10. Has the tournament (where you wanted to participate) already started? Or is it meanwhile over? How was it? And did you get into time trouble?
    There is something I forgot to mention: 5 minutes of bad concentration, and you might lose the game. So drink your tea/coffee/whatever.
    I usually like to drink a cola, and maybe some sweets, but everybody has his own way of getting energy. I have seen top-GMs also drinking juices or tea during their games.

    1. The tournament is in July. So I have some time for preparation.