Friday, January 08, 2021

Finally some answers

 After almost 3 weeks of terrible back ache, matters finally are getting a bit better.

I saw a lot of issues coming along in the comments. I realized that we might be able to formulate a lot of answers to some longstanding questions. Like:

  • Why did FM Stoyko gain 100 rating points per exercise while we do not?
  • Why must we study master games?
  • How should we perform such study?
  • How to perform deliberate practise?
  • What's the difference between old and new patterns?
  • Why is it so difficult to get any further once you plateau?
Robert gathered a whole lot of information. As far as I can see, all the answers to the above questions came along. I couldn't formulate it because I could only lie on by back in one position, the past weeks. Now I physically make a bit progress, lately, I will give it a try.


  1. Glad to hear your back is getting better!

    I'm looking forward to your elaboration of these issues!

    As always, I caveat anything and everything I put into my comments: the sources from which I draw information deserve all the credit; I am merely a rolling stone which managed to gather some moss.

  2. Sorry about the back problems Tempo and good luck in the recovery. Did you spend your time imagining a chessboard on the ceiling like in The Queen's Gambit? --mfardal

    1. Non events become big events with a sour back. When the central heating goes out, it usually takes me 10 minutes to get it back up and running again. Now it took me three days. So life mainly consists of trying to make big events non events again.

  3. PART I:

    I solved this problem last night. It's Exercise 89, Fundamental Chess Tactics by Antonio Gude. It's a good illustration of applying PoPLoAFun. At least it’s MY way of applying it; your method may be different.

    I found the game in which the position occurred on

    LINK: ””


    [Event "New York"]
    [Site "New York, NY USA"]
    [Date "1977.??.??"]
    [EventDate "?"]
    [Round "?"]
    [Result "1-0"]
    [White "Heikki Westerinen"]
    [Black "Gudmundur Sigurjonsson"]
    [ECO "B96"]
    [WhiteElo "?"]
    [BlackElo "?"]
    [PlyCount "63"]

    1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 d6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 Nf6 5. Nc3 a6 6. Bg5 e6
    7. f4 b5 8. e5 dxe5 9. fxe5 Qc7 10. Qe2 Nfd7 11. O-O-O Bb7
    12. Qg4 Qxe5 13. Be2 Bc5 14. Rhf1 Bxd4 15. Rxd4 O-O 16. Rd3 f5
    17. Qh4 b4 18. Qxb4 Bxg2 19. Rg1 Be4 20. Nxe4 fxe4 21. Rdg3
    Nc6 22. Qb7 Rab8 23. Qxd7 Qxb2+ 24. Kd1 Nd4 25. Qxg7+ Kxg7
    26. Bd8+ Kh8 27. Rg8+ Rxg8 28. Bf6+ Rg7 29. Bxg7+ Kg8
    30. Bxd4+ Kf7 31. Rf1+ Ke7 32. Bxb2 1-0

    The problem position arises after Black’s 24th move:

  4. PART II:

    FEN: "1r3rk1/3Q2pp/p3p3/6B1/3np3/6R1/PqP1B2P/3K2R1 w - - 2 25"

    White is to move.

    White has a Bishop (and the two Bishops) for 2 Pawns which are doubled.

    Gude notes: “Both kings are in jeopardy, but White’s pressure on the g-file proves decisive.

    The problem is NOT about pawn promotion. It could be about checkmate or material gain, but the “clue” given is ambiguous. Since White’s King is in jeopardy, White must use a forcing sequence of moves (the Attack Motif). Given the line-moving pieces, the Geometrical Motif is also likely to play a role.

    I started by looking for the most obvious point of pressure for White. Since Gude explicitly identifies the g-file as being the source of decisive pressure, g7 is the most obvious PoP. Capturing with the White Queen on g7 seems obvious as the first thing to look at. It forces a recapture by the Black King, and denudes the kingside simultaneously. So, at first glance, let’s try 1. Qxg7+ Kxg7 (forced).

    I drew out the lines of attack of the remaining White pieces: WBg5 has two diagonals c1-h6 and h4-d8. Wbe2 has two diagonals f1-a6 and e2-h5, followed by h5-e8 (if it is moved to h5). The two Rooks can continue an attack along the g-file, or on the h-file or the f-file, depending on what is needed.

    A most important consideration for checkmate is HOW to keep the Black King “inside the box.” The two Bishops can control the diagonals h4-d8 and h5-e8, along with the action of the two Rooks, either along the g-file, h-file or f-file.

    The overriding follow-up question will be where to launch the discovered check by the Bishop on g5. Simply retreating to c1 and then capturing the Black Queen does not seem like a good idea; Black can recapture, regaining a one-Pawn material advantage and the attack on the King is gone. 2. Bc1+ Kf7 (or Kh8) 3. Bxb2 Rxb2 and White has lost both his material advantage and kingside attack.

    I first looked at 2. Bh6++ (double check); 2. … Kxh6?? 3. Rh3# means the Bishop cannot be captured. Unfortunately, Black can simply run away with 2. … Kf7. Now a check with 3. Bh5+ Ke7 simply puts the King outside the “box” and in safety, because the White dark-squared Bishop no longer prevents his escape. So, that means I would like to keep the White dark-squared Bishop on the h4-d8 diagonal. Perhaps 2. Bf6++ works? No, the Black King captures with 2. … Kxf6 and (again) he is out of the “box.” 2. Be7+ allows the Black King to attack the Bishop with 2. … Kf7, escaping from the “box” again with gain of tempo via e8. After 3. Bh4 Ke8, the Black King has escaped to safety again.

    By process of elimination, the apparently best move is 2. Bd8+. The h4-d8 diagonal remains off-limits, and if the Black King tries to escape with 2. … Kf7??, then 3. Bh5#. That possibility means that the Black King must retreat to h8, staying in the “box” and IMMOBILE. That certainly looks promising!

    How to follow up? Checking on f6 with 3. Bf6?? allows 3. … Rxf6 and the attack ends, so there must be another way of taking advantage of that immobile Black King on h8.

    AHA! 3. Rg8+ forces the BRf8 to allow the check on f6 after 3. … Rxg8 (forced). Now 4. Bf6+ forces the Black Rook to g7 via 4. … Rg7 (forced). White can now capture on g7 WITH CHECK: 5. Bxg7+ Kg8 (forced).

    AHA #2! Now White can give a discovered check, capturing a piece AND threatening the Black Queen, all with one move: 6. Bxd4+ Kf7 7. Bxb2 and White is winning.

    There’s no immediate checkmate, so the problem was actually about using attacks on the Black King to limit his movement until simplification could win more material.

  5. Here's a "problem position" and associated game from Chess for Zebras: Thinking differently about Black and White by GM Jonathan Rowson, pp. 48-50, but without GM Rowson's commentary or game notations.

    FEN: 1r2r1k1/1pqn1pbp/p2p1np1/P1pP4/4P3/2N1B2P/1PQ1BPP1/R4RK1 b - - 0 16

    Form a general opinion (taking the “vulture’s eye view”) of the position.

    Which side is better?

    Is 16. … c4 a good idea for Black?

    If it is NOT a good idea, WHY is it not a good idea?

    This is where PoPLoAFun can help. c4 is B.A.D. after the Pawn move. White can easily add an additional attacker, but it is not readily apparent how an additional defender can be added. (Defending with either Black Rook just allows White to capture the c-Pawn with the White Bishop.) Black ( a 2000-rated player) ASSUMED that he would be able to play “tit-for-tat” by capturing the a-Pawn after 17. Ra4 Nc5 (attacking the Rook) 18. Rxc4 (capturing the Pawn and pinning the Knight) Qxa5 (regaining his material).

    What was the result of assuming quiescence and stopping his analysis at this point?

    Epp-Theil, Boyleston Chess Club rapidplay, Boston 2002

    1. Nf3 Nf6 2. c4 g6 3. Nc3 Bg7 4. d4 c5 5. d5 e6 6. e4 exd5 7. cxd5 d6 8. Be2 O-O 9. O-O Bg4 10. h3 Bxf3 11. Bxf3 a6 12. a4 Nbd7 13. Be3 Re8 14. Qc2 Rb8 15. Be2 Qc7 16. a5 c4 17. Ra4 Nc5 18. Rxc4 Qxa5 19. b4 Black resigns

    Just to show that even masters have played into this position:

    Additional games (Chess Tempo):

    Fradkin, Boris (2375) vs Parkanyi, Attila (2275)
    Date: 1990
    Event: Zalakaros, Zalakaros
    Round: 1
    Result: 1-0
    Opening: Indian Game, Queen's Pawn Opening (E00)
    1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. Nc3 c5 4. d5 exd5 5. cxd5 d6 6. Nf3 g6 7. Bf4 Bg7 8. Qa4+ Bd7 9. Qb3 Qc7 10. e4 O-O 11. Be2 a6 12. a4 Nh5 13. Be3 Bg4 14. h3 Bxf3 15. Bxf3 Nf6 16. O-O Nbd7 17. Be2 Rfe8 18. Qc2 Rab8 19. a5 Ra8 20. Ra4 Rac8 21. Bf4 Ne5 22. Bg3 g5 23. Nd1 Ng6 24. Ne3 Nd7 25. Bg4 Rcd8 26. Bxd7 Qxd7 27. Nf5 Be5 28. Ra3 Kh8 29. Bxe5+ Rxe5 30. f3 f6 31. Rd1 Rf8 32. Rb3 Ne7 33. Ne3 Nc8 34. Qc3 h5 35. Rf1 Rf7 36. f4 gxf4 37. Rxf4 Rg7 38. Nf5 Rg5 39. Qf3 Qh7 40. Ne3 Rg8 41. Rxf6 Rxe4 42. Rxb7 Re7 43. Rxe7 Nxe7 44. Rxd6 h4 45. Qf6+ Rg7 46. Rd8+ Ng8 47. Nf5 1-0

    Watanabe, Akira (2374) vs Espinosa Flores, Rafael Emilio (2406)
    Date: 2000-12-18
    Event: XIII Carlos Torre Open, Merida MEX
    Round: 5
    Result: 1-0
    Opening: Benoni Defense, Classical Variation, Traditional Variation (A72)
    1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 c5 3. d5 e6 4. Nc3 exd5 5. cxd5 d6 6. e4 g6 7. Nf3 Bg7 8. Be2 a6 9. a4 Bg4 10. O-O Bxf3 11. Bxf3 O-O 12. Bf4 Ne8 13. Qb3 Qc7 14. a5 Nd7 15. Be3 Rb8 16. Be2 Nef6 17. Qc2 Rfe8 18. h3 Re7 19. Ra4 Rbe8 20. Rd1 h6 21. Bf1 Nf8 22. g3 N8h7 23. Bg2 h5 24. Nb1 Nd7 25. Nd2 Qd8 26. Nc4 Ne5 27. Nxe5 Bxe5 28. f4 Bg7 29. e5 h4 30. g4 dxe5 31. f5 e4 32. fxg6 fxg6 33. d6 Rd7 34. Qxc5 Re5 35. Qb6 Qe8 36. Qb3+ Qe6 37. Qxe6+ Rxe6 38. Bf4 g5 39. Bh2 Nf6 40. Rc4 Bf8 41. Rc7 Rd8 42. d7 Bb4 43. Bf1 Re7 44. Rxb7 Bc5+ 45. Kg2 Rdxd7 46. Rdxd7 Nxd7 47. Bxa6 e3 48. Bc4+ Kf8 49. Kf1 Re4 50. Bd3 e2+ 51. Bxe2 Nf6 52. b4 Bxb4 53. Rxb4 1-0

  6. PART I:

    Here’s another problem from Test Your Chess IQ: Master Challenge, Problem 351.

    FEN: 3r2k1/pp3ppp/2n3q1/2p1pb2/2P5/BPQ1P3/P4PPP/R2B2K1 b - - 2 18

    Black is to move.

    No Pawn promotion is possible. There are no hanging piece targets. This position is likely to be about checkmate. That conclusion is tentative, because (at the moment) Black does not appear to have the superiority against the White King [1:2]. The only potential White piece kind of supporting the King is the WBd1, which restricts the capability of the WRa1 to shift to the kingside; both the Wba3 and WRa1 seem to be out of play, which takes time. That can give a RELATIVE superiority (which is all that is needed for success), especially since Black enjoys more space and greater freedom of movement. Black currently contests the open d-file with the BRd8, which may be important either with a rook lift to Black’s 3rd rank via d6 and then either f6, g6 or h6, and can also be used as a means to eliminate the WBd1 from the defense if needed. The WQc3 might be able to get over to the kingside, but it will take some time to get to or clear a path. Black must always keep in mind that his own back rank MIGHT be a little weak in some lines, so the ATTACK MOTIF is paramount.

    The first move seems obvious: 18. … Bh3, threatening mate. White is forced to reply 19. g3; trying to run away is fatal (19.Kf1 Qxg2+ 20.Ke2 [20. Ke1 Qf1#] Bg4+ 21.Ke1 Qg1#). This creates a new weakness on f3 – and the White King is in the box, with only the possibility of moving to h1! This will prove to be insufficient IFF Black can gain access to f2, f3 or g2. However, there are still some obstacles to overcome.

    My first attempt was to remove the WBd1 with check 19. … Rxd1 20. Rxd1 and then attack both f3 and d1 (LPDO!) with 20. … Qh4, planning to invade via f3. Unfortunately, White can simply ignore the threat with 21. Qd2! (threatening the Black back rank) 21. … h6 (perhaps) 22. f4 and White is out of the woods. An alternative is to toss the f-Pawn with 21. f3 Qxf3 22. Qd2! (threatening that weak Black back rank), protecting WRd1 and preventing mate on the g2-square. (I “knew” that the solution could not be that obvious!)

  7. PART II:

    The second attempt was to try to get to f3 via a different route: 18. … Bh3 19. g3 Qe4, threatening mate on g2. Unfortunately, that is easily blocked by 20. f3. It would be nice (CLUE!) if the Black Queen could capture with check on e3, but the White Queen protects e3. Black must retreat the Queen, losing the opportunity to try for mate. BUMMER! But we are NOT giving up on trying to figure out the solution!

    Hey! There’s a thought: attack the defender with another piece, thereby removing the defender! Instead of rushing to get to g2, attack the White Queen, forcing it away from the defense of e3. So, 19. … Rd3 20. Qc2, in essence “pinning” the Rook to the Black Queen. That piece arrangement has similarities to the Neiman “swing door” tactical device/THEME. As a result, e3 would no longer be protected. 20. … Qe4 now threatens g2, forcing White to play 21. f3 to block the mate threat, while simultaneously opening the 2nd rank for the White Queen to defend g2. The White Queen now has a FUNCTION to perform. The WBd1 must protect the Queen AND the f3-Pawn, and is thus overloaded with TWO FUNCTIONS – REMOVE IT WITH CHECK! After 21. … Rxd1+ White is forced to recapture with the White Queen (22. Rxd1?? Qxc2) – 22. Qxd1, leaving g2 unprotected. The path to g2 is via e3 and f2: 22. … Qxe3+ 23. Kh1 (forced) 23. … Qf2 and White has run out of options. The Black Queen is attacking g2 and f3, and the White Queen has no safe square from which to defend both squares; e2 and f1 are controlled by Black. 24. Qg1 Qxf3+ 25. Qg2 Qxg2#

    GM Averbakh saw “the handwriting on the wall” after Bh3 19. g3 Rd3 20. Qc2 Qe4 21. f3 Rxd1+ and resigned.

    This is the first time I intuited the existence of the “swing door” tactical device/THEME during the analysis of a position. It does not take the “pure” form, but is similar enough to enable the pattern recognition mechanism somewhere in the RCCM.

    I have no idea how much time I spilled working out the solution. I started trying to solve it right before turning out the lights to go to bed last night. I laid there with the position in my mind, and couldn't let go of it until I figured out all the variations. I think this illustrates an important point for improvement. Too often, I get frustrated because I can't "SEE" the solution quickly, and so I just look up the solution, rather than working it out completely myself. I may have a reasonably good idea of some of the required moves and variations, but I don't work until I can clearly "SEE" everything. I was determined to stop doing that with this problem. It also is a big confidence booster to know that I CAN do it if I put my mind to it. By taking this mindset and making it into a habit, the long amount of time it took to work it all out is irrelevant.

    Perhaps this is how FM Stoyko could gain 100 rating points, by following a similar "process" - not a step-by-step "thinking process" but nonetheless, a "process" or more accurately, an attitude.

    GAME (Chess Tempo)

    Averbakh, Yuri L (2550) vs Kholmov, Ratmir D (2560)
    Date: 1970-12
    Event: Riga ch-URS, Riga URS ch
    Round: 16
    Result: 0-1
    Opening: Nimzo-Indian Defense, Classical Variation (E32)
    1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. Nc3 Bb4 4. Qc2 d6 5. e3 O-O 6. Bd3 c5 7. dxc5 dxc5 8. Nf3 Nc6 9. O-O Bxc3 10. Qxc3 e5 11. Nd2 Qe7 12. Ne4 Bf5 13. Nxf6+ Qxf6 14. Be2 Rad8 15. b3 Qg6 16. Rd1 Rxd1+ 17. Bxd1 Rd8 18. Ba3 Bh3 19. g3 Rd3 20. Qc2 Qe4 21. f3 Rxd1+