Saturday, May 14, 2022

unshouldering

 

Black to move. White wins

8/8/4K3/8/4pk2/8/8/R7 b - - 1 1

White wins, no matter who has to move. If the white king was in the area with the circles, it would be a draw, no matter who has the move. If the white king was adjacent to a square with a circle, white would win if he has the move, but it would be a draw if black had to move.

g6, g7, h6, h7 form a curious bulge. That is caused by the fact that the black king shoulders away the white king. The fact that white wins when his king is on h5 (and he has the move), has to do with that white can expel the black king from his blockade with a check.

So a new technique annex transferable concept is created:

A rook can chase away a shouldering king with a check.

Friday, May 13, 2022

More concrete

 

Have a good look at the following position.

White to move wins. Black to move draws

4R3/8/7K/8/1kp5/8/8/8 w - - 0 1

Moves are low level concepts. They are mainly geometrical. We have been long on the wrong foot by giving geometrical patterns way too much attention. Geometrical patterns transfer poorly to other positions. Concepts do a much better job for transferring knowledge between positions.

What is going on in this position? What concepts can we distill from it which transfer to similar positions?

  • White wants to win by conquering the pawn without the need to give up the rook
  • Black wants to promote the pawn, thus forcing white to give up the rook
  • This is a kind of freak position, since white to move wins and black to move draws with best play. With the white king in an other position it is always a win or always a draw, no matter who is to move.
  • The same techniques apply for similar positions, if the black pieces are translated a file to the left or the right, for instance. Or a rank up or a rank down
  • White can only win the pawn when both his king and his rook attack it
  • Black can try to prevent the contact of the white king with the pawn by shouldering him away
  • Black can only draw by promoting his pawn
  • In tempo positions like these, one tempo makes the outcome of the game. Who has the first move decides the game.
  • If white makes an error, black can gain a tempo. If for instance white plays 1. Rc8, black is in time to shoulder away the white king and promote by 1. ... Kc3!

Most listed concepts are applicable to a host of endgames. The amount of concepts don't seem endless at all. What is needed is awareness of the concepts that play a role. And a clear idea what you are after and why. The real work is done by calculation. But you MUST know what you want to achieve in any endgame position. As concrete as possible! 


 


Thursday, May 12, 2022

Studying the endgame

 In the past I have invested quite some time in trying to get some aptness in treating the endgame. To little avail. Due to poor endgame books on the one hand, and to the predilection of chess authors for freak compositions on the other. I worked my way trough the endgame books of Euwe, who was quite influential in the Netherlands for apparent reasons. In his rabid zeal to be complete, I was obliged to work through nine chapters of irrelevant material, which you get probably once in a lifetime on your board. If you are lucky. Only to discover in chapter 10 some useful material. If you don't know where to start, you buy a book of a former world champion who can save you work, so I thought naively.

Showing a freak composition of Grigoriev to a beginner is like exhibiting a differential equation to someone who struggles with 3 x 6. I do not doubt it is beautiful, but way over my head. The composition, not the differential equation 😋

41% of the games end with an endgame of some sort. My games didn't. I limited myself to the other 59%, always trying to mate my opponent. Losing points when there was no mate.

My new opening repertoire is geared around the endgame. Ok, of course I try to mate my opponent, but if there is no mate, I end up in a good endgame. At least that is the plan. And so it happens every now and then that I end up in an endgame, recently. Spilling half points like there is no tomorrow.

NIC has done a great job with "100 endgames you must know". There is hardly any redundancy in the material, and the Chessable learning system is very efficient.

The tournaments I'm about to visit in July / August, have a regimen of 40 moves in 90 minutes, subsequently 30 minutes extra time + 30 seconds extra time per move from move 1. When you are in pursuit of a delusional mate that isn't there, then 30 seconds extra time per move makes no difference. But in an endgame, the difference can be huge if you don't need to think about the plan you have to follow. Thinking about plans should be limited to the study room, in the tournament hall you need skill.


Wednesday, May 11, 2022

Concept building

Transfer of knowledge from one position to another

We found that concepts are the way to transfer knowledge from one position to another. I can imagine this might sound rather vague and abstract for most of you. Let's see if we can concretise this a bit.

I have started with the study of "100 endgames you should know" from New In Chess. I studied the first 11 chapters for the first time. It took me 11 days. I feel that this is the right time to study these chapters again before doing the remaining chapters.

Endgame as perfect realm for concept building

Endgames might be the right vehicle to study concept building in depth.

The book is published on Chessable. Chessable provides an AI assisted way of spaced repetition learning. I learned 68 endings with 161 variations of 892 moves in total.

To be more precise: I learned the moves of 161 variations. With some variations I know what I'm doing, with other variations I have no idea. Moves form the lowest level of abstraction. Moves are bundled in series, which we call lines or variations. Variations are geared around a goal. Some purpose what is intended to be reached. Variations are bundled in procedures. For instance in the Luceena procedure, which is a technique to promote a pawn in a rook vs rook endgame.

Procedures are bundled in a method. With a method there arrive conditions. Conditions decide which procedure to follow to make progress. Conditions are met by the constellation on the board. Different constellations of the pieces lead to different fulfillment of the conditions. And hence to different procedures to proceed.

Hierarchical structure of concepts

And so we find a hierarchical structure in the level of abstraction of concepts. I started with the lowest: moves. I didn't bother too much about the purpose of the moves, I just learned them. I think that is the easiest way. The following step is to give every move its rightful purpose. For that I need to conceptualize the move. More about that in a following post.

Wednesday, May 04, 2022

Gathering plans

 I subscribed for two tournaments this summer. Finally. I did so two years ago, but both corona and health issues spoiled it.

I made the choices which openings to play, and I'm gathering the plans which accompany these openings. To concoct plans behind the board is very time consuming, and should be avoided whenever possible. In stead the plans must be standard plans, formulated in the study room. Only to be fine tuned behind the board. Often these plans lead to good positions. But I spill points when I try to convert these good positions into wins.

I noticed I need two kind of plans in a good position: an attacking plan and an endgame plan. Often I see that I probably can convert a good position into a good endgame, if I only had an idea how to play these endgames. I lack the standard plans.

I feel now is the right time to fill in that omission. So I started with the 100 endgames you must know from the Chessable website (New In Chess and GM de la Villa). It's very refreshing and enlightening. Later on I will add Smirnov's endgame strategy which I have studied loosely before. I have two and a half month to prepare for the tournaments.

Tuesday, April 19, 2022

Time to start

 My choice for a new repertoire seems to be fairly definite. I'm very happy with it, and have the feeling for the first time that these are the openings I want to play for the next years:

  • London system Jobava variation
  • Sicilian accelerated dragon
  • Leningrad dutch defense

You might notice that the hyper has disappeared from the accelerated dragon. At the moment I don't think that the Rossolimo is worth a special treatment in order to avoid it. But insights might change overtime.

We agreed on the following method to improve: build concepts that are transferable to different positions. So that is what I'm going to try. I score well with the London, therefore I will focus on the black repertoire. For the dragon I'm waiting for the treatise of GM Hungaski about the Maroczy, which is in the making at Chessable. So I start with the Leningrad. Base is the work of FM Michiel Abeln about the Leningrad at Chessable.

So what are the possible concepts which need a closer investigation? To name a few:

  • 1. ... f5 is designed to create an imbalance from move 1. Not quite unlike the Sicilian. In certain variations you get a Kings Indian with two tempi up, since you don't block your f pawn with Nf6 from the start.
  • 1. ... f5 is usable against all first moves of white except for 1. e4 or 1. g4
  • There are quite a few anti dutch system around, but none is played twice by the same white player. They are not dangerous, but you need to be prepared
  • the thrust e5 is a common theme for black. What needs to be worked out is the WHY behind this thrust. When is the thrust beneficial or even possible, and why is it beneficial.
  • The danger of Qb3 in combination with Ng5
  • The double attack of Qb3+ against Kg8 and b7
  • When Qb6 works against Qb3 and when not
  • Na6 or Nd7
  • not Qe8 but Qe7
  • moving Bc8 only when b7 is save
  • points of pressure b7, e6 and f7
  • wing attack when the center is secure
  • what decides on which wing to attack
  • themes of the kingside attack
  • themes of the queenside attack

Let's see what we can come up with.

Sunday, March 13, 2022

Slowly regaining my energy

 Albeit I write little lately, it doesn't mean nothing is happening, chesswise. I play every week a long game at the club, and I'm working on my black repertoire, especially with the HAD. Or even simply the AD. Since the Rossolimo variation doesn't look too dangerous, in my opinion. Maybe I'm just too dumb to see its danger. I forgot which grandmaster said that, "if it wasn't for the Maroczy Bind, most grandmasters would have the Accelerated Dragon in their repertoire." He might be right. This means that learning to play the Maroczy right, is paramount. That is not so easy as it sounds. Especially if you are accustomed to throw the kitchen sink at your opponent from move three, like me. But I like the mental attitude you need to play the Maroczy. You need a decent amount of knowledge and technique to play it well. And I noticed that most higher rated white players have no clue as well. And if they have no clue, it is easy for them to go astray without even noticing it. The consequence is that I must learn to punish them when they go astray.

So I study the Maroczy with everything I can lay my hands on. If I learn to play the Maroczy well, a whole new area of chess will appear within my abilities. What's even more important, I enjoy it very much. New ideas, new techniques, application of new (or old) endgame knowledge. But in the mean time, it is difficult to write about it. Since my mental energy is slowly returning, I might find some interesting ways to write about the openings, though. Be patient.