Saturday, December 31, 2022

Pivotal points

In the beginning, there can be only one goal 

From the start position, there can be only one goal. Attack the King! For the simple reason, that there is no other weak target in the enemy camp that is slow enough and vulnerable enough to go for.

In order to attack the King, you must create the LoA's towards the focal points near the King, and towards the defenders of those LoA's (lines of attack).

Where are the focal points

There are three places where the King can be, in the middle, castled kingside and castled queenside. This means, that your attackers must be flexible. Chess is a game of multi purpose moves. If you fulfil two goals with one move, and the enemy can only defend against one with his next move, you are making progress.

Creating a landscape of pivotal points

In the opening and the middlegame, you work on creating the LoA's. You have to have a plan for every piece. How is your rook on a1 going to participate in the attack? Do you need a rooklift via a3-g3 towards the focal point g7? Or should it go via the pivotal points d1-d3-g3-g7?

The pawn landscape

The pawns determine which lines of attack are open, which remain closed and where the outposts are. They determine the pivotal points where your attackers can turn their face towards the focal points near the enemy King or to the defenders of those focal points.

Contribution to the LoA landscape

There are a lot of positional concepts that are rather vague.

  • Piece activity
  • Mobility
  • Central occupation
  • Outpost
  • Rook on open file
  • Good and bad bishops
  • Break through
  • Space advantage
When you ask yourself "how does it contribute to the line of attacks against the King?" you have a concrete way to value these concepts. All these positional concept are playing a role in the battle of the lines of attack. Space advantage is for manoeuvring your attackers towards the king. So now you can judge when a space advantage is useful and when it is not. Which files should you open for your rooks? The files that lead to the focal points. Where to put your pawns in the center? On places where they leave the lines of attack open, where the protect the pivotal points et cetera.
The contribution of a move to building a LoA landscape is a concrete way to judge the value of that very move.

Of course you need to develop a sense for the patterns that accompany the LoA landscape first.

Elastic moves
Since you are not alone on the board, you must learn to play flexible moves. Dual purpose moves. As I said, only via dual purpose moves, you can hope for an advantage. They have their own distinguished patterns, and you can't find problem sets with them, so you will have to find them yourselves.

Pump up the pressure
By pumping up the pressure, a few different things can happen.
  • the King feels obliged to leave the middle of the board in order to escape the pressure. That is already a success in itself, since a castled King cannot escape the coming onslaught anymore by castling.
  • defenders become tight down by the things they must defend. That is where tactics might start to manifest.
  • pawn moves are provoked because lines of attack must be closed. But pawn moves leave weak squares in their wake. Which might open up new points of pressure.
  • Mate might threaten. Which can cause the opponent to lose wood in order to prevent it.
  • You might be able to convert to a favourable endgame at will. Notice that you must only be able to get a favourable endgame, but you must be able to do so with enough time on the clock to play that very endgame.
At this stage of the game, other weaknesses might appear. Only here other goals might be created by force. If these goals are worth to pursue, this is the place to change the course of your actions.

And of course, if you have given too little thought to the lines of attack of your opponent, he might start a counter attack here.

Preconditions
So far, your moves will have shown little commitment. Only when all preconditions of an attack are met, you can consider more committal moves, like sacrifices and all that. But If you can do without, it is even better.

I intend a series of posts about the Art of Attack in Chess. Since it is totally clear this is the way to go for me. Vukovic points especially towards the games of Alekhine and Capablanca as grandmasters who carried out their attacks from move one, this way. Alekhine in an analytical way, and Capablanca as a more intuitive and creative player. I look forward to it!


Sunday, December 25, 2022

Now the dust starts to settle

 Now the dust starts to settle I can describe the way to acquire tactical skill in the most simple way:

Learn the 50 most frequent tactical motifs (mates, tactics and preliminary moves) by heart. No matter the method.

For instance:

  • use ChessTempo
  • select batches of max 30 problems per motif
  • repeat them until you know them by heart. Typically at least 20 times per motif
  • do it slow by using system 2. Speed is for testing system 1, not for learning. Say at least 3 minutes per repetition. Let chess logic (system 2) be your guide.
  • select the problems that are 5 ply deep
30 x 50 x 20 x 3 = 90,000 minutes = 1,500 hours is needed for a complete tactical overhaul, but you can focus on the most frequent motifs 

That will cost you 30 x 32 x 20 x 3 = 57,600 minutes = 960 hours which covers 80% of the most frequent tactics that occur in real games. We already knew that TINSTAAFL, but with 3 hours per day you can outplay anyone tactically within a year. So that is a work in progress.

When you plug the tactical holes in your bucket, the other holes start to leak more.

For instance in my opening repertoire. I plugged two of the three holes. The London Jobava system, and as back up the Colle Zukertort work very well with white, as does my recently adopted French defense with black. Apparently nobody below 2000 seems to have a clue when they play against the French with white.

I adopted the classical Dutch with black, for the very reason that it starts with 1.d4 e6, thus inviting white to the French defense, But if  they don't accept the challenge, I am forced to play the Dutch defense. It is a good defense, but everyone tries to avoid it with an obscure gambit with an early e4 or  g4. These gambits aren't great, but black needs a thorough theoretical preparation to parry them. And at this moment, I'm not willing to invest time in that.

So I'm looking for other ways to plug this hole with less effort. At the moment I'm looking at a repertoire based on the Bogo Indian by GM Elizabeth Paehtz which starts with 1. ... e6 2. ... Bb4+ (delaying Nf6). I hope that I can learn this without too much time investment in order to get rid of those pesky early gambits against the Dutch defense.

What I really want to invest my time and energy in is the middlegame. The Art of Attack in Chess is a great extension of my LoA landscape idea. The middlegame (and the opening!) is about building a suitable LoA landscape. Finally, I can bring my usual logic to the game!

Another hole is endgame strategy. I decided not to plug it for now, since it will cost me one to two years to do so. I want to absorb the middlegame patterns to the bone first. Since it is not sufficient to get a winning endgame on the board. You need enough time on the clock to play it. So matters don't begin with the endgame, as Capablanca said. They start with the middlegame.

Merry Christmas!


Monday, December 12, 2022

Logic AFTER The Vulture's Eye

 Robert said:

"Only when we have identified the PoPs, filtered them, and identified the various lines of attack to those PoPs, then we can begin figuring out the FUNctions that each attacker/defender plays and then how those roles can be modified to our advantage. Our intuition (System 1) guides us through the process so that we focus on the SALIENT features, ignoring everything else (at least initially).

I think of it as “drilling down” into the details from the vulture’s eye view, using the PoPs, LoAs and FUNs to guide me as to where to bury the beak and claws."

I propose another approach. The PoPLoAFun method emerged from analyzing puzzles. Where you have no prior knowledge of how the game went. In this situation, you need the vulture's eye to lead you to the salient points.

But when you conduct a game, things are different. Especially when you use the approach I derived from the AoA. There is only one target at the beginning of the game. The King.

It is logical to go after the King from the get go. Create lines of attack (LoA) with the King as target, add attackers and create pressure (PoP).

Under pressure, the enemy has to commit his pieces to the defense (Fun). If you use chess logic that revolves around the line of attack, the points of pressure and the functions, different things can happen. You can mate his King, if you are lucky. But if not, he might commit his pieces a bit too much. If he does too much concessions, tactical combinations may arise. Maybe you can gain some wood, promote a pawn or convert to a favorable endgame. All these parts of the game we must master. But it begins with the King hunt.

Logic vs the vultures eye

GM Larsen showed me once the power of chess logic. Although I wasn't happy at the time, it showed me the power of chess logic (system 2) as guide for system 1. When my system 2 said to my system 1 "find me a positional move", system 1 occupied itself with looking for one for hours. But only after system 2 said "find me a tactical combination" system 1 came back with it in seconds. System 1 doesn't take the initiative. It assists system 2 in stead.

It is not a matter of logic versus the vultures eye. It is a matter of logic after the vultures eye. And only in the unnatural situation of a chess puzzle.

During a chess game where you use your chess logic to put the opponents King under pressure, no PoP or LoA or Fun will emerge without you knowing it. After all, they are the result of your chess logic. You don't need that moment of zen where the vulture shrieks high up in the air spiralling round in circles.

That way I interpreted what Carlsen said when he said "I'm terrible at solving chess puzzles". He is good at chess logic, but bad at the vultures eye. Searching for salient cues without no preliminary logic.

Have a new look at the previous post. Imagine that it is your game, and that you already know what is going on. There are no points of pressure, lines of attack or functions that aren't the result of you giving birth of them. And then read again the things that I said about pruning the tree of analysis.

That is how I want to use the Art of Attack in Chess. The area of the chess logic around the lines of attack isn't very vast or broad. Although it might be subtle sometimes. That chess logic I want to absorb.

You don't need the vulture's eye in games when you master the chess logic around PoPLoAFun. Or at least: put more effort in chess logic than in the vulture's eye.



Sunday, December 11, 2022

The LoA landscape

 In order to attack the enemy King, we must learn to SEE the LoA landscape (lines of attack).

A mate is most of the time delivered by a Queen, on a square nearby the enemy King. Assisted by a piece of some sort.

The square on which the Queen delivers mate, is called the focal point. Let's not be bothered by semantics, I like the term, and it is more commonly known than PoP (point of pressure).

From the focal point we trace back to the attackers, which delivers us the LoA's. A LoA is the line of attack from attacker to the focal point. It consists of ranks, files, diagonals and crooked lines (for the knight). The LoA can contain pivotal points, where the line of attack changes from direction. We need to know how many attackers can be added to the attack, and how many tempi they need to reach the focal point.

Further we need to SEE what de defenders are. The defenders can interfere with the LoA's or the focal point.

Diagram 1. White to move


r3r1k1/1qp1bppp/p2pb3/1p5N/4P3/P2Q3P/1PP2PP1/R1BR2K1 w - - 0 1 

The focal point is g7.

The first question is: if black was not allowed to move, how many tempi would it take white to mate? The answer is two tempi. 1.Qg3 . . . 2. Qg7# or 1.Qc3 . . . 2. Qg7# or 1.Qd4 . . . 2. Qg7#

Let us let have a look at the relevant LoA's.

Diagram 2. Showing the LoA's


We talked a lot about postponement moves in the past. Moves that postponed the mate, but didn't alter the final outcome. They usually come in series of two plies at the time (action and reaction).

It is easy to see, that we only need to worry about defenders that can interfere with the LoA's. If black moves with the rook to Rb7, it doesn't have an effect on the LoA's. So we can happily prune the tree of analysis by ignoring the rook on a8. All moves that are irrelevant to the LoA's can be ignored (unless they can threaten our King). Can you SEE how this prunes the tree of analysis?

Which defenders can interfere with the LoA's? I reckon the focal point to be a part of the LoA's:

  • Bf8
  • Bf6
  • Bg5
  • Kg8
  • f6
  • g6
  • g5
  • Bg4


A move like Bg4 is a typical postponement move. 
1.Qg3 Bg4 2.Qxg4 has no effect on the final result.
The reason that Bg4 is such a feeble move, is that the light squared bishop acts alone. If you have a look at the LoA's, you can SEE that there are already defenders that interfere with the LoA's ON THIS VERY MOMENT.

  • f7
  • g7
  • h7
  • Be7
  • Be6
already cover a square on one or more LoA's. We must look for two defenders that both cover the same squares of a LoA. Which squares are we talking about?
  • f7 is covered by Be7 and g7
  • g6 is covered by f7 and h7
  • g7 is covered by the King and potentially the dark squared bishop
We only have to worry about these squares and their defenders. Can you SEE how this prunes the tree of analysis?

The next question is: how can we UNDERMINE the defenders of these squares?

The global answer is: by adding attackers. We can add Bc1 and Rd1 to the equation. Can you help to finish the story?

To be continued. . .

UPDATE Dec 13th
To gather more information about the scenarios that play a role in the realm of the lines of attack, we must have a closer look at how the defenders can interfere with the LoA's. We can do that best by having a separate look at the two LoA's that involve the queen.

Blockading the LoA with a protected piece

Diagram 3.  White to move. Protected pawn blocks the g-file

Diagram 4. White to move. Protected pawn blocks the g-file

Adding defender to a piece that already blocks the LoA

Diagram 5. White to move. Black added a defender to g7


Now let us investigate the other line of attack of the Queen.

Diagram 6. White to move. f6 blocks the LoA and is double protected


Diagram 7. White to move. Black added a defender to g7

As you can see, g7 plays a crucial role in blockading both lines of attack. You need the knight and the Queen for to deliver mate. So you must look for other attackers to undermine g7.

Diagram 8. Black to move after 1. Bh6. Underminding the defender g7

The most dangerous answer of black that must be investigated first, is taking with the g pawn on h6. If you don't know how to follow up, you are basically lost with a piece less. 

To be continued. . .

UPDATE Dec 14th
As you can see, after 1.Bh6 gxh6 black has created a new defensive square on g5. The defense against the LoA along the g-file is reinforced, but the defense of the diagonal c3-g7 is weakened.

Diagram 9. White to move. 

After 1.Bh6 gxh6 2.Qc3 you notice that the f6 square is weakened. If f6 is played, it denies the bishop access to g5, so the g-file is open again.

Diagram 10. Black to move

The only thing black can do now is to sacrifice Be6 on the LoA , and after 4. ... Bg4 5. Qxg4+ black has created an escape square on e6 for his King with tempo at the cost of his bishop.

Can you see how all logic revolves around the lines of attack? Can you see how this prunes the tree of analysis, making it more manageable and calculatable?

This is the way I'm going to analyse the positions in the Art of Attack in Chess. Thus hopefully absorbing the chess patterns that belong to the "LoA-Logic".

Saturday, December 10, 2022

Attack!

 In the start position, only one piece is vulnerable: the King. For the simple reason that the King is vulnerable by default. It is the only target in the start position.

It is reasonable to go after the King's throat from move one. That is what the Art of Attack is about. Of course, an attack might provoke your opponent to create other weaknesses. Other targets may arise. The natural secondary targets are the pawns. When there are pawns that are vulnerable, it might be easier to go after them at the moment that the King hunt peters out.

After having acquired a few tactical skills, the next step is to apply them for a King hunt. The Art of the Attack provides a guide for this.

I lack a gene for art, so I don't know about the art part, but the system that Vukovic provides for the kill, has a lot of resemblances with the PoPLoAFun system. His focal point is the same as my PoP (point of pressure). Vukovic does his theory no favor with a somewhat complex nomenclature. But his focal point is my PoP and his auxiliary point is my pivotal point. Let us not be distracted by semantics.

The PoPLoAFun system is developed with tactical chess puzzles in mind. The AoA (Art of Attack) is about creating the LoA landscape (lines of attack). How to create the right open lines and diagonals towards the King and how to dominate them. Hunting the King is a much broader application than just solving a puzzle. It is basically a guide for the opening and the middlegame. Just what I was looking for. I'm very excited! Finally everything falls in the right place.




Thursday, December 08, 2022

Game 2

 


  1. Game 2:

    Overall question: At what point(s) did you feel like you had no plan or even an idea of how to proceed? After move 57. It were the last 5 minutes and I didn't need to write the moves anymore. I totally outplayed him in 5 hours. This is what Stockfish thinks:


  2. But since I had to THINK in order to come up with a PLAN, I used too much time, allowed his king to walk towards his pawns, let him conquer mine and let him shove his pawns towards promotion. When he promoted, I gave up in disgust. 

    Please note: my comments are based on my impressions and may be totally off the mark. It is virtually impossible to get inside someone else’s head regarding their thoughts during a game. It’s sometimes difficult for me to even figure out what’s going on inside my own head!

    [Event "Computer chess game"]
    [Site "STUDIE-PC"]
    [Date "2022.11.29"]
    [Round "?"]
    [White "Tempo"]
    [Black "Kees"]
    [Result "0-1"]
    [BlackElo "1971"]
    [ECO "D01"]
    [Opening "Richter-Veresov, 3.Bf4"]
    [Time "18:04:47"]
    [Variation "2.Nc3"]
    [WhiteElo "1720"]
    [TimeControl "1/259200:300"]
    [Termination "normal"]
    [PlyCount "114"]
    [WhiteType "human"]
    [BlackType "human"]

    1. d4 Nf6 2. Nc3 d5 3. Bf4 c6 4. e3 Bf5 5. f3 e6 6. g4 Bg6 7. h4 h6 8. Bd3
    Bxd3 9. Qxd3

    You have a lead in development and more space on the kingside with the potential to break open some lines there.

    9... Bb4 10. O-O-O

    Question: Why not bolster the WNc3 with 10. Ne2? Black’s only immediate means of increasing pressure against WNc3 is with … Qa5 with a ‘threat’ to disrupt the pawn structure in front of your king. His King is still in the middle. Castling long takes long. I looked for ways to open up the center. I'm ahead in development


    10… Nbd7 11. Nh3

    Question: What was your plan here? 11. Ne2 would maintain control of c3 and also indirectly provide a defense of the a2-pawn. The WNe2 would ‘defend’ f4 and potentially allow it to be occupied in support of the pawn advance. Additionally, the line of the WRh1 would not be blocked. Prophylaxis on the queenside and in the center, combined with potential aggression on the kingside. I didn't want to clog up my posisition with pieces. I connect the rooks, and to swing over the h rook to e1. Protecting the e pawn not hindered by a knight.

    11… Qa5 12. Kb1 (tactically forced to avoid losing the a2-pawn) 12… Nb6

    At this point, Black shows his hand: he intends to ‘attack’ your king with three pieces, possibly adding pawns to the mix if/as needed while ignoring your kingside pawn storm. [Three piece ‘rule’: one piece to sacrifice, one piece to protect the mating piece and the mating piece – mating threats can materialize quickly.] If he can get the queens off the board, he will have the opportunity to castle queenside and open up the c-file with pressure on your castled position. There is no real threat here



  3. 13. g5

    Black has the opportunity to sacrifice here with 13… Bxc3, allowing 14. gxf6. Then he adds the third piece with 14… Na4. Things get tactically ‘interesting’ at this point because the Black queen and knight work together quite well to create potential mate threats. Black took a different route, trying to get all three pieces in place.

    13… Nh5 14. gxh6 gxh6 15. Be5 O-O-O

    Black had the opportunity to equalize here with 15… Bxc3 16. Bxh8 Na4 (Again, notice the excellent coordination between the Black queen and knight.)

    16. Bxh8 Rxh8 17. Nf4

    Question: Why not 17. Ne2? 
    Nf2 you mean? It removes the possibility of the exchanges on c3, and moves the knight toward the kingside, possibly allowing either knight to go to f4 without the possibility of Black doubling the f-pawns. Since the g-file is the only open file and Black already has lost the exchange, it seems that the g-file would be a natural avenue for penetrating into Black’s position. It looks like the initiative might have shifted to Black at this point – or maybe I’m seeing a mirage. I'm ahead materially., so trading pieces is not bad. I must get my rooks to work. Opening the e-file, saccing my f pawn and my rooks come to life. Making use of his opposed king. Answer a flank attack with a counter strike in the center.

    17… Nxf4 18. exf4 Nc4

    Although you are up an exchange, Black is forcing play around your king while his own king is perfectly safe. Since you have taken no steps to occupy the open g-file, he doesn’t have to worry about his king for the time being.

    19. Ne2 Qb6 20. Qb3 Rg8

    I wonder if he considered 20… Nd2+ 21. Rxd2 Bxd2, regaining the exchange? If the queens come off, Black should have some advantage with control of the open g-file and a bishop versus knight with no good points for the knight in the center. He could equalize here. But since he is much higher rated, he declined.

    21. c3 Rg2

    Nice tactical awareness. WNe2 is hanging, and b2 comes back into play, this time with the combined pressure of BNc4 and BRe2 (if White captures on b4). That strong BNC4 combined with the BR on the 2nd rank balance out being down an exchange. White’s major pieces lack coordination.

    The rest of the game:

    22. Rhe1 Be7 23. Qxb6 axb6 24. b3 Ne3 25. Rd2 Nf5 26. Rg1 Rh2 27. Kc2 Bxh4 28. Rg8+ Kd7 29. Nc1 Rh3 30. Nd3 f6 31. Re2 Rxf3 32. Rb8 Nd6 33. Rh2 Kc7 34. Rh8 Nf5 35. Kd2 Bg3 36. Re2 Kd7 37. Rh7+ Kd6 38. Rxb7 Here I slowly took over Bxf4+ 39. Nxf4 Rxf4 40. Rxb6 e5 41. dxe5+ fxe5 42. a4 e4 43. a5 Kc7
    44. Rg2 Nd6 45. Rg8 Rf2+ 46. Ke1 Rf3 47. Rh8 Rxc3 48. Rh7+ Kc8 49. Rxh6 Kd7
    50. a6 Rc1+ 51. Kd2 Rg1 52. Rh7+ Kd8 53. Rb8+ Nc8 54. Rh8+ Kd7 55. Rhxc8
    Ra1 56. Ra8 Rxa6 57. Rxa6 Kxc8 0-1

    Thank you again for sharing the games and your thoughts!

  4. It's a luxury problem. Outplaying a higher rated player but not winning by not being able to find an adequate endgame plan FAST. This happens time and again lately. I don't bother anymore. I decided to study the Art of Attack first. For good reason.  


Friday, December 02, 2022

Answering questions

 Robert said:


  1. PART I:

    This is my “stream of consciousness” review of your first game. I’m not criticizing your play; just trying to figure out what was going on in your mind as you played. My interest is in trying to see (if possible) potential deficits in knowledge/skill that we may share. I have never played this opening with White, generally preferring a more traditional Queen’s Gambit approach with the potential to attack on the queenside with a minority attack rather than a piece/pawn attack on the kingside.

    I have no idea how far into the opening you had studied/memorized this variation, but it seems you had a better feel for it than your opponent. After move 3 I was out of book



  2. In this first game, Black’s plan (7...Nh5; 8...Nxf4) to exchange off the WBf4, doubling White’s f-pawns (and also opening the e-file for White and creating a pawn break on f5) seems dubious to me because White has completed development and is prepared to begin active operations. Back still has to get his king out of the center and his queenside piece development has far lagged behind. Playing 9...c5 seems foolhardy under the circumstances. You rightly saw the possibility of cranking open the e-file with 10.f5. After 10...Nf6 11. Bb5+ you saw the tactical possibility of gaining a pawn with attacking chances on the kingside. After 11...Bd2 12. fxe6 fxe6 it appears that you immediately went for the pawn gain. I assume you mean 11. ... Bd7. No pawn gain was on my mind. I wanted to pry open the e-file and to prevent him from castling

    I’m curious: I know you like attacking play and I know you can SEE the outline of the potential tactics in this position. Why did you reject 13. Ng5? It appears to give you the extra pawn AND to also get your knight into e6 (the ‘octopus knight”!) with tempo. You would have had an even stronger initiative as a result. Does GM Smirnov’s “To take is a mistake!” aphorism apply? I wanted to put pressure on Be7 as soon as possible. I have two rooks and a queen ready for that. It was hard to judge the details. Maybe saccing the exchange was in the air.

    This s one of the areas I have been working on (and still need to work on) – rather than striving to gain material at the first opportunity, perhaps deferring the material gain (or foregoing it altogether) in favor of increased piece activity and complications (i.e., tactical threats that put the pieces in more active positions).

    Black appears to be setting up for a potential raid on h2 after 16...Qc7. The WNf3 might be captured by the BRf8, with a strong attack of queen and knight against your king. Why capture on c5? It brings Black’s queen to a stronger position in the center, and does not improve your piece positions. It does. It makes d3 a save place for my queen and gives d4 to my knight. Why not try to get the White queen off the 1st rank (perhaps d3) and bring the a8 rook into the action on either the d-file or e-file, putting immediate pressure on the IQP? As GM Aagaard says, bring ALL of the pieces to the party when you are attacking!

    Why did you immediately play 17. Nd4? It threatens a knight fork and the defender of Be7 (the black queen) Were you already looking at 18.Ne6, to be followed with an exchange of queens by playing 19.Qd4? Did you consider a plan of getting the queen off the 1st rank (17.Qd3) followed by developing the a8-rook as needed to increase pressure on d5 or e7? It appears that you were applying “one piece at a time” thinking, rather than trying to coordinate ALL of your pieces toward potential targets (a frequent failing of mine). I missed the deadly move 18. a3. Pawn b2 is poisoned, winning the queen, Qc5 allows to win the exchange and other queen moves lose the bishop.

    Black’s 18...Rf7 appears to be a mistake. With 19.Ng5, White gains a strong attack because his pieces are very well coordinated. The BRf7 and BBe7 are targets, and the BRa8 is doing nothing. I started having “fantasies” of things like grabbing the BBe7 (if the Black rook reverts to f8 and/or the Black queen takes on b2) and also a potential classic smothered mate pattern (WN takes on d5, BN takes back, WQ takes with check, BK moves to h8, WN goes to f7 with check. Black would probably give up the exchange and take the knight, rather than permit the smothered mate with BK to g8, WN to h6++, BK to h8, WQ to g8+, BRxg8, WN to f7 mate). Somewhere in there I would have to figure out what to do about the a1-rook (under attack if Black captures on b2 and the WQ is on f7), but it certainly looks more promising than Black’s possibilities.

  3. PART II:

    I did not understand your decision to trade queens and go into an endgame, even though you are a pawn ahead at the moment. Neither did I. So far I was totally winning. Yet one silly move shouldn't be losing. Here a hole in my bucket shows. If I can't come up with a plan, I start to use time and to make mistakes. The rest is irrelevant, since I must first absorb a few standard endgame plans. You lost the initiative and Black ruined your pawn structure in short order, enabling him to regain his material with interest. Did you assume that getting rid of the queens made it easier to win the IQP? The classical method for capturing the IQP requires the major pieces (and that c3 pawn assassin). Black is able to force doubled c-pawns (because of the combined threat against your rook on e3 and the f2-pawn, which is more than adequate compensation for the pawn minus and the IQP (which can no longer be won using the classical plan).

    Assessing the position after 24...Rc8, I think Black has the advantage of better pawn structure. Both sides have three pawn islands but Black’s IQP is easily protected with the BN and the two connected queenside pawns are better structurally than the isolated a-pawn and the double c-pawns. White’s 3:2 majority on the kingside will not be a factor until very late in a pawn endgame, if at all.

    After 29...Nxc3, the primary consideration is that a knight and pawn endgame should be played essentially as if it is a pawn ending (Botvinnik’s “rule”). It is crucial is to get the king to the center of the board ASAP. I’m doubtful that it would hold the draw, but at least it’s a chance. Trying to advance the 3:2 kingside majority to create a passed pawn is too slow in light of the advanced b-pawn; it merely weakens the pawns for when the Black king comes calling. Perhaps a better way would be to try to get the White king in front of the b-pawn, trying to keep the Black king tied to its defense, freeing up the night to shepherd the kingside pawns forward. However, if the knights can be forced off, then the “fox in the chicken house” strategy works: White is forced to spend time going after the b-pawn, while the Black king is free to raid the kingside pawns.

    I look forward to your critique of my thoughts! Thank you!!

  4. That I missed the tactical win? No worries, I'm working on that. That my attack was a bit suboptimal? No worries, I'm studying the art of attack.

  5. But the lack of an endgame strategy is a serious hole in my bucket. And it is placed low, every player above 1850 escapes trough it. So I must plug this before anything else. I don't like it, but I have to.

  6. In general, I use the following criterium: when I start to use time and cannot come up with a plan: there is a hole in my bucket, and if it occurs frequently I must plug it before anything else. But it takes time and energy to shift plans often.