Friday, October 22, 2021

what is happening?

 It minuten very wellicht look to YouTube Thatcher nothing is happening chesswise. But Thatcher is not the case. I study my New openingstijden for at leest half an hoor a Day dringend 

Ermm.  Maybe I should change the language to English first. 

 It might look to you as if nothing is happening chesswise lately. But actually I'm working pretty hard on my new openings. I study every day for at least half an hour at chessable,  during a continuous streak of 72 days  in a row now. I have studied about 25% of all the variations I need to know. Besides that, I analyze my own games which I play at the club, I study the middle games that are the result of my new openings, and the ensuing endgames. All this is not really blogworthy,  I think. That's the reason why it is so  quiet here, lately. Sorry for that.


  1. when we get older, memory is becoming worse.
    Learning openings is tough.
    Pragmatically, I think the way to go about it is: find an opening with the help of statistics. Which moves are statistically promising?
    So I looked at a database and its statistics.

    I found for white
    1.Nf3 d5 2.c4

    This is very promising for white.
    But it is also attractive from a "bad memory" point of view:

    Sooner or later we have to "break" the center, attack it somehow.
    I do this early with move 2.c4
    This early "break" means I have a position which I see very often, and if black captures NOW, I know how to play.
    If black doesnt capture, he had some alternatives, mainly: 1...Nf6, 1...c6, 1...e6, 1...d4

    Yes, true I have to learn this alternatives. All of them. However, if I seek later for a break, I will have many more variations. the longer I wait with c2-c4, the more variations I have.
    So even though 2.c4 will have many possible alternative responses, it is still best to play c4 very early. Then I most likely still know what and how to play.

    Furthermore, the database tells me, this is a very promising opening for white.
    Which means: it seems "easy". No matter what you move, chances are that your moves are rather favourable. That is why the statistics are so strong.
    and it is true form my experience: my opponents usually need a lot of time for the first few moves, whereas I am very familiar and my moves are never "bad".
    I am out of book often after move 7, but so is my opponent. And whatever I move, it is more often correct than the moves of my opponent.
    It is hard to explain why this is so, but the statistics tell us: whatever the reason, this is good for white!

    Furthermore: in my quest to find openings that are a bit off-beat, are statistically promising, and fit to my "to take is a mistake" way of thinking.... I coincidently found what "promising" moves look like.
    There is a clear tendency, which most people are not aware of. Some moves are almost always good.

    For instance, if the opponent plays ...e7-e6 --> the "best" response of white is often g2-g3 with Bf1-g2 next.
    You dont believe it? Look at the database! Really, this is often true!
    So if your opponent move e7-e6, consider g2-g3 with Bg2 next.

    Another rule: an early ...Ng8-f6 is bad.
    The petrov 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nf6 - it is statistically bad.

    The spanish variations: if black move ...Nf6 early, his statistics to win drop.
    Which is funny: the Ruy Lopez is promising for white, unless black delays the move Ng8-f6.
    Dont believe it? but it is true.

    or 1.d4 Nf6 - it is not good for black, compared with most other black moves.

    Now the question is: why is an early ...Nf6 bad?
    My answer is: this knight is often a target which white can attack.

    Check it out: "the pirc" is worse than "The Modern". the modern has the idea to delay ...Nf6.
    1.Nf3 d5 2.c4 Nf6 is bad for black.

    It is surprising how easy your life becomes if you delay Nf6. Yes, I know, the move ...Nf6 is often played. Think "indian" defenses. But all indian ideas are actually working much better, if you delay ...Nf6.

    I play with black 1.d4 d6 2.c4 e5
    If white does dxe5 dxe5 Qxd8 Kxd8 - black has often the better game (statistics!) and I can confirm it: losing the right to castle doesnt matter at all, and black's king simply goes to c7 and is safe.
    if white plays 3.d5 (blockade) black has still f7-f5 free to move, there is no black knight on f6 blocking my f7 pawn.
    so I get into an accelerated KID.

    So: I dont "memorize" openings, but I try to find promising opening moves, and try to find a pattern what kind of moves are favourable.

    1. when we get older, memory is becoming worse. Learning openings is tough.

      I use Chessable, which claims to have an A.I. assisted way of spaced repetition. I find learning variations to be very relaxing.

    2. I like your pragmatic approach, based on statistics. The Sniper I play with black, is not based on statistics, but on the best computer moves after g6 Bg7 c5. Which is another pragmatic approach. And even lazier.

  2. P.S. "the Modern" is better than "the Pirc", but the variation below my sentence is neither the modern nor the pirc. I simply wanted to show a different example, where an early Nf6 is bad, too. But the modern is indeed better than the pirc because of not playing ...Nf6 early. Chess isnt always so easy, but here it is. Now we all can wonder: why the heck is 1...Nf6 so populer?
    And why is it bad for black, but "good" for white if 1.Nf3 is played?
    Well, it seems that it is easier for white to attack Nf6 than it is for black to attack Nf3.
    There is an opening pattern for black and white moves, too:
    Assymetry favours black, Symetrical moves favour white.
    1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nf6 is symetrical and ...Nf6 is moved early. The statistics are horrible for black!
    1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 a6 is highly assymetrical, and the statistics are damn good for black!
    1.e4 Nc6 2.d4 d5 - it is assymetrical, and the statistics are good for black!

    so... what is better for black after 1.c4
    a) 1...c5
    b) 1...e5
    Answer: 1...e5! it is seeking assymetry with black!
    the database confirms this!

    Lets look at an odd example:
    1.f4 (the Bird)

    What is the value of a black 1...f5 (symmetry)?
    --> of almost all possible and reasonable moves, 1...f5 is the worst of all!

    So: 1.d4 - which 2 moves are bad and why?
    1...d5 (symmetry)
    1...Nf6 (dont develop early Nf6)

    Please look at the statistics. I know that ...Nf6 and ...d5 are very popular. Nevertheless, they are wrong, and the statistics dont lie!
    These 2 moves are really not so good compared with all alternatives.
    Instead 1...c5 or 1...f5 or 1...d6 or 1...b6 or even 1...a6 are all good moves as they all look for assymetry!
    (1...e6 isnt that assymetry, too? Yes, but then white could do 2.g3! and the stats are very good for white!)

    You see? finding your way through the opening stage with opening patterns is often enough very do-able!

    1. I want to get rid of the well known paths as soon as possible. In a distant past, I used to play the Najdorf. After 5 moves, you still have no idea whether you play against a bungler or a grandmaster.

  3. I have not improved in chess anymore since ... Idk. Maybe around 2016 or so.
    Well, in Bullet, I have improved, and maybe that has helped my overall chess ability. However, it is probably offset by age. I noticed that I blunder more often and started to relax a bit too much, sometimes. So my peak at my mid-40s is the peak which I noticed with GMs, too. There are hardly any GMs above 50 in the top 100 in the world, and never ever anybody above 60 in the top 100.
    Still, as far as I know, I seem to be the only person which improved like 400 elo points, from 1800 to around 2200 Fide Elo.
    - - - -
    It is amazing that some of the chess-skill-improvements can be achieved very fast. Maybe in my case, I could have gained 200 points in a long day. And if not in a day, then in a week.

    But maybe this is not true, it only feels like this.
    Maybe, chess-skill requires a lot of skills, and you need all of them. Some tiny skill - if it is missing, you wont improve, even though the rest of the skills are already there.
    And once I gained the missing part-skill, suddenly there is an overall improvement.

  4. For twenty years, I only worried about tactics. It is time now to enhance my knowledge of other aspects of the game. Let's see what that does to my rating.

    1. yes, that is true. Chess isnt 99% tactics.
      And even though I improved in tactics, I guestimate it accounts for only 100-150 elo points of my 400 elo improvent.

      The "right" way to study openings (looking at statistically promising moves AND finding guidance rules that guide me in the opening phase in unknown territory) helped me improving 50-100 points.

      Endgames, time management, "to take is a mistake"-understanding (and other guidance rules), ... it helped, too.
      Generally, guidance-rules where pretty important, but they are not easy to discover. I liked the "Tit-for-Tat" rule from Aoxomoxoa. It was an eye-opener, which I was not able to find myself, but once I knew it, it helped me tremendously in these situations.

      The tricky bit is: how do I know what I dont know?
      I guess your blog can help yourself. You posted rules ch 1 recently, I have made a comment that I disagree a lot with them, and I guess this is the area where improvement lures and is waiting for you. If you are able to merge your rules with my rules, know when and where the limitations are - this could maybe lead to new awareness.

      Then again, I myself failed to understand your stated rules, and this could show how narrow-minded and ignorant I view concepts in chess.
      Despite this, I shold actually do know that chess can be understood in many ways: there is the hypermodern style versus old-school-classic-center-approach. Both are valid ways to play, but very different ways nevertheless.

    2. "Winning more games without playing any better" - there are some ways to "improve" but it is a "grey zone". Is it really improvement?

      Think about "Time Management": I see people waste generously time in the opening (they know their moves, but still need at least 1 minute to move and write down their move).
      Some even think they need to get into thinking mood and slow down. It can not be good to spend time early for nothing, while it is later badly needed.

      Aox pointed out that doubling the thinking time (factor "K") results in an improved quality of moves of about 70-200 elo points.
      Part of the evaluation should be "how much time do I want to invest now into the position?"
      Other questions:
      "what is my maximum thinking time for a move? What do I do if I still am not sure about a position after my max limit has been reached?" (for me, my "solution" is: after I am aware I spent more than 10 minutes, I ask myself why that is so. Most of the time it is that I am not sure about what the best move is. What I do then is: Of my options of candidate moves, I chose one which looks safe, doesnt complicate the situation further, and thus is a move that avoids me spending 10 minutes and then 10 minutes again on the next 2 moves).

      "How much thinking time has my opponent spent, how much time has he left?"
      "while he is thinking about his move (its his turn) - am I thinking about his candidate moves, or am I wasting the opportunity to think during his time?"

      Using the opponents time - we all know we should do that, but often we dont if we are not really threatened.
      I do it this way: I think about 1-2 candidate moves which my opponent could play and am thinking what would I respond if he moves any of those 1-2 moves. When he finally plays and it is indeed the move which I have had anticipated, I often dont need much more time for my response.
      But if he moves a move that was not one of the 2 moves I had expected, I can think about why I have not expected his move. Was it because I think it is "bad"? Or am I overlooking a detail? Why is he moving this move, what is his plan?

      --> you see, blunders dont "just happen", they often happen 2-3 moves before they actually happen. We are blind for the tactic before it is on the board, while our opponent have the future tactic already in mind as a possibility way before the tactic can successfully be executed.
      It often is the case, that we do ignore unexpected moves and walk into unknowingly into his knife. We simply did not do the job to think during his time, didnt spent time about his candidate moves, and thus were of course not surprised that our opponent did not move any of the 2 moves we had thought are his candidate moves.
      And if we are not surprised, we just shrug our shoulders and continue with our plan, ignoring threats of our opponent.

      Time management - you hardly read in theory books about it.
      But it is an aspect that can make you win more games without being better in tactics, openings, endgames. So time management isnt regarded as "chess skill", but at the same time: Really?

      And, my dear temposchlucker, how much of your chess blog have you devoted to time management, time trouble, using time?

    3. Regarding time management:

      PART I:

      NM Dan Heisman's excellent little book The Improving Chess Thinker has a short (but "meaty") Chapter 11 titled The Basics of Time Management. This book also has a generic thinking process, and gives "protocols" (similar to Adrianus Dingeman de Groot's protocols in Thought and Choice in Chess) for various players in each class from Class F up to and through Expert Class (USCF terminology).

      I highly recommend this book to anyone interested in the thought processes (or lack thereof) of various levels of players!

      Chapter 11 is broken down into two sections:

      11.1 Micro Time Management

      This depends upon:

      Trigger 2: the amount of time one SHOULD spend on a move.

      Trigger 1: the possibility of being 100% sure you have found the best move BEFORE reaching Trigger 2.

      Awareness of how much time you've spent thinking about This Specific Move.

      For Trigger 2:

      The "normal" amount of time to spend on a move (prior to Trigger 2) is based on:

      The time control: the longer the time control, the more time that can be spent per move.

      The time remaining: more time remaining = more time per move.

      How many moves remain in the time control: more moves to play = less time per move.

      Criticality analysis: the ability to identify critical moves; higher criticality = more time per move).

      The time control is the critical factor.

      A key factor is that reaching Trigger 2 or Trigger 1 should be the only two reasons you should halt your thought process and make a move! Either you have found a move that cannot be bettered or you have spent a reasonable amount of time to find a move.

      For Trigger 1:

      What is the best way to know you've reached Trigger 1? It is the point where you are willing to argue with a room full of Grandmasters that they can't find a better move. Any time it is easy for players of all levels to see that there is only one reasonable move, by definition that is a non-critical move. . . . Forced moves, once properly determined, should always be played as quickly as possible. But how long should you look? How do you KNOW when you are done?

      Searching for better moves for a long period is often impractical. [GM Larsen's aphorism applies: Long analysis = wrong analysis!] You should look for a better move until you have hit either Trigger 1 (the move about which you are willing to argue with Grandmasters), or time "t", the Trigger 2 time that is a reasonable amount to spend on that move.

      Average time per move

      Calculate the average tie to spend on each move per game as follows:

      Assume a conservative 40 moves per game.

      Divide 40 into the number of minutes for the game (the time control).

      Add any time delay or increment.

      During the game, adjust accordingly if the game appears to be taking more or less than 40 moves.


      90 minute game (G/90) with 5 second delay.

      90/40 = 2 minutes 15 seconds + 5 second delay = 2 minutes 20 seconds per move on average. Optimum time management strategy is to try to use less than this amount per move for non-critical moves, and more, sometimes much more, for critical moves.

      Helpful hints:

      Continue to examine a sacrificial line so long as the reward remains greater than the possible risk, while adequate time is available.

      If you are playing chess to improve, then always choose an unclear line over a clearly equal line.

    4. PART II:

      11.2 Macro Time Management

      This is the ability to use almost all of your time every time your game goes "full course."

      How important is macro time management? Here is one way to look at this question: I estimate that if there is a typical middlegame position, and one side has only 5 minutes remaining and the other has 15 minutes (without a time delay or increment), that advantage is worth about 200 rating points. For example, suppose both players have the same rating and the position is even but the tie is 15-5. Then the player with 15 minutes left is roughly a 3-1 (75%) favorite.

      Here are some tips to help your macro time management:

      * Periodically check your time when your opponent is thinking. Ask, "Am I playing too fast or too slow?" and adjust accordingly.

      * Write down your time remaining (in minutes) after each move to make yourself more aware of your time situation.

      * Before the game, write "milestones" on your scoresheet for how much time you think you should have remaining at specific points in the game. This works best for time controls that aren't "sudden death", such as 40 moves in 2 hours.

      Botvinnik's Rule:

      World Champion Mikhail Botvinnik suggested that for "normal" openings one should not take more than 20% of the first time control to make the first 15 moves. At a 40/2 time control, 20% X 120 minutes = 24 minutes, so one should have about 1 hour and 36 minutes left on move 15.

      The moral: following good macro time management is very important. You don't want to beat yourself; you want to make your opponent beat you. . . . Correcting your macro time management will have a much better effect on your playing strength than learning more moves in the Caro-Kann.

    5. tbh, some of that time management is "advise" is not good.
      I appreciate that Dan Heisman made some thoughts about this much under-estimated part of chess.
      For instance:
      "Assume a conservative 40 moves per game.
      Divide 40 into the number of minutes for the game (the time control)."

      This is giving you the average time per move. Correct. But this information is absolutely useless, if not even misleading.
      Instead: you should be able to do the first 3 moves within a minute, including writing down the moves. Better: if normal known opening (which you know inside out), get the 5-8 moves within your first minute. Really, as long as you are in main known waters, there is no reason to spend the average time per move.

      Its also unrealistic to use all the time the thinking time of your opponent. At least, in my case... I do need thinking breaks. Otherwise I get exhausted.

      I'd say there is no amount of time you should spend, such as 20% in the opening.
      Rather, it really depends. The first 3 moves, you usually can do in 1 minute including writing down the moves.
      If it is the main variation, I often only needed 1-2 minutes for the first 8 moves.

      Of course, if my opponent does a move I have not seen before, chances are: it is an inaccuracy. So I immediatly start to think longer. However, really dependend how innocent his move looks, I either continue to play rather fast, because I am in "familiar waters".
      Or the game "has started". Then it is likely that soon the game will mean I get an advantage or that I am soon in trouble. This is often the point where games are decided, and they are decided often around move 10-20.
      Often I find myself in a game where I fight for a draw from move 13 onwards, or where I have a considerable advantage.

      Time pressure on the opponent can be "weapon", too. If I am winning, I dont try to put my opponent under pressure. But if the position is about equal, or just a slight advantage for one side, time pressuring is part of a strategy, too.
      If I have a little advantage, I try to keep the pressure, without committing too much. Instead, I manoever around, and basically "do nothing" but wait for a mistake of my opponent. When I have the initiative, getting the opponents time down is often well possible, and even if my slight advantage fizzles out - If the result is I am ahead 30 minutes, this is quite an advantage that will count the longer the game keeps going.

      It's like the advantage of inflicting the opponents position with a double-pawn: Usually it doesnt mean anything in the middle game, but it is a long term factor in the endgame.
      And a time advantage should be similarly valued: It can result in time trouble of the opponent.

    6. Munich, thanks for your good ideas!

      An average does not give specific information about any concrete case. A case in point: the "average" American family has 2.2 kids. Have you ever seen 0.2 kid?!?

      My favorite story regarding averages: A fellow (who could not swim) drowned crossing a river with an average depth of 2 feet. (You wouldn't believe how many times I've had to explain "Why?" to people who have little maths knowledge and understanding!)

      The information I gave was taken directly from Heisman's book, other than making slight wording changes to shorten the exposition; I added no comments of my own. I left out the examples and a lot of other stuff, trying to pare it down to its essence. Heisman's focus is on novices/beginners, so his advice is aimed toward those who have little or no experience playing serious chess.

      As for Botvinnik's advice, I think it is aimed toward higher level players who experience chronic time trouble. Like all such "rules of thumb," it may (or more likely may NOT) be applicable to specific people. It's like most of the classical advice regarding playing by "general principles" - they gives a general idea of how to play (when you are ignorant of what to do) but can be WRONG when applied literally and thoughtlessly in any concrete situation.

    7. thanks Robert. I immediately had to tell my wife about the average 2 feet depth river.
      Maybe I was too strict about Botvinnik's and Heismans time management advises. It really depends.
      I guess that is why time management in chess is such a neglected subject. With an opening variation, you have something substantial to show. With time management? There is no general rule, it really depends on the person and the position.

      Nevertheless, it is another "option" to use a time advantage to win a game. Many players aim for the pair of bishops, in the hope that this will be a slight advantage on the long run.
      Similarly, going to play additionally on time can lead to winning more games, too.

      Time is a part of my evaluation-system. I never think like "he has a double pawn, so I am +0.3 ahead".
      No, like most players, I just think that I have an advantage here and there and that. The more advantages, the better. And more time, or chances of more time at ones disposal - it is a neglected factor. While many are searching for a way to gain an advantage, most people dont think about what can cause the opponent to use more of his time. Or vice versa: how to safe a bit more time.

    8. One of my last rapid games B.C. (Before COVID) was with a player rated slightly above me. I had no knowledge of the opening variation we played (a variation of the Modern Defense), but I decided to do two things consistently: (1) Look for tactics and maximum [sound, calculated as much as possible] complications on each move, and (2) stay ahead of him on the clock. The reason for (2) was simple: this guy is one of the best time-trouble players I have ever seen! I've seen him win games by playing 15-20 good moves with less than 2 seconds on his clock - winning from a LOST position!! The reason for (1) was to make it much more difficult to play good moves in time trouble. The result was a blistering attack on his King, which he had (unwisely) left un-castled (although that is a regular feature of some Modern Defense variations). I started with a passive Bishop sacrifice on f4 (allowing him the opportunity to capture it without obvious material compensation) which opened LoA directly toward his exposed King. I didn't worry about the material imbalance because he was playing with his queenside pieces undeveloped, and I had an 'intuition' that I would get compensation in the form of much greater piece activity - and I did. As the complications mounted up, he began playing slower and slower, so deep in thought that he must have forgotten about the clock. Eventually, he made a critical error and lost on time. I think it was the first time EVER that he had lost a game on the clock. Afterwards, he looked shell-shocked, and just shook his head in disbelief when I showed how he could have killed the attack with counter-sacrifices at the critical moments.

    9. Normally, your thinking time is doubled when your opponent thinks as long as you do at average. This is what you are used to. The consequence is that your thinking time is about halved to what you are used to when you play against a fast player.

    10. "Chess for Tigers" by Simon Webb is talking about how to exploit notorious time trouble players.
      Surprisingly, you did it all wrong Robert, but it turned out well.
      Instead, the right way to play time-trouble-addicts is this:
      avoid tactics. Because, those time-troublers, they will use a lot of time anyway. But in complicated positions, their thinking time is worth a lot. But in calm positions, they simply waste time.

      Then, when the time trouble starts "to bite" your opponent, you do it like this:
      you are thinking of your next two or 3 moves.
      You use your time to think carefully and make especially sure you know the follow up move or even the next 2 moves afterwards. You plan to play 2 or 3 moves very fast in a row, so you need to guess his response move right.

      Case 1 (assuming you planned 3 moves): you move your first move and he replies quickly with a move that you have expected. Now you execute the second move immediately after his response. if his 2nd move is like you have expected, you execute your 3rd move immediately.

      case 2 - his reply is a move you have not planned, have not expected. This can mean you overlooked something yourself. Or it means he has just blundered. Now you dont continue fast, but instead, you use your time advantage and think thoroughly why you missed his response move? Chances are, he has just blundered.

      Furthermore, this slow-fast-slow is totally washing him up.

  5. PART I:

    IM Erik Kislik offered the following advice for training tactics in his book Applying Logic in Chess:

    All tactics flow from a weakness that is insufficiently defended. This is the elementary reason why weaknesses are so vital to recognize and observe when looking for tactics. Thus, tactics and positional understanding are always intertwined: if you grasp weaknesses well, you will be best equipped for spotting tactical vulnerabilities. . . .

    If you are feeling very weak tactically, then trying the tactics servers on lichess or chess-tempo certainly cannot be a bad use of time IF IT'S A CONTROLLED AMOUNT OF TIME EVERY DAY. For players below 1800, I recommend using CT-ART 5.0 and trying to GET ALL THE PATTERNS DOWN. . . .

    If you are doing very fast tactics online for a rating on a tactics server, it makes sense just to get a quick overview by checking the material situation on the board, then look for weaknesses and immediately calculate the most intuitive move as deeply as you can before you move on to the second move. . .. There will naturally be diminishing returns on this skill, but in the early phases, you should see noticeable progress in your tactical vision.

    We remember tactical PATTERNS the best when we go over many tactics in a row with similar pawn structures because we mentally connect the tactical ideas most simply this way. . . .

    Everything you do to improve your chess with chess material can make you better, but the focus is on efficiency. . . . The diminishing returns are pretty heavy on basic tactical exercises. At a certain point, you barely gain anything because you'd see these simple moves in a long game anyway. . . .

    'Decisive-blow syndrome' often comes from doing all tactical study and treating the whole game like a tactical exercise. Then you get positions with nowhere to go and nothing to do. . . . With this in mind, YOUR EFFORTS IN CHESS SHOULD BE MOSTLY FOCUSED ON IMPROVING YOUR COGNIZANCE.

    I suggest chess-players find a simple and reliable online source for basic mates, basic endgame positions and the like. Really it's just one afternoon on the Internet checking Wikipedia to get your essential positions down. . . . There's really no excuse for someone who has played chess for ten months never having seen some totally basic checkmating ideas (or 3-ply sequences).

  6. PART II:

    Basic tactics in chess should be learned quickly and systematically with a program or computer-checked books that are well organized. After doing this, most players will never really deal with basic tactics being a major weakness in their games. . . . This kind of basic tactical work falls into the category of temporary chess training, as YOU ONLY NEED TO DO IT ONCE. Then you can focus on more abstract concepts.

    You can break down any amazing idea into basic concepts; any complex tactic can be made to make sense by breaking it down simply and conceptually. Thinking about and trying to understand tactical ideas conceptually will do more for your tactics that just trying to solve endless amounts of extremely difficult ones. Very few players who are starting out in chess realize that EVERY TACTICAL SOLUTION IS BASED ON A WEAKNESS BEING PRESENT. Improving your tactical understanding and tactical play therefore also includes improving your positional understanding and your general feeling for weaknesses.

    . . . If a tactic does not make sense to you, do not trust that it is the best until you can give a sound logical justification for WHY it works. Forcing yourself to understand obscure tactics will give you the greatest possibility of replicating such tactics over the board. . . .

    If a tactical exercise dumbfounds you, even after seeing the solution and thinking about it a lot, I would set it up on a board, imagine the correct solution being played out in your head and really think about WHY it works and what weaknesses allow for the winning tactic to work. This process will probably be quite insightful. . . .

    GM Jacob Aagaard (in his book THINKING INSIDE THE BOX) suggests the following three-step list of questions that should be asked at every move in order to understand what we are looking at and for what reason:

    1. Where are the weaknesses?
    2. What is my opponent's idea?
    3. Which is the worst placed piece?

    These are the most relevant questions to ask; there are many others that could be asked. They are universal, because they allow us to access our disorganized knowledge of the position and focus on the most important aspects of it.

    GM Aagaard pared down a much longer list to these three questions. Not surprisingly, similar lists of questions have been proposed on this blog. It is important to keep the list as short and simple as possible.

  7. PART I:

    Combinative Motifs, M. Blokh, Problem 870, Difficulty Level 7

    FEN: 4rb2/1p1q1ppk/p1n1p2p/2p1Pn2/3PNR2/2P2K2/P2QBP2/6R1 w - - 0 1

    From the game Rossolimo vs NN, Paris 1944.

    White to move

    This is the type of position that is difficult for me to figure out based on PoPLoAFun. Tracing out the various "auras" (LoA) and trying to identify PoPs just doesn't seem to trigger anything specific in System 1 as a recognizable pattern. The Funs also don't seem to point to a clear start toward a solution.

    We know it's a combination with White to play, but not whether the goal is winning or drawing. White is two Pawns down in material, so he's going to have to try something drastic to get back in the game. The only telltale clue is that the Black King is somewhat under-defended. Only the Black Bishop provides a modicum of defense, as well as the meager Pawn cover on g7 and h6.

    There is a potential Knight fork on f6 or a Knight check on g5. There is a Rook sacrifice available on g7. None of these three moves appear to be sufficiently forcing in terms of creating subsequent tactical themes to get at the Black King.

    After looking closely, I decided that the first move to investigate should be to remove the BNf5 because it blocks the action of the WRf4 and negates the pressure of the WQd2 on h6: 1. Rxf5 exf5. Black's reply is forced, so that's a good sign that this might be a good continuation.

    What to do to follow up?!?

    Now we can "see" that it might be possible to get the Knight fork on f6, forking the Black King and Queen. Since the Black Queen is unprotected (LPDO), this might be good. Another pattern that jumps into sight is the stock checkmate with WNf6 and the WRg1 moving to g8. System 1 is now beginning to "see" stock patterns, which suggests moves! The question is: how to open the g-file or the h-file to get at the Black King.

    Aha! 2. Qxh6+ force Black to consider three possible replies.


    This one can quickly be dismissed. WRg1 now pins the g7-Pawn (its aura extends to g8), so 3. Nf6#.


    This one also can be dismissed quickly. The stock R+N checkmate glimpsed earlier becomes reality. 3. Nf6+ Kh8 4. Rg8#.

    It's encouraging that we can find refutations so quickly!

  8. PART II:


    This is the most difficult line. We can "see" that the e5-Pawn (covering PoP f6) and WNe4 (covering f6 and g5) combine to cut off a potential escape route for the Black King toward the middle of the board. We can use the WRg1 to force the Black King to the only available (g6) square. Restricting possible replies is another encouraging sign that this variation is promising.

    3. Rh1+ Kg6 (forced)

    We only have one remaining piece (WBe2) that can add to the attack, but its path to h5 is blocked by the WKf3. Also, the WNe4 is under attack (if it is captured, the g5 square opens up for the Black King - not good).

    Another Aha! moment. 4. Kf4 opens the diagonal for WBe2 to get to h5, AND also restricts the Black King from coming to g5 - the "box" holds! Any move that preforms two functions at once is probably good.

    What can Black try to get out of the "box"?


    Unfortunately, Black could not capture the White Knight with check. This gets rid of the White Knight's influence but now the White Bishop gets into the act: 5. Bh5+ Kh7 (or Kh6) 6. Bxf7#.


    This removes control of f6 by the e5-Pawn, but the White Knight still controls f6. What worked with the Bishop in the previous variation still works in this one: 5. Bh5+ K moves 6. Bxf7#.

    4....Rxe5 and 4....f6 meet with the same Bishop attack with subsequent checkmate.


    Note that we now have the Black King boxed in, f6 and g5 are both covered by White twice. Will the same Bishop attack work for this variation?

    5. Bh5+ Kh7 6. Bxf7+ Qh6!! 7. Rxh6+ gxh6 8. Bxe8 and White is LOSING!

    So, how can we "kill" the possibility of the Black Queen interposing on h6?!?

    This is one of the hardest moves to "see" because it is counter-intuitive.

    5. Rh8!!

    There is now no possibility of getting out of the box. After Black plays a "throwaway" move (which cannot change the immobility of the Black King), White checkmates with the simple 6. Bh5#.

    The "point" of all this is to illustrate how we can tentatively begin exploring various options, which M-A-Y provide sufficient triggers to System1 to bring up some potentially related patterns. This pattern recognition in turn allows us to continue investigating the variation(s) until a "final solution" is found.

    1. And only now, the actual work starts. Which concepts can we derive from this position that are transferable to other positions?

      Which is a call to not waste your time with specific positions like these yourself, but let GM Stockfish do the hard work for you. Brewing transferable concepts is the way to go.

    2. Regarding the Rossolimo position (and the solution), Tempschlucker asks an appropriate question:

      Which concepts can we derive from this position that are transferable to other positions?

      In what follow, I make no effort to be thorough. The ideas are what came to mind immediately following the solution.

      Merely solving a problem correctly in minimum time is insufficient for long-term improvement. We must identify the surface level feature(s) that serve as "clues" [pointers to the deeper (deepest?) essence] and the thought process whereby we become aware of the essence and eventually (hopefully) "see" the solution.

      We gradually acquire a "feel" for the essence but the entire combination does not immediately spring to mind, like Athena springing full-grown from Zeus's forehead. It is more like picking up a "scent," similar to a hound picking up and following a rabbit's trail, even as the trail leads into the briar patch of complications. The "variation processing" approach of GM Jonathan Tisdall is applicable.

      1. Use a breadth-first search rather than a depth-first search, using known concepts and general principles, not individual moves, as the guide to what to investigate deeper by making analogies to previously acquired knowledge.

      Forcing moves play a vital role in reducing the complexity of the potential variations.

      For instance, on the surface there is the "clue" of a potential stock checkmate - the Arabian mate (using Knight and Rook with the King suck in the corner). It is fairly "obvious" (if we LOOK) that the White Knight might get to f6, the BPh6 restrains the Black King's movement to the h7 ad h8 squares, and the Rook restricts the Black King from crossing the g file as well as providing the opportunity to checkmate with the Rook on g8. As the investigation goes deeper, there is the potentiality of a discovered mate (using Bishop and Rook, with the Bishop discovering check by the Rook when capturing/moving to f7). This checkmate is NOT obvious on the surface; it only pops into mind in the course of following the principal variation.

      2. Use progressive deepening - move from the surface level features toward the essence [the so-called "requirement(s) of the position"] in stages, always applying a breadth-first approach at the beginning of each deeper stage.

      3. Apply Capablanca's technique of rearranging the pieces (mentally) into various configurations (without trying to specify the specific moves required or the order in which those moves must be made) in order to make clear what needs to be done to meet the requirements of the position).

      One thing that I gained was a better appreciation of using multi-purpose moves. Black has a strong unassailable Knight on f5, which protects g7 and h6, and is thus a strong point for Black. If White captures that Knight with the f4 Rook, he eliminates that strong point and its defensive function, and more importantly, opens the LoA of the White Queen toward the Black King. Thus, to me the most obvious move is to capture on f5 - a slight additional cost in material. It is most important to remember that when thinking about what to play next, there is no risk in getting farther behind in material; it's only a "What if" question and not actually played on the board, so it is safe to consider it without trying to figure out the immediate compensation.

    3. FEN: 7r/1ppR2p1/8/pP2P1kp/5p1N/2P4K/5b2/8 w - - 0 1

      White to move.

      White is behind 3 Pawns in material.

      What are the additional surface-level "clues" to the solution of this problem?

      (Hint: Try using the concepts of the preceding discussion.)

    4. FEN: r5kr/pp2Rp2/2p1Nnp1/3p4/3P4/2P3Qq/PP3P2/R5K1 w - - 11 27

      White to move.

      White is behind in material [by a Pawn] in the given position.

      What are the additional surface-level "clues" to the solution of this problem?

      These three problems (this one plus the previous two) share a consistent concept, although the pieces-on-squares are totally different. The potential pattern should be readily visible on the surface, which constrains the solution space. The only question is HOW to realize the potential; forcing moves are always a good starting point. The point is to "SEE" the potential solution using pattern recognition (System 1 or the RCCM).

      It is fascinating that White makes the first serious mistake, on move 15. (As GM Savielly Tartakower opined, "The winner of the game is the player who makes the next-to-last mistake.") Black makes the last serious mistake on move 16. Puzzles
      Rating: 1556
      Played 7,166 times

      From game 10+0 • Rapid
      naddiir (1802)
      jprata (1794)

      1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.exd5 exd5 4.Nf3 Nf6 5.Bf4 Bd6 6.Bxd6 Qxd6 7.Be2 O-O 8.O-O Nbd7 9.c3 Ne4 10.Nbd2 Re8 11.h3 h6 12.Bd3 c6 13.Re1 Ndf6 14.Nh2 Bd7 15.Qc2 ? Ng5 16.Nhf3 Bxh3? 17.Nxg5 hxg5 18.gxh3 g4 19.Bf5 gxh3 20.Bxh3 Qf4 21.Qd3 g6 22.Nb3 Kg7 23.Qg3 Qh6 24.Nc5 Rh8 25.Re7 Qxh3 26.Ne6+ Kg8 27.Qxg6+ fxg6 28.Rg7#

    5. FEN: 6k1/p5p1/1p1p1nN1/1B1P4/4PK2/8/2r3b1/7R w - - 0 1

      [From The Chess Improver, Deja Vu (4), Valer Eugen Demian, 9 NOV 2021]

      White to move.

      White is behind in material [by two passed Pawns] in the given position.

      One additional constraint: this is a mate-in-4 and the third move is NOT a check.

      What are the additional surface-level "clues" to the solution of this problem?

      This problem combines the mating pattern with the paramount importance of closing the "box" around the enemy King. It's fairly easy to "see" the potential pattern, but much more difficult to "see" how the "box" is forced to be closed.

      Mr. Demian's blog post demonstrates the ease with which we can be "blinded" by misreading the constraints, even when we get that "feeling" that we've "seen" this problem before. I've had a similar experience: quickly solving a series of problems that are all White to move and mate, then running aground of a Black to move and mate, overlooking the constraint that it is Black moving. After wasting time trying to find a solution that does not exist, I finally realize that I misread the constraints, and easily solve the problem.

      The same thing can happen when we fixate on a few possibilities, and become blind to what is right in front of our eyes on the surface.

      GM Rowson, in his excellent book Chess for Zebras: Thinking Differently about Black and White, section The Lazy Detective, opens with a quote from Gordon Rattray, Scottish club player rated around 2100 (and one of GM Rowson's students):

      I currently view myself as a 'lazy detective'. I want to solve the case based on some loose and shallow theories. I don't want to get my hands dirty with tedious details. "He's got blood on his shoes, must have been him ... and it was him last time ... stands to reason it will be him again ... no need to question him ...

      It is that psychological desire to "make things easy" that can blind us to what is readily available as "clues" on the surface level.

    6. FEN: 3r1k2/1p1r2pp/1npNR3/p2p2p1/P2P4/1P6/5PPP/4R1K1 w - - 8 33

      White to move.

      White is behind in material [by a Pawn which is doubled, thus nullifying the material advantage somewhat] in the given position.

      What are the additional surface-level "clues" to the solution of this problem?

      There is a name given to a specific variation of this recurring pattern: the Arabian mate. The given name is not important, other than as a shorthand for the pattern. The usual 'pared down to essentials' tutorial form is with the enemy King stuck in one of the four corners of the board, with the Knight the two squares horizontally and vertically and the Rook controlling the diagonal and also checkmating.

      It is the potential idea that we need to "see": an immobile King, with the possibility of a Rook giving mate, supported by a protecting Knight. The "box" is already formed around the Black King, confining it to the back rank; White has superiority on e8 [3:2]. The location of the pieces-on-squares is totally irrelevant to "seeing" and applying the pattern.

      What can we take away from this series of problems? That we should explore and exploit every possible example for ways to broaden a concept through abstraction to a higher level, "seeing" the essence rather than the concrete specifics of pieces-on-squares. Generally, this can be done by removing extraneous pieces until the essence is revealed. While solving problems and playing games, this can be done mentally by focusing on the relevant features that are triggered by System 1. Doing this requires us to let the position tell us what is relevant, not trying to force a solution through mindless trial and error. Given sufficient experience, just relax and trust System 1 to bring the essence (which may be 'hidden') up to the conscious level. Puzzles
      Rating: 1055
      Played 359 times
      From game 30+20 • Classical
      jesusmor (1752)
      TsikyAndriananja2021 (1728)

      1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bc4 Bc5 4.c3 Nf6 5.d4 exd4 6.e5 d5 7.Bb5 Nd7 8.cxd4 Bb4+ 9.Nc3 a6 10.Be2 Nb6 11.O-O O-O 12.Bg5 Be7 13.Bxe7 Qxe7 14.Qb3 Be6 15.a4 Na5 16. Qa3 Qxa3 17.Rxa3 Nbc4 18.Bxc4 Nxc4 19.Ra2 a5 20.b3 Nb6 21.Nb5 Rac8 22.Rc1 c6 23.Nd6 Rc7 24.Ng5 Bd7 25.Re2 f6 26.e6 fxg5 27.e7 Ra8 28.e8=Q+ Bxe8 29.Nxe8 Rd7 30.Rce1 Kf8 31.Re6 Rc8 32.Nd6 Rcd8 33.Re8+ Rxe8 34. Rxe8#

  9. Munich said: "And, my dear temposchlucker, how much of your chess blog have you devoted to time management, time trouble, using time?"

    Whole my blog is devoted to time management in tactics. To transform knowledge into skill. It took me 23 years to discover the method of transferring knowledge from one position to another. The method even has a somewhat scientific base.

    Alas the method is rather difficult to apply. Especially to tactics. That's why I'm procrastinating the application of the method to tactics somewhat. The good news is, that the method is omni-applicable. It can be used for openings, middlegames and endgames as well. And that is even easier than to apply it to tactics. So that is what I'm doing lately. Yet it is not so easy to blog about this.

    But Munich is right of course. I focused on tactics, and I deliberately neglected the other areas of the game. There was a time that I found it more genteel to lose by time than by making bad moves. So I lost a lot of games by the clock. Furthermore, my habit to look for the ultimate tactic in positions where there is no such move, has lost me many, many games too.

    Now I'm over that. Losing by time trouble hasn't happened the past year.

    Maybe I can distill a method of improvement out of this discussion. I noticed that the moves that take me the longest time, coincide with hiatuses in my knowledge. So I can use the used time for a move as an indicator to where my study should focus on. That way, I'm always focusing on my weakest spot. And that will give me a clear subject for blogging too. I'm going to give it a try.

  10. Blogger has changed its method of spam approvement again, so I must now "unspam" some of your comments to get them published. So if you miss a comment you wrote, drop me a note. Sorry for the inconvenience. It is not easy to see for me which comments are blocked because blogger deems it to be spam.

  11. Yesterday at the club I followed the advise of Munich to play in accordance with the adagium of gm Smirnov: to take is a mistake. The result was that the trades of my opponent acted as a magnet for my pieces, who were drawn towards my opponents King. It works!

  12. I'm in the hospital for a few weeks. That can influence my blogging into two directions. When I have enough energy, I can blog. But the blogs will contain no pictures, links or other difficult constructions. It wil co tain more typos though, due to automatic spelling corrections.
    Otherwise, it will be quiet.

  13. Using surface level features of a position is vitally important in beginning the process of "seeing" deeper to the essence of the position. Sometimes, we erroneously take for granted that the surface features are all that matter when choosing a move. This is where PoPLoAFun can help avoid a debacle.

    FEN: r3r1k1/ppp2pp1/7p/1Q6/8/2q2B2/P4PPP/3R1K1R w - - 0 18

    White is to move, and is the higher rated player. Both players are in the Expert class.

    White has a material advantage (Bishop for two Pawns).

    White would like to get his King to a safer location, and also to activate his Rook on h1. Since he has the material advantage, getting the Queens off the board would help immensely. [This "triggers" a blindness!] Prior to actually making his move, he should have asked a basic question: IS IT SAFE? [Courtesy of NM Dan Heisman]

    White played 18. Qd3. We can assume that he did ask the correct question, but did not arrive at the correct answer because he failed to take into consideration a subtlety involving the King as a defender.

    In the given position, the e1-square is B.A.D. [2:2]. Both the WKf1 and WRd1 are guarding it, and the BQc3 and BRe8 are attacking it. Each of the White pieces has a function: to defend the e1-square. If either of these pieces is given an additional Function, the balance swings in Black's favor.

    The subtlety is that when a King is involved as a defender, it must ALWAYS be the LAST to capture in an exchange sequence on the defended square. If multiple attackers are aimed at the square, the King can only be counted as a defender at the end of an exchange sequence, because otherwise, it would be exposed to capture, which is against the rules.

    So a "clue" as to what NOT to play is to burden the Rook with an additional Function. Unfortunately, that is exactly what 18. Qd3 does. The Rook must now protect the Queen AND protect the e1-square, thus becoming overloaded.

    How can Black take advantage of this?

    By forcing the Rook to give up one of its functions.

    18.... Re1+

    The White King cannot capture because of the Black Queen, so White is forced to play 19.Rxe1, leaving the White Queen hanging.

    Black wins the Queen with 19....Qxd3.

    What can we take away from this simple example? It is NOT sufficient to merely maintain the attacker/defender ratio balance on a contested square IFF the King is one of the crucial defenders. When a King is one of the defenders, check to see if there is a way to give one of the other defenders an additional Function to perform. If we can do this, we can gain superiority on the contested square even if it appears to be balanced on the surface. This is why the Function motif is so important!

    The original tactics puzzle on began after White played 18.Qd3.

    From game 15+10 • Rapid
    zellap (2103)
    LePetitNouveau (2031)

    Rating: 1141
    Played 341 times

    1.d4 d5 2.c4 e6 3.Nc3 Bb4 4.Qb3 Nc6 5.Nf3 Nf6 6.Bg5 h6 7.Bxf6 Qxf6 8.e3 O-O 9.cxd5 exd5 10.Qxd5 Be6 11.Qb5 Bg4 12.Be2 Bxf3 13.Bxf3 Nxd4 14.exd4 Rfe8+ 15.Kf1 Qxd4 16.Rd1 Bxc3 17.bxc3 Qxc3 18.Qd3 Re1+19.Rxe1 Qxd3+ White resigns

  14. FEN: r5k1/pp2rppp/2p5/8/2Pq4/1P3Q2/1P4PP/4RR1K b - - 0 22

    Another example of the importance of counting defenders properly (remembering that the King only counts as the LAST defender during multi-exchanges on a given square. The surface level features point in the proper direction toward the hidden essence of the position.

    Black is to move, and is the lower rated player.

    Black has a material advantage (an extra Pawn). Black just captured that extra Pawn with 21... Qxd4+ 22.Kh1. In so doing, he did not properly consider the effect of the B.A.D. [2:2] f7-square being attacked by the WQf4 and WRf1, and defended by the BRe7 and BKg8. Protecting the BRe7 was vitally important - and so is the move/piece that will protect that Rook. Black played 22... Rae8, assuming (incorrectly) that he had everything defended. Black was aware that the BRe7 had the protection of the f7-square as one of its Functions. By protecting the BRe7, he (unintentionally?) added a Function to the BRe7 - protecting the BRe8 from the WRe1's attack. White now has superiority [1:0] on the e8-square and the f8-square!

    "No [chess]man can serve two masters."

    How can White take advantage of this?

    By forcing the BRe7 to give up one of its Functions.


    The Black King cannot capture because of the WRf1, so Black is forced to capture with 23... Rxf7. Unfortunately, White now has superiority on the e8-square [1:0] and f8-square [2:1], so 24.Rxe8+ Rf8 25.R (either) xf8#. It was possible to refrain from capturing with 23...BKh8, but that loses to 24. Qf8+ Rxf8 25. Rxf8#.

    The "lesson" in both examples is the same: CORRECTLY counting attackers and defenders is a vital skill, complicated by the requirement to limit the defending King to the role of recapturing on the LAST move of a potential multi-exchange sequence. Often it is the little things that escape our attention - which gets us KILLED!

    The original tactics puzzle on began after Black played 22... Rae8.

    From game 5+0 • Blitz
    ravelo (1918)
    Killer_sta_Blitzakia (1689)

    Rating: 1456
    Played 6,018 times

    1.e4 e5 2.Bc4 Nc6 3.d3 Be7 4.f4 exf4 5.Bxf4 Nf6 6.Nf3 d6 7.Nc3 O-O 8.O-O Na5 9.Bb3 Nxb3 10.axb3 c6 11.Qe2 Be6 12.d4 Re8 13.Rfd1 Bf8 14.e5 Nd5 15.Nxd5 Bxd5 16.c4 Bxf3 17.Qxf3 Qc7 18.exd6 Bxd6 19.Bxd6 Qxd6 20.Rf1 Re7 21.Rae1 Qxd4+ 22.Kh1 Rae8 23.Qxf7+ Rxf7 24.Rxe8+ Rf8 25.Rexf8# White checkmates

  15. Here is a good example of "seeing" through obstacles on the attack path.

    FEN: 6R1/ppkn4/4rpQ1/2p5/8/1P5P/1PPN1P2/2K4q w - - 12 35

    White to move.
    White has a one Pawn material advantage.

    Black's last move was 34. ... Qh1+.

    How should White respond?

    The g1-square is "safe" for White [2:1], so being forced to interpose a piece doesn't seem to be a problem. Interposing the White Knight on the f1-square just loses it: 35. Nf1 Qxf1+ [but White does have an "escape square" as a result]. So White looks at an alternative: 35. Qg1. This blocks the check AND threatens to capture the Black Queen. It does not seem to matter that the White Queen is now pinned to the White King; White can always recapture with the White Rook.

    Black "sees" more than just the pin. The White King is currently confined to the edge of the board by his Pawns and Knight. [This is a surface-level "clue".] Perhaps there is a possible back rank mate? [PATTERN RECOGNITION!] The problem for Black is that capturing the White Queen with 35. ... Qxg1+ is NOT mate: White recaptures with 36. Rxg1 and the mate threat is gone.

    Black "sees" THROUGH the White Queen, and realizes that putting the Black Rook on e1 with 36. ... Re1+ changes everything. White is forced to play and lose with 37. Qxe1 Qxe1#.

    The solution does not depend on consciously randomly trying a list of various tactical theme/devices such as pin, X-ray, skewer, line clearance, etc. Instead, it can easily be solved by "seeing" the surface-level "clue(s)" and then using them to "look" deeper into the essence (the requirements) of the position. Problem

    From game 10+0 • Rapid
    PERMKRAII (1628)
    Dramhorse (1658)

    Rating: 1118
    Played 1,977 times

    1.e4 e5 2.Bc4 Nc6 3.Nf3 d6 4.Nc3 Nf6 5.d3 Bg4 6.h3 Bxf3 7.gxf3 Nd4 8.Be3 c5 9.f4 Qb6 10.Bb3 Nxb3 11.axb3 exf4 12.Bxf4 Be7 13.Rg1 g6 14.Bh6 Qc6 15.Qf3 Rg8 16.Bg5 Nd7 17.Bxe7 Kxe7 18.Nd5+ Kf8 19.Qf4 Nb6 20.Nf6 Rg7 21.Qh6 d5 22.Nxh7+ Kg8 23.Ng5 f6 24.Nf3 dxe4 25.Rxg6 Rxg6 26.Qxg6+ Kf8 27.dxe4 Re8 28.O-O-O Rxe4 29.Rd8+ Ke7 30.Qg8 Nd7 31.Qe8+ Kd6 32.Qg6 Kc7 33.Rg8 Re6 34.Nd2 Qh1+ 35.Qg1 Re1+ 36.Qxe1 Qxe1#

  16. "Seeing" the "clues" in a position is important. Failure to "see" those "clues" can result in disaster. Here's a simple example from lichess puzzles. (This position occurs one ply before the actual puzzle position, which occurs after 42. ... Qxd5.)

    FEN: 3r2k1/5p1/6p1/q2P3p/3Q3P/6P1/4RP1K/8 b - - 2 42

    Black to move.

    White has a one (passed, center) Pawn material advantage.

    White also has a safer King position than Black. Specifically, Black is "threatened" with the (remote?) possibility of a back rank checkmate with the White Queen controlling the a1-h8 diagonal. The h8-square is B.A.D. [1:1].

    We have no idea of how much time remained on the clock.

    Black has the opportunity to re-establish material equality by capturing on the d4-square. He should have asked, "IS IT SAFE?" and looked for refutations based on pattern recognition.

    There is a surface-level "clue" (based on pattern recognition) that Black should NOT capture on the d4-square. The pattern is rudimentary: capturing on d4 "loads" the BRd8 with the additional function of protecting the Black Queen; it already has the function of protecting the Black King along the back rank. If Black captures, the d4-square becomes B.A.D. [1:1].

    The analogical response (useful in a lot of other situations) is to take advantage of the Black Rook defender by forcing it to choose one function or the other, not allowing it to perform both functions with impunity.

    In response to 42. ... Qxd5, what can White do?

    The most "obvious" way to overload the Black Rook is to check the Black King on the back rank with 43. Re8+. Black has choices, but none of them are good.

    43. ... Rxe8 44. Qxd5 - With Queen for Rook, White should be winning easily. In the game, Black played this variation and then resigned.

    Perhaps Black can weasel out of his dilemma? (If there is extreme time pressure, this might be worth a try.) This is where we must "see" the various alternatives.

    43. ... Kh7 avoids making an immediate choice, and (apparently) retains the defense of the BQd5.

    White can now take advantage in two different ways.

    The h8-square is B.A.D. momentarily [2:2]. However, if the White Rook is moved to the h8-square, it can no longer capture on the h8-square and the balance shifts in Black's favor [1:2]. In this situation, we can utilize the previous discussed idea that in a multi-piece exchange on a given square, the King can only capture at the end of the exchange sequence.

    44. Rh8+ forces the Black Rook to capture on the h8-square with 44. ... Rxh8 followed by capturing the Black Queen with 45. Qxd5. Again, White is winning with Queen versus Rook.

    The alternative is to capture the Black Rook with 44. Rxd8. This "defends" the White Queen by (in effect) "skewering" the Black Queen (another typical pattern, but one that is not so obvious). Now Black is forced to exchange (otherwise White checkmates with 45. Qh8#) with 44. ... Qxd5 45. Rxd5 and White is winning, up a Rook.

    One thing I am trying to learn to apply is to "see" all the various potentialities, rather than just getting a cursory idea that just happens to work. Sloppy undisciplined analysis can cost us the game! Problem

    From game 10+0 • Rapid
    KillaUnknown (1873)
    Slowfish (1716)

    Rating: 1093
    Played 299 times

    1.d4 d52.c4 dxc4 3.e4 a6 4.Bxc4 b5 5.Be2 e6 6.Nf3 Nf6 7.Bg5 Be7 8.e5 Nd5 9.Bxe7 Qxe7 10.O-O Qb4 11.Nc3 Nxc3 12.bxc3 Qe7 13.h4 O-O 14.Bd3 h6 15.a4 Bb7 16.axb5 a5 17.Qe2 c6 18.g3 cxb5 19.Bxb5 Qc7 20.Rfc1 Ba6 21.Bxa6 Rxa6 22.Rab1 Qa7 23.Nd2 a4 24.Ne4 a3 25.Ra1 a2 26.Rc2 Qb7 27.Rcxa2 Rxa2 28.Rxa2 Qb1+ 29.Kg2 Nc6 30.Rb2 Qc1 31.Rb6 Ne7 32.Qg4 Nd5 33.Nf6+ Nxf6 34.exf6 g6 35.Rxe6 Qxc3 36.Re7 Qc6+ 37.Kh2 Qxf6 38.Re2 h5 39.Qe4 Rd8 40.Qe5 Qb6 41.d5 Qa5 42.Qd4 Qxd5 43.Re8+ Rxe8 44.Qxd5 Black resignsQxd5

  17. PART I:

    Learning to "see" patterns is often misconstrued to mean memorization of specific pieces-on-squares and then recall of those specific piece positions (and the associated moves) if and when that exact same position repeats. That is an incorrect understanding of patterns and pattern recognition.

    It is not the specific concrete position of specific pieces and the exact same sequence of moves that constitute a memorable pattern. The essence of the pattern is much more abstract, based on analogy. The details of the pattern are not the important thing(s) to remember (or "trigger" recollection via System 1/RCCM). The essence can only be captured by "seeing" a concrete example and then THINKING through WHY the interrelationship of the individual pieces and the subsequent moves are important (because typical and recurring). If it happens ONCE, then most assuredly it can happen again - and probably will - but NOT necessarily exactly the same in some or all aspects.

    One of the most important "tricks of the trade" is to recognize the elements of a learned pattern, and then modify some aspect (such as the order of moves) to make it "work." We often forget to do this.

    Here are a couple of examples from 303 Tricky Checkmates: Two, Three & Four Move Checkmates by Fred Wilson and Bruce Albertson.

    Problem 190: White to move & mate in three

    FEN: 5rk1/2p2ppp/2N5/8/R7/7P/1PQ1n1PK/5q2 w - - 0 1

    Problem 191: White to move & mate in three

    FEN: q4r2/p4ppk/2R1n3/5N2/8/2Q3P1/1P3P2/5K2 w - - 0 1

    At first glance, the two positions look totally different (from a pieces-on-squares perspective).

    In problem 190, Black is threatening checkmate on g1. In problem 191, Black has no counterattack against the White King. That alone makes the two positions dissimilar, enough to prevent System 1 from "seeing" any connection between the two positions - unless the capability to drill down toward the essence has been trained previously.

    In problem 190, the pieces-on-squares SHOULD "trigger" a recognition of the common elements of Anastasia's Mate; this is the classical example of that stock mate pattern. The Knight can get to e7 with check, removing two escape squares (g6 and g8). The White Queen can be sacrificed on h7 with check. The White Rook can checkmate from h4. Given that White is to move, each of the individual steps forces Black to move as desired, with no opportunity to checkmate White.

    1. Ne7+ Kh8 (forced) 2. Qxh7+ Kxh7 (forced) 3. Rh4#

  18. PART II:

    In problem 191, White can start the sequence with 1. Ne7, a NON-FORCING move cutting off the Black King from g6 and g8, but then sacrificing the White Queen on g7 just throws away the Queen for nothing: the White Rook cannot get to the h-file because of the BNf6 (blocking the line of the Rook) and the BPg7 (which can capture the Rook if it moves to h6).
    So, on the surface, it looks like the Anastasia's Mate pattern may not be applicable.

    Looking "deeper," there is a common element: The White Knight can reach e7 with a potential check. "Always check: it might be mate!" Is that sufficient to "trigger" recognition of the common elements of Anastasia's Mate? I doubt it, but System 1 can be quite creative in finding analogies. Even if it doesn't trigger the entire pattern, it bears investigating deeper.

    Presume that the White Knight is the common element of the pattern in both problems. The pieces-on-squares of the White Queen and the White Rook are just "wrong": the Queen cannot be sacrificed on h7, and the White Rook cannot get to the h-file. So, should we just give it up and look for something else? NO.

    Is there any forcing move available that would remove the g7 "guard" of the h-file? YES: 1. Qxg7+ is forcing (1. ... Nxg7) AND it accomplished TWO tasks simultaneously (ALWAYS a felicitous discovery): (1) the g7-Pawn is removed as a guard of h6, AND (2) the Black Knight is forcibly deflected (line clearance) so that the White Rook CAN get to the h-file. This forcible movement of the Black Knight utilizes the previous idea that the King (in a potential multi-piece exchange on a given square) can only capture LAST in the sequence. The first move (in the Anastasia's Mate) is a forcing Queen sacrifice; another element of that pattern falls into place. The fact that the pieces-on-squares are different is IRRELEVANT!

    In the starting position, the h6-square is B.A.D. [2:2] You might ask, "How can that be, when White only attacks the square with the Knight, and Black defends it with the King and Pawn?" When trying to "trigger" pattern recognition, it is important to ALWAYS "look through" obstacles (such as the Black Knight blocking the LoA of the White Rook). After the first moves, the Knight "guards" the h6 square, which has now become controlled by White [2:1]. Since there is a White guard on h6, it is safe to put the White Rook on it. So, 2. Rh6+ forces the Black King to g8. Another piece in the pattern recognition puzzle falls into place.

    At this point, Anastasia's Mate pattern should be crystal clear: 3. Ne7#.

    This illustrates why it is so important to start by looking at the surface potentialities, not using trial-and-error ("Throw something, anything against the wall and see if it sticks") but by utilizing the elements (fragments; "clues") that are readily visible on the surface BEFORE beginning the search for candidate moves and the calculation of variations. Trying to decide on a list of candidate moves as the first step (per GM Kotov) (without using the RCCM) is an exercise in futility.

    If we are continually stymied by non-standard pieces-on-squares positions and cannot "see" standard patterns by analogy (regardless of whether it is a tactical device/theme, positional motif, or stock endgame solution), then I submit we have not learned how to "see" either the forest or the trees; we're just wood-pushing at random. "Sticks and stones will break my bones."

  19. FEN: 2r2rk1/1bq1b1pp/p3p3/1p1pP3/3P4/P7/BP4PP/R1BQ1RK1 w - - 1 20

    White to move.

    Suppose White decides to play 20. Bb1 (which, in the game, he did).

    What should Black "see"?

    What is the present count on c1? Apparently [2:2], so c1 is B.A.D. and it is Black's turn to move. The general solution is to thin out the defenders by capturing a defender (an application of Lasker's Encircling Motif), so Black looks at 20. ... Rxf1 21. Kxf1, gaining superiority on c1 [1:2]. Since that has been achieved, Black captures on c1 with 21. ... Qxc1, expecting to gain a piece after 22. Qxc1 Rxc1+.

    Since this is obviously bad for White, Black's intuition should be clanging out "Danger, Will Robinson! DANGER!" That sequence of moves isn't very hard to figure out for a player rated 2015 (Expert), even in a 10-minute game.

    Alas, Black mis-counted on c1, and his "DANGER" alarm was set on snooze. The count is actually [3:2], because the WRa1 MUST be counted as "defending" c1. But, you insist, that Rook CANNOT jump over the WBb1 to capture on c1. True, but that WBb1 CAN capture WITH CHECK on h7 22. Bxh7+ Kxh7, clearing the LoA of the WRa1 to c1, so White can play 23. Rxc1 and Black is dead lost.

    This is another example of why we must "see" through obstacles, whether our own pieces or the opponent's pieces, when "looking" at the surface-level "clues." Like the Man of Steel, we must develop "x-ray" vision when counting. And, we always have to be mindful of CMCT (Checks, Mates, Captures and Threats).

    Perhaps you object. Perhaps we should be looking for Zwischenzug or an intermediate move WITH CHECK. That may be true, but it does not help us "see" what is on the surface. We can label it whatever we want (after the fact) but that labeling does not help us to "see" the obvious - which is that Black cannot capture with impunity on c1, even after removing one of the obvious defenders.

    From game 10+0 • Rapid
    Madhav2222 (2015)
    robi1950 (2091)

    Rating: 1307
    Played 6,442 times

    1.e4 c5 2.Bc4 d6 3.f4 e6 4.Nf3 Nf6 5.d3 Be7 6.c3 O-O 7.Nbd2 a6 8.a3 b5 9.Ba2 Bb7 10.Nf1 d5 11.e5 Nfd7 12.Ne3 f6 13.Ng4 fxe5 14.Ngxe5 Nxe5 15.Nxe5 Nd7 16.O-O Nxe5 17.fxe5 Qc7 18.d4 cxd4 19.cxd4 Rac8 20.Bb1 Rxf1+ 21.Kxf1 Qxc1 22.Bxh7+ Kxh7 23.Rxc1 Rxc1 24.Qxc1 Black resigns

  20. Stemm cell transplant has gone well. Hopefully I'm ready for the next years to come. I only have a lack of energy due to the last chemo. Now I must try to get my energy back.

  21. That's good news indeed!

    Wishing you and Margriet a very Merry Christmas and a Happy and Healthy New Year!

  22. Happy New Year!

    I recently finished reading some thoroughly fascinating stuff.

    Jacob Aagaard's Thinking Inside The Box is a summary of the Grandmaster Preparation series of books. There are several practical ideas in each chapter, some of which I've already discussed. Another favorite is his 8 "principles" regarding dynamic strategic concepts.

    (1) Include ALL the pieces in the attack. Never give up momentum in order to bring the last piece into play.

    (2) Momentum: Once you have improved your position to the maximum, you must execute your attack with the greatest possible pace. [This is based on Steintiz's "rule" for attacking - use it or lose it.]

    (3) Most chess pieces are color blind. Bishops, knights and pawns can only control squares of one color at a time, the queen is biased towards the color of the square it is standing on, the rook will aim at the same color square first in all four directions and the king at the edge of the board (where it often is) is also biased. ...controlling one color of squares is one of the main indicators of a promising attack.

    (4) Quantity beats Quality. A piece can only attack a square ONCE, no matter its alleged exchange value in pawns. [I've mentioned this before; it's important because in terms of control of squares, the relative material values are irrelevant. This reduces the cognitive load required to figure out variations.]

    (5) Attack the weakest square. You should strike at the weakest spot in the opponent's position.

    (6) Attack the strongest square. [This seems like a contradiction to the previous principle, but it's not. By striking at the strongest square, we may ruin his coordination and that way, get through to his real weaknesses.]

    (7) Evolution/revolution. Prepare as much as possible (evolution), then do with them what we can (revolution), and things change.

    (8) The killzone. A mating attack is likely to happen in a limited area of the board. If the opponent's king manages to escape this area, the attack is likely to fail.

    I just finished skimming through GM Davorin Kuljasevic's book How To Study Chess On Your Own: Creating a Plan that Works... and sticking to it!. [It was one of my Christmas presents!]

    In Chapter 8, Systemize your middlegame knowledge, he gives a table of three positional models (Table 8.1: Positional models).

    Jacob Aagard - Three positional questions:
    (1) Where are the weaknesses?
    (2) Which is the worst placed piece?
    (3) What is your opponent's idea?

    IM Eric Kislik reorders these three questions by priority:
    (1) What is your opponent's idea?
    (2) Where are the weaknesses?
    (3) Which is the worst placed piece?

    Iosif Dorfman - The Method in Chess
    (1) The position of the king
    (2) Material
    (3) Transfer into the endgame
    (4) Weaknesses - pawns and squares

    Alexander Kotov (modified by Kuljasevic in his youth)
    (1) Pawn structure
    (2) Position of the pieces
    (3) Control of space and center
    (4) Weak squares and square complexes
    (5) Open files, ranks and diagonals

    Both Aagaard and Kuljasevic suggest that these models or checklists be used primarily during training. The important thing is NOT to follow an exhaustive checklist on every move during a game, but have something succinct that helps focus attention on the salient points in the majority of positions. Using an abbreviated checklist will help develop positional intuition.

    The PoPLoAFun system does something similar. It enables us to look at the surface level features and "see" the clues pointing to the underlying essence.

    1. Happy new year to everybody!

      Interesting stuff. Especially about colors. I focus on My System of Nimzowitsch. Which basically is a manual for finding the weak spots in the enemy camp, and the standard methods how to undermine them.

  23. Happy New Year. I hope it brings more chess explorations and continued improving health.

  24. just finished this puzzle book which had quite a bit on the pseudoscience of chess improvement and reminds me of our journey.

  25. FEN: 5rkr/1b1qb3/pQ1p2p1/3Pp3/4N3/7P/1PP3B1/3R1RK1 w - - 0 1

    This position is taken from Willie Hendriks' book (I don't have a copy yet but I like what I see in the Amazon preview!), On the exercises.

    Willie introduces this section with this problem and a quote:

    In order to appreciate something as a solution, you had to face a problem to begin with.

    He offers four possible "answers":

    A. Finally, the pair of bishops will decide the issue.
    B. Carefully deliberating the possibilities is advised here.
    C. It's a pity they don't adjourn games anymore.
    D. Who was to move, you said?

    (That ends Willie's contribution to this discussion.)

    Given the open (but contested) f-file, it seems "natural" to attempt some type of "attack" on the Black King. There's a possibility of capturing with check on f8. There's that "juicy" B.A.D. [2:2] f6-square, just begging for a Knight fork of the Black King and Queen. Yet there just doesn't seem to be a feasible way to remove the "protection" - capturing on f8 can be met by recapturing with the King, not the Bishop. Any precipitous move to f6 with the Knight changes the ratio to [1:2]. The White Queen appears to be cutoff from getting to the kingside.

    Now let's use combine separate ideas (not moves) into - a combination! After all, that's what a combination is! What we really need are TWO weaknesses (another idea).

    First, let's look in the vicinity of the Black King. Based on pattern recognition, there is a potential checkmate IFF the White Queen can get to the g6-square - an epaulette mate! That's weakness #1.

    Second, let's look at the b7-square B.A.D. [1:1]. The usual idea for attacking and conquering a B.A.D. square is the Encircling Motif (Lasker): add an attacker or deflect a defender. There doesn't seem to be any way to deflect the Black Queen, so, using ELIMINATION (another idea), adding an attacker seems to be the way to go.

    At this point, it might be objected that there s NO way to get the White Queen to g6; the d6-square is firmly controlled by Black [1:2] and there is no Pawn break to coax it out of the way.

    Remember the idea of "looking" THROUGH any and all obstacles to a desired square? Apply that idea here! In essence, the BPd6 is "pinned" - if it moves (capturing on c5, for instance), then the LoA to g6 is opened up, resulting in checkmate.

    Combining all of these ideas and "seeing" the various weaknesses should make it relatively easy to solve this problem.

    White plays 1. Nc5 and either checkmates or wins the BBb7.

    If we use ALL of the available ideas, and bind them together, we CAN "see" a lot more than we think.

  26. PART I:

    While reviewing and contemplating GM Rowson's discussion of knowledge ("know that") and skill ("know how"), I had an idea regarding this distinction, and how it applies to chess. (DOn't laugh; it could happen to you too!)

    Consider the ordinary experience of riding a bicycle. Learning to ride a bicycle requires several skills. Most of us learn to ride ("know how") through trial and error, not through a formal educational process that imparts knowledge ("know that"). We eventually become fairly skilled riders.

    I am not aware of anyone learning to ride a bicycle by the process of attending a series of classes, taught by a credentialed bicycle riding instructor, resulting in a "degree" in bicycle riding. Perhaps there are those who can learn bicycle riding this way; I suspect NOT.

    However, that's not the idea. Consider what happens if, over a fairly long period of time, you don't ride a bicycle. You don't lose any knowledge ("know that") of bicycle riding and what it requires, but you will most likely lose skill ("know how"). The myriad skills required to keep your balance while pedaling and steering will "rust" unless regularly exercised. It usually doesn't take much "practice" to regain skill (remove the rust") by simply getting on the bicycle and riding it. You will probably be a little "wobbly" at first, but the lizard brain will very quickly find the groove needed.

    There is an obvious analogy to chess playing. We can learn as much knowledge as we can stuff into our memory, being able to "regurgitate on command," but still may be inept when it comes to playing ("knowing how" to apply that knowledge). We may develop a fairly impressive level of skill - at least, up to a point. However, a similar process of "rusting" occurs whenever we go for some time without actually playing chess. We don't lose any of our knowledge, but we do lose our playing skill. This happens to every level of player, from novice to Grandmaster.

    This is a clear indication that what we must work on diligently is DEVELOPING and MAINTAINING our skills, NOT increasing our knowledge, in order to improve over the long term.

    How can we do this effectively?

  27. PART II:

    By repeating the thinking process of analyzing positions, any and all positions (regardless of whether it is tactical, positional or strategic), trying to determine the best move. There is no knowledge to be gained in this process, only skill. As Dr. Lasker stated in Lasker's Manual of Chess, he acquired very little knowledge but he could apply that very little because he had the skill.

    I suspect my failure to steadily improve my chess playing skill lies in this dichotomy. I spend a lot more time "reading and nodding" than doing the fundamental process of determining the best move in a given position, even when playing over an annotated game. It just seems so much easier to "LEARN" stuff (put it into memory) than it is to "DO" stuff (the painstaking process of figuring out what to do in a concrete situation).

    I've spent a lot of time solving tens of thousands of tactical puzzles, trying to "see" the pattern(s) involved, trying to find "clues" that reside on the surface, and how those "clues" point to the essence of each position, and what should be played. Knowledge of Lasker's MOTIFS, standard tactical THEMES, standard checkmates, standard endgames, standard positional elements, standard opening moves - all of that falls under knowledge, not skill. Who cares if you know what an Arabian Mate pattern is?!?

    Knowledge WILL take us part of the way, but eventually, an increasing level of skill must be developed, or a plateau occurs. Most of us hit that "wall" and can never find a way to pass around it, over it, under it, or through it. Adding more knowledge is NOT the answer!

    The emphasis on knowledge rather than skill is a (perhaps THE) significant limiting factor in adult chess improvement.

    We can "know" it when we "see" it, but we (usually) do not have the "skill" to apply that knowledge in each and every position in each and every game. In short, we've been "practicing" the wrong thing in the wrong way.

    Quelle surprise.

    1. The main problem has always been being easily overwhelmed. When you don't know what you are looking for, you can look for it until the cows come home. Only adding to your confusion.

      You need an overview of the situation. A simple plan. It might be wrong or incomplete, but without a simple plan, your thoughts will have no direction. Hence will be all over the place.

      Both Nimzowitsch and Smirnov provide such simple plans. Just stick to it, and you will find out what works in what situation and what not. You will recognize the tactics when they naturally arise from the position.

      We found the secret of transferring knowledge from one position to another: analogies. Learn to see the analogies between positions.

  28. PART I:

    I just began taking another pass at GM Valeri Beim's excellent book How to Calculate Chess Tactics: A revealing look at the nuts and bolts of chess thought. GM Beim carefully defines tactics as an abstract conception, materializing on the board in the form of tactical blows, a form of revolution in chess. He uses this idea:

    ". . . a tactical blow is merely the smallest individual unit which exists within the overall phenomenon that we call tactics. . . . It is easiest to imagine this by analogy with a wall. A wall cannot exist as a whole in itself, but consists of various elements — cement and bricks, either wooden or stone. Thus it is in chess — tactical blows are to tactics what bricks are to walls."

    He then provides a definition of combination: a combination is a system of tactical blows and their interconnections [a series of moves], having a forcing character, and leading to favorable consequences for the perpetrator.

    Here is his very first example (pg 10) in the book:

    Example 1:

    FEN: 8/k4ppp/8/5PPP/8/8/K7/8 w - - 0 1

    He gives this commentary:

    "White wins by a well-known IDEA [emphasis added]. First, the 'simple' step:

    1 g6 fxg6 [Obviously, Black could just as easily capture with 1 ... hxg6.]

    And now a 'jab', to knock out the last obstacle in front of the prospective passed pawn:

    2 h6! gxh6

    Finally the concluding step:

    3 f6


    From a technical point of view, it is all very simple."

    I have little doubt that the blog author as well as those who frequently read and comment on the blog posts are familiar with this simple and well-known example from endgame theory. The mechanism is cut-and-dried; anyone who has looked at it can see how to use it IFF this position arises in an actual game.

    So why comment on it at all?

  29. PART II:

    I was struck by how that first move is passed over in virtual silence: it's 'simple', nothing to see here, move along. File it away somewhere in back of the mind as another piece of arcane chess KNOWLEDGE we just have to 'know' in order to use it. Just to see if other authors elaborated on that first move, I checked (arbitrarily) the following three books for this (or a very similar) position:

    Silman's Complete Endgame Course: From Beginner to Master, Silman, Diagram 172, pp. 168-169 - a 'tactical bomb'

    Example 2:

    FEN: 6k1/8/6PK/8/ppp5/8/PPP5/8 w - - 0 1

    Chess Endings: Essential Knowledge, Averbakh, Fig. 114, pg. 98 - a 'pawn breakthrough'

    Example 3:

    FEN: 8/ppp5/8/PPP5/6k1/8/6K1/8 w - - 0 1

    Looking for Trouble: Recognizing and Meeting Threats in Chess, Heisman, Position E41, pg. 163 - a 'sacrificial breakthrough'

    Example 4:

    FEN: 8/1k3ppp/8/1K3PPP/8/8/8/8 b - - 0 1

  30. PART III:

    Is that first move really 'simple'? NOT TO ME!

    Surely it would make more sense to try a 'flanking' maneuver to sneak either the f-pawn or h-pawn past the row of Spartans guarding the promotion square(s). Unfortunately, the chess rules don't allow us to move pawns sideways, except diagonally when capturing.

    Another anomaly: why is the first move identical in both the winning and drawing processes?!? One side can create a pawn breakthrough, leading to pawn promotion; the other can prevent a pawn breakthrough, leading to a draw.

    What is really going on beneath the surface of this first move?


    The most basic tactical motif is Lasker's Encircling Motif: immobility of a 'target' and superiority of force on that 'target'.

    Advancing the center pawn is a tactical blow: it 'forks' two pawns (a 'double attack') and is a 'forcing' move — the opponent must capture to prevent a passed pawn. It simultaneously immobilizes the 'target' middle pawn for a subsequent tactical blow.

    Regardless of which sentinel captures, it creates a potential 'candidate' passed pawn, i.e., a pawn which no longer has an enemy pawn on the same file. The remaining tactical question is how to remove that remaining (immobilized) guard from guarding that file.

    Using Example 1, after 1 g6 fxg6, the immobilized g7 pawn prevents the advance of the White f-pawn. Fortuitously, there is another attacker which can decoy/divert that g7-pawn away from guarding f6: 2 h6!, another 'double attack'. Now Black must decide if he wants to allow the g7-pawn to be captured (with subsequent promotion) or if he wants to allow the f-pawn to advance unmolested to promotion.

    There are subtleties involved in Examples 2-4. Sometimes, what is obvious on the surface requires some thought to penetrate to the essence.

    In Example 2, Silman discusses what happens if White looks at his extra g-pawn and decides to initiate the 'Chicken Coop' plan, ditching the g-pawn in order to run over with his King (like a fox in the chicken coop), mopping up the remaining Black pawns, and then promoting his own pawn. Alas, 1 Kg5?? LOSES!

    Why? Because Black's pawns are closer to the promotion 'finish line'. Black applies the stock winning sequence.

    In Example 3, the stock winning approach works.

    In Example 4, Black can set a trap with 1 ... Kc7, inviting White to apply the tactical pattern without thinking. After all, the pattern is obvious, so the moves must alsob be obvious. WRONG! If 2 g6?? fxg6 3 h6 gxh6 4 f6, Black WINS with 4 ... Kd7, stepping into the 'square of the pawn' and stopping it from promotion.

    No matter how 'obvious' the pattern, we still have to examine the entire position for subtle tactical possibilities!

    We cannot play good chess on 'autopilot'!