Sunday, July 03, 2022

Phantom forks

 A Fide master said that he knew only 20 patterns of the 32 checkmate patterns. What does this tell us? It is not the amount of patterns that counts. What is important, is the frequency of occurrence of the patterns you know and how deep your familiarity with the pattern is.

I noticed that I'm not familiar enough with the phantom auras of the pieces. That is to say, the virtual future influence of the pieces. This observation arose from studying checkmate puzzles. Where you chase a king with the phantom auras of the pieces into a killbox and squeeze it.

Now I'm focusing on other puzzles I have trouble with, and I notice that there are other phantom patterns I have trouble with. Take for instance this diagram:

White to move

3R4/p5r1/4q1k1/4p3/6n1/4NQ2/PPP5/6K1 w - - 0 1

In order to find out why these positions cause me trouble, I ask myself: "what should I ask myself here in order to trigger the right pattern?"

Well, I don't know yet, but the pattern I'm missing is a phantom fork. With targets that are not in place yet.


  1. You have to calculate to ;) And when you calculate you have to consider the most forcing moves first. While you calculate, it is helpful to see potential knight forks.

    1. What do you mean by "You have to calculate too" ?

    2. What you call auras of the pieces Chuzhakin called Hazardous Element. Well, Chuzhakin is more looking for Piece-Position-Pattern. Is hard to see the Pattern if it is not already on the board.
      So to find a tactic, you have to become aware of the HE's while you calculate with ease.
      Its hard to find all! tactics without calculation

  2. PART I:

    Emmanuel Nieman (in his book Tune Your Chess Antenna: Know when (and where!) to look for winning combinations) proposed that two of the most common "signals" (MOTIFS, in the language of mister Lasker) are Alignment and Knight Fork Distance.

    Alignment [Lasker's Geometrical Motif) is "seeing" several pieces (friendly or enemy) on the same line (vertically [files], horizontally [ranks], and diagonally. This is the necessary "signal" that there might be a tactical theme (pin, skewer, discovered attack, line opening, etc.) that can be used.

    As a "rule" with alignments, we should NOT consider the 'obstacles'. Any two or more pieces in alignment on files, ranks or diagonals should be considered to be [non-electrical] batteries, even if disconnected in the current position. THIS IS A SIGNIFICANT FACTOR TO LOOK FOR BEFORE STARTING YOUR CALCULATIONS.

    I've often added the requirement to 'trace out' the piece auras from each piece to the edge of the board. It is often the case that a 'backward' aura (away from the enemy's side of the board) is the basis for a winning combination.

    Knight Fork Distance is "seeing" potential forks 1-3 "moves" in advance. This does not require calculation; merely "seeing" the squares that the Knight 'attacks' from its current square, and then projecting/visualizing that the Knight has moved to one of those attacked squares, and repeating the process.

    Neiman's reason for dealing with Knight Fork Distance separately from Alignment is because the Knight works in circles instead of lines like the other pieces. (He references Donner's book The King for a more detailed look at this idea.)

    The Knight can attack all the other (types of) pieces without being under attack itself. Every time the pieces are at a Knight fork's distance, there is a MOTIF which implies the possibility of a winning tactic.

    To my mind, there's is no difference in imagining the auras of line-moving pieces and the auras of Knights. Maybe the RCCM works differently. . .wouldn't be the first time that happened!

    Although not explicitly pointed out, if potential targets (King, Queen, Rook and undefended Bishop) are on (OR CAN BE 'COAXED' ON TO) squares that are the same color as the square the Knight is currently located on, then there is a potential fork. The key is to "see" the interrelationships between various pieces/squares AS IF the Knight is already on the forking square. This does NOT require calculation per se. We just have to treat each phase like a "stepping stone" position.

  3. PART II:

    In the given position, the surface-level "clues" are a Knight in the near vicinity of the opposing King, supported by mobile Queen and Rook. White is to move. [Even though this is a problem, the same thought process should be applied during a game. First, look at EVERYTHING through the vulture's eyes. Use Capablanca's process of mentally shifting the pieces to wherever they seem to be needed, without trying to figure out a move sequence (variation) needed to move them to those locations.]

    Applying these ideas to the given position, there is no immediate Knight fork. The Knight CAN "attack" the BRg7 if on the f5-square BUT not at the moment: it would simply be lost. So the process shifts from "seeing" what is directly available to what is potentially available in 1-3 moves. [I limit this "sighting" to no more than 3 moves simply because the Knight is a short-range piece; it usually only takes a move or two to get to the square from where it can fork.]

    Standard techniques are diversionary: diverting a piece FROM a particular square or TO a particular square using (usually) a sacrifice. White can FORCE the black Queen to d6 by threatening to capture it AND pinning it against the black King. So ASSUME that the WRd8 is just plopped down on d6 AND the black Queen snaps it off. STEPPING STONE POSITION. AHA! We now have the potential situation where f5 is a Knight fork's distance from d6 and g7, forking Queen and Rook. Unfortunately, that still doesn't gain an advantage because the black Queen can move to f6 (pinning the WNf5 to the White Queen and Black is winning).

    Is there anything else we can do to increase the tension, perhaps by substituting the King on one of the prongs of the fork? It's going to be impossible to get the black King over to d6 in a move or two, so that's not an option.

    Here's where I usually go astray - I abandon this line of thought because I suddenly "see" that capturing the BNg4 with check allows the black King to move out of check, PINNING WQg4 against the King! OOPS! Throw this idea away!

    But there is still that nagging 'itch' from System 1 that says "NOT SO FAST! Maybe we should continue to examine this possibility." We already have a potential fork on f5 directed against d6 and g7. What happens if we capture on g7 with the 'pinned' Queen? So, just mentally eliminate the BNg4 AND the BRg7, FORCING the black King to capture on g7. STEPPING STONE POSITION. We can now utilize the potential Knight fork on f5, only this time, it is a fork of the King and Queen. The Knight escapes after capturing the black Queen because the black King is too far away to catch it. White wins.