Monday, December 12, 2022

Logic AFTER The Vulture's Eye

 Robert said:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Logic vs the vultures eye

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


  1. 1. Look for forcing lines, 2. if you dont have a plan look for a plan 3. Follow the plan

  2. Please forgive me for being a "stick in the mud". When I'm down on the ground, I don't see a lot. I'm not "SEEing" the concrete means to the end goal of attacking the opposing king.

    I agree that PoPs, LoAs, and FUNs must exist (either on the surface in the present position, or in the immediate future; a few moves ahead at most) in order to focus on how to utilize them for maximum benefit. Utilizing these aspects as move triggers is a matter of acquired technique. Creating the preconditions for favorable PoPs, LoAs, and FUNs is a totally different process and goal.

    Focusing on our own plans generally causes us to ignore or overlook the fact that the opponent has his own plans and goals, not just trying to thwart our plans. As GM Suba said (paraphrased), the modern way of playing chess no longer allows for a one-sided game where one side enjoys the luxury of doing as he chooses while his opponent nods and agrees that whatever is being done is sheer brilliance which inexorably leads to the opponent's defeat.

    Aox provided a generalized approach:

    1. Look for forcing lines, 2. if you dont have a plan look for a plan 3. Follow the plan

    This is similar in nature (if not in specific substance) to GM Aagaard’s three “questions”:

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

    If we don’t know or can’t find specific clues (weaknesses, the opponent’s idea[s], the worst-placed piece[s]) to look for as the basis of a plan, then we surely cannot find an appropriate plan, and consequently cannot follow it. Looking for forcing lines works only when we have methodically created (or our opponent has accidentally created) the preconditions for the plan.

    Setting an overall goal at too high a level of abstraction ("attacking the king" or, "winning in the endgame with a material advantage") provides few (if any) ideas to guide us to a plan that (1) meets the "requirements of the position" (regardless of the stage of the game) and (2) that is realizable (there's literally nothing to be gained by fantasizing about and trying to follow a plan of action that cannot be realized). Time and again, I have seen GMs admonishing us (the club players and amateurs) for thinking in generalities rather than in concrete terms. I know it’s one of my major faults.

    So how do we learn how to set up the preconditions from the start of the game, since we can’t rely on non-existent PoPs, LoAs, and FUNs to guide us to a plan?

    It seems we have a “chicken and egg” dilemma. I seem to be missing the big picture.

    1. The eye of the vulture is developed to avoid tunnel vision.

      This is how I tend to look at the game: everything befalls me by accident. I had no means to judge whether a move was a good move, since I had no idea what to head for. When everything happens to you by accident, the natural way to prevent that you end up in a tunnel that has no end, is to take some distance, and fly like a vulture looking for salient cues. But in fact, this is a very unnatural approach. Because it is unnatural to don't know what you are doing.

      I knew I had to learn tactics before everything else. And it took me about 22 years to crack that nut. Now I have found a method to improve in tactics (not THE best method mind you, but at least something that works to a certain degree). I'm a bit of a monomaniac, as you could notice from my story about Bent Larsen, and when I look for improvement in tactics, I don't look much at other aspects of the game.

      But now I DO make some progress in the realm of tactics, the other holes in my bucket start to leak. I didn't notice that before, but now I do, it is time to get the duct tape and start plugging.

      All positional plans that I found could be gathered under one denominator: increase your piece activity to the max and decrease your enemy's piece activity as much as you can. With one important addition, an attacker can only be considered to be active, when there is a target at the other end of the line of attack.

      There was another addition: the slow moving pieces like the King and the pawns are the sitting ducks of the game, so those are the natural targets to look for.

      But often I ended up where my pieces were active like hell, but still I didn't know what to do.

      Study of the Art of Attack in Chess learned me that there is always one target: the King. In stead of waiting that some salient cue befalls me, hoping that my spiralling vulture's eye notice it in time, I start to act myself and work active with the LoA's, the PoP's and the Fun's, I build a LoA landscape towards the King myself.

      Which means, that I am no longer waiting high up in the sky, looking for some salient cue to manifest itself all of a sudden and unexpected.

    2. So I start to open up the lines of attack for my pieces towards the King, press on the points of pressure and look how the enemy pieces start to commit themselves to functions. Here the tactics come into play.

    3. This means you need another type of patterns. The PoPLoAFun patterns are designed for the vulture's eye. But when you actively build on the LoA structure, you are already aware of those cues. In stead, you need the patterns that relate to the standard scenario's that belong to the PoPLoAFun realm. Scenario's that keep the lines of attack open and undermine the defenders of the lines of attack. System 1 needs to propose the appropriate chess logic.

  3. PART I:

    I went back to Vuković's The Art of Attack in Chess, Chapter Twelve: The Attack on the King as an Integral Part of the Game for more insight into the idea of using an attack on the king as the leitmotif for the entire game.

    He postulates that Alekhine and Capablanca developed the art of attack on the king to its highest level. Given that the version I have was published in 1965, perhaps that's not a surprising thesis. I wonder if today he would consider players like Bobby Fischer and Garry Kasparov (as well as several other GMs like Carlsen) to have added significantly to that attacking art.

    He states that "a correct attack is conditioned by the situation on all parts of the board and also by all that has happened in the earlier course of the game. . . . It is an action which is both logical and necessary; an action on which the player decides at a certain stage of the game; sometimes, indeed, he must decide on it, if his opponent is not to obtain an advantage or if his position is not to fizzle out to a draw."

    “Lasker observed long ago that every action is essentially a diversion, a transition from equality to some spatial or temporal commitment. An attack on the King demands a very big diversion both in terms of the number of pieces involved and of the degree of commitment arising out of any pawn moves it entails. A considerable diversion of this kind also logically needs a considerable number of preconditions, as well as a knowledge of how these conditions are interrelated.”

    “Even in the early stages of the opening the first seeds of the preconditions for an attack on the King are already being sown, and the tense struggle for the central squares is tightly bound up with the successful outcome of the attack or defense. The characteristic features of a position, weaknesses, and the elements that determine the endgame—all these accumulate and become intertwined in such a way that at a certain moment they impel the player to decide on what the final objective of his play is to be.”

    “However, we are still a long, long way from a thorough knowledge of the laws governing the methods of integrating all the elements into a strategic whole. And where there is insufficient knowledge one proceeds by “feel,” or in other words, one takes risks.”

    “As far as these actual discoveries by Alekhine and Capablanca are concerned, it can be said that they did not take the form of some new principle but rather depended on a new way of thinking, which proceeded subjectively and therefore in a manner which cannot be expressed or comprehended on a theoretical basis; by these methods they discovered moves which fulfill the chief principle of the attack on the King, namely, obtaining the maximum preconditions for an attack with the minimum of commitment.”

  4. PART II:

    “The principle in itself is a simple one and can be easily remembered, but playing in accordance with it is extremely difficult. Here two grades of values must be clearly distinguished: the one based on the value of the individual preconditions and the other on that of the successive commitments undertaken. This must be resolved into a precisely ordered series of moves, while one must also be ready at any moment to convert the attack into some other thematic course of action—all of which requires considerable mastery.”

    [So in order to play in this fashion, we must possess mastery before we can play in this fashion to obtain mastery. This seems a little too circular for me to grasp.]

    “From a close study of the games of Alekhine and Capablanca one can conclude that they did indeed use a perfected method of thinking in the sense mentioned above; only, in the case of Alekhine this thinking was more analytical and logical, while with Capablanca it was more artistically intuitive. But the result of this thinking, that is, the actual moves, do not appear to differ greatly to the outside observer.”

    This idea of “preconditions” is what I was referring to in an earlier comment. Given the voluminous number of games which have been (and continue to be) played, surely there must be some objective indication of what constitutes the appropriate preconditions, and the idea(s) required to guide the creation of those preconditions. Steinitz did not develop his laws” of strategy by pulling them out of his—intuition.

    So, what are the salient “cues” that we need to learn to “SEE” to create the preconditions?

    Maybe I am wrong: perhaps everything in chess is subjective with no objective principles to be found to guide the development of a plan to attack the king.

    “I don’t know what the preconditions are, but I know them when I see them because I always play to attack the king” is very frustrating for me.


    1. The vulture's eye is created for puzzles. Where there is no prior knowledge of the position.

      Usually, we don't need to take special measures for education of system 1. Since system 1 looks over the shoulder of system 2. For puzzles, we needed to create a new ability, the ability to look at the position with no prior knowledge.

      That ability is only useful for real games, as long as we see those games as new. Brain scans showed that amateurs see every position in a game as new, while in experts, the long term memory is activated. They remember similar positions.

      So the vulture's eye, suitable for puzzles where we lack prior knowledge, seemed suitable for actual games too. But that only seems so because we lack prior knowledge in a game too.

      My plea is to gather the knowledge that is needed to play a game. Resulting in that we never see the game as totally new, as amateurs do.

      Luckily, that game knowledge is no rocket science. It revolves around PoPLoAFun. You don't have to worry about salient cues anymore when you have gathered the essential knowledge. System 1 looks over the shoulder of system 2 while you are absorbing knowledge about PoPLoAFun.

      There can't be something going on in the game without PoPLoAFun being involved. I recommend you to notice how that leads to a massive pruning of the amount of possibilities.

      Your opponent cannot have a plan that works with NO PoPLoAFun involved. In the case that you attacks his king, counter attacks can only work when there are LoA's to your king involved. If there are not such LoA's, is only hope and plans can be build about hindering YOUR LoA's. Notice the massive pruning of possibilities.

      The Art of Attack in Chess is broader than PoPLoAFun. Since it involves ALL pieces that can be added to the attack. You need to be aware of those pieces too. Just like you must be aware of the pieces that your opponent can add to the defense of your LoA's.

    2. "So, what are the salient “cues” that we need to learn to “SEE” to create the preconditions?"

      When you learn the knowledge that is involved in attacks, you gain the cues for free. Since system 1 looks over the shoulder of system 2 while you are gathering the knowledge. You don't need a special effort to ingrain them. But you MUST gain a superior knowledge of the matter.

      Do you remember the scientific experiment where a complicated middlegame position was presented to both amateurs and grandmasters? The amateurs pondered about much more candidate moves because the didn't recognized anything in the position. The grandmasters only pondered about one or two moves, since those were presented to them by system 1 do to remembering an analogous position.

      It starts with superior understanding. Logic based on past positions guides you, not the vultures eye.

  5. Thank you for the clarification!

    "Reading between the lines," it seems that the age-old advice to study master games as the [only?] way to gain expertise/mastery of all phases of chess has been validated. The preconditions for a successful attack (whether by design or by accident) must occur in every game, often far in advance of the critical moment when the tension reaches its peak and the storm breaks (the starting position of all tactical puzzles).

    The more we learn (about learning as well as about how to play good chess), the more we validate the tried-and-true methods of gaining skill.

  6. With a king attack, you have a consistent story against which you can valuate your moves. We have a lot of half-backed instructions we try to follow. "occupy the center", "improve your worst piece", "keep as less pawn islands as possible", "get the bishop pair". With these vague instructions, you have no way to value the move and to judge whether one move is better than the other. That is why I never analysed my own games. Because I have no way to measure what I'm doing. GM Stockfish only tells me a number, but not the why.

    But with "hunt the king", you can have an idea what is the difference between 1.h3 and 1.h4. With h4, you initialize a rook lift via Rh3-Re3 and create a LoA against the king. Furthermore, you prepare the pawn storm h5-h6, possibly opening the h-file.

    I'm not saying that 1.h4 is a good way to open the game, I'm saying that the king hunt is a way to measure how good a move is.

    Now I can analyze my own games. Since I have a way to judge my moves. I'm a man of extremes. Because extremes are the fastest way to end up in the middle. Now I can ask myself "ok, I failed. But why did that promising move not deliver what I expected from it?"

    Of course, the king hunt is not the WHOLE story. But it is consistent. And if you ask "why did this move fail?" it leads you to a hole in your bucket. You mishandled the LoA, you didn't make use of the ensuing commitment of the defender, you overlooked a knight fork, you should have converted to a better ending.

    That is why I said "my chess education has begun". Failure is not the problem. Lack of feedback is.

  7. I can't stress enough the importance of pruning. You gain speed by not calculating unnecessary lines. You prevent your mental resources from being overloaded.

    If a piece cannot be involved by a line of attack, be it against his king or against our king, then it can be left out of your calculations. The same is true for your own pieces.

  8. I can't stress enough the absorption of chess logic. Although chess logic is usually concocted by system 2, it must be absorbed by system 1. The standard scenarios around the battle of the lines of attack must be internalized.

  9. Of course this advice is geared around studying games, not puzzles. For puzzles you need the vulture's eye. But since you don't need the vulture's eye in your games, why bother to invest time and energy in it? Invest in chess logic around the lines of attack instead.

  10. The vulture's eye was a beautiful and elegant approach to the system 1/system 2 conundrum of course. With Tai Chi (Tai SEE), Zen, slow SEEing and what not. But it didn't quite deliver in actual games as expected.

    But we don't need to throw everything through the kitchen sink, though. What can we learn from it?

    Educating system 1 is done by the optimal education of system 2. Since where system 2 goes, system 1 follows. So we must optimize the education of system 2. "Analyse mastergames" is a good advice. But when you have no idea HOW to study, it is of no use. The vulture's eye is a poor way to use system 2. But even that works, when you fully commit to it.

    We don't need special measures for system 1, but we must insist that system 2 knows what it is talking about. In practice, you need probably much more than 7 repetitions in different circumstances before system 2 know what it is talking about.

    The problems that I encountered with studying chess the past 22 years, were engulfed in good advice, but that good advice lacked terribly in precision. I have waded knee deep through the good advice for decades, but now the spiralling of the vulture has provided the precision to the advice that is so dearly needed.

    Luckily, it is no rocket science. The scenario's that belong to the manipulation of the LoA landscape are pretty straight forward. We only must take care to absorb them to the bone.

    We have become our own chess coach. Which is pretty impressive. Usually chess prodigies start to plateau when they run out of chess coaches. We now know how we can overcome that.

    I like the Art of Attack in Chess as our main guide towards chess aptness. Since attacking is fun. I'm sure it with enlighten the other holes in our bucket in due time.

    Any questions?