How to work on logic

 It is not very common that logic is used as the main source for moves. That may sound counter intuitive. But if you look around at club level, you will find lots of evidence that it is true. Take for instance the fact that everybody of adult age is plateauing for years, despite considerable efforts to get better.

Why is that? In the first place, chess is so overwhelmingly complex, that the mind is easily confused. And a confused mind cannot think logically. Secondly, chess players are addicted to variations. They cannot walk alongside a chess board without their mind going haywire. The main technique that is used is trial and error. Which is not based on logic. Furthermore, logical reasoning requires a bit more effort than trial and error. The mind is so wired, that it avoids the use of mental resources that require higher energy. It prefers to assign lower energy. Even if the price is a vast amount of lower energy.

Apparently, lower mental energy is cheaper than higher level mental energy. When system 1 must decide whether it should apply vast amounts of lower energy or a bit of higher energy, it prefers the first option. The reason for this, is that system 1 doesn't work with the concept frequency of occurrence. It simply assumes that the event is unique. And it is not going to spill long term resources to one-off events without good reason. Remember the story about the priest with the cheat sheet? System 1 isn't going to assign long term resources to learning a prayer by heart on its own account. You need system 2 for the decision to deliberately practice to learn the prayer by heart. And system 1 will follow when system 2 goes first. And that requires a higher level of conscious effort by system 2. And consciousness doesn't come cheap. Hence we shift to the automatic pilot.

Have a look at the following position.

Mate in 3. Black to move

2b4r/5k2/pQ3pp1/3R4/8/1P6/P3qBK1/3R4 b - - 1 1 


It is not too difficult to solve this problem on autopilot, simply by trial and error. There are only a few candidate moves to consider. There are not much variations.

But if you do so, you don't learn anything from the position. 

What is there what we possibly could want to learn from this position?

We want to abstrahere some chess logic from the position that is reusable for other positions. I mentioned already in the post of April 16th the grand scheme of mates. That scheme is of course pretty global, but that is exactly what I want to do: to refine it and make it more practical.

What is the most likely piece that is going to deliver mate? Usually it is the queen. So we must think how such mate might come about. Where is the mate going to be delivered by the queen? Usually on a square next to the king. Since the queen can only deliver mate next to the king when it is protected, the queen must be protected by the rook or the bishop. White is especially weak on the white squares, since he has no white squared bishop. His bishop can only defend by blocking the line of attack, not by protecting the white squares.

We must ask questions like:

Which squares are close to the white king which can be covered by a coöperation of two white pieces, like the queen and the rook or the queen and the bishop. In other words: which points of pressure can we bring about? Or as Vukovic would say it: what are the focal points. Since a focal point and a point of pressure next to the king is the same.

Potential point of pressure by Queen and rook: h1 and h3

Potential point of pressure by Queen and bishop: g2

Which leads to the following question: can we place the queen where it covers two potential points of pressure? In fact there is. 1. ... Qe4 covers both g2 and h1. It keeps the white bishop at bay and it comes with check (tempo). So white has no time for counterplay.

Wherever the king might flee to, the mate is soon going to be delivered by the queen from a point of pressure.

Can you see how even seemingly simple positions can help you to elaborate on your chess logic? Can you see how all chess logic is geared around the four areas of attention which are mentioned in the post of April 16th? Can you see how focusing on the points of pressure can transfer chess logic from one mate to another? How it makes chess logic reusable?

Of course you need a conscious effort for this. Deliberate practice, so to speak. It doesn't work on autopilot. Trial and error is useless. But it all starts with the insight that there is really something to learn that is reusable, even from seemingly simple positions.


  1. Temposchlucker posits a question:

    "Which leads to the following question: can we place the queen where it covers two potential points of pressure?"

    The overall "feeling" is that Black has an overwhelming LOCAL superiority [3:1] in the vicinity of the White King Ergo, it makes sense to look for a mating pattern, beginning with focal points or PoP (Points of Pressure). The "following question" transitions from focused attention on identification of available PoPs to finding a LoA (Line of Attack) that connects two (or more) of the PoPs with a single move. This is GM Averbakh's generalization of the idea of a "double attack." It ALWAYS involves SIMULTANEOUSLY creating two (or more) direct attacks or threats, regardless of whether the threats are 1st, 2nd, 3rd, . . .order. Since there IS the possibility of connecting the PoPs, there is a double attack. I this case, the creation of the double attack occurs with check, leaving White with no possibility refuting this double attack, since his major pieces are incapable of capturing the attacking piece nor of blocking the check (LoA). After 1...Qe4+, White is forced to move his King; he has 3 possibilities:

    (1) 2. Kg3 Qg4# The King cannot retreat to f2 because the WBf2 blocks his path (a restricting contact). The BBc8 provides a protecting contact.
    (2) 2. Kg1 R(or Q)h1# The King cannot retreat to f2 because the WBf2 blocks his path (a restricting contact) and the Black Queen restricts moving to g2.
    (3) 2. Kf1 Bh3+ 3. Kg1 (The King cannot retreat to f2 because the WBf2 blocks his path (a restricting contact) 3...Qg2#.

    Quad est demonstrandum - PoPLoAFun is the sine qua non of chess logic.

    BTW, thanks for broadening my English vocabulary—I had never encountered "abstrahere" previously. I (mistakenly) thought it was Dutch when I first read it, then looked it up!

    An old dog CAN learn new tricks!

  2. Now we have found the beginning of chess logic, we can use tools that are specifically designed to develop logic. I now use decision trees and flowcharts to represent chess logic. I slowly analyse all 250 mates in my database and process it into flowcharts and decision trees. Probably the process of doing so is more important than the result, as usual. It reveals a lot of interesting new knowledge.

  3. My four new opening systems start to pay off. Not in winning much games, yet, but in outplaying my opponents in the opening and the middlegame. That I screw up the ensuing endgames is factored in. That is just a luxury problem. I cannot learn everything at the same time.

  4. Coming back to this post to read your comments, I noticed something I did NOT grasp when I initially commented.

    Why is it so difficult to “see” 1...Qe4+? Perhaps it is because the Black Queen is already closing one side of the “box” (covering f1, f2, f3), while the Black Rook covers the other side of the “box” (h1, h2, h3). Since the mating goal REQUIRES completely closing the box AND attacking the king concurrently, System 1 (I subconsciously “think”) automatically eliminates move(s) which open the “box” even by one square.

    Perhaps this is an application of Bobby Fischer’s aphorism, “You have to give squares to get squares” (among other things).

  5. It is important to distinguish between the four areas of attention as mentioned in the post of April 16th. Pieces can cooperate in order to cover a point of pressure OR to form a wall of the box. From a logical point of view, this should be treated as two totally different things. To make matters even more complicated, you can sometimes fulfil multiple tasks with one move: converge at a point of pressure AND build on the wall of the box.

    IF your pieces converge towards a point of pressure, they work on a future wall. Since the point of pressure is next to the king, occupying this point of pressure will have huge repercussions on the box too.


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