Friday, February 24, 2017

Another hole

When you come close to the endgame, the rules of chess seem to change. I don't know what causes that feeling. While the amount of pieces diminishes, the amount of space increases. The net result being that the amount of possibilities doesn't become lesser when you near the endgame. Only the nature of the possibilities changes.

The diagram below is a type of position that is continuously spilling my rating points due to my talent to find the wrong squares. Let's see if we can expel some calculation by logical pondering.

Diagram 1. Black to move

6r1/1p1b3p/3P4/2P2k1P/1P2p2K/5B2/5P2/4R3 b - - 0 1

The last move of white was 1. Bxf3, taking a pawn.

Feel free to comment already. That makes it easier for me to get to the essence of the position, since you guys think differently.


After 2.exf3 Re7 we reach the position that gives the most problems. How to judge it? Materially, black has a bishop for two pawns.

Let's have a look at the critical position.
Diagram 2. The critical position. Black to move
If you want to force the game in your direction, it doesn't make sense to chase a mobile piece. The white rook for instance is very agile. What is white's most immobile piece? Definitely his king. It has no duties to perform, no functions that is, but due to being sandwiched between the rim and the rook, it suffers lack of space. In fact, if black was allowed to move three times in a row, Rg1, Kf4 and Rh1# he would mate the white king. Since it is blacks turn, he comes up short two tempi. For the mate it is necessary that the black king can remain on the f-file, and go to f4 in due time. The move Be6 is designed to prevent the white rook to hinder the black king. If white follows up with a normal looking move like 3. ... Le6 4. Rxh7 or 3. ... Le6 4. Rxb7, he gets mated. To abandon immediate disaster, white must deflect the black pieces by sacrificing his main asset, his protected passed pawn. 3. ... Le6 4.d7
Diagram 3. Black to move

After 4. ... Rg4+ 5.Kh3 Rd4 black can pick up the passed pawn in due time. When white is robbed of his protected passed pawn, blacks extra bishop starts to count. When the rooks are traded, it is over. As you see, it wasn't necessary to keep the criminal behind lock and key. Mere police surveillance was enough. Due to the mate threat.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Plugging a hole

We talked before about my special talent to flea with my king in the wrong direction. That is definitely a hole in my bucket. With a continuous flow of rating points leaking through it. Let's see if we can find a universal plug for this hole.

Black to move

8/pp2R1k1/2pp2P1/7p/2PP3P/P5p1/KPQ2r2/5q2 b - - 3 2
This position is halfway the solution of this problem
How to answer the check?

I'm going to think this over.
Feel free to comment already. That was of great help the previous post. I will update this post whenever I have found an adhesive plaster.

What I'm looking for, is a way to avoid as much calculation as possible, and guide my attention to the right plan. What is going on? At first there is the promotion motif. On both sides. I see promotion as the same as gaining wood. There is not much difference between capturing a hostile queen, or getting a friendly one yourself. Reaching the promotion square is the same as capturing a queen. There are a few differences. The rim of the board can't move, while the enemy queen can. On the other hand, the queen is usually attacked with one move at most, while the pawn becomes more dangerous with every move closer to the rim. This difference is due to the volatility of the  queen versus the fixed position of the rim. This makes the path to promotion an asset in itself.
Another element is the (counter) assault motif. We already saw that the assault motif is not about B.A.D. (Barely Adequate Defended) pieces but about B.A.D. squares and cages.

Shielding the check by 1.... Rf7 doesn't seem to be a happy move. So the king must flea. There are two potential functions to perform. Preventing promotion and attacking the rook. We are already attacking the white queen, so if we can alleviate the check with tempo, we are good. The only way to potentially gain a tempo is by attacking the rook. This can be done in two ways: Kf6 or Kf8. This means that we don't have to look at Kh6, Kh8 and Kg8. Only when both attacks of the rook go wrong, we need to look at these alternatives. We don't need to worry about the promotion, as long as we can gain the white queen in exchange. I played 1. ... Kf6 since I didn't like the check 1. ... Kf8 2. g7+. If I knew then what I know now, viz that the promotion is exchangeable for the capture of the white queen, I wouldn't have been so worried about that check.

What is the difference between 1. ... Kf6 and 1. ... Kf8? Essentially it is the loss of a tempo. After 1. ... Kf6 2. Rf7+ the black king must move out of the way. While after 1. ... Kf8 2. Rf7+ the rooks can be exchanged immediately. After such exchange, black is left with a pawn that can promote, while the white pawn can't, due to the position of the black king.

In order to avoid redundancy in your thinking, you should not think of the kings safety as a first. You look at the most active continuation first. Only once you found that, you start to think of your king safety. Since the black king can flea to a safe haven after the white queen invades, there is no reason to not play the most active line. It all boils down to precision.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Plugging the holes

When solving chess problems, I fail in the application of simple chess logic. Simple chess logic should guide the attention to the right parts of the board.

Actually I find it quite surprising that the application of logic is so weak, since usually it is my forte. In tests I score invariably extremely high when it is about logical reasoning. So why is it so weak when it comes to chess?

Undoubtedly, chess has so many possibilities, that the mind is easily overwhelmed. I often feel overwhelmed. The normal approach would be to study the area and simplify it. Until it becomes manageable for the mind. As long it is not manageable for my mind, I am as bad as anyone else when it comes to the application of logic.

Over the years I have studied a lot, and I always tried to simplify matters to a manageable degree. I discovered the duplo attacks, I discovered the thought process as guide to the attention, I discovered the reason behind overprotection and I found a whole lot of chess truths, yet it always felt as if I was repairing a colander with water-soluble plugs.

Only recently I felt that I'm making some progress. The discovery of the tree of motifs feels for the first time as that I have plugged a few holes in the colander with water-insoluble material. Albeit the colander is still leaking in a way that you can't fill it with water, at least I have found the right material.

Now it's time to be patient, and fill every hole systematically. Even the simplest chess logic like "when there is a pawn close to promotion, there needs to be a defender to be in contact with the path to promotion" takes eons to unearth. I wonder why that is. I mean, I'm very familiar with the quote of Nimzowitch: "A passed pawn is a criminal which should be kept under lock and key. Mild measures, such as police surveillance, are not sufficient." Yet, the realization that this quote should materialize into actual play took three days to hit home, as you can read in my previous post. Should I collect chess quotes and ponder about them until they transform into obvious and applicable chess logic?

For the time being I will continue to get in your hair with all kinds of leaks in my colander, in an attempt to discover the suitable plugs.

White to move
r1r3k1/1Q2nppp/q2N4/2p1P3/2Pp1P2/6PP/P2R2B1/3b2K1 w - - 0 1

Another tit-for-tat position where my vultures eye view drives me insane due to all the juicy road kill to choose from. I'm going to ponder about it till I find how to apply the PLF (PoPLoAFun) system or until the cows come home. Whichever comes first.

After some thinking I found the following: since black started the tit-for-tat action, it is not easy to gain some wood. Usually the beginner has the best chances. Capturing just a piece, will not be sufficient to tip the balance in a different direction. If you capture a piece with a function however, you do more than just capturing a piece. You bereave the opponent of a defender. A function that needs to be performed, is no longer performed. We know well that it is commonly a good idea to capture the defender. So why have I totally forgotten this adage here?

With this rule, we have an easy tool to judge the captures:
  • Bd1 does nothing. Capturing it is just that, taking a piece
  • Ne7 protects rook c8. Taking it doesn't improve the attack on c8
  • Ne7 shields f7. But since there is no mate anywhere near, the importance of f7 is limited
  • Qa6 protects a8 and c8. By taking it, I sacrifice an attacker at the same time, so I cannot profit from the fact that I have captured a defender
  • For Qxa8 and Qxc8 can be said the same. With the additional disadvantage that I give up a high valued piece for a lower valued piece
  • Remains Nxc8. This takes away the defender of a8, without diminishing the amount of attackers of a8. That are the kind of moves we are looking for!
Now we can generalize these findings. If we have a choice between multiple captures, we look for the pieces that perform a function. If we can take that piece without diminishing the amount of attackers, that is our target. We use our attacker with the lowest value.

So can we guide our attention to the most promising line, almost without any calculation. From here you can start to calculate. The PLF (PoPLoAFun) system thus can be used to solve my problems of the initiative. I have been elaborating on the initiative quite a lot, as you know. Recognizing its importance. But I could not find a system. Now I have found it. Capturing the pieces with a function, guarantees the maintenance of the initiative. Since the opponent must not only take his piece back, he must take care of the function either.

Friday, February 17, 2017

Promotion motif

This position has troubled me for quite a few days. I'm looking for the essential elements that make me fail. What don't I know that I should know? What knowledge transforms this position from complex to simple? How is that knowledge reusable for other positions?

Black to move

8/4kp2/4p1p1/1pqb2P1/1p2nQ2/P6B/1PP5/1K1R4 b - - 1 1

On the white side
  • The white king has little mobility due to lack of space.
  • Black can set up a battery with Qc4, which is a duplo attack. A duplo attack is based on lack of time, as you know.
  • b2 is immobile due to its double function, protecting both c3 and a3
On the black side
  • The black queen must keep an eye on the invasion square c7
  • The black knight protects the invasion square f6

What I missed
The reason that I experienced difficulty with this position is twofold.
I missed the counter attack motif Rf1 Qxf7+.
I did notice the promotion motif, but I have not made an in-dept study of it just yet. So I mist an important aspect.

Often I don't look at counterattacks too much. As long as you don't waste any time, that usually isn't a problem. But since I didn't spot a continuation after the fast and obvious moves 1. ... Qc4 2.Kc1, I started to look at the promotion of the g-pawn and ended up with the slow move gxh6. Since it is too slow, white can start a counter attack with 2.Rf1 against the PoP (Point of Pressure) f7.

The point is that I hadn't identified another function of the white king: it has to stay in contact with the path to promotion. It must stay in contact with a2 and a1. Guarding the path to promotion, is a function specific to the promotion motif. this means that the move 2.Kc1 immediately should draw the attention to the path to promotion. Once I saw this clearly, the position started to look less complex and more simple. It's a miracle! I have found with no doubt the element I was looking for. And as expected, the knowledge is portable to other positions with the counter assault and the promotion motif.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

The other branches

We have seen that there are three sorts of immobility.
  • Time (duplo attack)
  • Space (trap, mate)
  • Function (defense, overloading)
Until recent, my main focus on immobility has mostly been on time. The duplo attack which I coined, is based on time. Two attacks, with only time for one defense. Albeit I was well aware of the trap, I for long have been almost blind for function.

The big tree of motifs provides an ideal framework to give other knowledge a solid base to be hanged upon, in a way that we can find back that knowledge. For every single problem to be solved, the PLF (PoPLoAFun) system is useful. This doesn't mean that the sole use of the PLF system is enough to solve every problem. The system needs extensions. The coming time I will try to inventory which extensions are needed. You have to be a little patient, since during the inventory it is too early to draw already any conclusions. I presume.

Let's elaborate on the assault one more time again.

Diagram 1. Black to move

2kr3r/Qpp1n1p1/2b2pp1/4b3/8/6N1/PPP2P2/R1B2RK1 b - - 0 1

The PLF system gives you a clear idea where to focus your attention: on the pieces that lack mobility. Caused by time, space and or function.

In order to solve a position like this, you need to have a special skill. You need to be able to see the room for manoeuvre of  the white king. You need to be able to see the "cage" or "box" around the white king. It isn't necessary to see it right from the first move, but when you chase the white king, there will come a moment that you must recognize this cage:

Friday, February 10, 2017

Limited mobility

Volatile pieces are hard to catch. We only make a chance when the mobility is limited. There are three ways that mobility can be impaired:
  • Time. When king and queen are knight forked, there is no time to safe both.
  • Space. When you entomb a bishop, it has no squares to flea to.
  • Function. When a piece has a duty, it has to stay in contact with its duty. Either it has to sacrifice itself, or it must give up its duty.
So always look at the most immobile targets first.

White to move

1r6/3qn1k1/R4bp1/3p3p/1p6/1N2P1P1/1P1Q1P2/5BK1 w - h6 0 1

Blacks Q, R, N and B are all more or less mobile. Only the king is immobile due to its function to protect the bishop.

1.Rxf6 Kxf6

Who is the most immobile piece now?
Q, R, N are all volatile still. But the king has now little mobility due to lack of space.


The king has four squares to go to.
2... Kg5 3. Qf4# lack of space = mate
2... Kf5 3. Qf4+ Ke6 4.Nd4# lack of space = mate
2... Ke6 3. Nc5+ lack of time = knight fork
2.... Kf7 3. Qf4 lack of time = double attack

Immobility in one form or another is the best guide for our attention.

Wednesday, February 08, 2017

Stay away from the LoAs

Sometimes you have to defuse an assault on your own king. I seem to have a special talent to let my monarch flea to the wrong square. Which underpins the notion that my subconscience must know something about chess, since if it would move randomly, I would sometimes flea to the right square by chance.

Diagram 1. White to move

q1R5/p2Q4/p4k2/8/4b3/P7/1P3P1P/2q3K1 w - - 0 1

The critical position is reached in the following diagram. Where should the white king find a refuge?

Diagram 2. Stay away from the LoAs
I thought it is important to stay away from the PoP (Point of Pressure) f3, where the black queen and the black bishop converge. So I dared not to move to e2. But this is position is not about mate, but about getting the rook. The white king must stay away from the two LoAs (Lines of Attack) against the white rook. For black it is paramount that the queen stays into contact with both LoAs all the time. Which means it must stay on the g-file. And again a seemingly complex position is simplified by the PLF (PoPLoAFun) system.