Friday, June 30, 2006

Checks, Captures, and Threats

Dan Heisman has given a lot of good advice, but this may be the best of all. And most important, it is simple. A useful thought process has to be simple so that it also works under stress and in time trouble. I have made various attempts with check lists earlier, but they were so complicated I never used them in a game. I hope this one will work better:
  1. Look for targets and rank them by importance.
  2. Rank initial candidate moves by their forcing power: checks, captures, threats, and then all other moves.
  3. Calculate principal variations until quiescence, beginning with top initial candidate. In quiet positions do not calculate variations but apply positional rules. Exclude non-safe candidates.
  4. Rank final (i.e. playable) candidate moves in the order of material and positional value at quiescence.
  5. Check time. If in time trouble or blitz play top candidate else look for a better one. Decide. Sanity check. Move. Press clock. Write own move and time. Check if all done. Relax. Switch to strategic thinking.


(Updated July 13th, adding target search on top of the list.)

BTW this method is called a heuristic, derived from Archimedes's famous exclamation «heureka!».

Thursday, June 29, 2006

The Two Musketeers

One for all, all for one. Quite useful to know that Knight and Bishop side by side are two musketeers protecting each other with the help of an additional tempo. Example: Nc3 and Bc4 in openings such as Giuoco Piano, Morra Gambit and many others. First step: Knight moves and is protected by the Bishop. Second step: Knight moves once more and protects the Bishop.

This teamwork is useful in any situation where the Knight can gain tempo. It allows to combine attack with defense. If I can send my Two Musketeers to their duty I won't have to play passive defensive moves.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Opponent Leaves The Book

It happens all the time at our level. They play moves never mentioned in any book. Not necessarily blunders. But there is a real chance that they are. After 7. - Qc7 (see my previous post) I did not realize what really had happened. I committed a double time management blunder.

The first blunder was choosing quickly a normal candidate move played in this position. The Queen wants to go to e2 anyway. Here it protects the Bishop. All is ok. I did not play this move fast, though.

And this is my second time management blunder. I used four (!) minutes just to calculate what could happen after 8. Qe2. This is a quiet position and it is completely useless to spend four minutes just to detect minor differences in a position where Black has numerous options to continue.

A better way would have been: «Well, I can always play Qe2 a tempo. But what are the alternatives? Let's spend four minutes to have a look at them.» It's a safe bet that I would have found 8. Nb5!

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

O.k. Deep Shredder, It Is My Turn Now

You did a great job in the postmortem with your fast silicon brain. But mine is flesh and blood. That is slow and analog. So let's have a flesh and blood look at this position after 1.e4 c5 2.d4 cxd4 3.c3 dxc3 4.Nxc3 g6 5.Nf3 Bg7 6.Bc4 e6 7.O-O Qc7

(My opponent just has played Qc7)



It requires al real cascade of errors for not being able to punish this blunder of Black:
  • Behaving as if Qc7?? were a normal book move
  • Playing too fast in a critical situation
  • Playing too slowly in a quiet situation
  • Not having stored a basic opening pattern in the brain
  • Not exploiting important Morra Gambit resources
  • Overrating the attacking power of the Queen
  • Not having looked at all forcing moves


More about all these points later.

Monday, June 26, 2006

A Closer Look at the Brain

Of course it is important in chess what happens on the board. But even more important is what happens in the brain. Deep Shredder cannot tell me. I must find out myself. The move is bad. Ok. But why did I make it? A better move would have won. Why didn't I find it? I think these are the sort of questions that may help me overcome my plateau phase. I never really asked myself like this. Just said shit, a bad move, make it better next time. But when I made it in the game I was not aware doing a bad move. I thought that it was a good one. What ideas brought me to this false assumption? I think this is the lesson I can learn from my last game. MDLM called it learn to think. I must find my own way to transfer to the OTB play all the tricks I have learnt in puzzles and on CTS.

Sunday, June 25, 2006

Morra Patterns and Quiescence Errors

I have to report another loss here. But I leave the battlefield with head held high. Because I did not give up after a knight loss. Fought myself back into the game and, alas, blundered it away in time trouble. Shit happens.

Two important notes here. First I missed a really basic opening pattern. Just because I have not come across it up to now. The Knight Fork of the Squares e8 and c4. The next pattern I have looked at, but not deeply enough. Quiescence Error, that is, stopping the calculation too soon, in a non-quiet position that is treated as if being quiet. I did this twice in the game. First missing a distinctive advantage. Second, after being back in the game, missing the last drawing chance in time trouble.

And now I come to the real point. I had looked at the line that would have secured an equal position. But I did not have the time to calculate it to the end. I just stopped at a point where I said to myself, sorry, boy, not sufficient. Then I switched to candidate move 2. Time was dripping away. Stress. No time now to look at candidate 2 as thoroughly as at number 1. And here comes the irrationality into play. I just hoped that number 2 must be better than 1. I was fully aware that it was not looking better at a glance. In fact, it was looking worse. All the same, I played it and, of course, lost.

I think I can learn a lot by looking at this crazy brain mechanism. It is what mankind always has done when in danger and despair. Just hope and pray that things will be ok. Stupid.

A proper way of handling the situation would have been as follows. Well, candidate 1 looks very promising. Calculate. O shit, it will not be enough. Now candidate 2. It overcomes a drawback of 1, but at what cost? O shit, not enough time to calculate. Quiet. No panic. Just have a look. Candidate 1 looks much better than 2. I have nothing to lose. Well, I play 1 and we shall see what happens now.

Okay, enough words. Here is the game.

[Event ""]
[Site ""]
[Date "2006.06.24"]
[Round ""]
[White "Mousetrapper"]
[Black "MR"]
[WhiteElo "1670"]
[BlackElo "1670"]
[ECO "B21"]
[Result "0-1"]

1.e4 c5 2.d4 cxd4 3.c3 dxc3 4.Nxc3 g6 5.Nf3 Bg7 6.Bc4 e6 7.O-O Qc7 8.Qe2 (8.Nb5 {I missed this pattern. King e8 and Bishop c4 are on a Knight Circle. A Morra Gambit Player should know it, of course.} Qd8 9.Nd6+ Kf8 $18) 8. ... a6 9.Be3 (9.e5 Nc6 10.Bf4 b5 11.Bd3 Nge7) 9. ... Nc6 10.Rac1 Qa5 11.Bf4 (11.Nd5 {I had looked at this line because it is a thematic pattern in the Morra Gambit. But I had rejected it because my Bishop prevents a Queen check after the file has opened. Not sufficient, I thought. False, boy! Why didn't you see that the Queen on a5 gives the Bishop an additional tempo? } exd5 12.exd5 Nce7 13.d6 Qf5 14.Bb6 $18) 11. ... Nge7 12.Bd6 {This is a Knight outpost. A Bishop is a bit out of place here.} Qh5 13.Qd2 Bh6 14.Bf4 Bxf4 15.Qxf4 O-O 16.Be2 (16.g4 {Had looked at it but did not have the guts ...} Qh3 17.e5 $16) 16. ... f6 17.Nd2 (17.Rfd1 {It was advised to bring new forces into play.} ) 17. ... Qe5 18.Qh6 Nd4 19.f4 {Vabanque play. Things become crazy here. This just blunders a pawn.} (19.Bd3 {Such a drawish line was not my intent. } Qg5 20.Qxg5 fxg5 $11) 19. ... Qc5 {he refused to take the pawn ...} (19. ... Nxe2+ 20.Nxe2 Qxb2 {and away it is.} 21.f5 exf5 $17) 20.Kh1 {Blunder ... } (20.Rf2 $11 {It is not obliged to protect its companion on c1, because of the Superhero Knight taking back on e2.} ) 20. ... Nxe2 21.Nxe2 {Quiescence Error: I stopped my calculation here, thinking that the Queen has a problem and must retire...} Qe3 {The problem was mine. Queen Fork, and away is the Knight. Should I give up? No, let's go for the King. All or Nothing.} 22.Nf3 Qxe2 23.Rce1 Qb5 24.g4 {Qh5 was threatened.} Qxb2 25.f5 Rf7 26.g5 gxf5 27.Rg1 fxe4 {This brings White back into the game! But unfortunately I was in time trouble...} 28.Nh4 {... and threw the game away.} (28.gxf6+ Ng6 29.Rxg6+ hxg6 30.Qxg6+ Kf8 {I stopped my calculation here because I saw the King escape and the Pawn captured. But ...} 31.Qh6+ Ke8 32.Qh8+ Rf8 33.f7+ Ke7 34.Qxb2 exf3 35.Qa3+ d6 36.Qxf3 Rxf7 $13 {Black has Rook, Bishop and two Pawns for the Queen. A very asymmetric position. It is hard to tell who stands better. Not easy to play in time trouble. But it would have been a chance.} ) 28. ... fxg5 29.Qxg5+ Kf8 30.Rxe4 b5 31.Rf4 Bb7+ 32.Nf3 Bxf3+ 33.Rxf3 Rxf3 34.Qh6+ Ke8 35.Qh5+ Rf7 0-1

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Dumb Boxers Punch The Guard

So simple a conclusion can be. It hurts to admit own dumbness, but it must be done. I remember a boxer's comment about his opponent after a won match. He is strong, he is fierce, a big fighter, he said. But he is not clever. He punches the guard.

When I look at my last game, on board (not square) level, I see that just this had happened. And surely not for the first time. Now, I try to tell again the stories of my last two games, on board level.

My win against RH: Black attacks target A. White guards target A, leaving target B undefended. Black eliminates target B and realizes the material advantage in the endgame.

My loss against WS: White attacks target A. Black guards target A, leaving target B undefended. White continues to attack A until his forces are exhausted. Black wins the endgame with the forces that once were target B.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Fooled by a Fata Morgana

Here is my most recent game. For the first time in the Evans Gambit, I threw three pawns at my opponent for a heavy attack. He took them and already I saw myself on the winning side. But somehow I attacked the wrong targets and then let myself be fooled and made a crazy move that I knew would normally lose, but in this special case ... It was not special, of course.

[Event ""]
[Site ""]
[Date "2006.06.10"]
[Round ""]
[White "Mousetrapper"]
[Black "W.S."]
[WhiteElo "1670"]
[BlackElo "1650"]
[ECO "C52"]
[Result "0-1"]

1.e4 e5
2.Nf3 Nc6
3.Bc4 Bc5
4.b4 Bxb4
5.c3 Ba5
6.d4 exd4
7.O-O dxc3 {It is very dangerous to take all 3 pawns. One has to been returned soon.}
8.Qb3 {The famous target f7!} Nh6 {A helpless try.} (8. ... Qf6 {The normal reply.} 9.e5 {or Bf5})
9.Bxh6 {Simple Removal of the Guard.} gxh6
10.Bxf7+ Kf8
11.Bh5 {Threatening mate.} (11.Bd5 {Preferred by Deep Shredder.} Qe7 12.Nxc3 $11) 11. ... Qe7 $14 (11. ... Qf6 12.Rc1 d6 13.Nxc3 Bxc3 14.Rxc3 $11)
12.Nxc3 Bxc3
13.Qxc3 Rg8
14.Qe3 {I rejected the pawn push because it attacks nothing. Deep Shredder agrees. But Rfe1 or g3 may have been better. My plan was to attack the targets h6, f8 and c7.} (14.e5 Rg7 15.Rfe1 Kg8 16.Nd4 Nxd4 17.Qxd4 $14) 14. ... Qg7
15.Qf4+ Ke7
16.Nh4 $11 {Wrong plan. Not attack the Queen but the King who is in the center. The right plan is, once again, the thematic pawn push of the Evans Gambit e4-e5.} (16.g3 d6 17.e5 dxe5 18.Nxe5 Nxe5 19.Rae1 Kd8 20.Rxe5 $18) 16. ... d6
17.g3 Be6
18.Nf5+ {My plan was to force the Bishop to take, but the drawback is a weak pawn on f5, hampering my Bishop.} Bxf5
19.exf5 Raf8
20.Rae1+ {Why this Rook? Because the other one would have been tied to protect Ra1. I am happy that Deep Shredder shares my opinion. } (20.Rab1 {Winning a pawn because it cannot advance.} b6
21.Rfc1 Kd7 22.Qc4 $18 {Rule: Attack where your forces are superior. On the queen side: Two Rooks and Queen against Knight and pawns. All black forces are on the king side.} ) 20. ... Kd7 {Oops, my Queen and Bishop are unprotected and can be forked by the black Queen. Queen swap would favour Black.}
21.h4 {Weak and unnecessary against Qg5: I see ghosts, this was easy to parry. Now things turn in favour of Black.} (21.Re4 {I thought this was no option because of the double attack on Queen and Bishop. } Qg5 22.Qf3 $11 {no problem, the Queen retires and the Bishop is protected.} ) (21.Bf3) 21. ... Ne7 {I am back in the game!} (21. ... Qf6 $17 { I didn't see this powerful move.} ) (21. ... Nd4 $17 {this one I feared after having realized my mistake.} )
22.Qa4+ Nc6
23.Re4 {protecting pawn f5. Deep Shredder suggests giving this pawn by Bf3 and Re3.} Kd8
24.Rg4 {Another false plan.} (24.Rb1 $11) 24. ... Qe5
25.Rxg8 {Trading pieces when down a pawn? A consequence of my false plan. Trading is now forced more or less. } Rxg8
26.Qb3 Rg7
27.Qe6 {Crazy! Just suicide! I had lost too much time and did not take time to look properly at the position. Just saw a fata morgana of two connected passers marching for a win. In fact, I lose another pawn and the game. } (27.Qxb7 Rxg3+ 28.fxg3 Qxg3+ 29.Kh1 Qh3+ 30.Kg1 Qg3+ 31.Kh1 Qh3+ 32.Kg1 Qg3+ {I didn't want this draw.}) (27.f6 {Removal of the attacker.} Qxf6 28.Qxb7 {draw prevented, White standing better.}) 27. ... Nd4 {again I am back in the game.} (27. ... Qxe6 28.fxe6 Nd4 29.Re1 Ke7 30.Kg2 Nxe6 $19)
28.Qxe5 dxe5
29.f6 $11 {this pawn is not lost now} Rg8
30.f7 Rf8
31.Re1 Nc6
32.f4 Ke7
33.fxe5 (33.Kf2 {Always improve the piece standing worst! In the endgame, activate the King. I violated two rules here!} Kf6 34.Kf3 exf4 35.Re8 Kg7 36.gxf4 $11) 33. ... Ke6
34.Bg4+ {one more error in time trouble. The rest is a matter of technique ...} (34.Rc1 {pinning the Knight.} Kxe5 35.Kf2 a5 36.Ke3 $11) 34. ... Kxf7
35.Rf1+ Ke7
36.Rxf8 Kxf8
37.e6 Ke7
38.Kf2 Nd4
39.Ke3 Nxe6
40.Bf5 Nf8
41.Ke4 Kd6
42.Kd4 c5+
43.Kc4 a6
44.a4 Ng6
45.Be4 Ne5+
46.Kc3 b5
47.axb5 axb5
48.Bxh7 Kd5
49.Bf5 b4+
50.Kb3 Kd4
51.g4 Nf3
52.h5 Ng5
53.Bg6 Nf3
54.Bf5 Nd2+
55.Kc2 Nf3
56.Kb3 { ... except that I missed the triple repetition here and failed to claim a draw. White resigned on 67th move.} 0-1


In conclusion: White sacrificed three pawns for an overwhelming attack. But then, instead of going for the King, he went for the Queen without being able to bother her. Black threw all forces to defend his destroyed king's wing. The abandoned queen wing with a number of weak pawns would have been an excellent target. But instead of attacking it, White continued to play on the king's side where forces were traded. But White refused to accept that his winning chances had gone. Instead, he deliberately violated a golden rule due to a fata morgana, raised by the hope that he still could win. Black, with some kind help of White, managed to punish him.

Saturday, June 17, 2006

Discussing the English

I have taken the time to look back to a very interesting game I have played recently. R. has defeated me time and again with her English opening. I had tried several strategies but always came to a closed position that R. likes. But this time I had prepared a surprise for her, and really ...

[Event ""]
[Site ""]
[Date "2006.05.30"]
[Round ""]
[White "R.H."]
[Black "Mousetrapper"]
[WhiteElo "1620"]
[BlackElo "1680"]
[ECO "A20"]
[Result "0-1"]

1.c4 e5 2.g3 Nf6 3.Bg2 Bc5 4.Nf3 e4 5.Ng5 {Significant targets f2 and g5.} Bxf2+ {No sacrifice, but trading bishop for knight. White has the bishop pair, but must invest some tempi for King safety. This gives Black a lead in development and a small advantage.} 6.Kf1 {Clearly better for Black.} (6.Kxf2 Ng4+ 7.Kg1 Qxg5 8.Bxe4 $15 {would have been the normal continuation.} ) 6. ... Bc5 {Now this strong attacker remains on the board and contributes much to the black advantage, and Black retains the bishop pair.} (6. ... Bb6 7.Nc3 e3 8.dxe3 d6 $17) (6. ... e3 7.dxe3 Ng4 8.Qd5 Qe7 9.Qe4 Qxe4 10.Nxe4 Bxe3 11.Nbc3 Bxc1 12.Rxc1 $15) 7.Nxe4 Nxe4 8.Bxe4 {Targets: f1, f2, c4.} Qf6+ {I played for material gain here, but ...} (8. ... d5 {... this gambit would have been stronger, activating the bishop and chasing the King back to the center, where he is very exposed with queens on the board.} 9.cxd5 Qf6+ 10.Bf3 Bh3+ 11.Ke1 $17) 9.Bf3 Nc6 {This quiet and normal development is not best. It allows White do develop in turn. } (9. ... Qd4 {Why not going directly for the pawn? Rule: Move a piece twice before moving every piece once if there is a good tactic. Gaining a pawn certainly is. Plus threating mate means not losing a tempo. Black has 2 developed pieces against 1 of White.} 10.e3 Qxc4+ $17) (9. ... d5 {This gambit was still possible.} 10.cxd5 Bh3+ 11.Ke1 O-O $17) 10.Nc3 {Now, Black has 3 developed pieces against 2 of White, so the advantage of Black has diminished.} Qd4 $15 (10. ... O-O 11.Nd5) 11.e3 Qxc4+ 12.Qe2 (12.Be2 Qe6 $17 ) 12. ... Qxe2+ {Applying the classic strategy: If you are pawn up, trade piece.} 13.Nxe2 {Worsening the Knight.} d6 (13. ... Ne5 $17 {Deep Shredder's favourite, but I disagree, because the advantage is difficult to realize with opposite-coloured bishops.} 14.d4 Nxf3 15.dxc5 b6 16.Kf2 Bb7 17.cxb6 axb6 $17) 14.Kg2 Bd7 (14. ... Ne5 $17) 15.a3 a5 16.Rf1 O-O {Principle of Symmetry: Castle same side when a pawn up.} (16. ... Ne5 {Deep Shredder likes complications even when a pawn up. I did not, of course.} 17.Bxb7 Rb8 18.Be4 Bb5 19.Re1 Bd3 20.Bxd3 Nxd3 21.Rf1 Nxc1 22.Rfxc1 Rxb2 $17) 17.d4 Bb6 18.Nc3 Rab8 $11 {Too passive and too complicated.} (18. ... a4 {A more active plan: Na5 and Bc6. Principle: eliminate the most active piece of the opponent.} 19.Nd5 Na5 20.Bd2 (20.Nxb6 {no matter giving the bishop pair.} cxb6 21.Bd2 Nc4 22.Bc1 Bc6 $17) 20. ... Nc4 21.Bc1 Rae8 $17 ) (18. ... Nd8 19.Nd5 Re8 20.Nxb6 $11) 19.Nd5 Rfe8 20.Bd2 Ne7 21.Nxe7+ {Good for Black.} (21.Nxb6 $11 {White's bishop pair and Black's double pawn would have been a good compensation for the pawn.} ) 21. ... Rxe7 22.b4 a4 23.Rae1 Bb5 24.Rf2 Bc4 25.Be2 Bxe2 {Every piece trade enhances black advantage.} 26.Rexe2 c6 27.Rf4 {Targets on e2 and d4 are emerging.} Bc7 28.Rf5 g6 29.Rf6 Re6 30.Rf3 f5 31.h3 Rbe8 32.g4 fxg4 33.hxg4 {another target!} Bb6 {The attack on targets d4 and 32 is easy to parry. I missed a rook fork here.} (33. ... Re4 {forks targets g4 and d4!} 34.Kh3 Rxd4 35.exd4 Rxe2 36.Bh6 Re8 $17) 34.Ref2 d5 35.Rf7 R6e7 36.R7f6 Bd8 37.R6f4 Rd7 38.R4f3 Bg5 39.Rf1 Bh6 {useless, just losing time.} (39. ... Re4 40.Rf8+ Kg7 41.Ra8 Rxg4+ 42.Kh3 Re4 43.Rxa4 Bxe3 44.Bxe3 Rxe3+ 45.Kh2 $19) (39. ... h6 {I missed this simple way to parry the attack on the h file.} ) 40.Rh1 Bg5 41.Rhf1 Kg7 (41. ... h6 {again to be recommended.} ) 42.Rh1 {beware of target h7, which I did not properly.} Rf8 {Oooh, everything but not this. Blunder! Overworked King. Removal of the Guard possible ...} (42. ... Re4 $17) (42. ... h6 {would have freed his majesty from a heavy burden ...} ) 43.Rhf1 {oops, a lucky miss of my opponent!} (43.Rxh7+ Kxh7 44.Rxf8 Kg7 45.Ra8 b5 46.Rc8 Rd6 $11 {looks like a draw.}) 43. ... Rxf3 {Trading pieces helps Black, leaving White with a bad bishop. The rest is a matter of technique.} 44.Rxf3 Rf7 45.Bc3 Rxf3 46.Kxf3 h5 {in order to transform the majority into a distant passer.} 47.gxh5 gxh5 $19 48.e4 Kg6 49.exd5 cxd5 50.Bb2 Kf5 51.b5 Bf4 52.Bc3 Bc1 53.Bb4 Bf4 54.b6 h4 55.Kf2 Kg4 56.Kg2 h3+ 57.Kh1 Kf3 58.Be7 Ke4 59.Bf6 Be3 60.Kh2 Bxd4 61.Be7 Bxb6 62.Kxh3 d4 63.Kg2 Kd5 0-1

In conclusion: Black missed an opportunity to attack the King in the middlegame and decided to win a pawn and realize it in the endgame, which also was o.k. But then he did not manage to activate his pieces properly aud quickly. White in turn missed to equalize. Black focused too much on one target instead of forking two of them. He missed to relieve his King from a heavy duty and gave away his pawn. But White missed to take it back. So, in the end, it was an easy win for Black.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Target Stats

In seven games, I have identified 45 significant targets. Roughly half of them are pawns and half of them are pieces. About 90 percent of the targets were not protected at all, or underprotected. About 10 percent were just exposed to an attack or in danger of being trapped.

Thus, the most likely target will be a piece or pawn not protected at all, or not sufficiently protected. No protection and insufficient protection occur in roughly equal amounts. The insufficient protection, if present, will be by another piece, and here K and Q are overrepresented because of their limited protective power. Pawns are underrepresented, because they normally do a god protecting job if they are not pinned or under attack themselves.

Of course, K and Q are targets all the time, but not always significant ones. For a target to become significant it must be vulnerable to an attack, and this attack must gain advantage. Just any unprotected pawn or any piece only protected by the Queen are no significant targets. Nor are Kings in safe castles nor Queens exposed to fruitless attacks.

A target most likely becomes significant by combination. That is, forming a geometrical pattern (fork, skewer, pin) with another target or being «guarded» by an overworked piece. If a single target becomes significant, it is most likely the King under a mating attack or a trapped piece.

In conclusion: A piece or a pawn have about equal odds to become a significant target. Any piece or pawn not protected by a pawn is a good target candidate. The higher the value of the protector, the higher the odds of becoming a significant target. Two targets on squares of same color have higher odds to become significant. If significant targets are on squares of different colors, most likely an overworked piece is involved. I have the impression that best candidates of overworked pieces are King and Queen, but my data base is too limited so far.

Sunday, June 04, 2006

Bullshit or what?

Not long after my post had been online yesterday I had the impression that its sole purpose might be to mislead my opponents. But as my opponents never will read my blog, this post is likely to be mere bullshit. Why should Caissa be so kind to let things happen on just some squares I had scratched together by some theory that is very doubtful to make sense? It was necessary to find out. So, today, I made some preliminary stats. I spotted 27 relevant targets in 4 past games of mine, and 7 of them were on the so called basic key squares. Hahaha. One fourth, same as the fraction of basics compared to all 64 squares. In other words: Correlation = zero. In other words: Bullshit.

Well, the stats revealed things that are really interesting. More about this later, because my wife is waiting for a nice evening together. See you later, boys!

Saturday, June 03, 2006

Basic Key Squares

Definition: A basic key square is a square on the board where targets or important actions regularly show up. These are, in the early opening, a/h 1/8 (4 squares) with unprotected rooks, f 2/7 (2 squares) with pawns protected only by the kings, and c/f 3/6 (4 squares) where knights can be pinned by bishops. After castling kingside: f-g-h 1-2/7-8 (12 squares). Without castling in the later opening: d-e-f 1-2/7-8 (12 squares). After castling queenside: a-b-c-d 1-2/7-8 (16 squares). At any phase of the game: the center d-e 4-5 (4 squares).

A typical basic key square count may be 14/64 at first move, and, after typical castlings kingside, development of rooks and depinning of knights, may come to 16/64. Thus, at any phase of the game, roughly a fourth of the squares are basic key squares. It is worthwile to keep a good eye on them any time. I guess that at least half of my tactic blunders and misses happen on basic key squares. It may be interesting to do some stats about this.

(Of course there are a lot more key squares, depending on special tactics that show up.)

Friday, June 02, 2006

How to lose a won game

I just was analyzing this game with Deep Shredder 9 when, ...

[Event "?"]
[Site "Wil"]
[Date "2006.03.25"]
[Round "?"]
[White "Mousetrapper"]
[Black "MB"]
[WhiteElo "1691"]
[BlackElo "1578"]
[ECO "B40"]
[Result "0-1"]

1.e4 c5 2.d4 e6 3.Nf3 Nc6 4.d5 exd5 5.exd5 Qe7+ 6.Be2 Ne5 7.O-O Kd8 8.Bf4 Nxf3+ 9.Bxf3 d6 10.c4 g5 11.Bd2 f6 12.b4 b6 13.bxc5 Bf5 14.cxd6 Qxd6 15.Nc3 Qc5 16.Qb3 Rc8 17.Be2 h5 18.Be3 Qb4 19.Nb5 Rh7 20.Nd4 Bd7 21.Rfb1 Qxb3 22.axb3 Rc7 23.b4 Nh6 24.b5 Nf5 25.Nc6+ Bxc6 26.bxc6 Nxe3 27.fxe3 Bc5 28.Rb3 Ke7 29.Re1 Kd6 30.Bd3 Rh8 31.Kf1 a5 32.Bb1 a4 33.Rd3 a3 34.Ba2 Re8 35.Ke2 Rce7 36.Kf3 f5 37.g3 Re4 38.Rb3 f4 39.Bb1 Rxe3+ 40.Rbxe3 Rxe3+ 41.Rxe3 Bxe3 42.gxf4 Bxf4 43.h3 h4 44.Ba2 Kc5 45.Ke4 Kb4 46.Kd3 g4 47.hxg4 h3 48.Ke4 h2 49.Kxf4 h1=Q 50.Ke5 Qh2+ 51.Ke6 Kc5 52.Kd7 Qd6+ 53.Kc8 Qe7 54.Kb8 Kd6 55.Bb3 Qc7+ 56.Ka8 Ke5 57.c5 bxc5 58.Bc4 Kf4 59.d6 Qxc6+ 0-1

... all of a sudden, the idea of looking up Dan Heisman's column Novice Nook on chesscafe.com dropped into my mind. Had not looked at it for a while and thought, hey, would be nice to see if he has to tell me something new. And what I read there really electrified me!

Because it gave me an answer to an old, unsolved question of mine: How come that I lose won games such as the one above? Hard to believe, but there is a simple answer. If you want to lose a won game, just violate the Principle of Symmetry!

It says that if you have an advantage it is best to keep all other things equal rather than trying to get more advantage and in turn concede counter-advantages to your opponent. So simple. But I have been violating this principle time and again. In the above game I had two very similar pawn decisions to take on the same two files, and twice I chose the wrong one.

Of course, I had missed Re1 earlier several times. Another bad habit: If I see a good blitz move in a slow game, I take time to look for a worse alternative and then take it. My main goal seems to be to surprise my opponent with unusual moves.

But now let's talk Symmetry Principle! The first occasion came on 14th move. Black just had dropped a pawn and I had to decide which one to take. The Symmetry Principle says that I have material plus and active play, while my opponent has nothing. Taking on b6 would leave my advantages and keep the rest in balance, because the activation of the black Ra8 is compensated by a scattering of black pawn structure. Taking on d6 would add a new white advantage, a passed pawn on d6, but also allow black counterplay and bring the bad bishop f8 to life. Hence cxb keeps symmetry and cxd increases asymmetry. I took on d6.

On 26th move I had to decide how to take back? The Symmetry Principle says that I have a passed pawn and my opponent has none. Taking dxc6 would leave this balance unchanged, promote my passer to 6th rank and open a rook file. Taking bxc6 would add more advantage of white (2 passers), but also of black (1 passer). Hence dxc keeps symmetry and bxc adds asymmetry. I took bxc6 and lost the game in a pawn race. That is, I wasted time with my King and dropped my last counter chance of getting my own queen.

P.S. Dan H just contacted me (he has no blogger account) and suggested me reading an earlier arcicle on this subject: When you are winning ...

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Overworked and Superhero pieces

I need sort of scientific framework in order to understand the complicated world of chess. So I developed a classification of overworked pieces. A piece can do five different jobs: A) cover (protect) another piece, B) cover an important square, C) capture a piece, D) access an important square, E) disrupt a line or diagonal. Point E shows that a pin is just a special case of an overworked piece. With full combinations, there are no less than 15 different types of overworked pieces.

When I first tested this new framework using a game that I had lost some time ago, I made a startling discovery. The poor, helpless overworked pieces have their mighty counterparts. I call them superhero pieces. They successfully do two jobs at the same time. My superhero in that game was my queen. She had been so powerful as to protect a bishop of mine and a hanging pawn at the same time. Because from the square of my bishop, after recapture, the queen covers the pawn. Of course the bishop must gain a tempo going to that square in order to prevent my pawn being captured. All this had been on the board, but I missed it. Made a passive queen move to protect the pawn. One of the many reasons I lost that game. By the way, my queen had been a superhero of the AA type.

Update: BTW the 15 (theoretical) types are: AA, AB, AC, AD, AE, BB ... EE. Some of them, such as EE, may never occur in a game. See the Superhero Queen in the game of my next post: 16. Bg4 Bxg4 17. Qxg4 and protects the pawn c4!