Theory: Chess Tactics 1

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Theory: Chess Tactics 1

Post by Blue Devil Knight on April 17th 2009, 12:24 am

I read the first tactics article today. Focus is on the board first, and pieces second. These are my first thoughts. I am frankly not sure what I think. The stuff on piece interaction is deceptively simple, but revealing some very important basic truths we should not forget.

The Board
As for knowing the board well enough to play blindfold, I'm not all that convinced that memorizing square colors is useful. I've discussed this quite a bit at my blog here. There, I concluded, "my hunch is that memorizing square colors is useless, and good vision comes with chess improvement, not vice versa."

Have there been studies on this? Frankly it feels like one of those things passed down without a lot of empirical testing (like much of the chess improvement literature). My conclusion above seems reasonable.

On the other hand I am weak at visualizing the position. I'm not sure what I'm supposed to do really. They say they will have exercises to work on visualization in the second month. Is that true?

The Pieces
Then they go on to discuss how pieces can interact with each other. There are five ways, given strange names (this was one article where an English editor would have been extremely helpful).

To make it clearer to me, I used different words. The authors describe five types of interactions between pieces:
1. Direct defense--material could recapture if enemy takes (e.g., knight defends pawn). [sustainment]
2. Blocking the enemy--interposed material provides protection (e.g., pawn on d2 in front of Queen on d1 protects queen from rook on d8). [protection]
3. Restricting oneself--when your own material reduces the mobility of your pieces (e.g., a pawn on f3 blocks the Bishop on g2). [limitation]
4. Attack--a piece can legally be taken by another piece (e.g., Queen can take pawn on f7). [attack]
5. Restricting the enemy--when material's mobility is constrained by the enemy (e.g., the Bishop can't move to h3 because a rook will capture it). [obstruction].


Last edited by Blue Devil Knight on May 6th 2009, 8:37 am; edited 1 time in total
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Re: Theory: Chess Tactics 1

Post by Blue Devil Knight on April 17th 2009, 1:23 am

A few thoughts on their list of types of interactions.

Practical?
How are we to use these ideas in practice? They list all these interactions, but don't say much about how knowing this list will help us play better chess. This is the most important question.

Squares are pieces too Laughing
They don't mention it, but these don't have to be interactions between pieces, but also pieces and squares. A piece can defend a square, can block the enemy from reaching a square, even attack a square in a double attack (if that square is where you will deliver mate, it is more important than the second prong in the double attack even if it is a queen on the end).

Interactions and tactics
Note their list is more than just interactions between pairs of pieces. Interactions 1-2 typically involve three pieces: an attacker, a potential target, and the defender of that target.

Are there other interesting relations among piece triads? Sure. Skewers, pins, forks, and other standard tactical motifs come into play. Interestingly, blocking the enemy (number 2) is basically a pin already! Switch the two defensive pieces, and we have a skewer! Forks are basically a case of number four (attack), but attacking two pieces at once--a double attack (obviously). Traps are essentially cases of first restricting the enemy (and him restricting himself, so numbers 3 and 5). (And note that checkmate is basically trapping the King). Discovered attacks are another instance of a double attack.

In other words, it seems many basic tactical motifs can be described in terms of these five basic interactions. That's pretty cool! Even removal of the guard is basically attacking (number 4) the defender (number 2) of an important piece or square.

Relations between interactions
Not all the interactions are independent. If a pawn is blocking the enemy from reaching your queen (number 2), that pawn is restricting the queen at the same time (number 3). However, if it were blocking the enemy from a Knight, the Knight is not restricted by that pawn. Hence, we need separate categories for enemy-blocking and self-restriction. (Finally, in some ways number 2 is a special case of number 5--blocking the enemy is one way of restricting his movement!).
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Re: Theory: Chess Tactics 1

Post by cofresi on April 19th 2009, 11:26 pm

Averbakh has a nice book on Advanced Tactics which was just reprinted, and although it didn't get good reviews in a few places, it was very helpful to me for studying tactical elements. He breaks down the elements of tactics into similar categories as well. Instead of "interactions" he calls these relations "contacts". So the pieces have different kinds of contact, just as in this scheme.

But he goes another step further by showing that there are stages of pre-contact. Many people can see the tactic easily when the pieces are already in place, ready for a knight fork or for a skewer or a discovered check. They can see the fork and the forking square. But the trick is to see that square when none of the pieces are close yet. When there is a tactic, there must also be a pre-contact, a pre-threat, a tactic not yet threatened, just a few moves before the pieces enter into clear contact.

Looking at tactics on this level of microanalysis is intensive work, best done before any game. It slows down your analytic vision so you would not want to practice this during a tournament game. But it will help to understand tactics more fundamentally.

Another author is Weteschnik, who has a CD on fundamentals of tactics, and who also breaks down tactics into microlevels by number of pieces involved in the tactic. I don't have the title right now, sorry.

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Re: Theory: Chess Tactics 1

Post by Blue Devil Knight on April 19th 2009, 11:58 pm

Very cool, thanks for the pointers. I'm tempted to get that book...last thing I need is another book!!!

I think the Martin CD is 'School of elementary tactics'.
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Re: Theory: Chess Tactics 1

Post by chesstiger on May 6th 2009, 6:04 am

Blue Devil Knight wrote:On the other hand I am weak at visualizing the position. I'm not sure what I'm supposed to do really. They say they will have exercises to work on visualization in the second month. Is that true?

Yes it's true!
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Re: Theory: Chess Tactics 1

Post by Blue Devil Knight on February 26th 2011, 12:32 am

It's been almost two years, and I find these ideas helpful more now that when I first read this.

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