Thinking About Thinking

Sometimes I get the questions, “How do you plan your moves or know what moves to play?” Or “How do you determine candidate moves and figure out which one is best?” This is good start.

Well, there are times in which the moves are obvious and can be played very quickly.

Under this category are:

1) Book Moves – Opening moves that are considered standard, so you don’t have to think about them. For example, 1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.Nc3 Bb4 represents the Nimzo-Indian Defence and is probably known by at least 90% of all players. The moves can be played quite quickly if both players want to get to that position.

2) Personal Preferences – Moves that a player has decided before the start of game he would like to play when facing a certain position. For example, in the King’s Gambit Accepted (1.e4 e5 2.f4 exf4), a player may have already decided he may go for the Bishop’s Gambit (3.Bc4), and can play that move instantly. A more experienced player might decide to come up with a new move in a certain position (also called Theoretical Novelty, or TN for short), and then play it to surprise his opponent.

3) Thematic Moves – It is well known that a rook belongs behind a pawn to assist in its promotion. Such thematic moves lessen the time in searching for the right move. Mostly used in speed games where time is limited.

If the moves are not obvious, then it is of great benefit to have a mental hierarchy of what constitutes a good, or even the best move in a certain position.

Here is my list:

1) Does my move, or a series of moves, produce or force a checkmate? If the answer is a yes, then there is no reason to consider anything else as a checkmate ends the game.

2) Does my move, or a series of a move, produce or force a material advantage?

Here is an example:

Maciej Swicarz (2145)-Radoslaw Jedynak (2140)
Polish U18 Team Ch..
Augustow, 1996
1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.e5 c5 4.Qg4 Nc6 5.Nf3 Nge7 6.c3 cxd4 7.Bd3 Qc7 8.O-O Nxe5 9.Nxe5 Qxe5 10.cxd4 Qd6 11.Nc3 Bd7 12.a4 a6 13.a5 Rc8 14.Bd2 Qb8 15.Rfe1 Qa7 16.Bg5 h5 17.Qh4 b5 18.axb6 Qxb6

19.Bxe7! Bxe7 20.Qxe7+!! 1-0 (20…Kxe7 21.Nxd5! wins material.)

I read somewhere that winning a queen gives a player at least a 98% of winning the game. Winning a rook is at least 96%. Don’t ask me where I got this information, it was something I read a long time ago, but it does seem to be accurate. Maybe someone should do a more complete study here.

3) Does advancing a piece create problems for my opponent? For example, in the Fried Liver attack (1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bc4 Nf6 4.Ng5 d5 5.exd5 Nxd5?! 6.Nxf7!) White’s sixth move causes confusion in Black’s position and he has to focus on staying alive. It is also a Book Move.

4) Does pushing a pawn cause a similar effect?

Rhee-Hinrichsen
El Segundo, CA, 1969
[White’s eighth move causes chaos in Black’s position which climaxes in spectacular mating sequence.]
1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 d6 5.Nc3 Nf6 6.Bc4 g6 7.Nxc6 bxc6 8.e5
(This sequence of opening moves is known as the Magnus Smith. The pawn advance is key here.) 8…Nd7 9.exd6 exd6 10.O-O Be7 11.Re1 O-O 12.Bh6 Re8 13.Qf3 d5 14.Nxd5 Bb7

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is 2020_08_20_b.jpg

15.Qxf7+!! Kxf7 16.Ne3+ Kf6 17.Ng4+ Kf5 18.Be6mate 1-0

5) How about on a board with less pieces? Does pushing a pawn increase the potential for queening? Best if a pawn move creates problems for my opponent and threaten to queen at the same time.

It is best to keep in mind that such moves are not played in isolation. The opponent has to make every other move. As such, one has to take into account that short of a forced mate, the opponent can, and usually will, be attacking as well. And one should also use the above list to check if his move, or series of moves, does not allow his opponent to counterattack with a more forceful move.

For example, if I make my move, does this allow my opponent to checkmate me? Can he win material if I was to make this certain move? Etc.

Suddenly, the planning gets complicated. One must now plan, studying, think, and sweat. And you are lucky, the best move, or at least a serious candidate move, will spring out from your labors.

The Joseph Theme

In 1921, David Joseph, then 25 years old, was traveling in a train in England. It was during or about this time (sources differ) that he created a series of chess problems. The one given below appears to be simple to solve, but that is an illusion.

 

 

White Wins
[Joseph, 1921; Additional Analysis by Roycroft, The Chess Endgame Study, #145, pg. 104, and Escalante – just to make the notes easier.]

 

2019_03_21_Joseph

 

We are going to skip some space here so you can try to solve it yourself.

 

.

.

(You can write some notes here if you want)

.

.

.

.

.

(It’s more fun to try to solve a problem that just to look at the answer.)

.

.

.

.

.

(The answer is just below.)

 

.

.

.

.

1.h8=Q (1.h8=B? a1=Q 2.Bxa1 is not stalemate, but it does not win either.) 1…a1=Q 2.Qg8 (Of course not 2.Qxa1?? because it’s stalemate – RME ; 2.Qe8? Qg7 and soon draws, either by exchanging queens or by perpetual check.) 2…Qa2 3.Qe8 (Again, Black seeks a stalemate by offering his queen – RME ;  3.Qf8? Qa3, with, again, a perpetual, or stalemate if the black queen is taken.) 3…Qa4 4.Qe5+ Ka8 5.Qh8 +- (White wins. – RME)

 

 

 

A Queen Study

Wan Yunguo (2472)-P. Kotenko (2359)
Moscow Open
Russia, Feb. 1 2015
1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 a6 4.Ba4 d6 5.c4!? [This variation of the Ruy Lopez is quite rare. Its main purpose is to have a strong point at d5 and limit Black’s responses. Here is another game: 5.c4!? Nf6 6.Nc3 Bd7 7.d4 exd4 8.Nxd4 Be7 9.Nxc6 bxc6 10.O-O O-O 11.h3 Re8 12.Qf3 c5 13.Bc2 Bc6 14.Bd2 Nd7 15.Nd5 Bf6 16.Bc3 Bxc3 17.Qxc3 Nf8 18.Rfe1 Ne6 19.b4 a5 20.bxc5 Nxc5 21.Rad1 Qb8 22.Rb1 Qa7 23.e5 Rad8 24.Nf6+ gxf6 25.Qg3+ Kf8 26.exf6 Re5 27.Rxe5 dxe5 28.Qg7+ Ke8 29.Qg8+ Kd7 30.Bf5+ 1-0 (Ilia Smirin (2480)-Janis Klovans (2420), Baltic Republics Ch., Kuldiga, Latvia, 1987)] 5…Nf6 6.d3 Be7 7.h3 O-O 8.Be3 Nd7 9.Nc3 Bf6 10.Ne2 Re8 11.O-O Nf8 12.d4 exd4 13.Nfxd4 Nxd4 14.Bxd4 Rxe4 15.Qd3 Bf5 16.Bxf6 Qxf6 17.Ng3 Re5 18.Qf3 c6 19.Rad1 Qe6 20.Qc3 Rd8 21.Rfe1 Re8 22.Rxe5 dxe5 23.Qb4 b5 24.cxb5 axb5 25.Bb3 Qc8 26.Nxf5 Qxf5 27.Rd6 Rc8 28.Qc5 Qb1+ 29.Kh2 Qxb2 30.Qa7 Ng6 31.Bxf7+ Kh8 32.Bxg6 hxg6 33.Rxg6 e4 34.Qe7 Ra8 35.Rg4 Qf6 36.Qxe4 Kg8 37.Rf4 Qd6 38.g3 Rf8 39.Rxf8+ Kxf8 (The last two moves were played so White would reach a winning queen endgame. However, having a winning advantage does not mean an easy-to-win advantage.)

2018_07_05

40.Kg2 b4 (With both queens controlling the center the game is almost equal. Except White has an extra pawn.) 41.h4 c5 42.g4 g6 43.g5 Kg7 44.Kh3 Qc7 45.Qc4 Qe5 46.Kg2 Qc3 47.Qe4 c4 48.Qe7+ Kg8 49.Qe8+ Kg7 50.Qe7+ Kg8 (White of course could force a draw here. But he wants more. And advancing his pawns is the best way to increase his advantage.) 51.h5! gxh5 52.g6 Qg7 53.Qe6+ Kf8 54.Qd6+ Ke8 55.Qb8+ Ke7 56.Qxb4+ (If this move was not a check Black would have reasonable chances for a draw with …Qxg6+. This should be White’s method; willing to jostle for position and make a number of threats until it is safe for him to press his advantage.) 56…Kf6 57.Qxc4 Qxg6+ (Every pawn trade makes the position clearer to understand.) 58.Kh2 Qf5 59.Qd4+ Kg6 60.a4 Qa5 61.Qd3+ Kh6 62.Qe3+ Kg6 63.Qf4 Qd5 64.Qc7 Qf5 65.Qd6+ Kh7 66.Qd4 Qa5 67.Qd7+ Kh6 68.Qc6+ Kg7 69.Qb5 Qc7+ (Naturally White would win after a queen trade.) 70.Kg2 Qf4 71.Qd7+ Kh6 72.Qc6+ Kh7 73.Kf1 Qd4 74.Qc7+ Kh6 75.a5 Qd3+ 76.Kg1 h4 77.Qc6+ Kh5 78.a6 Qd4 79.Qe8+ Kg4 80.Qe6+ Kh5 81.Kg2 Qa1 82.Kh2 Qd4 83.Qe8+ Kg4 84.Qe2+ Kf5 85.Qf3+ Kg6 86.Kh3 Qa4 87.Qg4+ 1-0