Saturday, August 18, 2007

Syntactic structures

I think Heisman hit it almost perfectly in his article The Big Five:
The first and most important step to becoming proficient at tactics is understanding safety and counting, followed by repetitious study of very simple problems, those involving counting and single motifs (pins, double attacks, removal of the guard, etc.). Acquisition of this skill usually requires the kind of drills suggested by Michael de la Maza in his two-part 400 Points in 400 Days article for Chess Café. The big contention I have with Michael’s method is that he suggests repetition of tactics of all levels, while I feel that concentrating on just the easiest motifs is sufficient. My reason is that many, if not most, difficult combinations contain permutations of basic motifs. Therefore learning basic tactical motifs “cold” in order to do harder problems better is similar to learning multiplication of one-digit numbers as the basis for all multiplication and even higher mathematics.
I am seeing this over and over in the complicated phase 5 problems in CTB. Without the first 4 stages, no way I'd get many of these problems.

However, there is one way I'd differ with Heisman: even though combinations involve the simpler motifs, that doesn't mean you should only study the simple motifs. While seeing the simple motifs is necessary for combinatorial play, it is not sufficient. Stretching the math analogy, if the basic elements of math were sufficient, you should be an expert at factoring prime numbers after just learning basic multiplication and division.

Now that I'm a bit stronger with the tactical alphabet, I am finding it very helpful in Stage 5 of CTB to work through more complicated combinations, as it is giving me good examples of the subtle syntax of combinations, concrete examples. And because of the new method of solving the problems, I am picking up certain tell-tale signs that a combination is possible (e.g., lots of open lines toward opponent's king, coordinated pieces, more material localized to one spot, a defending piece overloaded). Seeing a fork-in-one is a lot different than seeing a fork after deflecting the king with a Knight sacrifice. It involves harder work when considering the motifs in the tree of analysis.

I look at this as confirmatoin of the results of our previous discussion about classifying tactics, and it seems to mesh quite well with Temposchlucker's recent brainstorms, where the elementary motifs are the words, and combinations are sentences. It will be interesting to see if this helps me in games...

Here is an example of a Phase 5 CTB problem that combines three elementary motifs into a nice little combination (black to move):

All in all, CTB was the ideal choice for my Circles. The first three stages are typically fairly simple tactics. Stage 4 has a lot of very simple combinations (e.g., a deflection to set up a simple tactic such as a fork). Many Stage 5 problems combine more than two motifs. It also has longer mating nets. These are very helpful, forcing me to consider all possible checks, as lo and behold, what looks like a blunder could be the first move in a brilliant mating net. It's all about taking the time to analyze to quiescience, making sure to look at all the resources at your disposal. There is a lot less of this with 1-3 move simple tactics.

I should finish Circle 5.1 within 9 days...


Blogger Loomis said...

I spent a little too long looking at that diagram thinking it was white to move...

8/19/2007 04:56:00 PM  
Blogger Blue Devil Knight said...

Oops. Sorry about that. I added 'black to move' to post.

8/19/2007 05:08:00 PM  
Blogger takchess said...

I agree with you. It is extremely important to know the simple tactics cold. It is helpful to work with complex problems which often are the intersection of many simple themes. There is benefit to understanding this interplay.

8/19/2007 07:46:00 PM  
Blogger Pale Morning Dun - Errant Knight de la Maza said...

Here's an interesting question any player could ask themselves: How many games have you dropped when your opponent played a 3 move (or more) combination on you?

At the patzer level, I think we are more prone to death via the "one mover" so having a solid handle on the fundamentals is important both for your offense AND defense.

I'm not saying 3 move combinations and above are not important, but it's like in the kung fu movies, you gotta carry buckets of water up the monastery steps for awhile before you can start wielding your fists of fury. Eh, got that?

8/19/2007 10:36:00 PM  
Blogger King of the Spill said...

Great position, and it brings out something peculiar.

If this were from the middle of someone's game I probably would have rejected the Knight + Bishop for pawn + Rook trade, totally missing that Black's e-file pressure is where the winning advantage is. Because your post said "combination" I knew there was something more. I suppose I am rusty these days, but still I see that as an easy thing to overlook.

8/20/2007 02:33:00 AM  
Blogger likesforests said...

My guess: 1...Ne2+ 2.Nxe2 Bxb2 3.Kxb2 Rxd1 and one of White's knights will fall. 1...Ne2+ 2.Kb1 Nxc3+ 3.bxc3 Rxd1 and the e1 knight will fall.

8/20/2007 12:25:00 PM  
Blogger Blue Devil Knight said...

likeforests: you get the prize.

8/20/2007 01:21:00 PM  
Blogger Schereschevsky said...

When I try to "STUDY" my simple tactics, doing my narratives after solving it, I would say on this that "both black rooks on center open files, bishop on open long diagonal, knight on the center and doing discover attack, and key factor e1 white knight (perhaps white mistake) on back rank disturbing rooks labor in conjuction, made possible to rise tactics for white". Positional key factors may be. Try to not to find the wining move, but the position overall, black is more "pretty" than white.

8/21/2007 09:27:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Do you have a list of errata for CTB? I recently did the 7 circles using CTB and found 14 errors (greater than 1%). I imagine there are more.

8/23/2007 09:58:00 AM  
Blogger Blue Devil Knight said...

Anon: unfortunately I don't have such a list. We could build one. If you send me what you have I'll add to it as I come across them (and I have a few in Phase 5, and saw some in all earlier stages as well). I could make a post out of it that we could update as we discovered new errors.

8/23/2007 08:31:00 PM  
Blogger J'adoube said...

Hmm. . .been awhile but I think I found the answer with 1...Ne2+. If 2.Nxe2 Bxb2 then 3.Kxb2 Rxd1 4.Nc3 Rdxe1.

I was actually looking for a mating sequence so I lost time on that before I found the other combination and had to convince myself I didn't miss the mate.

8/24/2007 01:14:00 PM  

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