Sunday, March 08, 2009

Planning Exercise (1)

The following is an exercise with no clear best answer, though the side to move (white) has a slight positional advantage. There is nothing tactically heavy going on, but the next few moves will determine the flavor of the endgame. I tend to flounder in these positions from the nebulous zone between middlegame and endgame. I tend to find few to no good plans, and then play aimlessly. Or I find too many plans, and have trouble prioritizing which ones I should take seriously. Typically I have both problems: I have lots of plans in my mind, but none of them is the right one.

What plans would you consider as white in this position? I post my long-winded thoughts as the first comment to this post. It is a pretty good indicator of how I would think during a real game when I felt the position demanded prolonged thought.

Note I'm not saying my thoughts are the right thoughts. I don't frankly know. This is exactly the kind of position I need to improve at, so I would appreciate any feedback on the position, what planning-relevant features pop out at you, and any criticisms of my posted thoughts.

White to move


Blogger Blue Devil Knight said...

The following planning brainstorm would take place in the context of having established that there are no tactical fireworks to worry about in this position. That would always come at the beginning of my thought process.

A. How would I win this game?
I have more space on the Kingside, so I should be able to parlay that into something. Possibilities include:
1) Using the space advantage to launch a Kingside attack.
2) Threaten to promote a pawn.
3) Continue to restrict his activity while maneuvering my pieces to a better position until I can do 1 and/or 2.
Plans 1 and 2 could be aided by setting up a pawn storm on the Kingside. Plan 3 would be aided by finding which pieces need better places to live for the time being.

B. How would I lose this game?
I would lose (or draw) by letting him neutralize my temporary spatial advantage, getting his pieces active without gaining anything long-term in return. Also, he has a slight spatial advantage on the queenside so it is possibly he could take me out queenside with a pawn storm.

C. Pieces
1. General considerations, and the Rooks
Would it be a good idea for me to trade into an endgame? Materially we are equal, so there is no material justification for trading down to an endgame. On the other hand, I have a spatial advantage on the Kingside, so am in the place of the "attacker" so that means he may want to trade material so I can't exploit my spatial advantage. Do I really want to temper my advantage by trading rooks?

On the other hand, the only decent option to refuse the rook trade is to move it off the d-file, which would be a huge positional concession that seems to trump the concerns about space/trading. Also, if I take his R with my R it will place his Knight in a dismal location.

If I let him take my Rook, my B goes to d1: is this a good square for my Bishop? It's not particularly bad, indeed that may improve the activity of my Bishop.

2. Bishops
We both have dark-squared bishops that aren't doing anything. I might consider trading my dark squared bishop for his Knight if I can't get my dark Bishop more active. On the other hand, that would give him the two-bishop advantage, which is significant in a position like this that is likely to open up. So, no don't do that.

He would have a weak dark-color complex around his King if it weren't for his dark-squared Bishop, so if there is any way I can exchange for that piece while retaining my dark-bishop I should consider that. Maybe give my Knight for that Bishop if I can find a way to do it.

I'm not sure where my dark-squared Bishop belongs, but it is probably my worst piece so I should consider where to put him. Consider getting him to f2, where he has a bit more mobility.

His light-squared bishop has more activity than mine, has staked out a claim on a better diagonal. It would be nice to trade my Knight for that Bishop if possible. Then I could open up the position and take advantage of having the two Bishops (though see the section below on Knights).

Where does my light-squared bishop want to go? It is a bit inactive for a "good" Bishop. It would like to be on a better diagonal such as the a2-g8 diagonal, aiming at his King and pinning the f pawn.

3. Knights
Both of us have fairly centralized Knights. His seems a bit less well-placed than mine, as it is restricting the activity of his Bishop, and is hemmed in by my c-pawn. Mine is closer to his King, and could take part in some tactics on the Kingside at some point. Hence, maybe I don't want to trade my Knight for his light-squared Bishop as I speculated in B2.

4. Kings
We are getting closer to an endgame, so I should consider activating my King with f2. This would keep my other options open in terms of how I want to proceed, and put the pressure on him to come up with a plan. As mentioned before, his dark squares around his King are a potential weakness, but I see no clear way to exploit that for now. So right now just keep his Bishop hemmed in on g2 while increasing my own piece activity.

E. Pawn structure
I have a big space advantage with my duo of e/f pawns. Lots of central space and kingside space. Pawn structure favors my light Bishop, and I might consider pushing my f pawn to free my dark bishop, especially if that is a rational part of a Kingside attack or pawn storm.

No doubled pawns. I have a temporarily backwards pawn on f4.

We have the same number of pawn islands and K-side and Q-side pawns so no major discrepancies there.

If he plays f6 to disrupt my pawns, what will I do? If I move Bc4, I won't have to worry about that.

E. Candidate moves
Based on the above evaluation, I would put the following on my candidate move list right away:
1. Rxd8+
2. Bc4
3. Kf2

Since it would be fun to exploit my spatial superiority, I would also consider starting a Kingside pawn storm with a move like:
4. h4
While that seems premature it would be a good idea to analyze it a bit just to see how it fares.

These candidate moves seem to fit in with the overall view of how I am most likely to win the game, mentioned in part A.

3/10/2009 04:00:00 PM  
Blogger Polly said...

I would probably start off with Rxd8 just to displace his knight for the moment. In this type of a position the rooks don't really play much of a part. After Nxd8 I would play b4 with the idea of gaining control of d4. He has to play cxb4 otherwise I'm attacking the c5 pawn with both my b pawn and my bishop. By clearing the defender of d4 it gives me a useful square to stick my knight. From there I would want to go to b5 and attack a7. If I can provoke weaknesses in the queen side pawn chain it will give my dark squared bishop more mobility, and there is the possibility of winning a pawn.

There is the possibility that black with counter in the center with f6.

These are just my initial thoughts on the position. More later.

3/10/2009 05:40:00 PM  
Blogger Ausknight said...

Nice way to analyse the position mate. I'm still only new to the game myself and it's an endless source of fascination for me to read through how other players are able to look at a position with so much depth. It's obvious you're following a system of theory based analysis at present and I wonder if that might be what's leaving you a little confused as to what the best move might be?

In other words, if you looked at the board from a pure tactical perspective and threw away the theory book, what would the best move be? Would it be the same as the theory suggests?

You're a Knight's Errant, I'm sure you can bust open this position to your advantage ;)

3/10/2009 05:50:00 PM  
Blogger drunknknite said...

The first thing that came into my mind is should I trade rooks?

First of all I do not really like allowing the trade on d1 because I think the bishop should remain on the f1-a6 diagonal because Black may want to play something like b5 and c4 trying to reroute the knight to d3 which is the main weakness in the white position.

So since I do not like ...Rxd1 I must address this in some way. I can take the rook on d8, I can move Rd2 and try to trade on a different square, or I can remove the rook from the d-file altogether.

The easiest of these choices to eliminate is Rd2. There is no reason trading on d2 should be better than trading on d8 so now I'm looking at either Rd8 or another rook move.

So now the question... should I trade rooks? I've looked at this position for a long time. It seems very drawish. I can see vague lines that make progress but this position is complex. The key in this position is the move f6. More specifically the pawn on e7 is the problem for Black. He cannot play e6 because this pawn would be permanently weak (after Black plays e6, the move f6 is out of the question because after ef the e pawn is isolated and this is what Black must avoid to stay in the game). So knowing that he cannot play e6 I want to reroute the bishop on e3 to h4 and put pressure on e7. But if Black is able to play f6 I have a problem. My pawn on e5 does not belong there, now I must respond to the threat of fxe5. So I have to find a way to dictate the pace and make sure that if Black plays f6 it is not potent. If I move the rook Black can play f6 right away. and there is not a good answer for White. Something complex like e6 might work in that case but the pawn on e6 looks weak and it is a very complicated situation. Also it is important to note that White has a huge advantage on the queenside because the Black bishop on g7 is locked out. So I think the way to win the game is to trade rooks on d8 and follow it up with an immediate a4.

The threat after a4 is a5 followed by an exchange on b6 and then Nd2-c4 or b4 shattering Black's queenside and probably winning a pawn. At the very least keeping Black very busy. A plan with e6 and Bf8 will not help Black because of Nd2-c4-d6 which would essentially force Black to create a dangerous passed pawn on d6. Also while the knight is on d8 Black cannot play f6 because White can recapture on e5 with the knight which would either leave Black with the weak isolated pawn I described earlier or force Black to give up the two bishops, which should be enough to claim an advantage for White. There are some other ideas, let me cite some variations I considered:

1.Rd8 Nd8 2.a4 f6 3.a5 fe 4.ab! ab (4...ef 5.Bf4 ab 6.Bc7 white will get both Black queenside pawns and the advantage) 5.Ne5 with the threat of Nd7 winning 5...Be5 6.fe we have reached the position where White gets the two bishops, there are ideas associated with b4 that Black must be very weary of. White must watch the e pawn, although sacrificing the e pawn for the b pawn may give white winning chances, in any case I would go for this line.

3/10/2009 08:24:00 PM  
Blogger Blue Devil Knight said...

Polly and Drunk'n'Knite: thanks for the comments. I didn't even think about going after things on the queenside (perhaps slavishly following the rule that you should attack on the side where you have more space).

I am going to shut up as I need to think about this some more before I stick my foot in my cakehole. Especially drunk'n'Knight your comments are great and deep, and I will need to sit down and spend some time on them later tonight or tomorrow. A quick response will not be adequate.

Ausknight: this isn't really a system as much as how I think. :) First, I ask what's the big picture? I want to win, and to not lose. So I first think about how those two things are likely to happen.

Then I have to evaluate the position using various criteria. This isn't a sharp position (that is, white has many playable moves). However, that said I want to play moves that give white practical chances to take advantage of his (slight) positional advantage.

It is these types of positions that I tend to miss out on the major features that will be my life or death (e.g., Polly and Drunk both gravitate toward pushing on the queenside, which is one thing I didn't even consider in my long rambling planning session--just look at my four candidate moves!).

3/10/2009 08:54:00 PM  
Blogger Blue Devil Knight said...

Note Bc4, one of my candidate moves, clearly doesn't work on the next move for white.

3/10/2009 11:13:00 PM  
Blogger drunknknite said...

Hehe yeah I noticed Bc4 Rxd1.

I also looked at Rxd8 and then Bc4 but I thought that Black could probably just play Bxf3 which leaves White very passive. The other attempt to attack the f7 pawn by Ng5 first gets met with f6 and white has to retreat sheepishly. So this is what left me looking for answers on the queenside.

3/10/2009 11:55:00 PM  
Blogger Aziridine said...

First I have to say this is a really tough position and I'm almost certain I wouldn't have found the idea I'm showing here in a real game with limited time. Here's the main line I considered - I'll post my thought process separately:
1.Re1 f6 2.Bc4+ Kf8 3.exf6 exf6 4.a3 with the idea of 5.b4 cxb4 6.axb4 followed by 7.Ra1 and White has a slight edge.

3/11/2009 12:55:00 AM  
Blogger Aziridine said...

Here's how I broke down the position:
White's only advantage is more space. Black's position is more cramped (although ...f6 will partially fix that) but seems completely weakness-free. I'll have to create a weakness in Black's position if I want to get any winning chances at all.
Where will this weakness be? Black's king easily defends all the kingside pawns so I don't think there's anything there. On the queenside the only thing I can point to is the a7-pawn, although it really does look like a stretch at this point - I can't attack it with anything right now and the knight is guarding it. But the knight can be deflected for at least a move if I take the rook, so I tried 1.Rxd8+ Nxd8 first. Now after drunknknite's 2.a4 Black just plays 2...Nc6 followed by ...f6 and looks completely safe. So I tried to make Polly's 2.b4 work. But after 2...cxb4 3.cxb4 Nc6 I wasn't able to find anything for White - there's no way to get to the a7-pawn and there's no way to stop ...f6 either. The most interesting idea I found was 4.b5 Na5 5.Bd2 trying to double the pawns but I think Black has no problems after 5...f6 6.Bxa5 bxa5 - they may be doubled but I can't attack them since I just gave up the dark-squared B. If Black wanted to he could just play ...Bxf3 at some point and we'd have opposite-coloured B's and a dead draw.
I think that in a game, I'd probably see this far, decide the position was probably drawn to begin with, and bang out 1.Rxd8+ Nxd8 2.b4 and agree to a draw a couple moves later. But let's say this was a must-win game. What else is there?
I realized that it's not such a big deal if I avoid the rook trade by moving the rook off the d-file. Black can't actually use the file - all the invasion squares are covered. But where should I move the rook?
My first idea (or second, after 1.Rxd8+) was 1.Rc1. I'd like to get in b2-b4 and force Black to trade on b4, which opens up the c-file. Then I'd be threatening b5 followed by Rc7. (I've been trying to find a way to attack a7 the entire time.) OK, so that means I just need to play 1.Rc1, 2.a3 and 3.b4.
But let's give Black some moves too. 1.Rc1 f6 is again the obvious answer. I don't see any way of maintaining the pawn on e5 or e6 so I have to play 2.exf6 exf6 and now 3.a3 continuing my plan. But Black can revive the bishop with 3...Bf8 4.b4 cxb4 4.cxb4 Bd6 and c7 is covered: Black still has no weaknesses and he doesn't even look that cramped anymore, so I don't think White has any advantage at all.
Then I realized two things:
1. If White plays Bc4+ before taking on f6, then ...Kh8 is undesirable (king wants to be in the centre in the endgame) but ...Kf8 deprives Black of the ...Bf8-d6 idea. But the bishop on c4 would also block my rook on c1 - maybe I can just move it to b3 after I play a3 and b4, but that just feels a little slow. For instance maybe Black has time to bring the king with ...Ke7-Kd7.
2. Hmm, what if I play axb4 instead of cxb4? Then I've opened the a-file for the rook, and after Ra1 and Bb5 Black might be in some trouble - if ...Ra8 to defend the pawn then Ba6 Bxa6 Rxa6 threatens Bxb6 (pin!), and now if Black moves the rook off the a-file then b4-b5 kicks the knight and wins the a-pawn. Interesting.
So how to start this plan then? I don't have to play 1.Rc1 anymore. I chose 1.Re1, reasoning that after 1...f6 2.Bc4+ Kf8 3.exf6 exf6 4.a3 one potentially useful move for Black might be 4...Ke7. But with the rook on e1 this just loses to 5.Bxc5++.
Something I also had to consider was 1.Re1 f6 2.Bc4+ Kf8 3.exf6 Bxf6, when Black is trying to free up his game with 4...e5. But 4.Ng5! is strong, threatening Nxh7+ and Ne6+ and forcing 4...Bxg5 5.fxg5, but now White's rook will invade on f7 via f1.
So that's how I came up with 1.Re1 f6 2.Bc4+ Kf8 3.exf6 exf6 4.a3. At first glance I didn't really see how Black could stop 5.b4 and my Ra1 plan in general so I thought maybe White had something going. Looking at it more closely one idea for Black might be 4...Na5 5.Ba2 Ba6 (5...f5? attacking c3 fails to 6.Ng5) 6.Nd2 (stopping ...Nc4) 6...f5!? (now this looks OK). To enforce b4 White has to play 7.Rc1 (which might mean that 1.Rc1 was actually the best move).
By now this must surely be a case of "long analysis, wrong analysis" so I'll call it quits here (I haven't even tried to look at anything other than 1...f6). But at least this doesn't look like a dead-drawn endgame anymore, which is initially what I thought it was. 1.Re1 or 1.Rc1 might not give White an edge but at least Black has to be careful about how he reacts to this a3/b4/Ra1 plan.
That was tough! Thanks for the workout.

3/11/2009 02:09:00 AM  
Blogger Blue Devil Knight said...

Aziridine: Very interesting ideas! That slogan "Long analysis, wrong analysis" is awesome: I have never heard it before. Did you make that up?

As with all the comments, I am going to have to take some time with yours as well. Tonight when I get back from work I'm going to sit down and think through this position again this time with all of these great comments from readers, so I'll post later tonight (after American Idol :)).

Drunk: I really hope in a real game when I started analyzing candidate moves (CMs) I would have seen that Bc4 is death, but it is instructive that I even put it on my CM list without immediately noticing it is dead. I was so caught up in what I liked about it, I completely forgot that it drops a rook, this even though earlier in my planning session I explicitly mention something about recapturing on d1 with that Bishop!

This happens in games fairly frequently. I get all wrapped up in this planning, and even though I notice early in my tactical reconnaissance mission for the position that move X drops a piece, later in my planning and thinking I see all sorts of good positional reasons to play X and forget the tactical killer!

In other words, Safety First.

I was tempted to slough that off as "Of course I saw that but the CM list is just a set of moves I wish I could make so obviously I would have found it didn't work when I did the analysis of candidate moves." But that would frankly be disingenous. I have dropped pieces in tournaments because of such strategy-bias.

Anyhoo, tonight I'm going to get into this properly again. I appreciate the comments so far.

3/11/2009 08:37:00 AM  
Blogger Randall Hennig said...

Hmmm. This is definitely one of those positions where I am not quite sure what to do. I might try playing Rxd8 followed by Nh4 and then challenging the bishop on b7.
I'd then plan for getting the queen side pawns on light squares, starting with c4 while trying to keep his bishop blocked in. His queen side pawns are on dark squares, so if you can trade off his king side pawns, you might be able to gobble up some of his queen side pawns in the end game.

Bc4 doesn't look like a move in this position since he just plays Rxd1. Kf2 gets the king headed ot the center, but I am worried about f6, since he will then have 3 attackers on the square to your 2 and if e6, the pawn is all alone and then he plays Rxd1 followed by Nd8 and Bc8.

Anyways, I like Rxd8 the best.

3/11/2009 11:33:00 AM  
OpenID lewrockwell said...


While what you did is admirable, I think you are trying too hard. There really is nothing going on in this position, and nothing to analyze.

I think the first goal here is not to make your position worse ("trying is the first step towards failure"), and second you would like to improve you position silghtly here or perhaps prevent your opponent from improving his. Think small ball or baby steps or whatever analogy works for you.

As the endgame is approaching, I would look to get my king to the center, either now or after trading rooks first. My guess (no computers used) is White's better king and slight space advantage translate to a small advantage, but well within the drawn zone.

Other thoughts I would have are looking for good posts for my pieces. Knight on c4 of Bishop on f3 for example. This may or may not be achieveable. Also, I would look at where Black wants his pieces to go and see if I could stop it.

Coach B

3/11/2009 12:02:00 PM  
Blogger drunknknite said...

Aziridine - Thanks for pointing out Nc6 (stopping a5) I forgot to mention it. At that point White can play Bc4 (pinning the f pawn) and Ng5 and force Black to play e6 rather than f6, when White can reroute the knight to d6 and claim advantage.

I also considered your line, I was thinking about it away from the computer last night. Re1 followed by Bc4 I like, but rather than a3 I like the move Bc1!? and then after fe fe White still has all his pieces on the board and this bishop can now go to g5. ef ef seems to solve all of Black's problems because the dark squared bishop is given range.

4. a3 Na5 5.Ba2 Bxf3 should leave White with more than enough problems 6.gxf3 f5 has to be at least equal for Black.

3/11/2009 02:33:00 PM  
Blogger katar said...

Hmm, i think i'd play Kf2 because white will have to make that move eventually, it's not very committal and doesn't yield anything. ALso i just don't see anything particularly constructive to do. Black doesn't really have any weaknesses besides lack of space and a restricted bishop on G7. I don't think black can free the bishop with pawn to e6 or else my knight goes to e4 and then most likely d6. I may try to get the knight to e4 even if black doesn't play e6. White's bishop on e3 is not so great either. There is no way white can manage a kingside attack without any major pieces on the board so i would dismiss that idea right away.

About the pawns, the other rule is to play where your pawns point to. Here, that's the center not the kingside. So you basically just make normal moves until black creates a weakness. Kf2 because why not!

That is more or less the extent of my analysis if i were to take let's say about 5-7 minutes on this position. :D

3/11/2009 03:35:00 PM  
Blogger Aziridine said...

1.Rxd8+ Nxd8 2.a4 Nc6 3.Bc4 Na5 chases the bishop off the a2-g8 diagonal, since 4.Ba2 is met by 4...Bc6. I hadn't considered 1.Re1 f6 2.Bc4+ Kf8 3.Bc1 but how about 3...Na5, intending 4.Bf1(e2) Bd5 and 5...Bc4. I wanted to have a2 for the bishop.
I'm really starting to think now that 1.Rc1 is better than 1.Re1. So 1.Rc1 f6 2.Bc4+ Kf8 3.exf6 exf6 4.a3 Na5 5.Ba2 Bxf3 6.gxf3 f5 is less strong now that c3 is guarded, and after 7.b4! Black has to play 7...Nb7 since 7...cxb4? 8.cxb4 traps the knight. But the knight is awful on b7, so just 8.Bc4 threatening 9.Ba6. 8...cxb4 9.axb4 and 10.Ra1. I'd definitely take White here. The doubled pawns are no problem but the bishop pair is quite useful.
BDK: That was one of Larsen's favourite sayings, I think.

3/11/2009 04:28:00 PM  
Blogger drunknknite said...

Az - 3...Na5 4.Ba2 Bc6 5.b4 Nb7 6.Bb3 holds everything and maintains the pressure on the f pawn. If the king moves Ng5 will be good. If the knight moves a5 will be good. Black may want to consider Bxf3 again. I had envisioned a position with the Black knight on f5 and pawns on e6, f7, g6, and h7 against the doubled pawns on f3 and f4, seems to shut everything down.

Why can't black play Nc6 instead of Nb7 after your b4?

3/11/2009 08:10:00 PM  
Blogger Aziridine said...

Yes, 5.b4 Nb7 6.Bb3 is possible. How about 6...a5 to lock up the queenside? Another idea is 6...e6 and 7...Bf8. Black still looks very solid.
In the other line, after 7...Nc6 doesn't the c-pawn hang?

3/11/2009 09:39:00 PM  
Blogger Blue Devil Knight said...

Before jumping in, note the position is quiet, and as I said in my post there are many right answers.

In a real game perhaps you shouldn't spend a ton of time on such quiet positions because you will need it when pieces start to clash. OTOH, when I play in real games, these types of positions give me tons of problems, so I want to get some practice with them, purposefully thinking through them too deeply perhaps, so that it will rub off so I will have to do a little less thinking, operate a little more on intuition in a real game.

Coach B thinks it's a long walk for a small drink of water. The position is just not complicated enough to deserve much analysis, that I should focus on very simple things like 'Don't make my position worse' and 'Find good posts for my pieces.'

If only it were that easy for me! The problem is, that's pretty much what I did in my two-page planstorm of the position. Like when I first started to play, I had no good intuitions to trim down the game tree, even for basic tactics. Now I am a little bit better with basic tactics, but don't have that positional intuition that immediately and without effort trims away the game tree. So I end up thinking through things that a better player wouldn't even consider.

So while I think Coach B is likely right, my hope is that I will develop better intuitions by thinking through a variety of "quiet" positions that don't require a lot of tactical analysis. That is, positions like this one.

At any rate, on to specifics in my next comment.

3/11/2009 11:38:00 PM  
Blogger Blue Devil Knight said...

I've looked over the position personally, with notes from the comments, and finally using Fritz to make sure we didn't miss anything. There are many right answers, all of them interesting.

I'm going to summarize some of the key themes here. If I don't mention a specific line you discuss, please don't be offended I may come back to it later as there is tons of information here and I'm sure I haven't processed it all.

In the next few days I will post a flash board with all these lines and commentary, so this post will still be somewhat abstract rather than variation-crunching (I just can't follow variations without a board, so I'll put them up on a separate post with a board).

A. While white has a spatial advantage on the Kingside, it isn't obvious what he can do with it. My idea, of starting a Kingside pawn storm, turns out to not be all that bad at least according to Fritz. Indeed, my Fritz 9 puts 1 h4 near the top of the list of moves.

This is not a safe move, it is risky and impossible to really visualize the consequences. But if the goal is to win, that may be precisely what is needed in this quiet position.

B. One obvious response for black to h4, and a response that figured in almost everyone's ideas, was f6. f6 threatens to neutralize white's spatial advantage while potentially weakening white's pawn structure.

Hence, Bc4 (or Bc4+ after f6 (though not 1 Bc4, which drops the rook :)) came up a lot.

Indeed RxR (obviously an idea that just about everyone grappled with) followed by Bc4 is Fritz's favorite line. However, we should be careful of accepting Fritz here. After RxR, and Bc4, what can white do to break open the position or exploit is small advantage?

On the other hand, I should remember a lesson here. I had the idea of playing 1 Bc4. Obviously a non-starter. I also had the idea of RxR. Instead of seeing Bc4 drops a rook and forgetting it, I should have combined the two ideas to get a nice sequence RxR and Bc4. Rowson would call this 'Rejecting the move, not the idea, of Bc4.'

White may want to play a little less "accurately" and a little more provocatively (recall h4). This brings us to the idea of attacking on the Queenside.

C. Because it wasn't clear how to get an advantage on the Kingside, almost all the commentators (Polly, Drunk, and Azir) came up with plans that involved bursting forth on the queenside with b4 (either by itself or after preparations with a3). This is either with or without an initial rook capture.

This could be good because black dark B is stuck over on the Kingside, so if somehow white can penetrate queenside he can bring his Bishop over there, and perhaps his Knight, and if you are Azir, you can even hold onto your rook to jump in on that party.

I really like that idea, as it seems to fit in with the overall theme: white is ahead, and needs to do some things with unclear consequences, add some complications, to avoid settling for a draw. I'm pretty sure with best play Black could neutralize that plan, but humans are not Fritz so I need to comb over the line with my human eye, not with Fritz.

D. One person liked the Kf2 idea. It certainly is flexible, and is something white will likely play anyway. Fritz likes it too, putting it up there around h4 in it's ranking.

E. Many people mentioned that white should try to get his Knight to c4. I didn't even consider this in my analysis, probably because I was just worried about black replying with b5. But that's where this whole 'combine two ideas' and 'reject the move not the idea' would come into play: all the better players here saw that K walk to c4 would be good, and considered ways for white to make it so black couldn't block this maneuver. This is the backwards thinking that is so crucial. Start with the idea, and then find ways to get there even if presently it wouldn't work.

All in all very instructive for me to see some excellent chess thinkers take a hack at this position. I greatly appreciate your time, especially Azir and Drunknknight who obviously thought about this deeply and I am still grappling with their ideas.

Sometime this weekend, most likely, I will post a flash of the variations with much of your commentary attached! Ultimately it is the variations that verify and refute lines, so that will be the most important step in some sense.

3/12/2009 12:00:00 AM  
Blogger Aziridine said...

To be frank, your coach is right when he said "there really is nothing going on in this position, and nothing to analyze." In a real game I would not have seen (or even tried to see) a tenth of the moves I've come up with here. (I've spent at least an hour thinking about the position.) So I wouldn't take the analysis everyone's poured in here too seriously - it's just too much to digest. (But I did find it fun!)

If I were you I would be happy to absorb everything your coach said in his note, which was very sound advice. I'd make a note of mental blunders like 1.Bc4 - the second last paragraph of your note B makes a good point. Finally I'd rely more on the advice of your coach than computers like Fritz in these quiet endgames - I wouldn't even consider 1.h4, since if I wanted to play for kingside expansion then surely 1.g4 is better.

3/12/2009 01:54:00 AM  
Blogger Glenn Wilson said...

contemporaneous thoughts:
pawns are equal, no pawn majorities
material is exactly even

white has more space due to the pawns on f4 and e5

white may be weak on the long white diagonal

whites king is closer to center (for endgame)

should white trade rooks or try to prevent it?

looks pretty drawish overall

if white moves the rook off the d-file blacks rook can't penetrate because the minor pieces cover all of the squares from d1-d4 (at least at the moment)

if rxd8, nxd8 black's position looks solid

some combination of e6, Ng5 and Bc4 (or Bb3) puts some pressure on black

a black ...e6 , makes a possible post for the white knight at d6 or f6

rf1 with the idea of pressure on f7 with ideas of Bc4 and Ng5 and possibly e6 (is a way to keep some play in the game).

Still looks very drawish ...

3/12/2009 08:57:00 AM  
Blogger Glenn Wilson said...

Looking at some other comments and re-looking at the position, a similar idea as my previous comment but, I think a better implementation would be Re1 with the idea of Bc1, Bc4, Ng5 and a possible e6. Re1 would support an e6 push and also a Ne4 if chased away from g5.
(Obviously the opponent's moves might change the moves, move order or the whole approach).

I want to keep my rook on to keep some chance to win and this configuration of pieces seems mostly possible and useful.

If the c4-f8 diagonal becomes useless, my white square bishop might relocate to b3 then c2. Still keeping the other rook out and mine is supporting potential pawn pushes in the center...

With the rook on e1 (instead of f1) the natural Kf2 would not block my rook.

3/12/2009 09:08:00 AM  
Blogger Blue Devil Knight said...

Azir: yes, I realize he is right. On the other hand, I purposely did almost zero calculation on the position, it was purely a planstorm, a search for good ideas in the position. This isn't a tactically rich position, so planning is all we have.

Planning means answering simple questions such as:
0. How will I win or lose this game?
1. Are there obvious good squares/files/diagonals for my pieces or his pieces? How can I reach mine and stop him from reaching his?

And so on.

Sure, it is "simple chess", with not a lot of variation crunching needed (and frankly in quiet positions it is not even a good idea to do such variation crunching as you are almost guaranteed to be wrong b/c the game tree is astronomical in size by definition in a quiet position).

However, note in my 2-page ramble I did almost zero variation crunching. It was my attempt to play "simple" chess and answer the basic questions about pieces and King Safety that all good planning would entail.

Of course in a real game I would have been thinking about this stuff the whole time, which is different from this long "planstorm from scratch" that you have to do when shown a new position out of the blue.

Given all this, perhaps it would be sort of counterproductive to put a ton of time into working through all these variations. So perhaps I won't post that.

In practice, I think RxR followed by some Q-side or K-side expansion dreams is a good idea. Luckily all that matters is this move, and clearly RxR is a very good move even if the whole position is a bit drawish.

Next time I'll try to pick a position that seems (to me) to have a more clear best answer, and which isn't quite as drawish (I frankly didn't think this was drawish as white has the space and such, but also this isn't a clear win for white by any means--that itself was useful to learn).

3/12/2009 09:08:00 AM  
Blogger Blue Devil Knight said...

Glenn: just saw your comments but just got to work so will look them over later they look very good.

3/12/2009 09:57:00 AM  
Blogger Chessaholic said...

I haven't been blogging much nor reading many blogs lately, only to come back to this gem of a thread. Probably the best comment thread in the past 6 months. Lots of great analysis, no matter if this quiet position warrants it or not. Aziridine and drunknknite, you guys rock. Lots of stuff to chew on here, this will keep me busy for a while :)

3/12/2009 11:53:00 AM  
Blogger Blue Devil Knight said...

Chessaholic: I'm glad you liked it I was worried we wore losing people in all these details.

I genuinely feel lucky to have such talented and generous people reading and commenting on my blog.

Coach B kicks ass, Aziridine is like this anonymous chess ninja who tells it like it is, drunknknight and Glenn Wilson also take the discussion to the next level consistently thoughtful in their comments; plus we have Katar, Polly both who are also bad-asses in the game throwing in their impressions (which acc'd to Coach B this position doesn't require much more than impressions to deal with :)).

Hey wait did I just write like DK Transform?

3/12/2009 12:23:00 PM  
Blogger Blue Devil Knight said...

Speaking of the great readers of this blog, what follows is an anonymous email I received about the position.

I just gave the posted chess position a good stare, and here is this patzer's opinion about it.

I checked that there are no immediate tactics. Material is exactly even. Pawn structure is very symmetrical. White has a slight space advantage due to the e5-f4 wedge, which also serves to restrict the enemy bishop on g7. This is what gives White his present (tiny) advantage. Black may try to free his g7 bishop by f7-f6 at some point. Seems like a dead draw.

A rook exchange appears inevitable, so Rxd8 is a candidate. (Realistically, though, Ra1 would still be a dead draw, as your bishops easily guard the d-file points of entry.) After Nxd8 in reply, Black's knight is in a worse square (though again the practical effect is negligible). That's my choice if I find nothing better.

I don't think that this is the sort of position where one can speak of long term plans, since neither side can forcibly create a passed pawn, and there aren't any static weakness to attack, etc. Maybe the best you can do is keep improving your position little by little, and making sure to anticipate your opponent's possibilities.

I wouldn't call your dark square bishop a bad one (no need to trade it off), since the White pawns "restricting" it are all mobile, and besides it serves a vital function staring down the Black queenside pawns. A related idea: you could try exchanging rooks, then playing a2-a4-a5. If Black foolishly exchanges on a5, then you eat c5 and he has weak doubled a-pawns. If he prevents this by a7-a5, then suddenly b6 is a target for a knight on c4. Mind you, there isn't a forced win (Black can meet 1.Rxd8 Nxd8 2.a2-a4 with 2...Nd8-c6, for example). The point is to give your opponent ways to go wrong.

What else comes to mind? If Black plays e7-e6, then Nf3-d2-e4-d6 (or -f6) becomes a possibility. You might make f7-f6 less palatable by placing a bishop on Bd3 (after rooks are exchanged). Then f7-f6, exf6, exf6, f5!, gxf5, Bxf5 -- and the g7 bishop is blocked a while longer.

3/12/2009 12:53:00 PM  
Blogger J'adoube said...

The simple answer here is this: Don't commit strategic errors. This would involve misplacing the Knight or pushing pawns prematurely.

You noted that White had a slight advantage. In this case, it is space on the Kingside. Note that while his dark-squared Bishop is temporarily neutralized, it is staring down the a1-h8 diagonal and controls the center of the board.

There is much more to this position, of course, but many other people have commented on these, so I won't bother.

The key rule in these positions is this:
When you have slight advantages, the only way to keep them is to give your opponent less material to defend against this advantage. You can begin this process by exchanging Rooks and similarly, move his Knight to a less powerful square. This also frees up your light squared Bishop from defensive duties.

Rook takes Rook!

That's the ticket.

3/13/2009 06:34:00 PM  
Blogger Aziridine said...

If White's advantage consists of extra space then why would he want to trade pieces? I still think keeping rooks on the board will pose more problems for Black.

3/13/2009 08:00:00 PM  
Blogger Blue Devil Knight said...

Azir: yes, I always learned that having a space advantage is like having a material advantage in that you want to hold onto your material while the person with less space will want to trade material (to free up space!).

3/14/2009 09:30:00 AM  
Blogger Polly said...

This has been a very interesting discussion. Although Coach B says there's not a lot to analyze here, this is just the sort of position that can eat your time up on the clock if you're not careful. I can easily see myself trying to come up with some way to break through, spend a lot of time on it, and then when crucial moves are needed, not having the time to work it out. Come to think of it, it looks like some position I've gotten out of a quiet opening.

3/14/2009 10:58:00 PM  
Blogger Phaedrus said...


The number of comments amply proofs that this is a MAGNIFICENT post. Much has been said. There are just two small points I would like to make.
1. The way you analyzed the position surprised met very much, as it seemed to violate almost every advise Rowson has given in his books.
2. There has been a lot of talk about space and exchanging pieces. This subject got an excellent treatment in Stean's "simple chess".

He demonstrated that space or the lack of it, is only significant in relation to the capacity there is to give all the pieces an active position. There are so few pieces left in this position, that space does not seem to be a significant feature in this position.

3/15/2009 06:53:00 AM  
Blogger The Caquetio Knight said...

According to "pawn power" the e5 pawn is your head pawn. He wants to form a head duo with a pawn on f5. So I think that that is your main motive and then you will also be able to exploit your space advantage on the king side.
The squares c4 and b5 must stay under white's control to prevent any counter play on the queens side. This means your bishop must keep control of these squares.
Activate your King.

To form a head duo you must take the pawn on g6 into account. This means you will have to move g2-g4 and f4-f5, but then your knight will have no support. So the King must go to f2. This will serve 2 purposes, centralizing your king for an upcoming endgame and defending the knight.
Your bishop must remain on e2 to keep the squares c4 and b5 under control. If you allow a rook exchange your bishop will move to d1 and lose control of the above mentioned squares allow black counter play on the queen’s side with a6, b6-b5 or with Nb5 etc.
Kf2, centralization and defense in one move!

Let’s put the ideas above into action.

First exchange the rook on d8, this keeps your bishop on e2! 1.Rxd8! Nxd8
Second move g2-g4, Black will not exchange on f3 cause white would get the bishop pair!
Third Move your king to the centre, 3.Kf2
Forth look for a opportunity to make the move f4-f5.

After this you will have a good position. You will have to look then for a new plan.

3/15/2009 07:41:00 AM  
Blogger Blue Devil Knight said...

Polly: yes, that's the thing. This looks pretty critical, so in practice I can see myself spending a lot of time thinking on this move. I would think "I have an advantage, but nothing clearly tactical to do, so time to have a deep think about my best plan."

Of course the advise is usually not to think too much in quiet positions, but the advise is also to think when you are about to push the game into a new direction. The endgame is a new direction.

Phaedrus: You may be right, but it wasn't obvious when I saw the position. Having two bishops, a rook, and knight is enough to give a real attack, so if you can use your space to mobilize your pieces better than him, it should work. The problem with this position doesn't seem to be the lack of material, but the lack of weaknesses in the enemy position to actually mobilize the attack.

It isn't just me that it isn't obvious to, but an IM said of this position "The space advantage and superior development gives White a pull. It is difficult to see where Black's pieces can go, or how Black can generate play. Generally speaking, White can win, while Black can only hope to draw." (From page 30, of Taylor's book 'Bird's Opening').

It was this comment from Taylor that made me pick this position as my first planstorming position. Indeed, in this position in my database, white plays Ng5?, which seems wrong. But Taylor didn't even mention it, as if Ng5 is a good move.

But since an IM said good things about this position, I figured I must be missing something so I thought I would post about it and see what people say. Turns out I really wasn't missing all that much.

Caquetio: I like that, especially the way you combined ideas. That's something I need to start doing more. Get two plans for the price of one move :)

3/15/2009 01:11:00 PM  
Blogger BlunderProne said...

First, I am late to the party, traveling and all that.
Secondly, this is a tough position since the queens are off the board already and what decision was made to bring that to light?
Typically the decision to get rid of the major pieces needs to take into consideration several factors:
1) Who is ahead in material?
2) What positional assets are there?
3) Is there a sense of urgency or counterplay ( what is the "mood")?
4) How will the possible piece exchange alter your plans?
5) Is there a concrete winning plan or a general plan for improvement?
( these are from Any Soltis’ Book Turning Advantage into Victory BTW)
So being materially balanced, I look at the assets: White: Central space advantage and a knight with a little more freedom. Black has the light squared bishop on the long diagonal. Both have dark square bishops in bad spots. Black has a knight with limited mobility.
There are no urgency requirements ( threats or tactics) and counter play is rather benign. That leaves the piece exchange. Let’s look at this in stages, Rooks off leaves a very drawish game since the dark bishops are not useful and black can activate his knight rather quickly.
As for a winning solution here, its very difficult. The rooks will come off the board because no one wants to concede the one open file to avoid it. What has to be evaluated now is like Polly says, with the Black knight on d8, can white force an exchange of light squared bishops and activate his dark bishop before Black? Is White’s central space advantage enough to win? After the exchange of rooks, White should follow up with Kf2 and push the g-pawn to g3. Then the plan goes to moving the light squared bishop to the long diagonal to oppose Black’s. once that is done then the the king can improve his position. The whole space thing is that the King can become active quicker than Black’s

That’s what I got.

3/15/2009 09:06:00 PM  
Blogger Blue Devil Knight said...

BP: excellent shit as usual. That Soltis list is very helpful.

3/15/2009 11:02:00 PM  
Blogger The Caquetio Knight said...

Continuing the analysis:
g2-g4 is of paramount importance cause otherwise black could nail down white’s active play on the K-side with h5.
1.Rxd8 Nxb8
2.g2-g4 Nc6
Nc6 to activate the knight.
3.Kf2 a6
By playing Kf2 you also partially free up your bishop on e2 of his defending duties for the knight.
It’s all about winning tempi for your final intrusion with the King.
 a6 is thematic in order to get the pawns moving on the Q-side.
 3…f6 4.exf6 Bxf6 and black gets an I-so-la-ni  or 4…exf6 and the action of the bishop is restricted by it’s own pawn
 As pointed by others e6 is a weakening move for black on the K-side.
4.a4! Nailing it down.
If black tries 4…Na5
5.b4 cxb4
Black’s bishop has no targets on the Q-side and the square d4 is now available for your knight.
The center is accessible for your king for penetration.
Try to visualize all the moves!! (I’m doing it without a board or comp to practice my visualization)
f4-f5 is still in the air.

3/16/2009 07:30:00 AM  
Blogger The Caquetio Knight said...

 3…f6 4.exf6 Bxf6 and black gets an I-so-la-ni  or 4…exf6 and the action of the bishop is restricted by it’s own pawn after f5!

3/16/2009 07:44:00 AM  
Blogger Blue Devil Knight said...

Caqueto: I'll have to look at this later, it seems interesting though.

3/16/2009 09:35:00 AM  
Blogger Aziridine said...

I'm not so pessimistic about Black after 1.Rxd8+ Nxd8 2.g4 Nc6 3.Kf2 f6 4.exf6 - after 4...exf6 Black plays ...Bf8-d6 and bishop is alive and well, while after 4...Bxf6 Black can play a quick ...e7-e5 getting rid of the weakness.
Nevertheless, maybe throwing in 2...Bd5! before ...f6 is even better, hitting the a-pawn. If 3.c4 Be6 and 4...f6.

3/17/2009 04:19:00 AM  

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