Monday, August 27, 2007

Chess is counterintuitive...

Following position is from CTB (white to move). What is white's goal?
White's goal is to draw. Draw??! WTF? White has a pawn way up on the sixth rank while black's pawn hasn't moved.

When I saw this problem I was thinking: sure thing, a win for white, just march the king up and gobble the black pawn. Wrong. The only correct move here is 1. b3! So it isn't even like there's lots of moves white can choose from if he wants to draw. Frankly, I don't understand this problem. Can anyone explain it?

So far my thought is, white can't move up because he can't avoid the tribochet (see Silman). Hence, he can't win. Hence, he should try to draw, but the only way to draw is to get underneath the black king and time it so he gets the opposition asap when black starts moving up toward the pawn, at the latest once black captures the pawn.


Blogger Temposchlucker said...

I explained it in a few posts around march 2006

8/27/2007 06:42:00 PM  
Blogger Temposchlucker said...



8/27/2007 06:47:00 PM  
Blogger Glenn Wilson said...


Your explanation sounds right to me.

For the uninitiated, the trebuchet is a catapult, of sorts, and in chess the second one to step on slings off the first one in a catapult-like manner.

8/27/2007 06:59:00 PM  
Blogger Blue Devil Knight said...

Tempo's links are here, here, and here.

I haven't looked at them yet...

8/27/2007 07:59:00 PM  
Blogger Blue Devil Knight said...

Tempo: Wow that is very cool that you addressed exactly this problem in so much depth! I never really understood those posts at a deep level when you first made them. I'm starting to understand them better now, but it will take a few more readings.

In practice, how helpful was your study of K/P endgames?

What the hell is this problem doing in a set of chess tactics for beginners, anyway?

8/27/2007 08:10:00 PM  
Blogger Glenn Wilson said...

Pandolfini's Endgame Course Diagrams 87 and 88. Buy the book!

To paraphrase Tony Robbins, "If you can't afford it, sell your car!"

And, I mean no offense to temposchlucker, but I understand Pandolfini. :-)

8/27/2007 08:49:00 PM  
Blogger Blue Devil Knight said...

I've got it. Was working through it when Silman's book came out. Prefer Silman, but I'll check out Pandolfini's take on it, and see if perhaps Silman takes a whack at this problem.

Despite the author, Schiller's book of K/P endgame studies looks quite fun. His first two are in CTB.

8/27/2007 09:53:00 PM  
Blogger Temposchlucker said...

In practice, how helpful was your study of K/P endgames?

When I started with it my level was "pathetic". I had no feeling for the endgame at all. Now my level is "normal". That means I suck at it as much as everybody. For instance this problem I wouldn't have played correct as white.

And that is interesting. Since I have been busy with this problem for days. But I never was able to explain it to myself at a higher cognitive level. Which is the very reason why these problems still tend to put me on the wrong foot. But perhaps now I will be able to formulate a narrative.

What the hell is this problem doing in a set of chess tactics for beginners, anyway?

I've been raging against this for a long time.

8/28/2007 03:15:00 AM  
Blogger Temposchlucker said...


And, I mean no offense to temposchlucker, but I understand Pandolfini. :-)

It is not given to everyone to understand my posts, so don't feel sad about it, you are not alone:)

8/28/2007 03:26:00 AM  
Blogger Loomis said...

Isn't the most important thing the fact that the black king is closer to the white pawn than the white king is to the black pawn. If the white king were on b3 he could simply walk over and take the black pawn just because he's closer.

BDK did mention this catapult trick, but this always seemed to me to be a technique for converting a closer king.

I read Tempo's posts and they always seemed like very elaborate or careful ways of seeing who is closer.

8/28/2007 10:11:00 AM  
Blogger Blue Devil Knight said...

Loomis: Very useful: I didn't even really notice that this basic feature of the position is what makes this whole rigamarole necessary in the first place.

Tempo has a new post that stresses this basic counting aspect quite a bit more.

8/28/2007 10:36:00 AM  
Blogger Montse said...

I still owe you these

draw the territory of the shortest paths for both kings. Straight line is as short as curved line. See where they can meet. Look at the target squares - remember the X target squares of the blocked pawn. Sounds like the force will be with you

8/28/2007 01:11:00 PM  
Blogger Blue Devil Knight said...

Montse: ooh! I had forgotten about these great posts. I think I'm finally ready to really sink in and work through them.

8/28/2007 02:11:00 PM  
Blogger likesforests said...

Blue Devil - I saw the right move within 10 seconds. I would explain it, but you've already gotten a gazillion explanations. :)

"In practice, how helpful was your study of K/P endgames?"

Extremely!! (1) It helps you win pawn endings, (2) it helps you evaluate knight endings--remember the Botvinnik rule that knight endgames are pawn endgames, (3) it tells you when it's safe to trade rooks (in a rook ending) and when it's not, (4) it gives you an intuitive feel for which pawn structures are weak or strong, (5) it teaches you tactics that work in many endgames such as zugzwang, shouldering, and triangulation.

"What the hell is this problem doing in a set of chess tactics for beginners, anyway?"

How dare Convekta try to teach an important pawn ending in a set of tactical problems?!

You're right, of course.

8/28/2007 06:26:00 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...


Believe it or not, this is an incredibly simple problem. It's simply a matter of looking at the distance of the Kings from the white pawn and counting squares. Black is closer. Period. White can never approach. Therefore, the only thing White can do is to get in front of black's pawn and stay there.

8/29/2007 11:36:00 AM  
Blogger Blue Devil Knight said...

J'adoube: thanks. Yes, I think that is the emerging consensus.

8/29/2007 01:21:00 PM  
Blogger Joe said...

Can somebody explain to me why 1.Kb4 does not work? If both sides move linearly, we end up in a position where as soon as black takes g6 white moves to g4, takes the opposition, and gets the draw. Can black sort of head white off at the pass? And if so, why cant black do that after 1. Kb3?

8/29/2007 04:18:00 PM  
Blogger likesforests said...

Joe, Black can reach g6 in 5 moves two ways: two ways: g2-g2-g4-g5-g6 or f2-e3-e4-f5-g6. The second path has the advantage that it may delay the White king.

Consider 1.Kb4? Kf2! 2.Kc3 Ke3! and now note how the White king can't make any progress towards g4. He's lost a move and so loses.

Now consider 1.Kb3! Kf2 2.Kc2 Ke3 3.Kd1 Ke4 4.Ke2 and note how the White king is able to reach g4 without delay, drawing.

Moving in a zig-zag, also known as "shouldering out", is a very common endgame tactic--it's good to get in the habit of doing it. :)

8/29/2007 05:03:00 PM  
Blogger Temposchlucker said...

LF and J'adoube seem to have the least trouble with this position. Both have recently done alot of pawnendings.

Since J'adoube didn't find the same position "incredibly simple" 1.5 years ago, when I posted 3 times about it, his new insight must be the result of his recent pawn ending exercises.

Which raises the question "why do some people derive insight from training while others (me) do not or much slower".

I think that this has to do with "type". Some people are prepared to zoom out in an early stage. Accepting (or not even noticing) the downside of zooming out: lose sight of details.

Compared with my own type, always afraid to derive conclusions that don't fully account for all the details, seeing alternative possibilities everywhere. From these possibilities always 99% and sometimes 100% is irrelevant. But I don't want to miss that <1% so I have to check everything. The price I have to pay is hard work.

From these two different types, the former has a greater chance to become a good chessplayer. I'm convinced that MDLM was such type. He derived alot of higher level information from his circles. Of course I would add "but the quality of his information wasn't assured!" but that is not so relevant if you want to improve fast. Maybe hitting this wall even was the reason he stopped.

I hope I have expressed myself clear.

8/30/2007 01:06:00 AM  

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