Friday, August 24, 2007

Why start by looking at threats?

There's a new first step in my thought process: 'Look for threats.' This is in contradiction to those who would suggest you first try to figure out the opponent's plans (who cares what his plans are if you have a mating net?).

There are a couple of reasons to start by looking for threats. First, efficiency. We all know the side with more material will usually win (it is better to have a weak Bishop than to be down a Bishop). Imagine analyzing pawn structure for ten minutes before looking for threats. If it turns out you are about to lose a piece, then you've wasted ten minutes. It is simply more efficient to think about threats first.

Second, the longer you look at a position, the less likely you are to see tactics. Soltis (2005) says:
Looking for a way to attack enemy pieces should come at the start of the hunt for candidates. This is because tactical vision carries with it a surprising law of diminishing returns: The more you study the position, the less you will see tactically. One-move and two-move tricks often jump to your attention in the first several minutes you spend on a position. But if you don't see them during that time, it is unlikely you'll see them if you spend another 10 minutes on the position. For some reason we can't explain, the mind tends to block out relatively simple tactics that stare us in the face.
In other words, look for threats before your mind becomes blind to their presence.

Focusing on threats, first and foremost, is not something only beginners and club players should do. Buckley (1999) says:
Contrary to ideas held by some amateurs, the expert looks at mating attacks and material threats carefully before embarking on any positional maneuver. Nobody tacks about when victory is in sight. Instead, the master finds the sharpest idea available, then begins to evaluate plans and calculate variations. He abhors analysis that fails to consider a significant threat.
Why mess about when there are threats to be made?

Note: most of the above is from my thought process manuscript, which should be finished in a couple of months.


Blogger Temposchlucker said...

Remarkable how we seem to follow parallel trails.

8/24/2007 02:38:00 PM  
Blogger XY said...


I mention a blog post of yours in my lastest post. I also stole a diagram position from you. Mouhaha. :)

8/24/2007 05:08:00 PM  
Blogger transformation said...

yes, excellent post

I agree that it is a common beginner mistake to look at positional traits first and then they get butt kicked by mating frenzy. Like the monk used tell me, that I have to breath first before exhaling. This is similar is it not? Always breath, pat pat, breath, pat pat.

8/24/2007 11:40:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Nice post.

In Chess only opportunities are more important han threats.
The best defence against a mate threat is to mate your opponent one move one move ahead.

8/25/2007 08:42:00 AM  
Blogger Blue Devil Knight said...

CT: yes, under threats I include my own and the opponent's. If I can stay one step ahead of his, then I'll do it. Nice stuff on KNB at your site: I added you to my rotating sidebar.

(Though in all honesty learning that mate was not the best use of my time: I probably spent about 20 hours learning it last summer: I know some people say it is good for learning piece coordination, but mate in one problems are just as good for that!).

8/25/2007 09:55:00 PM  

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