Sunday, June 06, 2010

Chess wisdom distillery

Soltis' book The wisest things ever said about chess consists of 288 bits of chess wisdom. It is a great book for the waiting room or the bathroom. The following is my list of the top ten quotes from the book...the number in parenthesis after the quote is its number in the book.

Note I didn't include those bumper stickers that are included in every book about chess ever written such as 'When you find a good move, look for a better one.' While such quotes are great, I wanted to pick things that I have not been desensitized to....

10. In your opponent's time pressure, make nonforcing moves (287)
That forces him to use clock time to think. If he has only one legal move, that doesn't make him suffer enough.

9. With bishops of opposite color, the player with the attack has an extra piece. (9)
His light-squared Bishop will be rendered relatively impotent when you attack with your dark-squared Bishop.

8. An extra pawn wins only if there are pawns on both wings. (57)
His King can't defend both wings at the same time!

7. The stronger the piece, the weaker the defender (32)
Better to defend your pawn with another pawn than with the Queen. Wouldn't your Queen rather be out there kicking some ass?

6. Before making the move you've chosen, take one last look, with the eyes of a beginner. 129
This is especially important if you are rusty and prone to tactical mistakes.

5. Pawns increase in value as they advance. 152
Once a well-defended pawn hits the sixth rank, it is basically worth a piece. If it is a central pawn, it can really wreak havoc, as it effectively cuts the opponent's board in half, disrupts lines of communication among his pieces, and will weigh on his mind heavily every move.

4. When in doubt, move a piece, not a pawn. (127)
Pawn moves are permanent, while silly piece moves can often be undone.

3. Long variation, wrong variation (20)
Humans are not computers. We are extremely error-prone when it comes to calculating long trees of moves in our heads. The shorter the imagined move sequence, the less likely we are to make a mistake.

2. Worst piece first. (231)
One of those extremely helpful slogans for deciding what move to make in the early middlegame. Which piece is least developed, is not participating in the game? Improve it.

1. Modern chess is much too concerned with things like pawn structure. Forget it. Checkmate ends the game. (1)
No explanation needed.


Blogger BlunderProne said...

Wait... what's this sh*t about pawn structure in modern chess? Thanks for making my last few series of posts moot.

6/06/2010 09:41:00 PM  
Blogger Blue Devil Knight said...


6/06/2010 11:36:00 PM  
Anonymous Chunky Rook said...

Superbe! I'm a sucker for such nuggets of wisdom.

6/06/2010 11:41:00 PM  
Anonymous Derek Slater said...

I love distilled stuff! :)

Okay, all good, but the truth is, once in a while it's fun to write off all this rational improvement stuff and just try to destroy someone.

Last round of USATE, 20 moves into a Latvian Gambit of all things, I decided, screw it, I'm lifting my rook to a4 if it's the last thing I do. Afterwards Greg Kaden showed me a much more sensible plan, but dadgummit, I won anyway :)

6/07/2010 12:21:00 AM  
Blogger From the patzer said...

"3. Long variation, wrong variation (20)"

Does this mean that visualization of the board is stupid, improving your blindfold chess is stupid? Afterall it says seeing two moves is enough, dont look for a three move combonation.

6/07/2010 12:32:00 AM  
Blogger Blue Devil Knight said...

Right on. I think that's one of Soltis' rules: 'Break the rules.' :)

6/07/2010 12:33:00 AM  
Blogger Blue Devil Knight said...

my previous comment was to derek...

chesstiger: I wouldn't put a number on it (two or three moves or whatever). The probability of making an error goes up every move ahead, and also the number of moves in the game tree increases exponentially, so the number of moves we have to think about (in that error-prone way) increases. (discussed a lot here).

As for implications, I would think anything that makes us caculate more accurately would be a Good Thing. Probably at least as important is knowing when and har deeply to calculate. That's one of his other slogans :)

Obviously, whether blindfold chess and board memorization does that is very open to debate, but that's a different issue. I've discussed that too much, last time sympathetically here, but before that skeptically as in here.

6/07/2010 08:50:00 AM  
Blogger dfan said...

Derek, you should get the book. "Lift your rook to a4 if it's the last thing you do" is rule 193.

6/07/2010 09:00:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

BDK. Have you seen the uschess online article about adult chess improvement. I thought it was interesting.

6/08/2010 07:14:00 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

I think this is the article Bill was referring to:

-- Hank

6/08/2010 09:53:00 PM  
Blogger Blue Devil Knight said...

Tempo should read that :)

Ironically the only thing I'd suggest might be off in that article is the heavy focus on tactical problem study. No IM or GM I've met spent a lot of time studying tactics problems. They just played tons of slow games, and did tons of kibitzing with players of all levels, involving moving pieces around with their hands fighting.

Basically I'm a Circles apostate. I think 15 minutes a day max is good. I think Hank recently sent me a similar argument that I thought was essentially right, and it's basically what Quandoman (an old enemy of the Knights Errant) used to say.

6/09/2010 11:23:00 AM  
Blogger katar said...

You forgot to mention me with Quando in your last comment! :)

Would love to read your "95 theses" (or even just 5!) when you find the time, although i understand chess is not a priority. Peace out!

6/12/2010 06:01:00 PM  
Blogger Blue Devil Knight said...

Yes, Katar too, an early worthy adversary.

6/13/2010 07:51:00 PM  
Blogger (FM)Charless said...

I actually saw a picture of Andy yesterday on GM Ron Henleys site... hard to know what is more surprising... not sure if your familiar with Henley, but he was Karpovs second.

thats the link to his page, please dont confuse Henley for quagmire from the family guy :D

anyway, nice post I have the book, had to purchase it first time I saw it at the library :)


6/16/2010 05:12:00 PM  
Anonymous G. Ames said...

Indeed, dedicating a lot of time to dubious variations is, generally, a waste of time but there is one more point. Why should there be ONE optimal strategy for every player? (Sounds like economics.) Evolution does not work this way. There is room for sidelines, so to speak. The less predictable one´s choice of a certain dubious variation is, the less known it is, and the trickier it is, the better for the adventurous player! Just think of Topalov´s knight sacrifice against Kramnik. Or wild pigs: some of them enter cities on occasion. No good permanent job, quite risky, but not stupid.

6/19/2010 02:49:00 PM  
Blogger Loomis said...

This book lives in my car so that I always have it when I wind up going somewhere with a waiting room.

7/22/2010 02:25:00 PM  

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