Thursday, June 09, 2005
Chess Struggle
As I go on along merrily in my quest for chess mastery, my views about the game changes too. I am starting to think that for me to win a game, the "cooperation" of the opponent is needed. I certainly havent been able to win by my own brilliance. Not once. Usually, the outcome was decided by
  • [a] Me overpressing, and trying to attack at all cost (I always lose here), or
  • [b] My opponent overlooking something (He losses here) and
  • [c] Me, or my opponent blunders.
    In all these cases, I didnt win by anything brilliant that I did. Rather, I lost because I did something (see [a],[c]). So this led me to the conclusion that if I wanted my win/loss ration to improve, and for my rating points to rise - I should try and get rid of all these three problems. But of course, my opponent is unpredictable, so i can only gid rid of something which I can control - namely me.

    This necessarily caused a change in my chess philosophy. Namely, I am trying now to just hang in there. Just find the most "un-losing" moves that I can each move. Nothing too active. Just make sure that my next move is not an outright blunder. just something reasonable - Then quitely wait for my opponent to hang himself.

    I have had some surprising results using this technique. My first win against harmless came because of it, and I was able to defeat some other higher rated opponents too. Because now they are the one overpressing, trying to create something, trying to attack. Do something, anything, be active. But by just parrying the attacks, just trying to frustrate all their intentions, they just might try something risky, and it might backfire on them. And it does. Sometimes, they suddenly hang a piece, or they sacrifice something. But at the sub-2000 level, sacrificing something without an immediate mate is almost always fatal.

    Now, compare this with my most recent loss. I played a game against RomaLavrn yesterday, and I got mated. Why? Because I tried to "storm the barricades" - attack his position. Setting up combinations. I did all that - and I still lost. I spent a lot of time trying to find out why I lost, and I came to the conclusion that it would have been better if I had just prevented his attack first instead of trying to develop mine.

    I dont know if this "philosophy" is good, or if will enable me to reach master level. It may cause irreparable harm to my chess development. I my become too passive. But it works right now, and so I will use it. It is the pragmatic approach.

    Now, I had been searching the net for books on prophylactic play. But I cant find any. The Dvoretsky books has a reputation of having emphasis on prophylactic play, but it may be too advance for me. Maybe I should just buy "The art of defence", or some book about karpov. Does anyone have recommendations?
    posted by Nezha at 8:09 PM | Permalink |


    • At 10:32 PM, Blogger bahus

      I was just thinking the same thing! Almost all of my recent games have been decided by a gross mistake. These games have been 95% good chess (complicated tactical threats, good positional play) but never the less at some point one of the players leaves a piece en prise, doesn't notice a mate in one etc. I guess what separates an Expert and a Class player is that the latter makes 1-2 really bad moves a game.

      Prophylactic play is rather difficult concept; denying the other player good moves or creating threats that counter his plans. Silman covers in his books some more easily understandable parts:

      + Eliminating knights by taking away the supporting squares.
      + Making the other players bishops "bad"

      I believe you are playing prophylactic chess when you find yourself asking after each move what would your opponent want to play, where would he like to place his pieces and how can you deny or at least hinder these plans.

      When I read through the Richard Reti's Masters of the Chessboard I ran across some games by W. Steinitz. These games made a big impression on me - Herr Steinitz basically denied all the good moves from his opponents and slowly built an unstoppable attack.

      Going through some of the Ruy Lopez games where Steinitz plays white might be a good idea.

      - bahus

    • At 12:57 AM, Blogger Mousetrapper

      You are so right, Nezha! These could be my own words! Dan Heisman (see link in my sidebar) has a very useful concept: Safety is about tactics, and safety first means tactics first. That is: Look at the pieces all the time. Loose pieces drop off! Never let a piece be overworked unless you have the initiative! And, most important, after every opp move ask 2 questions: What can he do now that he could not do before, and what can he no longer do that he could have done before. On opp clock spend your energy on opp plans, not on yours. Find ways to wipe them from the board. The opp will be frustrated! Maybe to an extent that makes him blunder.

    • At 2:44 AM, Blogger Temposchlucker

      All my wins are forced wins. Mostly right from the opening. I have the initiative in 90% of my games. I have always the feeling that I have to do everything myself. Even loosing. I hope that by gaining endgame technique I can play relaxter in the middlegame. Now I do everything to avoid endgames because I don't trust myself in that area. Time trouble because of complications is often the result.

      Until now I have bad results with prophylactic moves. Because if I defend against a move my opponent didn't consider at all, I am simply wasting a tempo. A matter of insufficient technique of course.

    • At 4:21 AM, Blogger Mousetrapper

      Phophylaxis has nothing to do with passivity. Only prophylaxis against non-threats is passive and invites the opp to a real attack. Best example are the time-wasting moves of a- and h-pawns to rank 3 and 6 (except in the Ruy Lopez of course). The goal must be not to prevent moves but to prevent plans. I know this is far from easy, but we should try at least. I just went over a couple of simul games of Karpow against 2000+ rated and admired how superior his positions were all the time. I think prevention is one of his great secrets. He just let opponents not find any good plan. And having no good plan is the begin of losing a game.

    • At 10:57 AM, Blogger Blue Devil Knight

      Useful posts: good to see others make dumb mistakes :) My thinking drills are helping me with that, but it is hard to be motivated to do them now that I am working the TCT problems with more gusto.

      Nezha, weren't you on circle 6 at the beginning of the month? Are you done with the circles?

    • At 12:21 PM, Blogger CelticDeath

      In order for your opp to lose, he has to make a mistake and you have to know how to recognize and profit from it. So, there's no point in beating yourself up for winning because your opp is making mistakes. We all make them. Even Kasparov!

    • At 8:43 AM, Blogger Pale Morning Dun - Errant Knight de la Maza

      Not all games can be things of beauty. Some/most are the results of a blunder. That's why every game you ever read analysis on, even the masters, eventually has a "??" next to one of the moves. Personally, I'll take the win anyway I can get it. Hehehehe.

    • At 2:17 PM, Blogger harmless

      sup nezha. how's sunday 4 p.m. eastern time? let me know.

      I say we play both games the same day if the second one is needed. thoughts?


    • At 8:06 AM, Blogger JavaManIssa

      I often wonder about this too. But i find it very hard to stop my opponent from planning anything. Because once i stop a plan another arises, if for example i push a pawn to stop my opponents plan, the uses the gaps the pawns create in some other way.

      I once read the introduction to a book talking about how if you never made a mistake you'd be a grandmaster (or very good player). But it's not possible for us or grandmasters! It's interesting though, i think plans is what can truly win a game and without one lose the game!

    • At 1:38 PM, Blogger harmless

      you weren't online at 4 p.m.

      when can we play?


    • At 3:09 AM, Blogger Nezha

      to harmless:
      Sorry harmless, I havent seen your post. Iam logged at FICS right now, but java says youve logged-out. I only missed you by about 5minutes. Darn. Ill go look at the calendar, and post here again. Maybe I can catch you tomorrow or today.

    • At 4:31 PM, Blogger Pawn Sensei

      Nez, Harmless, please post on my blog after you are done. RomaLavrn asked me to take care of the tourney since he is having internet trouble. Thanks.