Sunday, December 24, 2006
Piece Activity
Piece activity is the ultimate positional goal in chess - Temposchlucker

It is interesting to note that Tempo has found out independently what I had been reading for ages. This principle is important, and full understanding will enable a chess player to reach his highest potential. That of cosmic nirvana. The place where energy is compressed in a single moment.

Well, not really(I dont believe that stuff) - But the premise, indeed the very core of my favorite book (Simple Chess) is this very idea. Lets read this memorable line taken from the introduction:

The most important single feature of a chess position is the activity of the pieces. This is absolutely fundamental in all phases of the game (opening, middle and especially endgame)
- Michael Stean (Simple Chess)

Then he proceeded to list the major facets of piece activity(outposts, open lines, space, etc). So this principle is indeed at the very core of positional chess, albeit according to Stean, and now according to Tempo.

Now I dont know how good HTRYC is, but I've been gushing about Simple Chess for years. Sometimes I had to do everything I could to prevent myself from randomly grabing a chess player and ramming the book down his throat.

The book is that good. However, let me state that although Stean's explanations of the concepts is the best I found , somethings are still going over my head. It looks simple, it sounds simple, but I can't help but wonder if what I'm getting is what he's trying to teach.

You know the scene from Monty Python? The one where the king waved his hand towards the window and said to the prince "Someday, All these will be yours!". The prince incredulously looked at the window, across the vast plains, and replied "What!? The Curtains?!!". This I how I feel from time to time (and i've read this book cover to cover 3 times).

For example, take a look at this game Tal-Bronstein. Stean refered to this game as "An exciting and instructive display of outpost play". But when I looked at the game, the outpost was liquidated in, get this, one ply. Thats right, yeah: 1, one, uno, ichi, isa, 10-9=1. I was really puzzled, because "But the outpost was gone". I dont get it. Exciting display of outpost? Where? What, The curtains?

However, this illustrates my main point on why one should strive to create his own style. I'm sure Tempo, and you too my dear readers, had been reading about positional stuff for ages. All chess books have tried to define chess concepts while we, the unwashed masses, have collectively nodded in assent. "Yeah, thats important" we say - then proceed to play exactly like we dont agree. You know why we do that? Because we dont. Not really.

Maybe its the result of years of distrust and xenophobia. Maybe its the result of years of not wanting somebody else tells us what to do. Maybe its the result of thinking "Who died and made you emperor!?". I dont know why, but the result is the same

Chess authors had been leading us to water, but we refused to drink.

I am as guilty of this as anyone. In fact if there ever was a "Read chess book, dont agree" fan club, I may have been its president.

But if we try to discover things for ourselves, if we try to search for the meaning of chess from our own experiences, then we may discover what the masters of old did. But this time we will not not-agree, but we will embrace it whole heartedly. For, then we can say:

"I did it, me, all by myself".

- fin -
posted by Nezha at 3:29 AM | Permalink |


  • At 8:28 AM, Blogger BlunderProne

    There are many goods books on strategy and positional ideas. Older texts, like Chernov's or Nimzovitvch's are timeless. I also like the calssic game collections like Zurich 1953. I have contemporaries like Silman's series and I do get "something" out of it. Bottom line is, there is no one "golden" text out there. the real path is through practicing these principles extensively. Just like a musician practices his instrument or a runner continues to run.

    PS... I have completed the 7 cirles BTW... I am on my second tour because I need to continue training.

  • At 3:05 PM, Blogger Temposchlucker

    A brain is no cup where you can pour in knowledge in a passive way. Knowledge has to be processed in an active way before you get it. Emotions play a role in the process.

  • At 6:18 PM, Blogger Nezha

    to blunder:

    I will put you in the graduates list then. You should alert tempo too I think.

  • At 10:46 AM, Blogger takchess

    I love games where passive sacrifices are made which takes a develop piece out of play. Example
    the double rook sacrifice in Euwe vs Reti where Euwe Queen is brought out of play by capturing 2 rooks but losing the game. The Rook capture by the Knight in the Traxler is a good example of this. Gain of material does not outweigh the lost of activity.

    As for Stean book, he says himself the games are somewhat boring, so I have found it tough to fully appreciate them. Far more games are won in this style than the fireworks of tactical play. So perhaps some day I will develop an appreciation of them