Chess Cart Before the Horse

Chess Cart Before the Horse




The movement of chessmen has been a starting point in chess since time eternal. A sine qua non, a religion that has aged and hardened that nobody ever dared to question.

But this moves-in-the-center-of-chess-Universe religion seems to have committed the sin against the Chess Holy Spirit and what chess is by birth, a game that has originated from warfare and is a simulation of warfare.

If this last fact is true, and evidently it is, then, quite naturally, chess should start and end with... Force. It is the core idea permeating all chess, one that unifies and brings together all disparate chess concepts and makes sense of them.

The Force, acting in Space-Time, is in the center, it is the universal law of Chess, Life and Struggle in cosmic proportions. The entire Universe, all of it, all of us, all of our chessmen, are pushed, pulled, spun, shifted, set in motion, held together by this invisible Force (being felt by us via its four daughters, their beautiful names being Gravity, Electromagnetica, and two nuclear twins, Fortis and Claudia).

Chess Cosmic Forces


How about Movement? What is it for? Well, it is subordinate to and only serves Force.

This can be easily proved. The real aim of (chess) Strategy is to put the enemy out of stable position; and in order to get them out of balance, we must dislocate his forces. How? This is where Movement gets in, it “upsets the enemy’s dispositions and, by compelling a sudden 'change of front' dislocates the distribution and organization of his forces," Liddell Hart (1895 - 1970), Strategy, Faber and Faber Limited, London, 1941 (a seminal work of military history and theory, a perfect companion to Sun-tzu's The Art of War and Carl von Clauswitz's On War)

What all this tells us about Chess Square One, or the very beginnings in chess, inevitably and inexorably starting with the moves? It simply tells us that we have been doing it wrong all the time. We have been putting cart before the horse!

Quality of Teaching Material and Quality of Teaching

This perversity of the-moves-first leads to lack of clarity in teaching materials and chess primers anywhere we turn to look. Last time Susan Polgar's Easy Way course was reviewed. Today we are taking a look at FIDE's Welcome to Planet Chess! a 46-page "introduction to chess developed for teaching children the absolute basics, how the pieces move, and not much more than that." In other words, they are saying the moves are the absolute basics of chess, the starting point, the point of departure, first step, the foundation. (here is the link to Welcome to Planet Chess!)

The author of this teaching material is FM Kevin O'Connell, International Arbiter and FIDE Senior Trainer; he earned his MSc in Sports Science from Essex University; he is the author of 28 books on chess, hundreds of magazine articles and a couple of thousand newspaper columns.

FIDE Welcome to Planet Chess course

What I am going to do now is to cite two paragraphs from Ch. 4 of this course to show you how putting the Power -> Movement equation upside down to Movement as the beginnings and starts leads to awkward moments when trying to explain simple things to the beginner, hungry for clear concepts and meaning in the critical early period of learning.

After the King and Rook moves have been introduced in earlier chapters, Ch. 4 (titled Attack and Capture) starts with what King can/cannot do;

(a) The king “attacks” each of the squares it could move to.

(b) The king cannot move to a square that is ATTACKED by an enemy man (any square that an enemy man could move to).

In (a) the author introduces attack to support the idea that King can never move next to his colleague; in (a) he basically says, because King can move to a square, it also attacks it (sic).

The main part in (b) cannot be any clearer. It is actually an absolutely perfect definition of another basic Relation, which is Restriction (GM Averbakh explained there are only four elementary piece interactions in chess: attack, restriction, protection and cover/block/pin ― in fact, the latter three, they can all be deduced from the attacking contact).

Now, in the brackets of (b), O'Connell is repeating the statement (a) again. Which totally unnecessary from the point of view of the modern New-Age Relation-based school of early teaching that is taking its wings and that I have been writing about and advocating for ten years now.

As a matter of fact, O'Connell is saying this, King cannot move to a square because the enemy King could move there, too?!?

FIDE Welcome to Planet Chess!

This one example taken from the teaching material of the official World chess organization most strikingly shows all fallacy of the traditional Square One and what all salti mortali it requires to explain simple things without the presence of main concept of all chess, DA Force.

Funny, few lines later, one can find that two Kings can never stand next to each other, as some people say that the kings are surrounded by a Force field that keeps them apart. Bingo!

Some people say (or perhaps a little bird), and they seem to be right on the target. The starting point in chess is, and should be in all teaching materials, F-O-R-C-E!