PRINCIPIA SCACCHORUM, Part 13: ALT-Chess Square 1 Lesson 1

PRINCIPIA SCACCHORUM, Part 13: ALT-Chess Square 1 Lesson 1


THIS IS CHESS LESSON 1 YOU WON'T FIND IN ANY BOOK, online course, or when you hire a top GM for private lessons. It builds on a ground-breaking idea Nimzovich made public long time ago, back in 1929. Just imagine, this absolutely bold and brilliant idea turns the traditional Chess Square 1 upside down.

Very sadly, the entire chess community has turned a deaf ear to it, unable to recognize its importance for making chess an easier game to learn.

The traditional method has 99.5 percent, or so, success rate. To me, keeping huge numbers of entrants in Level One forever, never letting them out beyond the moves, is not a success. As it is, we could safely call it a huge suckcess.

The crisis of the traditional Square One with its wood pushing is really a chronic crisis of meaning. No meaning, no progress. No progress, you lose that original spark for the game, you quit. It is as simple as that.

Chess meaning comes only from piece relations. Moves find the reason only in the power structure on the board. If you are unable to "read" and decode this power network of chessmen, you don't get to understand the problem. If you don't get it, how you think to solve it?

Again, the traditional Square One, as it has been taught, literally prevents millions from getting excited for the game for a pleasure of lifetime.

Instead, chess, a game with very simple rules, may be nominated as a human activity with the greatest number of dropouts (99.5 percent, or so). Let me give you a direct comparison:

There are 6 million scientists and engineers in the US.

There are around one million doctors.

There are 1,000 (?!) chess experts we call Masters of chess, who are rated over 2,200 USCF (GMs also included here).

That means that you have, even in the broadly-hated math, 6,000 times (or 600,000 percent) greater chances to become an expert in science, or engineering than in chess.

Is chess really that hard to learn?

By the way chess Masters can be as young as nine (like the youngest US NM Samuel Sevian).

So what is the problem?

Stay calm, there is a better way. It's called ALT-Square 1 - it challenges the traditional, outdated, narrow perspectives of Chess Ground Zero. As Einstein put it, "No problem can be solved from the same level of consciousness that created it. We must learn to see the world anew." Here is ALT-Square 1 Lesson 1.


Any revolution... begins with some definite act, often meant to purify corrupt practices and restore what some conservative radical imagines as a pristine state of things.

-Charles C. Gillispie, The Edge of Objectivity (1960)



We start off with familiarizing the student with the chessboard. We need not ten pages, or so to do it, as in traditional books. No one in the 21-st century has time and patience to masochistically do that. Only one thing my student should be able to see, and that is, there are four lines passing through any square on the board (forget about the files, ranks, chess notation, K/Q wings, or the center, for now - we don't want to create any conceptual confusion in Blank Slate's mind at this point). Doing the most important things is always the most important thing, the approach adopted here; so forget about unnecessary details before time has come.

That is why I name the four lines as a vertical, a horizontal and two diagonals (the horizontal and vertical are already known concepts, at least for adult learners). In addition, I use my finger to show the student the four lines and then ask them to show me the same with another square. The board familiarization should take a minute or so. The entire lesson should take around 15 minutes, at which point we start playing a mini game to reinforce the basic concepts of chess.


The board enough familiarized, we put Rook on, say, e4. You do expect me now to show how Rook moves, don't you? but I certainly wouldn't! If you have read any of my Principia Scacchorum posts, you already know that it is baaad, very bad. Yes, the moves have been shown first thing since time eternal, but that is still "fundamentally wrong," as Nimzovich, the Chess Square One Copernicus, emphatically asserted back in 1920s.

The first thing we want to introduce here is the concept of FORCE. For boys at least, that is a well-known concept (for girls, I need your feedback on how to bring up the concept). Thus, Rd4 is shooting along two of those four lines (left and right, up and down). Use your finger to reinforce the idea. It tells the student's brain, there is something important going on. (Actually, I want them to keep using their finger to better visualize the lines of force and piece connections over few first lessons; later, once it becomes second nature, the brain won't need it any longer - it will effortlessly and subconsciously "draw" internal, mental lines of fire.)

I ask them next how many squares there are under fire? By using their finger, they count 14.


Okay, so far, so good. Let's continue. With Rook still on e4, I put a pawn on, say, e7. Now this is important, here we are about to introduce the RELATIONS concept. After the lines of fire have been conceptualized already, I ask the student, Is Pawn in Rook's line of fire? Every 5-year old can see it (Capablanca was able to see it at 4, he did start at 4).

This is a biggy, here Rook is attacking Pawn, or we can say Pawn is under attack (a known idea). Pawn is also in danger (a known idea, the brain always remembers where danger has been, is, and may be - it is deeply stored in the primitive brain; stressing that that poor Pawn is threatened may help the student quickly grasp the concept of attack).

Now we do a few simple drills to train the brain to acquire, in my view, the most important concept in all chess, before proceeding any further. Relationships, the attack in particular, are bread and butter of all chess life. The attacking contact is the basic building block of chess power structure.

Drills. W: Rd4, B: Pg4, is pawn in danger? Yes. W:Rf7, B:Nb7, Ph6, how many black pieces are under attack? (here it doesn't really matter how N and P move, fogeddaboutit, for now). Finally, you may try with even more pieces if necessary.

You may also want to try this one - new concept alert! W:Rc4, Pf4, Nh4. The student must see that Rook and both black pieces are lining up (the geometrical motif!). Is Pf4 under attack? Yes, of course. How about the Knight? This is the body effect [1b] from the Principia Basics Chart. You explain that Rook's lines of fire are cut off at f4, so that both the g4-square and Nh4 are not affected by Rook's fire (for now). Remove the f4-pawn. Is Nh4 attacked now?

If you check the Principia Basics Chart, we have already covered the lines of fire (Level 1, a property of pieces), and piece Relations (or power structure, Level 2). Now we are happily moving to PURPOSE (Level 3).


As you may have noticed, so far there was not any mention of how pieces move. Why? Because, there must be a reason behind any move (Dr. Lasker). And the reason can and must always be found in the power network on the board, in how pieces relate, or interconnect.

Try this, W:Re4, Pb7. Is P under attack? No, ok. Here, I tell the student, go attack the Pawn!

I haven't even shown them how pieces move, right? So what the heck is the deal? Well, the good thing is, thank God, chess pieces exert force and move along the very same lines, they coincide (not true for pawns, but fogeddaboutit, for now).

Adult learners almost always play 1.Re7, or 1.Rb3. From my experience, a 4-year kid tends to make an irregular movement, but that's okay. You just show them the right way of doing it.

Good progress so far, the movement, always serving a more efficient use of force, and not aimless wood pushing (as with the traditional approach) is also introduced . We can still wait to get capture into the picture after doing few drills strengthening the following chess dynamics, (a) there is a threat-of-attack , (b) make a move to get into a direct-attack contact with enemy. For example, W:Re4, B:Nh7,Pb3. Go attack Pawn. Go attack Knight, etc.

Okay, now you should show how capture works (new concept). They love capturing! Who wouldn't? This is a material world. But still, ideas, the intangible, rule! For example, the intention to attack, as expressed above, is an idea. Without a simplest idea born in mind first, no reward, no material gains, no chess.

Let us stop at this point for a second, just a remark. I can't think of any better idea how to start teaching at Square One. All three pillars of chess, as shown in Principia Basics Chart, [1]chessmen qualities, [2] piece relations, and [3] purpose, in their simplest possible terms, have already been covered without too much theorizing.

After these fundamental concepts, my intention is to play a mini game with the student. The game is 2R vs 2B.

Note: This is a fork in the road. I want to play the student 2R vs 2B as I find it very good for him (you'll later see why I think so). But, after the above fundamental ground [1], [2] and [3], you are really free to take any direction you deem best for the student. My 2R vs 2B mini is there to give you an inspiration. Give your imagination a free rein!

But I'm thinking 2R vs 2B. In order to be able to do that, we need to learn Bishop now.

The same Rook story above should be now similarly told about Bishop. You may want to stop at this point, especially if you teach a little kid, and continue Lesson Two with Bishop. It is up to you. And if you teach a 4-year old, you may call it a day with only the concept of Force [1] presented, making Relations [2] Lesson Two. You get the idea.

Okay, suppose Rook and now Bishop are done, we want to play, we want to play!

How we should conduct 2R vs 2B mini game, and what benefits such a simple chess-like game may provide, we will see next time.


Marietta, Georgia, August 23, 2017

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Just a heads-up on the merits of the first mini game we are going to play next time. Among other things, the 2R vs 2B mini game teaches the student four out of five basic piece relations. Not bad at all as we are just getting off the ground.

Compare ALT-Sq1 with this game two boys played after six months in chess at the time, taught by the traditional (must say broken, sorry) method, whereby the moves come first with, sadly, no piece relations awareness, or meaning, anywhere in sight:

1.e4 d5 2.Bd3 Bg4 3.exd5 Bxd1... The traditional approach failed in setting off the most basic attacking contact alarm after 2...Bg4, "Bg4 and Qd1 are mutually attacking each other!!" beep, beep, beep. Instead, a total blindness. Is there any chess here? Yes, if wood pushing can also be considered playing chess...

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You want to join the ALT-Square 1 movement?

You want to get equipped to teach your kids in an easier way; or your parents who are in retirement; or you are a grandparent who wants to establish a closer bond with your grandkids; or if you are a public teacher and want to teach your students; or you may be homeschooling your kid; or you just want to teach yourself to keep your brain agile, please contact me.

The idea is to make chess more accessible to everyone, but independently and outside of the "institutions of the system" and demystify the notion that chess is a hard game to learn and play.

As the current chess establishment doesn't care about us, we want to change things from bottom up and bring chess to many more millions. Chess, the game of millions, for millions! The 99.5 rise!

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