A very simple puzzle
In spite of my interest in openings and wanting to go over a bunch of them and all that opening stuff I talked about, I have a confession to make: nearly all of my losses come from blunders. Yes, really. I'm almost always on my way towards a resounding victory-- where the chess goddess herself will be ready, standing there, open armed, waiting to congratulate me at the end of the game with eternal love-- when all of a sudden, and through no fault of my opponents', I blunder. Yep. I have some plan, and I see some better plan, and over look that I'm leaving an attacked piece free for the immediate taking or some silly oversight like that. Oh, and that black and white picture isn't of me. No. I'm much better looking than that, ladies. No, that isn't the chess goddess either. It is Emanuel Lasker, the diagram below is from one of his games. I got hip to it from a book by Angus Dunnington. Not the picture-- that's from wikipedia-- the game position below. I'll get to that later.
Yep. That's how I lose alright. It's a shame right? I mean I'd have a pretty wicked record here if not for my own blunders. Wow-- I can really feel your sympathy now. That is your sympathy I'm feeling, right?
Uhmmmm anyway .... I have another confession. Shhhhh ... let's keep this one to ourselves.
(nearly all of my wins come from blunders. Yes, my opponent is almost always on the way towards a resounding victory-- where the chess goddess herself will be ready, standing there, open armed, waiting to congratulate my opponent at the end of the game with eternal love-- when all of a sudden, and with no help from me, my opponent blunders. Yep. Maybe they had some plan, and they see some better plan, and over look the leaving of an attacked piece free for the immediate taking or some silly oversight like that.)
So, I am a firm believer in the idea that chess (and most combat) is won by the guy that makes either the next-to-the-last mistake, or just lost by the guy that makes the really big mistake first. So I was pretty pleased when I saw a book called Blunders and How to Avoid Them Eliminate Mistakes from your Play by Angus Dunnington (Everyman Chess, 2004). What's that you say, it's 2010 and I'm talking about an ancient book? Write your own blog then, and quit correcting me.
Anyway, the first example from chapter one is from an 1890 game of Emanuel Lasker's in Berlin against Theodor von Scheve. I thought it would make a nice little simple puzzle. Why would I think such a thing? Well, I'm putting the books I'm working through into some kind of .pgn form as I find it easier to work on this stuff on a screen than over a board. I didn't think it warranted a whole .pgn file on my laptop, so figured I'd put it up here.
So, why include a simple puzzle of a won position in a blog about blunders? Well, first off I didn't want to duplicate Dunnington's work nor his purpose when he presented a bit of that game. Secondly, why are you so on my case? And primarily, it reminded me that tactics are largely about the grammar of chess.
Yes, grammar. Grammar is the ordering of information. So, what I'm saying is that chess-- like I think all games, and like all languages (including and especially math and computer languages), and music (OK, it's a language too, a language where the notes are the symbols and the symbols are organized by our minds upon hearing them according kinds of grammar that simultaneously exist in our heads independent of the music or implied by the music as it unfolds for us)-- has rules of grammar. These rules of grammar are what we either get right or get wrong when we either get right or get wrong a combination.
In the diagram there are a few ways to take and resolve the tension, but only one winning way forward. The key to winning in that position is ordering the information before moving. Maybe that is what calculating is. I've not been formally introduced to calculating in chess yet. But anyway, I've won a lot of games where I just was lucky in that my opponent didn't order the information properly. Oops, I meant I've lost most of my games where I simply didn't put the information into its proper order before moving. This ought to be a simple puzzle about a simple idea. Getting better at any art is about takin simple steps. So 'can' the smugness about what a waste of time the puzzle is or how you saw the solution before you even saw the puzzle.
So, one thing I have to do-- and one thing I don't want my opponents to do-- is to put the information that we see on the board into some kind of order. I remember when I first learned about "space, time, and material" (as opposed to just "material") and after some number of moves and throughout a game I would count up all three-- wrongly counting time and space I suspect-- to get an idea of where I stood in the game. That was after reading Eugene Znosko-Borovsky's middle game book. I think ordering of information, especially in tactical situations will help eliminate blunders. While my dreams of going undefeated are long dead, I might approach it like the way a curve's slope on a graph can approach infinity. Getting the grammar of tactics right might be a step in that direction.