Thank you "Zippy the Wonderslug" for your bunny/domination themed art:



This is not a post about how to destroy your opponents and win tournament after tournament, in case you are wondering. If Garry Kasparov is reading, I'd be happy to let my blog be a platform for his explanation of how to do that .

This post is about a book called Domination, by famous study composer Genrikh Kasparyan, that is dedicated to a tactical (arguably also positional) theme of that name:

You may never have heard of Kasparyan before (I hadn't until I stumbled on the book) but he is one of the greats - according to Sam Sloan in the preface:

"...when a great new star named Kasparyan appeared on the scene, the Soviet authorities decided to change the name of the second Kasparyan to Kasparov to avoid confusion"

I have heard a completely different story for why Kasparov's name was indeed changed, but that is going off on a tangent. Maybe I shall ask him about it when I next see him down at the pub 

Anyways enough chit chat, lets look at some chess:

The above puzzle nicely illustrates what domination actually means in chess - essentially "trapping" a piece in the middle of the board.
It is actually just the last few moves of the puzzle given in the book but there is a mistake earlier on in the version given in the book unfortunately. Not to worry as Kasparyan has compiled another 2544 (!) studies from all the famous composers, and many are just as elegant as this one.
Another example (full puzzle this time):
A bit of a warning - some of the puzzles can be pretty tough. For example this one where I got the first 8 moves right but miscalculated right at the end (no guessing!) :
I really like this book/these puzzles for a few reasons:
  • Aesthetics - hopefully you found some beauty in these puzzles too. The first one I think is really stunning 
  • They can be a really effective illustration of positional themes - my next blog post will highlight this so stay tuned!
  • They force you to find the opponent's defences - that last puzzle in particular is all about calculating every last twist and turn that black can try. 
  • A lot of the harder studies especially teach you to find hidden resources. There might seem like nothing going on in the position but then you notice (for example) that there are not very many pawns left in the position, so what happens if black brings his king to attack the pawns, with ideas of sacrificing? A few minutes later and you have identified a critical line in a position that previously seemed pretty empty.

The latter two bullet points in particular are skills that can be really difficult to train but are also very important for tournament play. 

There are two main downsides to the book. The format is a bit minimalist - tiny diagrams 6 to a page with virtually no text but lots of moves. The other is that occasionally there is a bug in the solution as it is pre-computer. This is quite unusual though, and I've even found one or two where the computer is wrong not the composer!

I hope you enjoyed the blog, next time I will build on this theme by showing it can improve your positional skills as well as calculation