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Steinitz's Rules and Principles

  • #1

    I have been studying Chess seriously for slightly over a year now and one of the most frusturating things about learning chess is steinitz's Rules and Principles.  Specifically, that I cannot find a list of all of them anywhere, but it seems everyone knows them but me.  So,  Does anyone have a complete list of these rules and principles?  If not, Let's create one right here in this forum.  If you know of a Steinitz Rule or Principle please post it here, and if you can cite where you learned it from so if someone wants to, they can go to the source.  Thank you.

  • #2

    They do not exist, and even if they did, one should not use them. Chess requires that you examine a given position without prejudice, and choose the best move, not the "typical" or "usual" one.

  • #3
  • #4

    1. they do exist because if they didn't, titled players wouldn't talk about them.

    2. The best move, which is the move of the scientist type player, doesn't always exist.  There are times when a position is so unclear you have to go by positional principles, i.e. Steinitz's rules, among others.

    3. If chess was just about best moves, then once someone was in a lost position, the game would simply end, yet players who are fighters are able to take a lost position and win, not becuase they are looking for best moves, but because they are able to create situations which induces the other player to make a mistake.  Now this may sound like a contradiction but it is not.  Because there are players, like Carlsen who don't necessarly play the best move in a given position, but finds a way to create a winning situation, out os seemingly nothing, whereas the best move would have been a loss.

  • #5

    Thanks.  But I've seen that site, and that's not all of them, which is why I want to create a list.

  • #6
    Senchean wrote:

    Thanks.  But I've seen that site, and that's not all of them, which is why I want to create a list.

    If you've seen that site, why didn't you start with that list and ask people to add to it?

  • #7

    I don't know.

  • #8

    Regarding the list in the given link, these are truisms or banalities, rather than principles.

  • #9

    I don't know that it exists as a list, more as a philosophy.  The titled players that reference him are referencing the history of chess in that Steinitz represents the break from romantic chess (wild attack) to scientific chess (strategy).  So when they mention Steinitz stuff they're talking about basic principals.  Instead of wild attack it's now "the accumulation of small advantages"  It's not that they're unique to Steinitz or that you can't find them everywhere else.

    Simple stuff like development, pawn weaknesses, outposts for knights... "accumulation of small advantages" is a good summation.  A list would be interesting from a historical standpoint due to the basics he got right and not so right... but for the basics of strategic chess for the purpose of learning, a book that came ~100 years later like Pachman's Modern Chess Strategy is great.

  • #10

    Although pawns are the soul of chess, first you must improve the placement of your pieces and then your pawns. Only when you cannot improve the position of your pieces, look for pawn breaks.

    You cannot lose time or the opportunity to penetrate with a rook to the seventh rank. You are a masochist if you allow your opponent to penetrate with a rook to the seventh rank.

    If you plan to play two moves and don't know in which order to play them, start with the move you will play no matter what.

    Always look to maintain flexibility for your pieces when executing your plan. If you maintain flexibility, you can switch plans more easily.

    There is no such thing as a winning move: you can win only as a consequence of an error made by your opponent. 

    At the beginning of a game do not at once seek to attack. Instead,  seek to disturb the equilibrium in your favour by inducing your opponent to make an error - a preliminary before attacking.

    Do not attack until you already have an advantage, caused by your opponent's error, that justifies the decision to attack. As long as the equilibrium is maintained, an attack, however skilful, cannot succeed against correct defence. Such a defence will eventually necessitate the withdrawal and regrouping of the attacking pieces and te attacker will then inevitably suffer disadvantage.

    When a sufficient advantage has been obtained, you must attack or the advantage will be dissipated. The right to attack belongs only to that side which has a positional advantage, and this is not only a right, but also a duty, otherwise there is the risk of losing the advantage. 

    Each attack is to be directed against the weakest spot in the opposing position.

    Defensive play may be so poor that an attack undertaken with insufficient means might well succeed in practice. So, defensive play must become a strength of yours.

    The defending side must be prepared to defend and make concessions, e.g making a weakening pawn move. However, the defender should avoid making concessions until forced, and then should make only the minimum concession necessary to meet the threats.

    Tactical opportunities (and especially oversights) can appear at any time, so at each move you should routinely check for combinational blows for each side.

    It may not be so important to decide who has the advantage as to decide what to do, and then do it well! The question that matters to you in actual play is simply, 'What is my best move?', and if you can decide without being sure who has the theoretical advantage, so much the better.

    Excluding an opponent's piece from action is one of the most important strategical methods.

    Sometimes you see good moves but don't trust yourself. As Capablanca advised: if you see a good move, make it! 

    Rules of chess don't exist, and even if they did, one should not use them. Chess requires that you examine a given position without prejudice, and choose the best move, not the "typical" or "usual" one.

    When your position is worse, it is generally a bad idea to play actively, it only makes matters worse. Of course, it depends on the position. All chess rules are relative. In some positions you can build a solid defense, but when the defense is hopeless it is better to create complications.

  • #11

    All of these posts have been extremely helpful and insightful. As I am new and green to chess and all its depth, one thing I have asserted is: as a player you must or acknowledge the inherent relationship to life. Just as life has no set of universally set principles that I can point to and have the universe behind me and agree saying, "yes those are the principles to life." So to is chess. Chess so far as I have learned and studied has guide line that are inter-subjectively verified to develop a better player and his game through; experience, examples, practice, and investigation. HansKoonigs I appreciate your comments and have allowed me to internalize the fundamentals a little easier.

  • #12
    Senchean wrote:

    Thanks.  But I've seen that site, and that's not all of them, which is why I want to create a list.

    This list implicitly contains perhaps the most essential teaching of Steinitz: the play should be based on a correct evaluation of the position.

    This may sound banal, but it was poorly understood in pre-Steinitz days. Players used to launch wild sacrificial attacks in true "romantic style" just for the fun of it trusting on their ability to outfox the opponent. Premature attacks were common and defensive technique poor. Steinitz changed all that.

    It should be noted that some principles on that list seem highly questionable or at least poorly worded from modern perspective. For example I doubt hardly any modern GM would accept 5. ("a player should not attack until he already has an advantage, caused by the opponent's error, that justifies the decision to attack"). It's often quite possible to attack in an objectively equal position trying to induce errors from opponent and thus get an advantage. What still holds true is that the attack should be based on correct evaluation of the position - it should have some positional justification. This justification might, for example, be temporarily more active pieces in exchange for some positional concession or even material sacrifice - in such cases an attack may even be the only correct plan.

    Steinitz was a revolutionary chess thinker, but it's much better to learn strategic guidelines by reading a modern primer.

  • #13

    I think waffllemaster's post above (#9) is accurate.

  • #14

    There is an extended discussion of Steinitz in Lasker's Manual of Chess by Emanuel Lasker


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