When I was first starting out in chess, the book to own was “My System” by Aaron Nimzowitsch if you wanted to understand the finer points of positional play. He had words like “prophylaxis” and more words to describe variations of pawn chains like an Inuit has for snow. This is because his treatise is about the school of hyper-modernism where pawn centers are formed and piece activity is around attacking the center positionally. Quite dated and his concepts mostly holds with some exceptions today. I consider it a historic piece much like Staunton’s or Tarrasch’s guides on positional play were over a century ago. I’ve read this book long ago, and yes, I could use a refresher. BUT this post will not be about Nimzowitsch’s insights, rather about how Jeremy Silman came and had us re-assessing our chess with the concepts of a more dynamic approach to looking at today’s games from a sense of positional imbalances.
Lesson’s from this amateur seeking improvement:
Don’t do what I did when I first got this book. I read it as quickly as I could passively absorbing the 7 imbalances, rifling through the exercises, not really giving them much thought and going directly to the Solutions section to “reassure” my ego that I knew what he was talking about. To add insult to injury, I purchased the “workbook” only to try a few of the problems, fail an head directly to passively absorbing the lessons by nodding in approval of the solutions as if “I would have guessed that.” Take my money please. No… not recommended. Not if you want to really learn and absorb the information. Slow down, genius.
This post will serve as my re-introduction to the new study I did using my slower approach and introduce the imbalances he brings up. In parts 2 and 3 (I may do this in 4 parts… unsure yet) I will split up what I discovered from an amateur’s perspective on the imbalances.
My approach and fixing a leaky memory bucket:
I posted previously about slowing down and “going old school” as some commenters have mentioned. There are over 200 diagrammed positions in How to reassess your Chess. I set each and every single one of them up on a chess board. I used the clock on the end of chapter exercises set to 20 minutes and used the notation mentioned in that older post. Only after the clock ran down and I was through my own evaluation and analysis did I check the solutions section. Just like I did in my recent studies with Kotov’s TLAG here and here, I created a set of notes using a method I adopted from Cornell University.
This approach falls under deliberate practice . Rather than rote memorization (I don’t have a Eidetic memory as I posted a few years back) or my lazy passive absorption techniques, I do find that when I am more engaged in the learning process the better I can retain. Let’s just say, at my advanced age and many years in my misspent youth doing youthful indulgences… my short-term memory plain old sucks. Three is my magic number I can juggle before having a good recall mechanism in my long-term storage which surprisingly survived the rock concerts and extra-curricular activities associated with such. The act of setting up the board, physically moving the pieces.. on a really comfortable and nostalgic set from my youth ( thanks to dear old departed dad)… seem to all help with my learning and retention process. I’m a visual and tactile learner. I learn best through examples and doing it on my own with the right guidance.
What I learned from the Kotov experiment is that I can retain more of the information from TLAG and start to synthesize the material …especially around visual analysis. I knew the roadblock I faced (still) around picking the cadidates but I am getting better and it lead me down the path to “Maybe I can learn from Silman now”. And I am.
What were my goals?
When reinvigorated my approach to studying back n January it was to improve my over-the-board (OTB) experience in slow tournament games. I wanted to improve my visualization for analysis in 3D like OTB and improve my positional sense so I could find …that seemingly elusive unicorn called candidate moves that seems to come natural to others. Thank you to all who have commented so far offering advice… and am eventually getting there as well. But first I had to learn what I did not know.. if that makes sense. Like learning an musical instrument on your own and by ear or listening and mimicking other musicians you like, when it comes to really playing the instrument and improvising and knowing which notes to hit when coming up with your own composition, you need to train more traditional. In this case here, knowing “principal moves” in certain positions was a huge deficit because for the longest time… and as fallout from the days of the Knight’s Errant and purely tactical training, I had huge gaps of missing information and positional queues which are now just starting to come to light.
But let me tell you, with state of chess these days under Corona Virus going mostly online, Blitz and rapid chess are the way to stay on game. I’ll tell you how I’m crossing that bridge and improving my online blitz rating slowly but surely and how starting with improving my positional understanding through deliberate training is a part of that journey that will help BOTH blitz and OTB play in the future.
The list of the 7 Imbalances
- Superior Minor Pieces (the interplay between Bishop and Knights).
- Pawn Structure (a broad subject the encompasses doubled pawns, isolated pawns, etc).
- Space ( the final frontier… no… the annexation of territory on a chess board).
- Material (Owning pieces of greater value than opponent’s).
- Control of a key file or square (files and diagonals act as pathways for your pieces, while squares act as homes).
- Lead in development ( more force in specific area of the board).
- Initiative ( dictating the tempo of the game).
In part 2, I’ll touch on Silman’s approach to thinking process, calculations and the Superior Minor Piece insights I may have picked up as an amateur revisiting this in a more deliberate way. I plan on covering the other imbalances in Part 3 but may even split the last two out in a separate post as it gets into a discussion on static ( first five) versus dynamic ( last 2) imbalances. I learned a lot and hope to share this if you’re up for it.
Note: I didn’t mean to make this a post littered with links of “best of blunderprone’s blog” but I wanted to make sure some of the references were there in case you were curious of either a) how insane I really am or for b) educational purposes… hopefully it didn’t create too many squirrels to chase for you.