- Recognize the imbalance(s)
- Assess it’s importance over others ( Very nuanced)
- Properly looking to the position to guide my candidate move selection (Chasing unicorns)
Silman’s Thinking technique:
Silman’s writing style is a little condescending at times. I’ve learned to take it with a grain of salt and just become as receptive as I can to his ideas without feeling like I’m back in third grade with the teacher assuming I am going to do nothing but cause trouble. Okay, so maybe I was a troublemaker, but if the material was interesting enough, I would listen. Wrist rockets and hallowed out books with radios embedded inside all set aside, I approach professor Silman with an open mind. The thing I caught this time that I didn’t during my speed reading passive absorption approach was his interesting thinking technique. Having spent some time with the toady, Kotov and his TLAG… I was open for a new approach.
Silman lists a 5 step approach:
- Figure out the Positive and Negative imbalances for both Sides ( a tall order but this book puts it all out there)
- Figure out the side of the board you wish to play on ( Hint: it’s not really where YOU wish but understanding rather where the POSITION thinks you should play)
- Don’t calculate! Instead fantasize! ( Where would you rather have your pieces… be reasonable)
- Once you have a fantasy position… can it be achieved reasonably well? If not, iterate on the previous step until you have a position that can be reached.
- Once you have the position in mind…only now do you actually start looking at moves to get you there ( Candidate moves) and begin calculating.
The entire book is about establishing a firm footing in the first step but even at that, deliberate practice will help improve your ability to be able to assess the position from a perspective of imbalances. I’m still a ways off, but I have noticed a little improvement when I am testing myself with exercises in the book or an annotated game. I am more likely to evaluate a position to at least 80% accuracy in terms of all the imbalances
Figuring out which side of the board is tricky without solid footing in these ideas especially in relatively neutral positions where both sides have trade-offs. Looking at queen-side versus King side versus central plans can get tricky when faced with multiple imbalances in a position. Which one weighs more than the other? No clear answer and a lot like what Kotov would say, “it depends”. The rule of thumb, “When in doubt go for a central plan.” Is good enough advice for this amateur to follow, especially in online blitz games.
The fantasy piece placement in this section seemed to rely heavily on how to place minor pieces more than anything else. In particular, looking for good outposts for knights was common. But if you wanted to get a rook on an open file or open a diagonal to activate a bishop, then the fantasy may be around exchanging pieces and pawns to get that job done.
Superior Minor Pieces:
In the chapter on Superior minor pieces, he goes into great detail on position 63 from Alekhine-Junge Warsaw 1942 with white to move. He walks through the process, scolding us “3rd grade amateurs” on imperfect evaluations and how the correct and ONLY way to proceed becomes obvious if you follow his steps. But I get the point. Having a process to follow will help develop clarity in the position.
The chapter gives a great overview of good versus bad bishops and how to mitigate either depending on which side of the board you are on. The epic Bishop versus knight battles and many other nuances are covered between what makes one minor piece more superior than the other. What stood out for me was the valuation of knights depending on what rank they sat on compared to a Bishop.
- Knights on 1st or 2nd ranks are mostly defensive or transitional
- Knights on 3rd are mostly defensive but ready to jump to a more aggressive 5th rank position
- Knights on the 4th are as good as a Bishop. Positioned as both defensive and attacking
- Knights on the 5th are usually better than the bishop.
- Knights on a 6th rank often have a winning advantage.
I knew about getting knights to outposts (usually on 5th rank) can be a strong point in the game but this has to coincide with your other pieces and plans of attacking. I’ve also been on the receiving end of a knight plunking right down on my third rank (his 6th) and wreaking nothing but havoc. In evaluating minor pieces in a position that is unclear, knowing these valuations of knight placements is a good tool in ascertaining the level of prioritization and importance of said imbalance over others in the position.
I’m hoping to wrap up the series in Part three with light discussions and insights on the other imbalances from this amateur’s perspective. Thanks for putting with me. Until next time.