Dealing with Complexity

21st July 09. Dealing with complexity

[I'll tidy up the examples soon, but the advice stands alone I think]

I don't think I've got enough for a whole session on this, and the Sicilian is a good setting to talk about it.  To warm up, have a go at this one:

Fridrik Olafsson
Svetozar Gligoric

Los Angeles (1)

b - - 0 15

No. 2

Position for analysis from Simon

Black to move

Lots  going on!  How do you react to complex positions?  Get confused, or get a grip?

Organised thinking

The landmark description of a thinking process is Kotov's: select a list of candidate moves, work your way through them in turn.  Works for Kotov, maybe, but not everyone else has found it useful (or even possible) to imitate it. 

Forcing moves first

Look at the most forcing moves first: you can have more confidence in your opponent replying as you expect.  If at the end of a forcing sequence you think the position is at least as good for you as it is now, you can go for it.


Sometimes you can cut through a complex position by arranging a tactical accident for your opponent.  The right move in this next position would never be selected as a candidate move, but you can work out it's the right one.

Kuzmin,G - Sveshnikov,E [B49] Moscow (14), 1973
1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 e6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nc6 5.Nc3 Qc7 6.Be2 a6 7.0-0 Nf6 8.Be3 Bb4 9.Nxc6 bxc6 10.Na4 0-0 11.c4 Bd6 12.f4 Nxe4 13.c5 Be7 14.Bd3 Nf6 15.Bd4 Nd5

16.Nb6 !
[16.Bxh7+ Kxh7 17.Qh5+ Kg8 18.Bxg7 Kxg7 19.Qg4+ Kh8 20.Rf3 Nxf4 21.Rxf4 f5]
16...Nxb6 17.Bxh7+ Kxh7 18.Qh5+ Kg8 19.Bxg7 Kxg7 20.Qg4+ Kh7 21.Rf3 Bxc5+ 22.Kh1 1-0

Just plunge in

Analysis to Corden-Nunn, 1978

Try 15. Ba4 Nd2+ 16.Kc3 Qe3+ 17.Kb4 a5#
So, you can at least regain one piece whenever you wish, still keeping the K exposed.

Don't Analyse Unnecessary Tactics [DAUT] (Nunn & Nimzowitsch)

Nimzowitsch-Tartakower, 1929

 Nimzo analysed briefly:
15.Bxf6 Bxf6 16.Qh6 Bg7 17.Qxh5 h6 18.g5 f5...  
"...Now it is necessary to analyse several variations which are roughly equally good:"
19.gxf6 Rxf6 20.Bh3...
"All of this is extremely complicated and therefore I played after no more than five minutes' thought:"
15.Bxf6 Bxf6 16.Rxh5 Bg7 17.Nh1 f6 18.Qh2 h6 19.Ng3 +=

Strategic planning

Similarly, in the midst of complications, pick a move you want to make from a strategic point of view, and if you can't refute it, play it.

I seem to recall Nimzo (again) advising this pragmatic approach, and playing a centralising move like 19.Nd4 to improve his position in the event of any tactics, but I can't find it... anyone?

Complex analysis: growing a tree

Analysing a tree of candidate moves is best done by progressive deepening, rather than analysing them in turn, because you might find one that works, and you might learn things from one line that make another line work.

Victor Kortchnoi
Fridrik Olafsson


No. 5

Position for analysis from Simon

"IC[149]... seemed to have the best-organised thought processes (...) It is not clear, however, whether this logical approach is necessarily all that effective, for it could be argued that if IC had adopted the RW[208] approach of looking at moves twice he might have spotted 1. e4 Bg4 2. d5 Nd4! which seems good for Black"

Safety net perpetuals

A familiar short-cut: if you know you have a perpetual in hand, you can commit without fear, and analyse again when things may be a bit clearer.

Further reading:

KOTOV, Think Like A Grandmaster
NUNN, Secrets of Practical Chess
JACOBS, Analyse to Win

Chess Quotes

"Chess, like the tomb, levels all grades of conventional rank and distinction and reserves its high places for the best players."