Schematic thinking


Recently, I was analysing an endgame with Steve Webb and at one point just pushed a bishop from b4 to d4, obliterating the chances of the Knight at a4 which can now only move to leave a lost K+P ending. Steve was briefly outraged, as I recall, so what made me do that? Well, you have to have seen the pattern before, but obviously ...Bb4-d4 is not a legal move. The point is that thinking in this way stops you getting bogged down in move orders, and focuses your attention on what must be done soon.

Schematic thinking 1: Bott and Morrison, The Chess Apprentice

Thomas,G-Monticelli 1933: 1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5 a6 4. Ba4 d6 5. Bxc6+ bxc6 6. d4 f6 7. Be3 Ne7 8. Qd2 Ng6 9. Nc3 Be7 10. h4

  Thomas-Monticelli, 1933

[strong centre/king's-side attack]



There some lovely sections in The Chess Apprentice called 'Winning Advantages' and 'The forces move into position'', which have lots of these schematic diagrams in. They genuinely changed the way I looked at a chessboard.

10...O-O 11. h5 Nh8 12. O-O-O Nf7 13. Rdg1 Bd7 14. g4 exd4 15. Nxd4 Ne5 16. Qe2 Qc8 17. Nf5 Re8 18. f4 Nf7 19. h6 Nxh6 20. Nxg7 Kxg7 21. Qh2 Nf7 22. Qxh7+ Kf8 23. f5 Bd8 24. Qg6 Ke7 25. Rh7 Rf8 26. Bh6 Be8 27. Qg7 1-0

Schematic Thinking 2: Capablanca

"Once in a lobby of the Hall of Columns of the Trade Union Centre in Moscow a group of masters were analysing an ending. They could not find the right way to go about things and there was a lot of arguing about it. Suddenly Capablanca came into the room. He was always find of walking about when it was his opponent's turn to move. Learning the reason for the dispute the Cuban bent down to the position, said 'Si, si,' and suddenly redistributed the pieces all over the board to show what the correct formation was for the side trying to win. I haven't exaggerated. Don Jose literally pushed the pieces around the board without making moves. He just put them in fresh positions where he thought they were needed."

"Suddenly everything became clear. The correct scheme of things had been set up and now the win was easy. We were delighted by Capablanca's mastery..."

  KOTOV, Think like a Grandmaster, tr. Cafferty, pub. 1971 Batsford.

Capablanca - Ragozin (Moscow) [E22], 1936
1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. Nc3 Bb4 4. Qb3 Nc6 5. e3 d5 6. Nf3 O-O 7. a3 dxc4 8. Bxc4 Bd6 9. Bb5 e5 10. Bxc6 exd4 11. Nxd4 bxc6 12. Nxc6

  This gain of a pawn ultimately decides the game.

12... Qd7 13. Nd4 Qg4 14. O-O Ba6 15. h3 Qh4 16. Nf3 Qh5 17. Re1 Rab8 18. Qa4 Bb7 19. e4 h6 20. Be3

  Black is struggling to hold the Queen's-side.

20... Rfe8 21. Bd4 Nh7 22. Bxa7 Ra8 23. Qb5 Qxb5 24. Nxb5 Rxe4 25. Rxe4 Bxe4 26. Nd2 Bd3 27. Nxd6 Rxa7 28. N6e4 Nf8 29. Nc5 Bf5 30. Nf3 Ne6 31. Rc1 Kf8 32. Nxe6+ Bxe6



"White's plan is to prevent the advance of the enemy c-pawn which might make his own pawn at b2 weak, and to control the whole board as far as the fifth rank. This is achieved by playing the King to e3, the Rook to c3, the Knight to d4 and the pawns to b4 and f4. When this has been achieved White will advance his Q-side pawns"

CAPABLANCA, Moscow 1936 Tournament Bulletin, quoted by KOTOV in Play like a Grandmaster, tr. Cafferty, pub. 1978 Batsford.

("Note - no variations!" KOTOV)

33. Nd4 Rb7 34. b4 Bd7 35. f4 Ke7 36. Kf2 Ra7 37. Rc3 Kd6 38. Rd3 Ke7 39. Ke3 Ra4 40. Rc3



mission accomplished

40... Kd6 41. Rd3 Ke7 42. Rb3 Kd6



the Knight is needed on c3 now to support the advance of the Q-side pawns, so we have a little shuffle

43. Ne2 g6 44. Rd3+ Ke6 45. Kd4 Ra6 46. Re3+ Kd6 47. Nc3 f5 48. b5 Ra8 49. Kc4 Be6+ 50. Kb4 c5+ 51. bxc6 Bg8 52. Nb5+ Kxc6 53. Rd3 g5



A slightly desparate-looking move. The Black pawns fall now and the win becomes straightforward.

54. Rd6+ Kb7 55. fxg5 hxg5 56. Rg6 Rf8 57. Rxg5 f4 58. Nd4 Rc8 59. Rg7+ Kb6 60. Rg6+ Kb7 61. Nb5 Rf8 62. Nd6+ Kb8 63. h4 1-0



P.S. "Silman Thinking Technique", my foot.

Chess Quotes

" It is often supposed that, apart from their 'extraordinary powers of memory', expert players have phenomenal powers of calculation. The beginner believes that experts can calculate dozens of moves ahead and he will lose to them only because he cannot calculate ahead so far. Yet this is utter nonsense. From my own experience I can say that grandmasters do not do an inordinate amount of calculating. Tests (notably de Groot's experiments) supports me in this claim.
— David NORWOOD, Chess and Education