The Chess Scene

Chess Scene - The Chess E-Zine for the Amateur Player [painstakingly recreated by Dave Regis]

News, Views and Gossip

This section of Chess Scene is intended to provide a forum for news about Chess Clubs around the world, amateur events and the progress of us merely mortal chess players towards immortal heights!


Gene Thompson's Search For Great Chess, Part V

"In Part V of his series Gene Thompson explores an interesting hypothesis on why amateurs 'Force The Issue'. It's one of his best articles which certainly rings true with me. Is there a moral? Well, perhaps it is: play for a positional advantage and the tactics will look after themselves. "
Alex Bellinger.

 Hello from sunny Seattle!

 Things are going well here; the Sonics are cleaning up in the NBA playoffs, the Mariners have slipped a little, but are still doing great, and my chess is coming along slowly but surely! Yeah, it's a little cocky placing my talent along side their's, but what the heck, it's my article! :-)

 Today's topic is ... "Forcing The Issue."

 I am involved with an e-mail chess match with a gentleman who wrote me in response to these articles. Among the many things we have discussed (long chained monomers, Polymer chemistry, and chess sets), the most disheartening issue was our failure to play as well as we feel we should.

 In his case, one of his regular opponents can beat him despite having not studied chess at all. This opponent is an intelligent individual, but so is my friend (he's the Polymer Chemist, not me!). My friend is studying the correct chess literature: Nimzovitch, Evan's and the like. But, he still finds it difficult to hold his own! What could be his problem?!?

 My case is similar. I've been studying good(?) books: Yasser Seirawan's series, and Mike Basman's openings book. But, I find it difficult, actually impossible, to beat programs I once did. What is going on here?

 Well, a couple of nights ago, it came to me. I had just been beaten by CM3000 again, and was I in a nasty mood. My wife asked if it was doing any good whining about the loss. No, but I wanted to anyway. When I calmed down, I thought about how I played the game. I didn't. Once I got past the opening, I just started moving pieces more or less randomly! I was looking for a position that contained a tactical solution, but not really doing anything to create one. The computer wasn't forcing the issue, just beating me with my own moves. Hmmm.

 Here is my hypothesis: My friend and I are both afflicted with the same problem, FTI - Forcing The Issue. We have spent so much effort learning tactics from setup positions, that once we are in a real game, we try to apply our lessons to positions that don't warrant it. Subconsciously, we believe that every position has some stunning combination in it that will allow us to win. When we look for it, if it's not there (most often the case), we try to force one, causing a lost game.

 When I was in college, I loved to rockclimb. The school was perfect for it. All the buildings were of rough-cut stone, so I could practice anytime I wanted (well, almost). I got so used to blowing through a few technical moves and finishing a "route," that when I got on real rock I was totally lost. The basics just weren't a part of my climbing. I could always (according to MY memory) cruise through the crux (the hardest, most technical part of the climb) but would usually blow it navigating the main route. I think I'm seeing a connection here.

  Studying tactics in setup positions is a VERY necessary part of learning chess, but, knowing when to apply tactical knowledge is, at this point in my education, to me even more important. My friend's opponent instinctively makes "better" moves because my friend is making weaker moves, and so am I. Given a setup position, he would most likely find the solution much faster than his opponent. In a general position, we would both likely find a combination that wasn't there.

 So, after all of this babble, what is the solution? Play more chess, learn to read a position for tactical possibilities, and let them happen (hopefully to your opponent). Easier said than done, n'est-ce pas?

 Have a good one & GO SONICS!!!!