Thursday, 4 February 2010

Micro-level drills

I never read the Michael de la Maza book, but when starting with chess I read his articles "400 points in 400 days".

His concept of the 7 circles of tactics exercises are famous in the chess improvement blog sphere, and I have done my share of Chessimo exercises inspired by his article.

There is however another aspect of his training that has not received the same attention. The micro-level drills, where he trains his chess vision to instantly see things like knight moves, forks and skewers. This is the part of his method that resounded most strongly with me, and I believe his personal improvement would not have been as fast or as great without it. Whenever I find a part of my chess thinking that is a lot of effort, while it really should be automatic, I try to formulate a drill to fix it. In the past this has involved material counting. Arithmetic like "3 - 5 + 9 - 5" to assess how an involved exchange affects material balance should not require a immense conscious effort.

Lately I have done a lot of mate-in-one exercises. In a game yesterday I discovered that I am prone to overlook knight moves, and spend disproportionate amounts of time when calculating knight maneuvers. Quickly spotting weak squares is another upcoming subject.

The point is to quickly and automatically see what should be obvious, and to save the conscious effort for calculation and finding candidate moves.

Wednesday, 13 January 2010

François-André Danican Philidor (1726–1795) on the Power of the Pieces

Of the Powers of the Pieces, calculated on the probability being equal of their occupying any given square in the course of the game.

Pawn . . . . 2
Knight . . . . 9 1/4
Bishop . . . . 9 3/4
Rook . . . . 15
Queen . . . . 23 3/4

The nature of the game puts the king's value above comparision. The pawn's chance of promotion increases his value to about 3 3/4.

In making this estimate, the part of the board within the sphere of each respective piece is supposed to be unoccupied.


The values are dated, but I found the method of calculation interesting. Something to have in the back of the mind when estimating the relative value of the pieces during a game.

Comparing Philidor's estimates to the modern evaluations is another interesting exercise.

Pawn . . . . 3
Knight . . . . 9
Bishop . . . . 9
Rook . . . . 15
Queen . . . . 27