Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Preview of Forcing Chess Moves

{edit: fixed the first diagram}
{second edit: fixed the third. Good grief!}

I've been slowly working my way through Forcing Chess Moves by Charles Hertan. I see that it was reviewed at the Chess Cafe here, so I'll just add a few impressions so far.

First, be forewarned: the author uses ALL CAP EMPHASIS for certain KEY SAYINGS that are repeated throughout the book. I understand the pedagogical intent, but it's distracting. I still haven't decided yet if it's a net plus...if at some point I play a game and suddenly my COMPUTER EYES kick in to realize it's time for BRUTE-FORCE CALCULATION to find the winning move, then I suppose it will be proven effective.

The theme of the book is to train you to analyze the most forcing candidate moves first. What makes this book unique is that it's overall goal appears to be to expand your perception of what a forcing move is. The premise is that a computer will find winning moves that often are omitted as candidate moves by humans, because at first glance they look bad. The author hopes to train the reader's COMPUTER EYES so that they will consider these odd, but forcing moves, as candidates in their own games.

I'm still in the earlier part of the book, which more closely resembles a standard collection of advanced tactical problems in that the forcing moves tend to be checks and direct sacrifices. An example:

simul 1995

1... Qh2+!!

"...it is the most FORCING MOVE on the board. Perhaps your COMPUTER EYES are even able to follow the chain of forcing moves and find the tricky but logical 'quiet forcing move' on move 4?"--Hertan.

2. Kxh2 Rxf2+ 3. Kh1 Ng3+ 4. Kg1 Ree2 0-1

A standard tactical problem, although the not-most-forcing (i.e. non-check) 4...Ree2 could be considered foreshadowing of what's to come.

Here is an example featuring a much less obvious forcing move:

Kavala 2004

1. Qb6! a6 (1... axb6?? 2. Nxb6#; 1... Nd7 2. Qxa7) 2. Nc5 Ne8 (2... Nb5 3. Bxb5
axb5 4. Nxb5 cxb5 5. Nxb7+) 3. N3a4 Nd6 (3... Qc7 4. Qa7! Rd7 5. Nb6+) 4. Qa5 1-0.

I found that the author's comments can be misleading, and that it's better to try and solve the problems yourself with an open mind, and then consult the book text. For example, for the following problem the author says: "Here a beautiful stock mate on h7 relies on a SELF-BLOCKING ENEMY PAWN on g5 containing the black king. Excellent COMPUTER EYES are in play, as all five white moves are the MOST FORCING:"

Bad Pyrmont 1933

1. Qd8+ Kg7 2. Rxg5+! hxg5 3. h6+!

I missed this move. I saw that 3. Qxg5 was with check, and assumed this must be the most forcing move...what's stronger than a queen check?... but saw that 3... Kf8 4. Qd8+ Kg7 5. Qg5+ draws. Further, Fritz found that Black could win with 3...Kh8.

3... Kxh6 4. Qh8+ Rh7 5. Qxh7#.

One thing I've found in analyzing my own games is that Fritz will find moves that are clearly strong, but I would never have considered the first move of the sequence. Sometimes, the tactic will defy categorization as a fork, pin, skewer, deflection, removal of the guard, etc, but simply be a move that works. My impression is that Hertan's book may help open the reader's eyes to these opportunities. I also think that endgame training can also help, because sometimes the winning move can only be found by BRUTE-FORCE calculation. More on that in a future post.

I feel that the standard practice of studying tactical motifs can blind us to other possibilities if we can't classify them as one of these motifs. This is not to say that studying basic tactics is detrimental. My point is that if humans can't name or categorize something, they have a hard time recognizing it. For example, some languages have words that cannot be adequately translated into others, and describe concepts or feelings particular to that culture. I wish I could come up with a good example of that on short notice, but "schadenfreude" comes close...in recent years it's crept into common English because it fills a gap in our language. Similarly, let's say a certain winning move puts the opponent into zugzwang, forcing a self-blocking move that allows a successful king-hunt and mate. For us, that may be an example of BRUTE-FORCE CALCULATION of QUIET FORCING MOVES. For some alien chess culture, that may be a classic example of a "glibberfunken" motif that every alien schoolboy knows.


Wahrheit said...

I blogged briefly about the book, saying the idea was "interesting" (just based on the description) and Mr. Hertan commented in a way that showed he thought it was a negative comment, but it seems like good way to expand one's chess horizons.

I think there is a problem with the first diagram; Qh2 doesn't seem to be check, in fact I can't relate the position to the moves given...

Anyway, it is great to see you're latest post, you're one of the thoughtful chess bloggers. Thanks!

Grandpatzer said...

wahr: whoops, I'll correct that diagram now. Thanks!

transformation said...

good to see you back!

Tommyg said...

Hey Grandpatzer,

I was perusing earlier posts on your site and stumbled upon your post from a year ago dealing with the list of game collections you are going to read. Even though some of them are over my newbie head I have gone through a few of them already. (Some people may disagree with me but I think it is okay to play over games a little over one's level...even if everything isn't completely assimilated by the reader it can and often does prove as inspiration..kind of like listening to records above one's musical ability..)

Anyway, I am currently going through the Capablanca Endings book by Chernev. It is really good. I am learning a lot through Capablanca's play. I will say that sometimes Chernev's love of Capablanca is a little over the top, but it is a great book nonetheless.

Have you delved into that book yet? Any thoughts on it?

Have a great weekend!


katar said...

newinchess.com cites your review. congrats on your new fame.

Grandpatzer said...


I read Capablanca's Chess Endings years ago and loved it. I felt that style of play of accruing a series of small advantages and winning the endgame was closest to my temperament. If I could wave a magic wand, I'd like to be a crazy attacking player like Tal, but of all the masters I've studied so far Capablanca's style is the one that "feels right".

I also remember that book well, because I remember going over Chernev's notes and finding he at one point missed a mate in one (although he provided a mate in two).

Grandpatzer said...

katar: I checked their site and didn't find the citation, but that would be pretty nifty if they did. Do you have a link?

That gives me some motivation to finish up another book review that's been half-finished for some time now.

Tommyg said...

Hey Grandpatzer,

I just won my first game ever against my Shredder program, and it was all because of the Capablanca Endings book. I played pretty badly in the opening and the computer was putting a lot of pressure on me but I somehow hung on and was even down 3 pawns. I just kept asking what would Capablanca do?!?! And somehow promoted my c pawn to Queen and won. Thanks Capablanca. (granted I have the computer set to play at elo 1200 but still..it was my first win against it) Have a great night!

Any other good endgame collections suggestions? (I am loving the endgame right now)



Grandpatzer said...

tommyg: I don't think I have any other endgame books that are game collections, but if you like CBE then I strongly recommend Grandmaster Secrets: Endings by Soltis. While the occasional basic endgame is covered, such as the Lucena and Philidor positions, the focus of the book are tips and rules of thumb on how to play the endgame in general. The first several chapters are general endgame techniques, and then the remaining material is divided by specific endgame types (RvR, QvQ, etc).

It is an odd-shaped book, illustrated with cariactures, and delivered as a Socratic dialogue between a fictitious amateur and a fictitious grandmaster. Don't let that put you off. It's my favorite endgame book.

Juan Yfore said...

What's weird is, in the first example, I immediately looked at Qxh2. Probably wouldn't have in a real game, but for a problem, a Q-sac is always a good bet. Ree2 would be, IMO, the most challenging move precisely because it *isn't* forcing.

Tommyg said...

Hey Grandpatzer,

Thanks for the book recommendation! I am going to check that out.

Have a great 4th!


katar said...

I checked again and NIC apparently removed your comment. It had appeared on the product page where they cite various book reviews. I know i was not hallucinating b/c NIC's reference was the reason i went to your blog looking for the FCM review on the day that i commented. Too bad the reference is not there anymore. (?)

Grandpatzer said...

Katar: fame is fleeting :D

I've almost finished my next review, and it should be up in the next few days.