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Chess Thinking and Chess Problems

Copyright (c) 2000-2010 by D La Pierre Ballard
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which solves four move Chess problems using a method similar to the
one described in the chapter below. It is free and can be run on
the teapro interpreter OKLATEA.EXE. The interpreter OKLATEA.EXE and
the source code OKLATEA.CPP are in the public domain.
CHAPTER: 001: Introduction
Updated 2006/06/13
Robert S. Moore helped me to learn to play Chess well more than any
other single person. He introduced me to Chess problems composed by
Sam Loyd and to the great games played by Mikhail Chigorin and by
Emanuel Lasker. During the years 1962 to 1968 when he and I were
attending the University of Oklahoma at Norman, Oklahoma, Bob and I
often got together to look over Chess games played by the great
players who lived before 1900. Most important, though, Bob showed me
that Chess required hard thinking and reflection.
CHAPTER: 002: Chess Problems
Updated 2010/05/05, 2006/06/14, 2006/06/13
I owe a great deal of my success at Chess to the study of Chess
Problems. When I say Chess problems I mean two or three move Chess
problems which have been composed by problem composers and which have
usually been entered in Chess problem composition contests.

A two move Chess problem involves White playing a first move. Then
Black replies to that move. Then White plays a second move in reply
to Black's move that checkmates Black. Regardless of what move Black
makes there has to be a reply move by White that will checkmate
Black. There should only be one first move by White which will
always give a checkmate to Black for each possible move that Black
can make. What could be simpler to understand than this.

A two move Chess problem is called a two move Chess problem because
White checkmates Black with one move by White, one move by Black, and
then a second move by White. Three move Chess problems involve three
moves by White and two by Black, and are very much move complicated.

Surprisingly, during the years when I played Chess, I was never able
to get my fellow Chess players to understand the value of working out
Chess problems. Very often my experience with two move Chess problems
was what gave me a slight edge over my fellow Chess players.

Most other Chess players fell into one of two categories regarding
Chess problems. There were players who thought that Chess problems
were mere puzzles that one needed to find the solution to and that
then one was done. Then, there were players who thought Chess
problems were to be studied for their themes and beauty. The second
of these two categories has a lot of merit but not to the person
who actually plays Chess.

Most of the first group of Chess players did not like problems because
the positions in the problems would never occur in a real game. One
of the rules of composing Chess problems is that the position has to
be legal.

I always set up Chess problems on the board. I never tried to solve
them from the diagram. One does not play Chess using diagrams against
real opponents.

Curiously, neither of these ideas about Chess problems will bring out
the tremendous value of Chess problems to the actual Chess player.
Most Chess players dabble a bit with Chess problems and then go on to
other things because those players do not understand the enormous
significance of Chess problems.

Chess problems are the very simplest of really tough Chess positions
that can occur over the Chess board. For example, a two move Chess
problem is the very toughest position that can occur in which the game
is won with just a move by White, Black's reply move, and then another
move by White which actually checkmates Black.

The value of a two move Chess problem lies in the fact that hard
thinking is required to solve the problem completely. To solve a two
move Chess problem completely one must look at every possible move
of White to see what one move works and why each of the other moves of
White do not work. Perhaps, it is even more important to know why
non-solution moves do not work than it is to know why the solution
move does work. In other words, what is required is hard thinking for
only three ply of depth. In Chess a ply means one move by White or one
move by Black.

To solve a two move Chess problem completely one should have a set
pattern in which one takes the order of the moves. I used to start
with Queen moves and then go on to Rook, Bishop, Knight, Pawn and
King. For multiple pieces or multiple Pawns, I took the leftmost
first. I looked at moves nearest the moving piece first. I looked at
moves directed most away from me first and went in a clockwise
direction around the moving piece. I always used the exact same order
and never let the curiousities of the position distract me to some
other move order. Part of the value of this method is that it is hard
to do and requires the Chess player to really get into the intricacies
of the movement of all of the pieces on the Chess board.

This method of looking into the Chess problem position will return
the solution or solutions and will determine for certainty that no
solution exists in some cases while more than one exists in others. A
good Chess problem should have just one solution. This method can be
done extremely well. This method shows the great ingenuity and
quality of a Chess problems.

While any Chess position may be considered with this fashion, only
Chess problems are maximally interesting when worked on with this

This method of solving Chess problems is so tough that two move
Chess problems were about all that I could handle. Two move
Chess problems usually took me from fifteen to forty-five
minutes to work through in this way. Three move Chess problems
could easily take me three to four hours to work them out
completely using this method.

It took me some time to get this method to work. Once I did get
it right, however, it gave me something which other Chess
players did not have, and it helped my over the board Chess game
tremendously. From 16-OCT-1965 to 29-AUG-1971 I solved 554 two
move Chess problems using this method. On 23-JAN-1968 I solved
24 two move problems in this fashion. On 07-OCT-1969 I solved 30
two move problems this way. I give this sampling of the
statistics that I kept to show how seriously I took this method
of solving two move Chess problems.

In each of the three examples above, I solved every problem exactly
correctly. Over the greater time period of 1964 to 1970, there were
three instances in which I did not solve a two move Chess problem
exactly correctly the first time. I kept track of these, too.

The more I used this method to work out Chess problems the better I
got at it. Of course, when playing Chess, I generally did not use this
method unless an extremely difficult position arose in which this
method of thought seemed fruitful.

This way of working through two move Chess problems helped me a great
deal when playing Chess because I was much more in touch with where
the pieces could move than I would have been otherwise.

If you will play over the games that Emanuel Lasker played against
David Janowski during the period 1900 to 1910 you will see that Lasker
had a tremendous grasp of the play of the pieces. In very simple
positions, Lasker would often find the most amazing moves against
Janowski. This is exactly the type of play that the Chess player can
learn by solving two move Chess problems in the above discussed
CHAPTER: 003: Chess Style
Updated 2010/05/05, 2006/06/13
It is important for the Chess player to understand what his/her Chess
style is. Every player has positions in which that player plays very
well and also positions in which that player plays less well.

My style was that I played rather indirectly rather than straight
forwardly. This is in touch with my personality and can be seen in my
Chess games.

Some of the best materials that I read which helped me to play Chess
better were books on military strategy by the oriental authors Sun Tzu
and Mao Tse-Tung. Perhaps, a quick sample of the insight of each of
these strategists will show the value of each. The ancient author Sun
Tzu taught that the opponent must be brought to the point where he/she
evaluates the situation incorrectly. The modern author Mao Tse-Tung,
in his writings, taught that when at a disadvantage one must learn to
survive until that disadvantage can be remedied.

The teachings on strategy by each of these persons was well
suited to my personality and style. My generally conservative streak
made me tend to play soundly.

I played best in positions in which rather quiet moves were the moves
most required. I preferred to keep my pieces both protecting each
other and putting pressure on my opponent's pieces. Very often I
would protect against a future threat before it was made especially if
the protecting move also did other things. This style is the more
indirect style of Chess play.

Generally, when playing Black I preferred to try to control the dark
squares. Likewise, when playing White I preferred to control the light

By learning about one's own style the Chess player can avoid positions
where that style is not an asset and can seek out those positions
where that style is an asset.
CHAPTER: 004: Great Players of the Past
Updated 2006/06/13, 2005/10/27
From Mikhail Chigorin I learned to attack at Chess and from
Emanuel Lasker I learned to play all other positions.

Emanuel Lasker had the most amazingly subtle style. He could play
well in any position but could often find things in quiet positions
that were simply unbelievable.

My favorite player of the past was the great Polish Grandmaster Akiba
Rubinstein (1881-1961). He and I had many similarities of style. He
played best when he was able to keep control of the game so that it
was not too tactical. Rubinstein played very solidly and could defend
well. In many many of his games he obtained the very tiniest of
advantages which he then exploited in the endgame.
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