From: (Bill Taylor)
Subject: PROGRESSIVE CHESS: some strategy comments.
Date: 19 Feb 1996 08:21:26 GMT
Organization: Department of Mathematics and Statistics, University of Canterbury, Christchurch, NZ.
X-newsreader: xrn 7.03

Here are some general comments on progressive chess, updated since the
earlier (and somewhat naive) advice sheets we gave out to WIPCC contestants.
The influence of the first round games on my thinking has been considerable.

Note: all these comments are my personal opinion only, and quite likely to
be still quite wrong - after all, I *did* lose two games!  So if anyone
else has opinions or comments to air, please do so!

(Comments here are made from white's side - usually ditto applies to black.)


1. Contestants have doubtless noticed it's not much like chess!  Most of
one's chess ideas such as centralization, king safety etc, are useless.

2. Timing is vital, even more so than normal chess.  So many games have had
players wasting moves on long range captures - 1 capture for several moves;
and even moves devoted to nothing at all!  This is criminal.  It is still
good to end your series with a check; but even better is what I called
"time-killer" moves - where you check close-up with a *protected* piece,
so the king must first move away, then waste further time removing the
attacker.  These are great when they can be managed. It is usually *bad*
to leave an opponent piece lurking near you own king.

3. Perhaps the *most* key feature, only hinted at in the earlier sheets,
is king safety, which in PC means KING EXPOSURE !!!  It is vital to
get your king off the back rank and into as big a clearing as possible.
Usually one king move is enough, with the other pieces being moved away as
an efficient part of developement anyway.   Far too often in the games
did one player have a nice material lead and neat development, only to
be squashed prematurely by a 2-piece mate on the back rank.  There were
even some games where subtleties came about with people drawing the
opposition king *back* to the back rank with judicious checks.

Mind you, there were a few games where a player got his king out in the
open, and was mated anyway. In one case the king was surrounded by eight
liberties!   (There is no justice in PC!)

4. Developement.  This is important, but what does it mean?
PAWNS:  They should almost always open to the 4th rank, not the 3rd!
They are one step closer to promotion, and timing for that is as
important as anything else. Especially for central pawns, where they block
your own bishops on the 3rd rank also.  IMHO e3 & d3 should *never*
be played!  Perhaps the only exception may be 1.e3 which has the advantage
of an early protection against the weak f2-mate; leaving white free to
play his 3rd move as he pleases, while still threatening scholar's mate
from move 1.  Any other e3 or d3 is a move-waster though. For black, 2.d4
is just as defensive as e3, and a damn sight more development-oriented.

Fianchettos may as well go to 4th rank as well; though the g-fianchetto
does hinder the Q slightly.  c,f pawn moves might go to 3rd rank, to leave
the opposite bishop free; but these pawn moves are fairly useless anyway.

KNIGHTS: It's generally uselful to bring these out to the 3rd rank; but
there is NO general advantage to c3 & f3 over a3 & h3 !  Indeed, Nh3 is
probably much superior, protecting the weak f2, and even Na3 may protect
against the nasty Q-side knight-lever mate.  As opening move 1.Nh3 is an
interesting idea. It looks good for f2 defense, but is vulnerable to the
efficient-looking counter 2. d4 Bxh3.  But this is still a 2-edged sword!

Do NOT play knights to e2 or f3!  They just smother the king.

BISHOPS:  It is vital to open lines for these very early; but not such
a great idea to actually *move* them out, at least not too far - to where
they can be efficiently captured.

QUEENS:  As for bishops.  If the opponent is going to take it, (and he
must do *reasonably* soon), make him waste moves coming after you.

ROOKS:  Probably the least important. They are hard to bring into play,
though some folk like to play a4 or h4 to this end.  But again, leave the
rook at home until it can make a whole chain of moves, as with B & Q.

One exception is moderately common though:- if the opponent obligingly
leaves a piece on b5, b4, g5, g4, or especially b3 or g3, it is a good
plan to take it with the rook pawn and use the open file to blast off
some opposition pieces quickly!  For this reason, it may be dangerous to
leave pieces on those squares.

5. Attack or defense?  The key to defense is freeing the king.

Regarding attack, it is perhaps a good plan *not* to go after his queen,
(provided you can stand the tension of the thought of overlooking an easy
mate by him!)  Whoever can leave his Q at home as a latent threat the
longest, and make the other queen come out and get her, will probably
gain a valuable move or two.

In general, is it valuable to grub after material gain?  Yes; provided...

(a) king safety is not compromised by delaying its exposure;

(b) a lot of moves are not wasted *getting* to the capture place; this
is especially true of captures by knights.  The ideal of course is one
capture per move!  As a useful rule of thumb, it looks like one should
hope to end a series ahead in material, and the amount ahead should be:-

number of pieces ahead = 1/3 of length of the series you made.

This seems a useful benchmark as far as a capturing race goes.

Mate-threat attacks: these tend to appear automatically with development;
there's probably not a lot one can systematicly say. It's notable that
a few experts have sometimes "accidentally" left a big piece or 2 en prise
when they had a mating sequence worked out elsewhere!  A familiarity
with the basic mate motifs is probably very useful.  See the "results"
posts for details.

6. Later developments.

Pawn promotion is still the key here. Pawns often promote as early as
move 5, so it is vital to start them at the 4th rank! Very early promotions
usually don't do *too* much damage, but later ones can be deadly; either
producing mate (maybe with just one other piece); or knocking over many
opposition pieces.  Promotion after moves 5 and 6 needs careful defense.
Central and kingside promotions seem most dangerous, so should probably be
blocked first - remember the king can usually block off 3 files. It is
hard to stop a promotion merely by leaving the king near the promotion
square or on the back-rank:- this may prevent a queen promotion, but
underpromotion is a vital weapon here, and is usually effective.

As the "endgame" approaches, *all* the pawns better be blocked, if you
know what's good for you!  Other points to note are - bishops in the
endgame can become vitually worthless, as the oppo will just counter-color
all his pieces.  Rooks, of course, are devasating, and should usually be
removed before move 9.  Knights are not quite so bad, as they take a while
to make many captures.

Remember a rook cannot force mate alone, but can with any other piece.
BN and BB can win, and sometimes NN depending on the exact rules; but
those cases are unlikely ever to occur in practise.  A pawn can always be
promoted with the help of a R or N, and any 2 pawns can win.


Please feel free to followup with your own comments! The more the merrier!

              Bill Taylor    
                      ABBA spelt backwards is AceOfBase.

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