How did these System Principles Arise

I first met Weaver ('White to Play and Win') Adams back in 1946. His theories, though looked upon with scorn by most top chess players, made an immediate and lasting impression on me. Weaver W. Adams was the first person I met who actually had theories about how chess should be played.

To most top players, theory is a compendium of so-called best lines of play. Frequently, the reason for any of these lines being good is quite murky. Evaluations can be based upon something as ephemeral as that White ended up winning the game (possibly after many mistakes for both sides).

Weaver W. Adams was the first to enunciate the Options principle, which is a beautiful and simple elaboration of Lasker's rule of "knights before bishops". He showed me how the moves of the chess opening can hang together to make a plan for the smooth development of the pieces. However, he made the mistake of applying these ideas to 1 e4, which is not the correct first move. Therefore, as was somewhat apparent from the beginning, his method of development did not always conform to his principles, and he even changed what he thought was the best 2nd move, later in his career.

Adams thought that after 1 e4 e5 the correct move was 2 JLc4 (later he changed his preference to 2 £>c3). However, neither of these moves addresses the most important problem; namely, how to challenge the centre. The correct move, if there is one, must be one of d4, f4, £>f3, all of which attack the centre. Without this, the initiative will gradually fade, as Black is not forced to make any concessions. White must use his tempo advantage to attack, and beginning with the second move, the centre is the logical place to attack. One cannot expect to win a game of chess by just developing one's pieces. The advantage of half a tempo is not enough for that. One must use that tempo advantage to attack the centre and force further concessions. Adams's ideas were not up to that.

By 1950, study had convinced me that if there was to be a 'White to Play and Win' from the starting position, it had to start with 1 d4, not 1 e4. The reason has to do with positional principles.

The standard advantages are usually given as:

a) Material;

b) King Safety;

c) Pawn Structure;

d) Board Control;

e) Development;

f) Piece Placement;

g) Mobility.

Seldom do books do more than expound on what these advantages are. However, to play well, one must know much more than that these advantages exist. The questions that were now burning to be resolved were:

a) Which of these advantages was the most important and by how much over the next most important;

b) How did these advantages relate to each other.

Study had convinced me that Board Control is the most important thing to achieve right after maintaining material balance, and keeping the king safe. BoardControl is very important in that he who controls the board can prevent his opponent's pieces from occupying good squares. So Board Control is worth fighting for. Board Control alone was enough to determine the best first move: 1 d4 controls three centre squares, while no other move controls more than two. It was clear that Options also had an important place along with the standard chess advantages.

When I began to play correspondence chess in 1955, I also undertook the study of exactly how the white side should be played; i.e. what The System is all about. Every game in which I had White began with 1 d4. Further, the slow rate of play of correspondence chess allowed me to work out in detail (not always successfully) just how each opening line should be pursued.

I was able to learn a lot about the difficult subject of how the various advantages interface, and what their relative values are. Suffice it to say, that this can depend a lot upon the position at hand. We give several illustrations of this in the following sections and throughout the book. However, one thing one can be certain of: it is never correct to make a move that flagrantly violates one of the Principles given above. Selecting a move will be the process of finding the move that does the most to obey all principles, without violating any one in some important way. If play has been System correct to this point, the next move should also obey the principles. Sometimes it is possible to find the correct move simply by process of elimination: a certain move is the only one that is both materially sound, and obeys all the principles; so it must be the correct move.

In this connection I certainly learned that one should be very careful about 'winning' a pawn in the opening as it almost always involves making some serious concession. Even to exchange one's good bishop is almost always bad. This bishop, by virtue of being the good one, is the major guardian of one colour of squares. This is because one's own pawns are on the other colour and guarding the squares of that colour. To swap it off will almost always mean that control over these less guarded squares will be weakened, and this will enable Black to get serious counterplay.

Over the years, The System has been instrumental in revealing lines of play that lead to permanent advantages for White against very reputable black defences. Although not all openings have yet yielded their secrets, there are enough reputable openings that have been overwhelmed by System moves to make one believe that the others will fall eventually. Thus, it is not unreasonable to claim that White with best play can maintain a permanent advantage, no matter what line of play Black chooses. This is no automatic win. The principles only take White through the opening; then he must play the middlegame and ending. However, the information in Chapter 1 should help greatly with that.

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