The Interaction of Chunks

Now, we come to the difficult part: why do chess-players recognize chunks; what good are they? It is nice to be able to tell a good king-safety from a poor one, but isn't there much more to this? Yes, there is and with the exception of calculating correctly in tactics, this is the most important part of playing good chess. The correct understanding of chunk interaction leads directly to strategies.

In science and mathematics there is something called an abstraction space. An abstraction space deals with future possibilities. In chess, this is not the space of moves that are possible now which would form the basis for tactical calculation. Rather it is the space of locations that any and all the pieces and pawns could occupy in the future. This is the space of strategic planning. If you can visualize such realistic future possibilities, you will be able to reason about future positions that can be encountered. So we conclude that:

1) Chunks are entities that point the way for proceeding strategically.

2) Chunks can interact with other chunks to change the evaluation that would apply if only one of them were present.

2a) If one side has poor king safety it is usually a good idea to swap pieces in order to lessen the likelihood of a successful attack. However, if that side also has serious pawn-structure weaknesses, then swapping pieces could lead to a clearly losing ending. So, both chunks influence the decision.

2b) If one has fair king safety, one can undertake action on the other side of the board only with great caution. However, if the centre is blocked, then one can do so with a feeling of relative security. This is because any attack must come from the front or the side (rather unlikely), as the opponent's forces will not be able to come diagonally through the centre.

3) There are many strategies governing attack:

3a) When the opponent's king safety is poor;

3b) When ahead in development;

3c) When having a weak pawn structure.

4) If you have many important pawns on the same colour as one of your bishops, that bishop will be less useful. A less useful bishop is frequently worth less than the average knight. This is one of the things that makes having the two bishops so useful; one can usually exchange the worse of the pair for a knight.

5) If you have a remote (from the king) pawn majority, it is advantageous to swap pieces, as this will make it easier to advance the majority.

The possibilities are nearly endless. Such high-level judgements can be made about any pair of chunks. As previously mentioned, there are 2 to 7 chunks in a position. Each chunk could affect the appraisal of another chunk, so there may be as many as 21 (7x6/2) simple chunk interactions. It is also possible for a chunk's value to be influenced by two or more other chunks. These chunk interactions define what the position is about and the nature of the correct strategy for each side. This is a very difficult subject, and one can find examples daily in grandmaster practice where wrong decisions are made because of a lack of understanding of the dictates of the correct strategy. One such example is given in the following diagram.

Korchnoi - Hort

Palma de Mallorca 1969

Black to play What is the correct 'view'?

This position can be seen as a middlegame in which White is attacking the black king behind the advanced f5-pawn. This will almost certainly succeed in time, as White's pieces are all poised for this attack, and Black's king safety has already been weakened by the advance of all his pawns in front of the king.

However, if a wholesale exchange took place on f5, in which Black gave up queen and two pieces for queen, rook and pawn, we would have an ending. With the correct chunk-interaction view of this ending, one could see that White's pieces are massed on the kingside, now without any clear duty to perform, while White has two weak pawns on the queenside, one of which must certainly fall to the invasion of the black rook. After that, the material balance would be 2 + A vs $L + which is nearly equal. Further, the black rook and bishop and newly passed pawn would be a formidable force on the queenside, and would cause White many problems. The two white knights are too far away to stop the advance of the pawn in an effective way.

Seen in this way, it is clear that such endings are very much in Black's favour, so he should recover his pawn by l..AxS5\ 2 2xf5 Wxf5 3 Wxf5 4 &xf5 2b4! 5 &c8! Hxc4 6 JLxa6 2a4 and Black has a clear advantage.

Instead Black played l...Sf8? 2 g4 hxg3 3 £ixg3 Wd4 4 &le2 and eventually lost. He had made the mistake of analysing variations instead of chunks. The chunk analysis would have clearly revealed that White is in a great deal of trouble on the queenside after the exchanges on f5.

There are also strategies that are intended solely to increase or decrease the advantage within a chunk. One such example is luring pawns of your opponent onto the colour of his bishop that is already partially bad. In the next section, we present an example that shows how on an open board, a bishop still can be really bad.

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