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Tuesday, September 20, 2011

The Synthetic Method of Playing Chess

       From 1894 to 1923 there appeared on the US chess scene a series of seven books written by US Master Franklin K. Young of the Boston Chess Club in which he expounded a method of scientific play.  Young claimed chess was but one manifestation, along with mathematics and warfare, of the science of Applied Force.  During his career it has been said Young defeated players like Steinitz, Zukertort and Pillsbury by, as he claimed, the application of his methods.  However historian Edward Winter was able to unearth one game played in 1893 in which Young defeated Pillsbury in 16 moves, but the occasion on which it was played could not be found.  In an off-hand queen’s knight odds game in Boston in April 1885 Young was defeated by Steinitz who described Young as one of the strongest local players and believed that he would be too strong for such odds in a serious contest.
       He found a similarity between chess and warfare and wrote, “the fact remains that scientific chess play is the replica of warfare, and the process of Grand Strategy, High Tactics and Greater Logistics, as established by the Great Captains, by the movements of their armies on the surface of the Earth, are identical with the processes established by the Great Chess Masters, by the movements of their Pieces on the surface of the Chessboard.”  I’m not kidding! He said that.
       The seven volumes were 1) The Minor Tactics of Chess, 2)The Major Tactics of Chess, 3)The Grand Tactics of Chess, 4)Chess Strategies Illustrated, 5)Chess Generalship-Grand Reconnaissance,6) Chess Generalship-Grand Manoeuvers, and, finally, 7) Field Book of Chess Generalship-Grand Operations. Volumes 5 and 6 contain stories about many famous battles and military campaigns and very little chess.  All the volumes contain elaborate terminology that made Hans Kmoch’s terms in Pawn Power in Chess pale in comparison.  Young’s contention was that by using his synthetic system an amateur player of mediocre talent could win games now and then from those with much greater talent.  Young wrote many things like: "Whenever a point of junction is the vertex of a mathematical figure formed by the union of the logistic symbol of a pawn with an oblique, diagonal, horizontal, or vertical from the logistic symbol of any kindred piece; then the given combination of two kindred pieces wins any given adverse piece"  Just as a curiosity, you can download Young's books from Google books.

In the following game, which was played in the semifinal round of the old Chess Review’s Golden Knights tournament, the player of the white pieces, and army officer, annotated the game in Young’s style.  The winner stated the game was an example of Grand Operation I (one of four basic operations of chess play) and more particularly of a Strategic Grand Battle (of which there were 8 types).  Just to clear matters up a bit, it’s also an example of one of the Great Captain’s of chess, Steinitz, and his theory of a flanking attack around a fixed center.  I make no attempt to translate Youngese into English.

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