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Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Where Do The Pieces Go?

     Edward Lasker used to visit Emanuel Lasker at the latter's home for their weekly Go meetings and on occasion would show him chess a game for his criticism. According to Edward, Emanuel brought a mathematical viewpoint to chess also, once telling him: Never forget that the chess board has sixty-four squares and that, therefore, you will probably have to gain control of more than thirty-two squares in order to get the better game. 
     Emanuel added that the principle of controlling as many squares as possible was his guide at every stage of the game. He gave a practical example of the placement of N and B in middle and end-game positions: In the majority of cases it is probably best to have the N and B on squares of the same color, because then they control squares of opposite colors. 
     Speaking of space, Eugene Znosko-Borovsky wrote The Middlegame in Chess in which he emphasized the importance of space, time and force and Larry Evans wrote a book titled New Ideas in Chess. Evans “ideas” weren't new at all; they were the same things that Znosko-Borovsky wrote about. 
Edward Lasker
     Edward went on to say that Emanuel had many other statements that were very general in character and therefore subject to frequent exceptions to conform to the exigencies of particular positions, but Edward added that he profited greatly from the conscious attempt to apply Emanuel's advice in every game. 
     Who could argue against any advice coming from Emanuel Lasker? Renown teacher C.J.S. Purdy did. Purdy criticized Lasker's “Law” which was based on Steinitz' tenets that “No combinations are possible without a considerable advantage.” In The Search For Chess Perfection, Purdy gave several examples of situations where winning tactical opportunities presented themselves outside of any positional advantages of space, time and force. Purdy emphasized that positional considerations are only valid if there is no sound tactical sequence available and you should always look for tactics first with special attention given to King safety. But I have digressed. 
     Early in his career Edward had the problem in the opening of making the proper evaluation of one developing move against another and in the selection of proper squares for his pieces based on the Pawn formation. Sounds like a problem we all have.
     In the following game against Horatio Caro he learned a lesson that was quite valuable. He lost because of his incorrect handling of the opening. He also was quick to add that book knowledge wouldn't have been much help; somehow his opponents always emerged from the opening with the better development (i.e. with more mobility for their pieces) even though he was well aware of the fact that in any opening it's important to get your pieces out as quickly as possible. Sounds like a problem we all have. 

     Somehow proper development and piece relationship to the P-formation always reminds me of the song Dry Bones. 


     It took him many years, but eventually he learned how to choose correctly between two or more available developing moves so as to coordinate the position of his pieces with that of the Pawns. 
     The subject more complex than the simple principle of rapid development just for the sake of “developing” a piece. Lasker gave his game against Caro as a prime example of the type of mistakes he was making. 
     Horatio Caro (July 5,1862 – December 15, 1920) was an English master being born in Newcastle upon Tyne, England, but spent most of his chess career in Berlin. In match play he had two drawn matches with von Bardeleben, losses to Winawer and Mieses and eked out a win against somebody named Moritz Lewitt. 
Horatio Caro

     In tournament play he was more successful; in those held in Berlin in the late 1800s he often finished quite high. In international tournaments he was usually lurking in the middle of the pack. 
     Even if Chessmetrics' assigned rating are not truly accurate, they are a good estimate of the relative strengths of players of different eras and Caro was ranked number 7 in the world 6 different months in 1893 with a high rating of 2676. His claim to fame is the opening Caro-Kann Defense, which he analyzed along with Marcus Kann and they jointly published their analysis in the German journal Bruederschaft in 1886. Caro died in London at age 58. 
     I have to admit that I enjoyed reading Edward Lasker's Chess Secrets I Learned From the Masters, but in many cases I found his analysis leaves a lot to be desired. It was also amusing to read about his experiences in the great double round New York, 1924. In that tournament he scored +2 -9 =9 to finish tenth out of eleven. 
     According to him, he blew games against Lasker, Alekhine, Bogolyubov and Tartakower, Janowsky and Yates. Had he won those games he would have probably finished third behind Emanuel Lasker and Capablanca and ahead of Alekhine. 
     In predicting the final scores of the players at the halfway point, Alekhine said Edward would would make similar mistakes in the second half because masters who frequently blundered in winning positions very likely did not have the physical constitution needed to make a successful tournament player. Edward didn't believe it, but in the end had to admit that Alekhine was right. Lasker's admission says something about his character. 

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