Friday, April 20, 2007

Chess -- positional play, plans and such (part 2)

So I'm a fan of simple plans and goals. But actually, I'm not sure exactly what I mean by "simple", except in some vague way that it should be easy to understand. I did refer to short plans in that post (part 1), but some of the plans I have in mind aren't that short or simple. They're simple in the sense of being easy to understand and describe, but may take more than a few moves to implement. So what's going here, what is my actual view?

There is a certain conceptual confusion going on that needs to be clarified in order to think clearly about these things. Goals can be described on different levels of abstraction that all exist at the same time. I don't mean that different positions require different goals and that some are more abstract than others; I mean that most (perhaps every) positions have goals at different levels at the same time. A few examples:

In the opening, the general goal is to develop the pieces and take control over the center. But more specific goals also exist, it may be to take control over a certain square, a certain line or diagonal etc. The more abstract goal of developing the pieces is done by means of those less abstract goals.

In the endgame, the general goal is often to promote a pawn (or prevent the enemy from doing so). That struggle may go on for more than 20 moves. But the more specific goal may be things like "put the rook behind the pawn", "create a passed pawn", "exchange knights", etc. So which goal is the player trying to achieve, promote the pawn or putting the rook behind the passed pawn? Both. It would be absurd to try to have a discussion about which of these goals to choose since it isn't an either/or choice. As in the case above, the general goal is achieved by means of achieving the less general goals (so these less general goals can also be viewed as steps in the plan to achieve the general goal. So they're both goals and part of a plan, depending on the perspective).

Stay tuned for part 3.



Blue Devil Knight said...

I think this notion of a heirarchy of abstraction from big picture principles down to tactical and other considerations of the concrete position is very useful.

XY said...

What I wrote about does range from the abstract to the concrete, but only in terms of goals and plans. I wouldn't include tactics, since I believe there is a qualitative difference between goals/plans and tactics/calculation (to put in terms you use in your latest post).

OTOH plans(/goals) and tactics(/calculation) are strongly related, it just isn't a quantitative relationship. Or at least that's my view.

Anyway, stay tuned for more ramblings. :)

Blue Devil Knight said...

I'll be curious to see how you think there is a qualitative distinction between plans/goals and tactics (my hunch is that we use terms in different ways, which wouldn't be that interesting).

Here's a counterexample for you to address if you ever write about it, perhaps to help clarify where I'm coming from. I see his queen and king on the same rank four squares apart, a goal that springs to mind is to fork with a knight. There are multiple paths toward that goal, with both of my knights, some long-term some short-term, and these potential paths are plans.

The way I am using the term (which about 1/3 of authors use in this way) seems less forced than to say, well yes, colloquially you have a "goal" of forking with the knight, and the means of reaching that goal are "plans", but in the technical sense I am using the term you don't. People are free to define terms any way they want, but I prefer the way I use the terms a) because it is unforced, and b) it provides a unified language that ties together tactics and strategy into goal/plan based chess. Sometimes my goals and plans are tactical, sometimes they are strategic. No big deal.

Since I bet the tactics/plans distinctions will end up being semantic, I am much more interested in the distinction between planning and calculation, and how you think they are qualitatively different. Since you understand the term 'plan' as goal (and I do not) I guess it is obvious. And I commented as such extensively on a comment to Grandpatzer here.

So I think the definitions are the difference here as well, so I will be surprised if there is anything substantive to argue about. Bummer. :)

OK I'm really sick of definitions right now. I need to flippin' play.

XY said...

Okay, I'll keep your last post in mind when I'll write on this topic the next time. Won't be my next post though, as I've already written another post I intend to publish.

For the record, I don't equate 'plan' and 'goal'. Goal is what one is trying to achieve, and plan how to achieve it. Most use 'plan' to cover both, and for that reason I sometimes use 'plan' that way too (out of habit, and wanting to be understood without spending time on giving definitions), but I consider it wrong.

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