GW-KW, Point Count Chess,
Raw Discussion, June 2nd-3rd 2011,
GW-KW, Game 1 with KW's Notes added to GW's Opening 6 Moves, Attempting to Understand
Control of the Center

[June 3rd 2011]

Up until reading Point Count Chess, I wasn't aware of the term "Control of the Center". Instead, I'd only just become aware of the term "Center Domination", through reading Yasser Seirawan's Winning Chess series of books, hence the sole focus of the following game was about Center Domination, with no mention of Control of the Center.

(GW, June 2nd) Ken, I think Center Domination will be better discussed while working through an, or a series of, openings. At the moment, I feel I'm just going round and round in circles with the book-info; I "kind of get" some of the issues covered by H&M-S and Dan Heisman. Then, when I attempt to turn what I've read into practice - by playing openings against Fritz - ideas clash and progress grinds to a halt.

Ken's Comments ...

(KW, June 3rd) As I write this, I have completed commenting below. I think overall, we need to distinguish between Center Domination (as COA defines it) and Control of the Center (which involves Mobility and Vulnerability, 4 v. 3, 2 v. 1, etc.). The second can have just one or two squares which are key in the center, normally a square in the center on the opponent's side of the board. In this game below, the two key squares that are contested are e4 (for Black) and e5 (for White).

I've started off an Opening sequence (White) v. Fritz:


[Event "Center Domination, Game 1, Opening 5 Moves"]
[Site "?"]
[Date "2011.06.02"]
[Round "?"]
[White "Wadden, Graham"]
[Black "Fritz 12"]
[Result "*"]
[PlyCount "10"]

1. Nf3 Nf6 2. g3 d5 3. Bg2 c5 4. O-O e6 5. d3 Nc6 *

Commentary ...

1. Nf3 Nf6 2. g3 d5 3. Bg2 c5 4. O-O
(GW, June 2nd) I've gone for the Barcza Opening, recommended by Yasser Seirawan (Winning Chess Openings, p201).}

Ken's Comments ...

(KW, June 3rd) This is exactly the place to stop and look at the center before anything else happens. I will try to use the concepts we have learned from H&M-S and Heisman in understanding what's going on.

Black is moving into a typical French style defense with pawns at c5,d5 and will move e6. Black has decided to try to dominate the Center immediately with his pawns, while White by this opening has decided to fight for the center later by chipping away at weaknesses in Black's position, and instead develop his Knight, Bishop and castling.

He has a lean, mean, fighting machine (greater Mobility of the pieces - Mobility of the pieces is more important than Mobility of the pawns, although both are important). Black's stronghold in the center is the d5 pawn, with his hopes of putting a Knight on e4. White's Bg2 bears down on these squares, once the Knight moves. The Knight attacks d4 and e5, and has the potential to move to g5.

My (White's - I'm siding with you, Graham! I am going through my own thought processes, so that you can begin to learn somewhat superior thought processes for yourself) opening is a STRATEGIC opening that counterattacks in the center. One of its benefits is its transpositional possibilities into other major openings, each with their own strategic goals.

Which of these two pawns (c5,d5) is weaker? Think in your mind's eye, what would be ideal here in this position from all you have learned?

Well, to give a (major) clue, how about trying to create an isolated pawn on d5? After all, the c5 and d5 pawns are in a Phalanx formation, and that means they are weaker right now and will need defending, right? And something must be done before Black finds a way to use these pawns as a steamroller against me.

So how would that isolated pawn come about? Well, if I move c4, Black will not want to recapture (although he could) as it will mess up his pawn structure, and he has nothing attacking c4. So my next move would be either d4 (looking at either cxd4 Nxd4 (opening mythe Bishop into play); or if Black does not take, dxc5 (forcing Black to retake with a piece, and then cxd5 exd5 isolating the pawn on d5). This is why so many of the openings start d4 then c4 (or c4 then d4 at some point), with the goal of creating an isolated pawn.

White could try to move into 2 of the more common openings in this position that derive from the Barcza opening, a Kings Indian Attack with the formation that he has (and an eventual e4, d3 formation), or try c4 (attacking the center with a subcenter pawn), and move into an English opening (or Catalan opening) with the target being d5. I think if you want to use this opening, you need to be familiar with the strategic aims of what you can transpose into.

Based on what your opponent plays, you could choose the best strategy that would take advantage of the position, or a line you feel most comfortable with. This would be a good subject of study as well, to understand how each opening has a goal in the center. Once you know the goal of the opening, you can get to the middlegame before your opponent (Fritz) can try to pulverize you (soon it will move to the endgame before he pulverizes you, after you learn your lessons well!).

I would suggest we take one opening (this one, if you like) and learn the major themes and transpositions and how they affect the Center and Weak Square Complexes, before moving on to a bunch of other ones. Botvinnik and other GM's and World Champions all agree to stick to and learn one opening for White, and one or two for Black (for KP or QP openings), and stick with those until you learn them well. If you want to follow Seirawan, we eventually should study the Black side suggestions he makes. But for now, let's keep to the White side.

4. ... e6
(GW, June 2nd) At this point, Black has 2 units guarding e4; 3 units guarding d5; and just 1 guarding d4. With e4 being in my territory and being twice attacked, I think I should start to fight back, focusing on that square? Candidate Moves: 5. Nc3, 5. d3. I've chosen the latter (5. d3), as it does more with that single tempo; it adds a unit of pressure to e4, guards c4 (holding off c5-c4) and releases the Queen Bishop.

Ken's Comments ...

(KW, June 3rd) Let's stop a moment and think things through based on the current position. Yes, e4 is weak, but can Black really take advantage of it at this point? Suppose on the next move Black moves Ne4 (This is an important step, visualizing your opponent's next couple of moves). Can he keep it there? No! As you point out, d3 will force the Knight to move (as well, by making a developing move at the same time as forcing a piece away, White would gain at least one tempo and would seize the initiative by waiting for Black to make this move - an important consideration in the opening).

But where would the Knight move? It can't move to c5, d6 is a ridiculous move jumbling up his pieces (think piece coordination), possibly g5, but since the pawn move d3 opens the Bishop, White would take the Knight with no compensation. OK. So how about attacking c3? Would be taken immediately by Nxc3. Nxf2 then? No. White would simply retake with the Rook winning Knight for pawn, and it creates a half open file for White without any compensation, other than a slightly weaker castled King. I would still like that position as White. No. It would have to move back to f6 without creating any weaknesses in White's position, but in fact helps White's development. The Knight is not going to move there (e4), and so I need to concentrate on other squares where a move may be advantageous.

OK, how about d4? It is attacked once, and d5-d4 is not really an option for Black at this point, as it goes against his last move (e6) and screws up his pawn structure (Backward Pawn on c5).

My side is safe enough. Back to general strategic considerations, and consider how to attack the center, now on Black's side of the board.

By his last move, Black is creating a Weak Square Complex (he has 5 pawns on light squares, and has locked in his light square Bishop) on the dark squares. Right now, the Nf3 is observing e5 and controlling that square (e5 is vulnerable for Black), and does not want to move now, knowing that any pawn or piece that occupies a square no longer controls the square.

White could easily be ousted by Nc6. So if White really wanted that Knight to go to e5, he could now play c3 following it up with d4, forming a chain and a base for the outpost on e5 (similar to the c3 Sicilian, from which this position could arise). Black would undoubtedly either attack the d4 pawn, or advance the c pawn to c4, locking in the pawn structure, constricting White's Queenside, and preparing for a later attack to the base of the pawn chain (either plan is used in the French defense). The other major plan, as mentioned above, is to isolate the pawn on d5. This would open the diagonal for Black's Queen Bishop, but it would force Black to the defense of this pawn. The choice is now up to White how he wants to proceed.

4. ... e6 [Continued]
(GW, June 2nd) Candidate Moves: 5. Nc3, 5. d3. I've chosen the latter (5. d3), as it does more with that single tempo; it adds a unit of pressure to e4, guards c4 (holding off c5-c4) and releases the Queen Bishop.

Ken's Comments ...

(KW, June 3rd) As mentioned above, there are a couple of other Candidate Moves, c4, c3, and a possible d4. e4 would be premature because of the Nf6. Because of these choices, it is a slippery opening for Black to counter. The choice made of d3 is a good one, and would naturally lead to either e4 (Kings Indian Attack) or c4 (a Queen's Pawn opening), using d3 as a fulcrum for either plan (flexibility).

5. d3 Nc6
(GW, June 2nd) But, now Black's got a Pawn on 4th (c5) v. Pawn on 3rd (d3). This is where I grind to a halt, or end up moving material without certainty that I'm making the correct move / least-bad move.

Ken's Comments ...

(KW, June 3rd) Please review 4 on 3. This is not a 4 v. 3, as the pawn in front of the c5 pawn (c3) is still there. One pawn (the c3 pawn here) must be absent before you can count the point. If you look at H&M-S illustrations, you will see this is true. But if that were the case, then it would be a 2 v. 1 in the center. So the d5 pawn for Black needs to be gone as well.

Remember our definition of 4 v. 3 in our discussion: "To sum up, 4 v. 3 means the opposing pawn must be on an adjacent file, and must be on the 3rd rank (not second), and the single square to the diagonal of the pawn on 4th, ahead of the pawn on 3rd, must be COA Center Dominated. If all three of these criteria are met, count yourself a point for 4 v. 3. If you reread PCC p.25 and p.26 with this in mind, I believe it will make more sense." To reiterate, "In 4 v. 3, opposing Pawns must be on adjacent files".

I don't even have to look at the COA Center Domination to see Black is already ahead in dominating the Center.

Ken's Comments ...

(KW, June 3rd) Remember that OCCUPATION of the center does not mean CONTROL of the center (any square OCCUPIED in the center is not CONTROLLED by the pawn or piece - the pawn or piece controls other squares - that is, where it can attack - as the pawn or piece cannot attack its own square).

This was the great advancement promoted by the Hypermodern school of chess (See the Larry Evans book - New Ideas in Chess - for some history here that would be useful) It should be in the first section). Some of the Hypermoderns didn't make a pawn move for at least the first 6-8 moves, yet they did not feel dominated in the center.

The only thing that's stopping me from starting again is awareness that beginning with a Flank Opening, like the Barcza Opening, lets the opponent gain a lead in development in the center, while I complete Castling and safeguarding my King.

Ken's Comments ...

(KW, June 3rd) Black has a lead in PAWN development, while White has a lead in PIECE development. If I have a choice between the two, I would take piece development any day, because pieces have greater MOBILITY than pawns. As well, pawns tend to create structural weaknesses (think Holes and Weak Square Complexes) which pieces do not.

6. ???
(GW, June 2nd) Here's an example of where decisions, for my next move, really start to clash.

  • [6. Nc3] With Black's 2 Knights on their optimum first-move squares, 6. Nc3 would be one option. But, that's tempered by the potential for Black's d-pawn to attack it, with 6. ... d4. I'd then be forced to move the Knight TWICE in the opening, for a loss of tempo or potential loss of tempo?

Ken's Comments ...

(KW, June 3rd) The other problem with this move is that it locks in White's c2 pawn. As far as the tempo issue, Black has to move twice as well (his initial d7-d5, and now d5-d4), so tempo would still be equal, even if White has to move. Besides, this move would create a backward pawn on the c5 square.

(GW, June 2nd)

  • [6. Bg5] I've seen Yasser Seirawan send his Queen Bishop out to attack Black's King Knight, only to be instantly repelled by Black King Rook Pawn to h6. If/when attacked, I could drop my Bishop down to h4, to keep pin attack on the Knight & Queen. While it's threatening Black's King Knight, which has an impact on Black's Center control, from h4 my Bishop wouldn't be having any direct impact on the Center.

Ken's Comments ...

(KW, June 3rd) Ask yourself what Seirawan sees in this move as regards center control. By pinning the f6 Knight, White has effectively reduced the number of defenders on d5, and hinders Ne4. This move (and any subsequent Bh4) makes a large impact on the center.

(GW, June 2nd)

  • [6. c4] I don't particularly like the Black Phalanx (c5,d5) and have toyed with the idea of trying to dismantle it with immediate effect.

Ken's Comments ...

(KW, June 3rd) I have commented above that this also is a good plan.

(GW, June 2nd)

  • [6. Nd2 v. 6. Re1] If, instead, I wanted to push the e-Pawn into action, I'm struggling to decide whether to bring the Queen Knight across first, to d2, which attacks e4. Or, sidestep the Rook to e1. At the risk of answering my own question, I recall advice saying to move Knights before Bishops, Bishops before Rooks. So, should it be 6. Nd2, first? The Knight would block the Queen Bishop, but that could be fianchettoed, to attack the Center from b2.

Ken's Comments ...

(KW, June 3rd) (Referring to GW: "At the risk of answering my own question, I recall advice saying to move Knights before Bishops, Bishops before Rooks. So, should it be 6. Nd2, first?") Right. Good general rule of thumb.

(KW, June 3rd) Another idea is to move the Bishop first with Bg5 (also reducing one of the attackers of e4), then move Nd2 on a later move, then e4. Rome doesn't have to be built in a day.

... As always, it doesn't seem to matter which move I decide upon, as soon as the opponent moves, my original plans/ideas seem to crumble (not that they were much in the first place. But, that'll come with training and practice).

Ken's Comments ...

(KW, June 3rd) This is what makes chess so interesting, the continual give and take of opposing ideas and tactics. You should expect this ebb and flow. Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose. For many, they pick an opening (like the Barcza System), and learn the first 8-10 moves for each side, so they don't have to reinvent the wheel. Very few people under Master level go beyond the first 8-10 moves, unless they just learn the main line past that point.

Furthermore, should I have bothered to complete the Barcza Opening (1. Nf3, 2. g3, 3. Bg2, 4. 0-0) when Black's d-pawn advanced to d5? E.g. should I have played 3. d4, to prevent Black's c-pawn advance, creating the 5th Rank Phalanx; or, would that have been unnecessarily chickening-out of following through with the planned Barcza Opening?

Ken's Comments ...

(KW, June 3rd) Here I'd go with unnecessarily chickening-out. If you would have moved d5, Black probably would have played c5 anyway, as if you take dxc5, the Bishop on f8 would retake. Part of the opening process is to create imbalance. If every position were equal, every game would be a draw, and what fun would there be with that?

The Barcza moves have never been refuted for either White or Black. Trust it as one way to start a game.

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