Email 8: I note some failings of the COA software

Date: May 1, 2011

First Name: Graham
Last Name: Wadden
Country: England
Subject: I note some failings of the COA software

Hi Ken,

First of all, I don't mind waiting for your replies; the level of detail you go to is excellent and most definitely well received!

I've begun to work my way through Point Count Chess, quickly reading all the Summaries and then starting to read through the book, while studying the moves with both Fritz and with my Chess Openings Analyzer (COA), to try and see where improvements might be made ...

Prior to reading Point Count Chess, my only knowledge of the Point Count was in terms of relative scores for Pawns (1), Knights & Bishops (3 each), Rooks (5) and Queens (9), with Kings excluded as they can't be traded or captured. All of which gave each army a combined value of 39 points at the start of each game.

Now, having read Horowitz & Mott-Smith (H&M-S) book, it appears my COA falls well short in analyzing Point Count.

What's interesting about H&M-S's method is how they value the material: ... they appear to have gone for scoring each unit in terms of the optimum squares they can attack/defend + one for the square they're on*, which is curious in itself as I've been led to believe that a Pawn/Piece doesn't control the square it's on ... However, it does potentially take away options for moving other Pawns/Pieces.

* although, the Bishops would appear to score 9, owing to the number of squares they can reach from their respective fianchettoed positions.

The other glaring difference (what I understand) over modern is the inclusion of the King in the counting system, which seems to discount the King's contribution. On this matter, having since thought about it, I'm beginning to find myself siding with H&M-S and including the King in the Point Count ... after all, the King can capture and doesn't it become a major influence in the Endgame phase? If needed to defend an attack against his position, the King can be used to reinforce the Pawns that make up his "House" (as Seirawan calls it). So why not score the King in the Point Count, actually?

My only hesitation is there's so many esteemed professional Chess players who discount the King in terms of Relative Value (Capablanca, de Firmian, Silman, Polgar, Fischer, Euwe, Lasker). Or, am I mistaking Relative Value of Pawns and Pieces for the Point Count method's scoring of the Pawns and Pieces? Are the two separate entities? ... In other words, the 1,3,3,5,9 scoring is for the value of each Pawn and Piece (excluding the King) in trades, whereas the 3,9,9,15,27,9 (the latter the King) is a separate scoring system for determining strategical maneuvers, as laid out in the Point Count Chess book?

What's strange is how this Point Count Chess book is dated 1960, yet looking at the following Wikipedia page ( about Alternate Values for chess pieces, Horowitz, in 1951, is attributed as giving the common 1,3,3,5,9 valuations.

So, he's either revised his thinking between 1951, or Wikipedia's got a different Horowitz? (couldn't find another Israel Albert Horowitz).

In looking to improve my COA, I'm now split on whether to continue with scoring for the common system (1,3,3,5,9), or switch to keep faith with H&M-S's Point Count Chess method.

I'd be extremely grateful to learn what you think about this matter!

Okay, now down to the business end of your email ... You wanted to learn how I approach a game of Chess?

This is where I fall short and, in fact is precisely why the Chess Opening's Analyzer came into existence. After over 14 months of putting my Chess website together, I haven't actually sat down to play games of chess, or to focus on plans for dealing with the various stages of a game (Opening, Middlegame and Endgame). You could say I've got the easy part out of the way - learning the terminology, understanding the basics of moves, Chess Notation, etc.

But, now comes the real learning stage - sitting down to thrash out some sort of blueprint for approaching an entire game.

The COA I had created was, ultimately, Yasser Seirawan's fault (in the kindest terms possible!) ... I have most of his Winning Chess series of books and, among the volumes, he mentioned Center Domination, Control, Point Count, Space Count and Territorial Domination as areas for determining which army holds the advantages ...

Added to those were Castling the King and Connecting the Rooks, as part of his principles for managing the Opening phase.

At the time, I had Fritz 12, SparkChess and a few other free-to-download Chess programs ... but none of them showed any of the elements that Seirawan mentions in his books ... which I felt was slightly off - if an esteemed player such as Yasser Seirawan uses these methods, why hasn't anyone attempted to make a program that analyses them?

Anyway, I NEEDED to know and got the COA created to fill the void ... I wanted to use it to add to my personal study of Seirawan's Winning Chess Openings, so I could then - hopefully - whittle down the options to a selection of Openings which I felt were worthy enough to practice repeatedly, to get them into my memory.

I was just in the middle of refining my study of the Openings, about the time of your initial appraisal of my COA, so you've kind of caught me on the hop, so to speak, and I don't - as yet - have an arsenal of Openings in mind.

That said, I'd started to focus on Seirawan's master games, stored at I'll show you what I've been up to ... I've attached my analysis of his King's Indian themed games, which is in OpenOffice Spreadsheet format (if you don't have it, you can download it for free, from: Feel free to critique what I've commented on in my analysis; there's bound to be observations I've missed, angles I haven't thought of, or something I've got completely wrong!

Bear in mind, it's not the finished article, but a work in progress. However, I've added the data from the COA, which I was/am also trying to make sense of.

My plan was to to study one game a day and work my way through all of Seirawan's Openings (6 themed as White; 6 themed as he controls Black's army).

Another reason I created the COA was I didn't just want to blindly follow Openings from books. I need to know why a move is played, then I'm not bound by only being able to play the openings I've learnt and "should" (crossed-knickers) be able to adapt my game as necessary.

That's why I'm pleased to have learnt about Point Count Chess from you.

When we get to play our first games, I'm actually going to choose to play Black's army, even though I'm aware it, technically, needs more preparation than when controlling White's army. However, I see these games as learning opportunities, rather than cut-throat competitive games (although, watch out, those games will come, Master Ken!). I'd like to follow your lead for a few games, with you explaining why you made the move(s); then, as I go to make my counter moves, I'll attempt to explain why and see what you think or what you'd see/do differently?

Best wishes,