GW-KW, Point Count Chess Raw Discussion, File #9:
Part of the Advanced Beginner's Chess Guide (Section 2)

KW explains his 2-Point Principle
for Assessing Moves

[August 7th-18th 2011]

Ken Wilsdon's 2-Point Principle
for Assessing Moves (Continued ...)

(KW, August 7th) One principle I have always used in games, that I read somewhere, that made a lot of sense, was to:

  1. On your opponent's move, concentrate on strategy, i.e. look at the point count, strengths and weaknesses on both sides, and think of where you want your pieces ideally;

  2. On your move, concentrate on tactics.

    1. Ask what did your opponent threaten or accomplish with the last move.

    2. Then concentrate on every check and capture you can make, and follow the lines for a couple of moves (this is how Tal played - he was a master at sacrifice).

    3. Following that, concentrate on what your opponent can do in the future to improve his position, and what you can do now before he does it to prevent his moves (Petrosian was a master at defending, and virtually stiffling his opponent's chances).

(KW, July 18th) From Wikipedia: One amusing anecdote frequently quoted from Tal's autobiography takes the form of a hypothetical conversation between Tal and a journalist (actually co-author Yakov Damsky). It offers a modest, self-deprecating view of his reputation for unerring calculation at the board:

Journalist: - "It might be inconvenient to interrupt our profound discussion and change the subject slightly, but I would like to know whether extraneous, abstract thoughts ever enter your head while playing a game?"

Tal: - "Yes. For example, I will never forget my game with GM Vasiukov on a USSR Championship. We reached a very complicated position where I was intending to sacrifice a knight. The sacrifice was not obvious; there was a large number of possible variations; but when I began to study hard and work through them, I found to my horror that nothing would come of it. Ideas piled up one after another. I would transport a subtle reply by my opponent, which worked in one case, to another situation where it would naturally prove to be quite useless. As a result my head became filled with a completely chaotic pile of all sorts of moves, and the infamous "tree of variations", from which the chess trainers recommend that you cut off the small branches, in this case spread with unbelievable rapidity.

And then suddenly, for some reason, I remembered the classic couplet by Korney Ivanovic' Chukovsky: "Oh, what a difficult job it was. To drag out of the marsh the hippopotamus". I do not know from what associations the hippopotamus got into the chess board, but although the spectators were convinced that I was continuing to study the position, I, despite my humanitarian education, was trying at this time to work out: just how WOULD you drag a hippopotamus out of the marsh? I remember how jacks figured in my thoughts, as well as levers, helicopters, and even a rope ladder.

After a lengthy consideration I admitted defeat as an engineer, and thought spitefully to myself: "Well, just let it drown!" And suddenly the hippopotamus disappeared. Went right off the chessboard just as he had come on ... of his own accord! And straightaway the position did not appear to be so complicated. Now I somehow realized that it was not possible to calculate all the variations, and that the knight sacrifice was, by its very nature, purely intuitive. And since it promised an interesting game, I could not refrain from making it."

Journalist: - "And the following day, it was with pleasure that I read in the paper how Mikhail Tal, after carefully thinking over the position for 40 minutes, made an accurately-calculated piece sacrifice".

(KW, August 18th) Don't let the Hippopotamus ruin your fun! Explore every possible check and capture.

Ken's Principle: 2c. Following that, concentrate on what your opponent can do in the future to improve his position, and what you can do now before he does it to prevent his moves (Petrosian was a master at defending, and virtually stiffling his opponent's chances).

Ah Petrosian! A good motto for him would be, "The best offense is a good defense." Looking on Wikipedia describes his style:


  • He was nicknamed "Iron Tigran" due to his playing style because of his almost impenetrable defence, which emphasized safety above all else.

  • He was recognized as the hardest player to beat in the history of chess by the authors of a 2004 book.

  • Petrosian's cautious playing style was well-suited for match play, as he could simply wait for his opponent to make mistakes and then capitalize on them.

  • Petrosian was a conservative, cautious, and highly defensive chess player who was strongly influenced by Nimzowitsch's idea of prophylaxis. He made more effort to prevent his opponent's offensive capabilities than he did to make use of his own.

    He very rarely went on the offensive unless he felt his position was completely secure. He usually won by playing consistently until his aggressive opponent made a mistake, securing the win by capitalizing upon this mistake without revealing any weaknesses of his own.

  • Here is how he has been described: Harold C. Schonberg said that "playing him was like trying to put handcuffs on an eel. There was nothing to grip."

    He has been described as a centipede lurking in the dark, a tiger looking for the opportunity to pounce, a python who slowly squeezes his victims to death, and as a crocodile who waits for hours to make a decisive strike.

    Boris Spassky, who would succeed Petrosian as World Chess Champion, described his style of play as such: "Petrosian reminds me of a hedgehog. Just when you think you have caught him, he puts out his quills."

  • He [Petrosian] has an incredible tactical view, and a wonderful sense of the danger... No matter how much you think deep... He will "smell" any kind of danger 20 moves before! - Robert Fischer

(KW, August 18th) Here is one of his "Immortal Games" against the great Botvinnik. Note that after move 4, no exchanges are made for the next 27 moves!

Note this position, preventing any real counterplay on White's part, and beginning an attack that will take 30 moves to complete!.

Prophylaxis is well demonstrated in this typical Petrosian position.

Every White piece is hindered, and the only one that has a chance is Bh2, and since it is Petrosian's turn, he eliminates even that threat!

So the motto is: Prevent your opponent from carrying out their plans!

While the moral of these two games is: follow the example of these two World Champions: Attack like Tal, but defend like Petrosian!

Return to the Index for File #9
Chess Search 2.0 for more details and full list for more details and full list, Basic Chess Rules, Thumbnail, Beginner's Chess Guide, Thumbnail, Chess Openings Guide, Thumbnail, Chess Strategies Guide, Thumbnail, Chess Tactic Guide, Thumbnail, Chess Endgame Guide, Thumbnail