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

KW explains Bent Larsen's
8-Point Method for Assessing Moves

[August 16th-22nd 2011]

Bent Larsen's 8-Point Method
for Assessing Moves

  1. What type of pawn structure is it?

  2. What is good and what is bad about my position?

  3. Which pieces do I want to exchange, and which do I want to keep?

  4. Which side of the board should I play on?

  5. What is my dream position?

  6. What does my opponent want to do?

  7. Can I take a step in the right direction?

  8. Which moves are worth taking a look at?

(KW, August 16th) We'll use the current game, to help with the example:

1. What type of pawn structure is it?
This is the skeleton of the position. If there are no pawns in the Center, Kingside or Queenside, then the pieces gain in importance on that part of the board. If Center pawns are blocked, then play to break through on the flanks. Kotov's Think Like a Grandmaster and Play Like a Grandmaster as well as Euwe and Kramer's The Middlegame go into this in greater detail.

PGN: [+]Show
  • Here in our game, our present position is a good illustration of this, as the d-file is blocked because of the pawns on d3 and d4.

    The e-file is blocked because of the pawns on e5 and e6. This blocking has an effect on the pieces, especially Black's. The rule stated above says that we should attack on a flank, where we are the strongest. The only piece directly defending the Kingside is the dark Bishop on e7.

    Because of where each of the White pawns are positioned, it is difficult for Black to move his Knights anywhere on the Kingside without getting taken by a White pawn (check it out for yourself).

    The only square that Black can use to transfer his Knights to the Kingside is d8 (because of the position of the Queen and Be7). This would change suddenly if Black could capture the pawn on e5 with impunity. Then Black would be able to transfer forces from side to side. White must defend e5 at any cost!

  • Black, on the other hand, has been signaling since move two that he (Fritz) wants to carve out territory on the Queenside.

    Black has fully developed his pieces on that side of the board, but his pawns have become targets (the c5-pawn in particular is weak). Either Knight could go to b4, so for White, a3 is a reasonable move to delay the Black attack.

    White's pawn on e5 is somewhat weak, not being defended by another pawn, but defended by pieces.

  • One rather unique feature of the present position due to the pawn structure is the a8-h1 diagonal. Where every other diagonal is blocked by either a White or Black pawn, this diagonal is open, the Bishops are at opposite ends, and the 4 Knights are in the middle.

    Because of its openness, whoever can remove their Knights from this diagonal first will potentially pin the remaining Knight of the opposition.

  • Black does not seem to have a quick attack, and neither does White. Based on the pawn structure, White should attack Kingside, Black Queenside, the center is blocked, and neither side should do much on the side where they are weaker unless necessary (White should have a "come to Papa" attitude).

    White's Queenside pawns are strongest on their original squares, and failing that, they should blockade the Black pawns, dulling the attack. White's Kingside attack is more dangerous for Black, as both sides have castled Kingside.

Anytime a pawn is moved or contemplated, I want to re-examine this point.

H&M-S Issues I look at here are grouping of pawns - "The Big Picture" and the Center (+1 each in Point Count):

  1. Control of the Center. I want to know that before anything else. I look at the Vulnerability of the 4 central squares.

Graham's Comments ...

(GW, August 20th) How exactly do you go about determining the Vulnerability of those 4 central squares? Is it simply the combined number of Pawns and Pieces attacking any one square ...

Say, 4 Black units versus 3 White, attacking d5, would that mean White is vulnerable on d5?

Based on that, going one step further ... if White is vulnerable on one of the four squares, but Black is vulnerable on two (with the remaining square equally contested), Black would be most vulnerable, so White would have Control of the Center, at that point?

(KW, August 22nd) I think you need to review the Major Digression we had last game on Knowing When You Control A Square, where we discussed Vulnerability, when we discussed Pattern Two and Pattern Three.

As I said to you then, you need to Know These Patterns Cold.
  1. Mobile Pawn Wing.

Graham's Comments ...

(GW, August 20th) From what I've observed, in Point Count Chess (page 73), the Mobile Pawn Wing must include the entire set of 3 Pawns (either 'a','b', and 'c', on the Queenside; 'f','g', and 'h', on the Kingside).

H&M-S say, "... pawns are Mobile (when): they are unobstructed, and no Black piece even guards the fourth-rank squares before them."

Based on that, at present, in our current position (12. ... Qc7), I'd have to assume we don't yet have a Mobile Pawn Wing, since our own Nf3 blocks the f-pawn's advance, while Black has two Pieces guarding 4th rank squares (Be7 guards h4; Nd5 guards f4).

(KW, August 22nd) Mobile Pawn Wings general appear in the late middlegame or early endgame. We aren't there yet, but are getting closer.

The biggest factor I think is the Pieces guarding our 4th rank. For instance, if we had a Pawn on h4 and g5 in our position, since the Be7 could not attack h4 directly, we could claim a Mobile Pawn Wing.

(GW, August 20th) So, we need to tackle these two Pieces before we get our Mobile Pawn Wing (and that's in addition to protecting our e5 Pawn, plus dealing with any further Black Queenside advance).

(KW, August 22nd) Yep. That's one reason I have gone with c4 as our next move, to remove one defender. Then we'll remove the other.

The only reason to attack Queenside now is because it affects the Kingside. We will diffuse much of Black's attack, although we will be opening files on that side of the board.

In the KIA, we are not as concerned about the Black Queenside in defense, except when we will lose an exchange of a Pawn or Piece. Otherwise, we let Black try to mobilize his attack, while we attack quickly on the Kingside. We will generally get in our attack before he can coordinate to get his in.
  1. Qualitative Pawn Majority.

Graham's Comments ...

(GW, August 21st) "Qualitative" means looking at both sides, and seeing which side has the least weakness (think weak pawns).

If both sides have 4 pawns, but one side has doubled, or other weak pawns, then the better side with 4 pawns would have the "qualitative" majority.

(KW, August 22nd) That's right. I understand the term to mean, each side has an equal amount of pawns, but one side's pawns are Qualitatively better, meaning less weakness.
  1. Advanced Chain.

Graham's Comments ...

(GW, August 21st) This is any Pawn Chain where the lead Pawn sits on the 5th Rank (thus, advanced into enemy territory).

(KW, August 22nd) That's right.
  1. Advanced Salient.

Graham's Comments ...

(GW, August 21st) A Salient occurs when you have 3 friendly Pawns in Phalanx formation and then the middle Pawns steps forward, to form a kind of arrowhead formations, with the two - now rearward - Pawns providing dual support.

An Advanced Salient is the most advanced (e.g., the forwardmost pawns are on the 5th rank v. 4th for the other army).

(KW, August 22nd) You are half right. You are forgetting a Reversed Salient, where the middle pawn is behind the other two. The two kinds can face one another.

Regardless, the most advanced Salient formation (Forward or Reversed), on or beyond the 5th rank, gets the point.
  1. Crippled Majority Wing (-1).

Graham's Comments ...

(GW, August 21st) The "Majority Wing" refers to friendly Pawns on the Flanks, but excluding the central, King & Queen Pawns, respectively.

Would the objective be to use our Pawns and Pieces to "Cripple" - Weaken - the enemy's Pawns so that, while they may have a Majority of Pawns on a particular side of the board (e.g. 3 v 2 on the Queenside), their structure contains a weakness, such as Doubled Pawns, or one or more being Isolated Pawns.

In such a case, the 3 Pawns would be the Majority on a particular Wing, but they'd be in a Crippled state, hence the "Crippled Majority Wing", for which their army would be deducted one point?

(KW, August 22nd) While a Qualitative Pawn Majority basically means you have equal pawns on a side, a Crippled Majority Wing would mean an unequal number of pawns, but the majority side has been crippled by one of the Backward, Isolated, or Doubled pawns.

(GW, August 21st) Separating them between equal and unequal, and crippled and non-crippled makes the points easier to count.

(KW, August 16th) OK, we are going to need an acronym or phrase to remember this stuff.

How about:

Controlling the mobility of the crippled Major, winged in action, qualified as a salient idea as he advanced twice through the chain of command.

Unpacking it:

  • Controlling (Control of the Center)
  • ... the mobility (Mobile pawn wing)
  • ... of the crippled major winged (Crippled majority wing)
  • ... in action qualified (QUALitative pawn majority)
  • ... as a salient idea as he advanced (Advanced Salient)
  • ... twice (advanced is used twice, once before - advanced salient, and once after - advanced chain)
  • ... through the chain of command (Advanced Chain).

For me, something like this is easier than remembering a list that doesn't seem to hang well together in my mind.

(GW) On Page 3 Ken explains Bent Larsen's second point: What is good and what is bad about my position?.

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