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?

2. What is good and what is bad about my position?
This is where Point Count comes in handy.

When I go through a Point Count on a position, I want to consider the static (long term) elements first (Material, Pawn Structure), as they change slowly.

Then I go to the dynamic elements (comparison of pieces on both sides, square color complexes, space and time). It's sort of like building a house. Look at the foundation first, then the structure on top.

I like to compare pieces on both sides, as this gives me a better "feel" for the position, and I believe this also contributes to the Point Count (having the two Bishops, or Bishop v. Knight is just a subset of piece comparison).

I will discuss or underline what I consider with each piece). I assign a weight to these and add or subtract them to my Point Count (unlike H&M-S who does not compare pieces other than 2 Bishops or Bishop v. Knight).

A slight advantage is not a full point, but a definite advantage is a point. You start to develop a "feel" for this the more positions you assess, and compare this to Grandmaster assessments. I take up the related Point Count issues with the related pieces (Rooks Connected with Rooks, Castling with King, etc.), it just makes things easier to remember about Point Count.

  1. Material (Force)
    This is even, so we need to look at the quality of pawns and pieces. If material were not even, then a pawn is worth 3 points (regardless of which material evaluation system you are using).

    You could look here at Bishop-pair and Bishop v. Knight, although I tend to do that when I look at Bishops.

  1. Pawns
    What should we look at when we look at the Pawns?

    1. Pawn on 4th v. Pawn on 3rd
    2. Passed pawn
    3. Outside passed pawn
    4. Advanced pawn
    5. (He also, in the book, mentions 2 pawns v. 1 in Center)

    And from H&M-S the minus points:

    1. Backward pawn
    2. Doubled pawn
    3. Isolated pawn
    4. Hanging pawns
    5. Hanging phalanx

    I need to come up with a phrase for all that, or I and many others will never remember it.

    How about:

    Opa (Grandfather in some cultures) was hanging 4 2 long before he bid farewell.

    Now let's unpack it:

    • Opa (Outside pawn; Passed pawn; Advanced pawn)
    • ... was hanging (Hanging pawns and phalanx)
    • ... 4 (4 v. 3)
    • ... 2 (2 v. 1)
    • ... long before he bid (Backward pawn; Isolated pawn; Doubled pawn)
    • ... farewell (you're done!)

    Too bad Opa was a horse thief!

    Both sides have one advanced pawn (e5 and d4), and Black has an Advanced Chain.

    Both sides have an equal number of dark and light pawns, although Black has slightly more weaknesses than White.

    White has one pawn unprotected by another pawn (e5). Black has two (b5 and d5). In fact the pawn at b5 is not protected by a pawn or piece, but it doesn't count against Black because it is not attacked by White.

    Note the hanging pawn structure of Black's b5, c5, and d4 pawns. We have seen this before. If the Black d4 pawn were on d6, the structure would be more stable.

    The pawn on c6 is Backward, and is under attack (-1). This is the weaker version of that structure, although the advanced pawn being protected offsets that somewhat.

    Slight advantage in pawn structure goes to White (although I wouldn't say a full point because of the offsetting features). The Queenside pawn structure of Black could be a target of attack.

  1. Bishops
    White has fianchettoed both Bishops, and his QB is actually helping to prevent the Black Queenside attack.

    While it may look like a Bad Bishop, it is not blocked by its own pawns. By having an extra piece attacking d4, Black cannot easily move c5-c4 without losing something material wise. Both the light colored Bishops are on the a8-h1 long diagonal, but overall, White's Bishops are more active than Black's. This with the pawn structure would give White a point.

    Other things I would consider with Bishops are:

    1. Bishop Pair
    2. Bishop v. Knightt
    3. Diagonals (Are Bishops on the best diagonal, or is there a better one?)
    4. Bad Bishops

  1. Knights
    White's Knights have greater mobility compared to Black's.

    They can safely (equal exchange or better) make 5 moves, compared to 3 moves for Black. Black, however, has the potential for an Outpost on c3. Both White Knights are able to move to either side of the board currently. They are also spearheading White's Kingside attack. A slight advantage for White.

    Here I would remember to look at:

    1. Outposts

  1. Rooks
    Concerning the Rooks, White has his KR placed well on e1, protecting e5 and ready if the center opens.

    The QR may see action on the a-file, though it can move freely. Black's Rooks have not moved from their original squares, though the KR is ready in case Black decides on a f7 thrust to f6 or f5, or if White attacks f7. Black's Rooks are connected, so slight advantage to Black.

    Neither side's Rooks will see much action until some pawn exchanges take place.

    Remember with Rooks:

    1. Half-Open files
    2. Control of Useful Open File (or rank)
    3. Rook(s) on 7th Rank
    4. Connected Major Pieces (focusing on the Rooks)

  1. Queens
    With the Queens, both are in the center, with Black's currently a little more active than White's. Slight advantage to Black.

  1. Kings
    Both are castled, but White's King is safer that Black's. Slight advantage for White.

    Remember to look here at:

    1. Castling
    2. Better King Position
    3. Compromised king-side (-1)
    4. King held in center (-1) against its will.

  1. Color Complexes
    Both side's Knights are attacking dark squares. All the rest of Black's pieces are focused on attack or defense of dark squares.

    White's Queen is defending light squares. Black has a weakness on light squares, and a weakness on the Kingside. It makes sense to attack the Kingside light squares. Slight advantage for White.


    1. "Weak square complex"

  1. Space
    I want to review:

    1. Greater space (includes COA Space Count and Territorial Domination)
    2. Cramped Position (freedom of piece movement)
    3. Mobility and Vulnerability (if they haven't been dealt with before)
    4. Holes (empty space that can be attacked -1)

    Another word picture for this:

    We are vulnerable to cramped black holes sucking our cheese grater into space using their mobiles.

    (Picture a black hole cramped in pain - too much chili last night - holding a mobile phone while sucking cheese grater and all of space into itself! -the cheese is for "say cheese", picture that!).

    Obviously, the explanation is:

    • We are vulnerable (Vulnerability)
    • ... to black holes (Holes)
    • ... cramped in pain (Cramped position)
    • ... sucking our grater into space (Greater space)
    • ... using their mobiles (Mobility)

    COA Space Count: White (8), Black (13); White's space count is evenly distributed across the board, Black's is concentrated on the Kingside (see COA).

    COA Territorial Domination: White (13), Black (15);

    Mobility and Vulnerability: White is able to mobilize better than Black, especially on the Kingside.

    Holes: Black's side has a hole at h5 (perfect for the White Queen), while White's side has holes at b4 (perfect for one of the Black Knights) and g4 (no threat). These offset one another, however the hole at h5 is more enduring without Black compromising his Kingside.

    Here, I would say Black's Queenside is cramped because the Knights cannot move well. However, as we have already counted that with the Knights, I would not count it again. (Do not count the same point twice).

  1. Time
    Here I want to consider:

    1. Superior Development (more pieces on ideal squares).
    2. Coordination of pieces (how they interact).
    3. Tempo (how quickly pawns and pieces have arrived at their posts, and who has the Initiative).

    OK, one more picture for all those enjoying these (if not, I pity you!):

    The temp developed coordination in time for the bosses questions.

    Unpacking it:

    • The temp (temporary worker - Tempo)
    • ... developed (Development)
    • ... coordination (Piece coordination)
    • ... in time (Time - the element we are dealing with)
    • ... for the boss (You!)

    Superior Development: White has yet to connect his Rooks, although that could be considered a moot point, as the Queen moves the same as the Rooks. The Queen on the back rank is the last piece to develop on either side.

    Coordination of Pieces: White's pieces coordinate well. The one problem at the moment is the Ne4 not coordinating with Re1 and Nf3. Black cannot coordinate on the Kingside.

    Tempo: Only White's QN has moved twice. Black's KN has moved twice. White currently has the initiative.

    Overall: Slight advantage for White.

    Thus overall, we see the strengths and weaknesses. White's pieces are poised to attack Kingside, Black's Queenside. White is slightly ahead. The center is about equal, and blocked (except for the diagonal). White must guard e5 until the attack is well underway. Black is weaker on the light squares than White.

(GW) On Page 4 Ken explains Bent Larsen's third point: 3. Which pieces do I want to exchange,and which do I want to keep?.

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