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Normal Topic Openings: Combinational vs. Positional (Read 661 times)
cathexis
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Re: Openings: Combinational vs. Positional
Reply #9 - 05/23/20 at 00:34:46
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Quote:
don't get too attached (if you know what I mean, cathexis)


- You are wise, Obi Wan.

Thanks!
  
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ReneDescartes
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Re: Openings: Combinational vs. Positional
Reply #8 - 05/22/20 at 16:54:59
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@AOC --Showalter as contemporary--a very cool idea. I see he held Lasker (In 1899!) to an even score for 6 games in their match (+2,-2,=2) before collapsing at the end and losing 4 straight. Have to check out his play. Agree with your other big points, too.

@cathexis--The important thing to remember is that all of chess, including what positional or strategic players do, is saturated with what is informally summarized as tactics--phenomena stemming from forcing moves. Positional skill (say, knowing where pieces should be placed) and strategic skill (say, medium-term plans) are useless if you can't control the always-lurking possibilities of losing pawns and pieces.

A tactic or blunder cuts your throat in an instant. It outweighs all mere strategic or positional considerations.

In intermediate-level books, this goes without saying. All the subtle phenomena mentioned will necessarily take place underneath a hail of forcing threats from which you are never safe--no one ever is! At a given moment threats may be absent, but you can't be sure without consciously and constantly checking for them. Experienced players develop an eye for the simpler ones, and avoiding some threats becomes unconscious; but mostly, such players never bother to mention that they didn't play x or y because of an obvious (to them) knight fork. They saw it in an instant and moved on. It goes without saying: this is always happening.

At your level, consistently seeing what all the moves are that would defend against a threat, or noticing the various immediate effects of a move (not just attacking multiple squares, but things like undefending, unblocking, unpinning, etc.), or seeing when a move is forced, is a huge accomplishment. Whoever manages it better will generally win. Technically this competence is known partly as tactics proper (you can't notice unpinning unless you understand and see the pin), partly as board vision (remembering pieces also move backwards and sideways; seeing that that retreat square g8 is hit by the bishop hidden way over on a2), and partly as calculation (if I go there, this knight move will force me right back where I came, so he gains a tempo for development).  One could define a blunder as exposing oneself to danger by missing any of this which, once revealed, strikes one as very simple. It takes years, especially for an adult, to reach the point where one does not blunder much. An experienced player just sees all this forcing, this hail of lurking threats, as the normal texture of the game--the medium he moves in. You have to learn to move in that medium for anything else you do to work.

And those "positional" or "strategic" middlegame plans? They are operant at a level of at least, say, 1500 ELO, else they couldn't be carried to fruition without losing to a forcing move. Not that there aren't 1200s who will, as Serper noted, tell you that they are positional players--it's just that they are deluding themselves. They never harvest points from their positional ideas, whether they execute them or not; whatever they think about, they win when their opponent blunders more and lose when they blunder more--period.

It is very tempting to think of yourself as a positional player, or to think that you need certain especially solid openings, if you are frustrated that you frequently blunder or fall victim to tactics. It is not true! Probably, you are just playing opponents that are much better than you, which is demoralizing. Likewise with openings. Adopting a "strategic" opening like the French because in open games you get mated on f7 will only delay, not avoid, tactical engagements. If you don't like calculating tactics on an open board unblocked by pawns, the French will not save you; nothing will. As the late Markovich said, eventually pawns will be traded, many games will open up, and you will have to calculate in those open positions. Complex tactics will flare up in every game. If you cannot cope with these situations, you are not thereby a positional player! You just are not an experienced player yet.

Beginners, particularly Americans, are advised to study tactics. It is presumed that just by solving lots of "to play and win" puzzles, you will develop board vision, simple calculation, awareness of what is forced, and the rest of what I described as the basic medium of chess. I do not believe that is the case. Playing slow games is more important. Through the mid-twentieth century, it was taken for granted that if you were into chess, you primarily played--meaning slow games with friends or family and maybe in clubs and tournaments--and perhaps read game collections, as Karpov and Timman did as children. If you studied tactics, it was to augment that primary activity. But there is a modern phenomenon of players that only solve tactics puzzles and play blitz or rapid. That will not do. They never develop the full basic competency described. You have to spend time playing slow games (online for the moment), one or two per week, at least 90m + 30s, and discipline yourself to search painstakingly for all that I've described, especially your opponent's best replies to your next move--before you move, every move. That is how Lasker, Capablanca, Fischer, and the rest gained their basic competence. Play through master games annotated for instruction, without being deterred by some things you don't understand. And it will help if you study some tactics every day.

Good luck, and while it's enjoyable to develop and discover style in the sense of your particular aesthetic enjoyment of this or that part of the game, don't get too attached (if you know what I mean, cathexis)--never say you are a positional or tactical player until you are broadly competent at most fundamental chess skills: strong enough to attack the king or defend your king, play endgames or middlegames, find tactics for your opponent and yourself, calculate well and figure out where your pieces should be. As a grandmaster once told me, don't be anything. Just play well.
« Last Edit: 05/23/20 at 16:16:33 by ReneDescartes »  
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an ordinary chessplayer
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Re: Openings: Combinational vs. Positional
Reply #7 - 05/22/20 at 16:41:44
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Quote:
A Combinational player strives for a complex attacking game with lots of tactics and chances to sacrifice.

A Positional player aims for a game where little advantages can be built into a postion of strength, either to attack or to win in an endgame.
Not quite.

A Combinational player considers all the moves that capture or sacrifice something, calculates the tree of similar moves, and decides which is best to play. If none of those work, then a positional type of move is grudgingly played.

A Positional player considers all the moves that improve the pieces or pawns, calculates to make sure the opponent doesn't have a nasty trick, and decides which is best to play. If there are no moves to improve the position, it's time to win with a combination.

But that's neither here nor there. Serper nailed it. A good positional player is first of all a good tactical player. A good endgame player is first of all a good tactical player. A good {insert qualifier here} is first of all a good tactical player.

As for Classical vs Hypermodern styles, there are more styles than that:
  • Romantic - but not everybody in the Romantic period played in the Romantic style
  • Baroque - I like Richard Wincor's term although not particularly his book
  • Modern - I'm thinking 1960 not 2020
  • some unnamed styles - hard to describe, almost individualistic

When I look at the top players of today, I see a style very similar to such players as MacKenzie or Showalter from the 1890s. The difference is MacKenzie and Showalter made a lot more mistakes. From that I draw a couple of lessons. Styles go in and out of style. And style matters less than good moves.
  
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cathexis
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Re: Openings: Combinational vs. Positional
Reply #6 - 05/22/20 at 16:13:15
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Thank you!
  
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Re: Openings: Combinational vs. Positional
Reply #5 - 05/22/20 at 15:46:46
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cathexis
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Re: Openings: Combinational vs. Positional
Reply #4 - 05/22/20 at 13:58:05
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These are examples of answers I was able to find on my own by just googling the question:

https://www.chess.com/article/view/positional-or-tactical-chess

or

https://www.chess.com/blog/TigerLilov/openings-for-the-positional-player

Where the presenter emphazises the Queen's Gambit as a Positional style of opening. A number of google hits tend to rephrase this as Positional vs. Tactics. As in the 1st link.

Where were you placing the Nimzo ? Positional? Again, if we can accept the categories as defined by Mr. Coakley for purposes of discussion, it seemed to me that there was a tendency for 1.d4 to be more likely positional and 1.e4 combinational. Also, to be frank, as a novice I should also admit that I noticed the first link clearly said the novices need to learn tactics ("combinational") first. One of the "lessons" I've learned about chess is that everything you do in it says something about you.  Smiley
  
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Re: Openings: Combinational vs. Positional
Reply #3 - 05/22/20 at 10:35:49
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The Nimzo springs to mind.
  
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VGA
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Re: Openings: Combinational vs. Positional
Reply #2 - 05/22/20 at 02:17:21
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Hmmm, first thing that comes to mind is openings lile the Ruy Lopez Exchange and some lines of the Rossolimo. You give up a bishop to double up Black's pawns.

I guess any opening where you get a probable pawn structure advantage (doubled pawns, queenside majority or IQP) and no attack any time soon ... is positional. Right?

If you are giving up the bishop pair without any looming tactics then you can't day it is an aggressive opening, can you?
  
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cathexis
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Re: Openings: Combinational vs. Positional
Reply #1 - 05/19/20 at 23:42:41
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I did some of my own homework and got some tentative answers.
Those are the best answers; the ones you find for yourself.  Wink

  
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cathexis
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Openings: Combinational vs. Positional
05/19/20 at 20:30:56
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By way of a preface, I want to offer Jeff Coakley's definition of the 2 terms in the subject header and I'm asking that you accept his definitions when replying. Source: "Winning Chess Strategy for Kids, " pg.177

Quote:
A Combinational player strives for a complex attacking game with lots of tactics and chances to sacrifice.

A Positional player aims for a game where little advantages can be built into a postion of strength, either to attack or to win in an endgame.


He also talks on the same page about Chess style in terms of Classical vs. Hypermodern. What I wanted to ask the group was whether you thought chess openings could be classed according to player style? Maybe not! But if so, would you offer your opinion on which ones tend to favor each of the above two styles? I know there are a LOT of openings and with many variations therein. But I hope you'll have some helpful advice.

Please accept my thanks in advance!


  
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