By Momir Radovic
What Makes Chess Masters Masters
Indeed, very little, in stark contrast with its supreme importance for playing good chess, can be found on the CoG concept in all chess literature (here are Part1 and Part2 of the exclusive coverage right here on the Georgia Chess News site).
It is not an easy concept though. After all, it is what makes chess Masters Masters – recognizing and focusing on the most pressing priorities of a situation, which is actually the secret of their success (in fact, this is true for all fields of human endeavor!).
CoG is a big idea, nevertheless, we should introduce big chess ideas that convey the core concepts and skills early in the learning process (like in math, or science, and at a suitable level for the learner as they progress, of course).
The point is, the brain becomes familiar with the idea and, after reinforcing it for a period of time, it learns to look for CoG so effortlessly, without being conscious of it.
Working on your tactics or endgame is fine, but remember, the difference between winners in life and others is usually not knowledge, it is how brain executive functions control and manage your cognitive processes, how thought and action are activated while confronted with real-life situations 24/7 — including that difficult position on the board being played right now — you are making continuous decisions.
Again, the CoG provides strength to your position; it is the source of power from which your chessmen continually draw fresh energy; it is the center that your pieces and their assigned roles should revolve around; the CoG gives cohesion to the coordinated effort of pieces (“the main chess principle throughout,” Capablanca).
In this Part 3 on Center of Gravity, I would like to share with you the CoG principles IM Vuković came up with in his Introduction to Chess (Zagreb, 1947).
IM Vladimir Vuković (1898-1975) was a Croatian chess writer, theoretician and journalist. He authored The Art of Attack in Chess (1965), one of the finest chess books ever written on tactics and, in particular, attack on the king.
In Introduction to Chess, Vuković begins, as is usual, with the basic chess rules and tactics, then he covers positional play for two chapters. He presents main positional themes (better development, space control, centralization, strong and weak pieces/squares, etc.) in the chapter “Theory of positional play.” After that, there is a new chapter, “Action in Positional Play.” (“Action is the essential basis on which the game of chess is founded,” begins Vuković’s classic Attack in Chess.) The very first thing in this chapter is the CoG concept (Vuković is following the same logic of introducing a big idea early, as mentioned above).
Two CoG Principles in Chess
For Vuković, the main characteristic of the position (“glavno obilježje”) is that the central feature in the balance of power on the board that may bring you a certain advantage on account of a number of tempi, or precious chess time that you have invested in building your position. The concept can’t be clearly defined, adds Vuković, and many a Master will not agree on what the CoG in a position actually is. Yet, it is very useful to introduce the idea to help in evaluating position and it served Vuković well throughout his career while analyzing and commenting on chess games.
He is of the opinion that a lot of mistakes in practical play are made as a result of not obeying the CoG principles. He defines two such principles:
1) You must not abandon the CoG you have established. Maintain it. Adjust your play to keep the advantage gained with it in case the opponent tries to fight against it. Transformation of the advantage into a new form may take place then, ideally at least equal to the original one.
2) It would be a mistake to ignore your CoG; your play should flow from it, and focus on strengthening it even further.
It is easy to explain principle #1. The player has used a certain number of tempi to build their CoG. By abandoning it, the invested capital is lost.
Here is a very basic position on principle #1:
White makes a mistake by playing 1.Bxe6? fxe6 2.Nxe6 Qb6 3.Nxf8 Bxf8.
He trades two minor pieces for a rook and two pawns which looks equal material-wise; yet, he liquidates the CoG (the centralized B and N), for which he has invested three tempi in. No wonder, after this “combination,” he stands worse.
Look at the following position where Black correctly and consistently maintained a CoG, in Gufeld-Kavalek, Marianske Lazne 1962. Black gave out N for three pawns and now must be careful not to let White trade his knight for the strong Bb6 (Nc4 is threatening). The bishop is supporting the advanced f2-pawn that is clearly White’s CoG in this position.
In order to maintain his CoG, Black sacrifices the exchange: 1…Rxd2! 2.Kxd2 e4 3.Bf8 (with the idea to play 4.b4 and 5.Bc5, thus eliminating the opponent’s CoG; on 3.c4 follows 3…Bd4) 3…f4 4.b4 Rg5 5.Bc5 Rxc5! (White gives the exchange again to keep his bishop and sustain the CoG!) 6.bxc5 Bxc5 7.Rab1 Kf5 8.Rb4 f3 9.Rd4 Bxd4 (the bishop has done its job well, from now on it is the king that will support the pawns) 10.cxd4 Kf4 11.Rxf2 e3+ 12.Ke1 exf2+ 13.Kxf2 and White loses on time. An impressive and instructive game!
The CoG principle #2. Here is a game to show what happens when a player ignores the CoG he has built, from Hans Mueller-Spielmann, Vienna 1921.
White created a strong position for his e5-knight and he should have continued to further build on top of that advantage. The simplest way was 1.O-O and 2.f4 to strengthen the N’s position, or perhaps to open up the f-file. Instead, White starts an ineffective action on the queen side without taking into account his CoG, 1.Qb3? a5 2.c5? b6! (attacking the Pc5 and offering a pawn; on 3.cxb6 cxb6 4.Qxb6, follows 4…Ba6 when Black doesn’t really care about his pawns) 3.Rc1 Ba6 4.h4 (having played against the nature of his CoG, White made things worse in just three moves; the strong appearance of Ne5 is now illusory as there is no action of other pieces to support it, while Ba6 is a huge worry for White; the rest is just execution.) 4…Qf6 5.f4 exf3 6.gxf3 Bc4 7.Qa3 (7.Nxc4 Qxf3) 7…b5 8.b3 Bd3! (White was under the impression that he trapped the bishop, but he was wrong, 9.Nxd3 Qxf3 10.Kd2 Qg2+ 11.Kc3 b4 etc.) 9.Qb2 a4 10.Qd2 Bg6 11.h6 Be8 (the bishop is finally pushed back, but White’s position is incurable; he played twelve more moves before resigning).
Next time we are going to look at a GM game to see what happens when one makes aimless moves that don’t contribute to establishing a CoG, while being blind to where his opponent is investing chess capital! Not surprisingly, the other guy was able to cash in on it in only 22 moves…
Featured Picture: Betty Miss Boll, Les Pensuers/Thinkers
December 2014 Player of the Month: Shanmukha Meruga Next Post:
Southeast Chess December Open Results