A theory on Theories

11th May 2020

The game of chess has always been a complex one for the human intellect to comprehend. At every moment, there are ocean of possibilities one has to consider. Humans have coped with this problem by learning chess through concepts and theories.

White to play

Anyone familiar with the theory of opposition will immediately choose Kb1! for white here. But, if you are not familiar with the concept of opposition, even with a lone king you would have 3 candidate moves to consider.

If we consider a longer-range piece than the King, we may look at this simple theoretical position in a rook endgame.

Black to Play

Another very basic position which, anyone familiar with the Philidor position, can easily find. The rook has a number of moves here and the king two moves. But Black would just play Rg6 without any hesitation. I have to point out that Rg2 and Rg1 and number of other moves also lead to a draw. But we would never consider those moves. Eliminating possibilities/candidate moves appears to be one of the main characteristics of theory.

Theory in chess becomes more complex once we leave the realm of finite positions i.e Positions that can be reached to a conclusion and positions where one good move exists.

From these conclusive endgames, let us move onto a middle game position. A simple position for white.

Fischer Robert James-Ibrahimoglu Ismet 1970

The position was shown to me by GM Sundararajan Kidambi and this article is a consequence of the thought process that evolved from that.

Black has a weak square on d5, a weak bishop on d6 and pieces that are much less active than white’s. ”The theory of positional chess” says that White has a huge positional advantage here.

Fischer’s move here was Qd2 and he managed to beat his opponent very convincingly (as he usually does.)

When prompted for a move I immediately responded with Qd2, so did a few other players to whom I posed the same question.
There exists another amazing possibility for white here. Bh6+! Kh6 Rg8!! And black king is unable to escape mate.

Just like any other theory, maybe….. theory of positional chess hides tactical possibilities from our vision or at least makes us less vigilant. Although in this game from a practical point of view it did not matter much.

Humans have not yet figured out a theory that would explain decision making in every position - a theory of everything in chess! And so we will have to stick to making mistakes in our games and maybe it isn't such a bad thing. It keeps chess alive!

● Theory aims at narrowing the vision from the innumerous possibilities chess offers and tries to focus on what is critical in the position.
● It becomes harder and harder to identify what is important once the game leaves the finite area of theoretical endgames.
● There is no single theory for every position in chess


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