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Throwing Down the Gauntlet to the Old School of Chess Thought

Aug 25, 2017

Hi chess people of Nederland and Chessity guests,

The new ALT-Chess Square 1 method is out. Its First Hour of Chess, Part 13 of Principia Scacchorum was published on chess dot com yesterday. It breaks fresh ground of how we are going to teach chess at Square One, on Day One, for much better results than the traditional approach currently produces.

It is based on the idea Nimzovich, Copernicus of Chess, came up with in How I became a Grandmaster back in 1929. The idea of r-e-l-a-t-i-o-n is somewhat hidden and can't be easily recognized as someting so important for teaching Chess Square One (GM Ray Keene omitted Nimzo's First Hour of Chess in his Nimtzowitsh: A Reappraisal - I published its first English translation in full in The Chess Journalist of America, Vol XL, No4 in Fall 2011.).

The ALT-Square One approach is throwing down the gauntlet to the Old Church and its scripts. It is challenging the ineffective, lacking meaning, and let's say it openly, broken traditional method having been in place for too, too long (look one of millions of games the traditional "teaching" at SQ1 has produced: 1.e4 d5 2.Bd3 Bg4 3.exd5 Bishop takes Queen at move Three, you can't believe your eyes, can you? - btw, the boys had been in chess for 6 months at the time, in an afterschool program here in Atlanta; this game was actually a trigger point for me to start researching Chess Square One, and after eight long years, the ALT-Sq1 has finally come).

Any revolution... begins with some definite act, often meant to purify corrupt practices and restore what some conservative radical imagines as a pristine state of things.

-Charles C. Gillispie, The Edge of Objectivity (1960)

The crisis of the traditional Square One is really a chronic crisis of meaning. As a result, wood pushing is most likely to be seen with 99,5% of all chess entrants. Too bad. To paraphrase Dr. Tarrasch, chess, like love, like music, has the potential to make people happy. Yet, millions are kept outside the game and an enjoyment of life time as they never get out of Level One beyond the moves. Too sad.

Meaning in chess can only come from the power structure on the board. Only network of pieces and their interrelations can give the player the reason for a move. Otherwise, it is like kicking the football randomly into the air (and that is not how Cruyff and Co. played back then).

The position of a piece on the board is only meaningful relative to its relations to other pieces. Not only chess piece relations define Space (chess space wouldn't even exist on the board without pieces exerting Force in it - imagine a lifeless empty board; see Principia Scacchorum Part 7 on Force), relations also introduce Time into the picture - any change of piece relations on the battleboard is an event of chess Time.

Yet, the scripts of the Old Church are totally unaware of this when they start teaching with the moves. The whole idea of the ALT-Square 1 approach is actually turning things upside down - relations come BEFORE the moves***.

If you check the First Year of Study book published by FIDE, you find the word attack (the generic piece relation from which all other - protection, restriction, interposition - can be deduced from) only on p.68, without any explanation. Then next occurence is on p.92, Exercise 3:

"Read carefully and remember. The king cannot move onto an attacked square." (note the tone... the old school... discipline, parotting and stuff...)

If you check the Stepping Stones teaching method, perhaps one of the best around (that you guys must be very well acquainted of), it introduce relationships on p. 46. Still a little bit too late in my view.

If you check the seminal Choice and Thought in Chess, the baby of your great compatriot Adrian de Groot, and go to the speak-aloud protocols section, you may well realize that the first impulse that comes to mind of a Grandmaster when starting analyzing a position, is spotting relations:

Keres: Who is actually better off? Let's first have a look at what can be taken; are there any immediate attacks?

Alekhine: Is the pawn at b2 really attacked?

Euwe is talking "hanging position of the Knight." "overburdening of the Bishop," "Bishop at R2 undefended," pieces being "tied down," "overloaded," etc.

So why in the world we don't start off with the relations, in place of the moves?

Everything has been rapidly changing in our lives, especially in the past few decades, the first PC in 1980, Internet in early 90s, iPhone was invented, our lifes are transforming at light speed, yet chess is being taught in the same way since time eternal.

Let us change that.

The noble game has deserved that. And millions of people kept outside the gates of the glorious Castle of Chess.

Momir Radovic

Marietta, GA

PS All your feedback on the ALT-Square One and how to improve it would be greatly appreciated

PPS Here I have to apologize to Joern, who asked "So, tell me how to begin to teach chess and make it fun?" in his comment to my Better Chess Vision. A Manifesto post here on Chessity more than two years ago. My reply was "in a few weeks time." To tell the truth, the idea of teaching relations before the moves has been incubating since 2009 and it took 8 years to give birth to my ALT-Square 1 baby.

“Simple can be harder than complex: You have to work hard to get your thinking clean to make it simple. But it’s worth it in the end because once you get there, you can move mountains.” Steve Jobs

PPPS As for fun that Joern asked for, here is Wilm Geurts of Holland, after trying my method to teach his kids

"As today was a very sunny day we played the mini game for only 20-30 minutes or so, deciding to go out afterwards. But they really enjoyed it. And even my wife, who thinks chess is not her thing, took part playing on the side of one of the kids and enjoyed it very much too."

"I think one of the main reasons they enjoyed it so much is that the game has an immediate purpose. In regular chess, now that they know the rules, I have already seen that they quickly lose interest in playing as they "don't know what to do", the purpose of mating your opponent being quite far away and it being too early for them to develop a strategy of their own."

*** "But how to teach "attack", "protection", etc. if you haven't first explained the movements?" asked me the Italian Master Franco Zaninotti in a discussion on the Italian Chess Federation FB page. Well, it is not easy to change established mindset. It is much easier to have proper mindset developed in the mind of a Blank Slate, than make mind shift in the head of a teacher...

The answer to this 'But how?', you can find below

Link to ALT-Chess Square One

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