16 Parameters

The following parameters are taken from Sharp Endgames. They are used to describe what’s at stake at Critical Moments (CM) in a game – and thus why these decisions are hard to make.

Within the exercises: 12 parameters

1) Transform-willingness: are you ready for a radical shift in the type of position that implies a new material balance on the board?

2) Change Gears: the ability to change the tempo of the fight during the course of the game if demanded by the circumstances – both in attack and defence. At times, one needs to play forcefully, only to change gears on the next move and play more strategically. Sensing the ups and downs of the fight and reacting accordingly, is one of the most difficult things in chess. The term is taking from the world of poker, and to my knowledge, the Danish GM Sune Berg Hansen is the first to have used it in a chess context

3) Positional judgement: how well knowledge and intuition are used in the decision-making process

4) Basic Endgame Knowledge: the ability to navigate in the position and make decisions based on your basic endgame knowledge (positions that are either drawn or won)

5) MOE (Method of Elimination): you do not spot the idea on the next CM, but you are still able to play the right move over the board anyway. The correct use of MOE is about making the right choice

6) Prophylactic thinking: moves that support one’s own play and simultaneously prevent or suppress the plan of the opponent. This is a special case of displaying multiple ideas in one move, where focus is on both attack and defence. Please also notice the difference between prophylaxis and passivity: a passive move has no eye for the active potential of the move. We usually evaluate a move as passive, if there are other and better alternatives in the position to choose from

7) Planning: setting priorities and finding concrete attacking points. This ability is usually important when the position has ‘geared down’ for a moment, and before it becomes sharp again

8) Consequent Follow-up: the plan you initiated earlier is followed up by a focused display of moves. Already when you planned the idea, you were aware that the position could in fact arise on the board, and you are ready to go through with the planned moves.

9) A feel for details: spotting important minor differences between similar lines that has a huge impact on the resulting position

10) Working with the King: precision when the king moves across the board. The ability to display multiple ideas with the king is also important

11) Surprising Moves: the ability to spot surprising game-changing moves, both for yourself and for the opponent. Especially the surprising ideas from the opponent can easily be overlooked. And: surprising ideas and tactics do appear in sharp positions

12) Play the most forced line if possible: forcing play reduces the possibilities of the opponent. As a defender, it makes the task a lot easier if you can force the draw. The alternative is to be constantly on the guard for new attacking ideas by the opponent, and then adjust accordingly. In general, unforcing play is a way to put pressure on your opponent if you have the upper hand – but be aware in the exercises that you cannot fool a strong engine!

 Follow-up on exercises: 4 parameters

13) The right decision: the ability to spot Critical Moments (CM) and play the critical line over the board. If you saw the critical line but for some reason didn’t play it, it is useful to try to figure out why you refrained from it

14) Move sensitivity: the ability to know afterwards exactly where you played wrong in the exercise. This shows how conscious you are about your choices during the exercise

15) Composure: for how long did you stay in the exercise? How many CM did you manage? Or did you crack under the (time) pressure? Remember that the moves played on the board is the argument for success, and that ending up in time pressure is your own responsibility. The term Composure shows the players ability to keep the nerves under control and avoid a sudden collapse

16) Calculation ability under time pressure: it is easy to dismiss calculation and make moves on general ground in time pressure – often with fatal consequences (“This looks too dangerous, I play something safer…”). If this happens often to you in the exercises, you should carefully check your time distribution.