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Understand The Position 18: “Invisible Fortress”

GM Ján Markoš | August 26, 2011 – 13:48No Comment | 1,201 views
Understand The Position 18: “Invisible Fortress”

How does a rabbit behave when he observes a predator, but is still in doubt if the predator observed him? Does he start running? No, he crouches to the ground and stays cool. Because he knows, by instinct, that he will very likely escape the attention of the attacker. Also heroes of horrors behave very similarly when being in danger; they are scared stiff and try to not even breathe.

Translated by: Dusan Turcer

I remember the scene from the Matrix movie, in which mechanical monsters similar to giant scuttles were persecuting the ship with Neo on board. The captain parked the boat, turned off all the lights and eliminated all the activity. Mechanical probes didn’t notice the motionless ship and moved away with empty tentacles.

The biggest predators of the chessboard are computer programs. With their speed and danger they are similar to the scuttles from the Matrix movie. And just like the movie scuttles also computer programs suffer from a special kind of a blind spot: motionless things are invisible for them. Let’s take a look at the following position:

White is to move and is holding a draw here after playing 1.Kf1, because his king is able to cover the squares f1, f2, g1, g2 and to control the attempts of the rook to infiltrate via “e” and “h” files. Also the pawns f3 and g3 create an effective barrier for the black king. Queenside is practically blocked, …a4 will be met by b4 and …b4 by a4.

However, all computer programs will evaluate the position as easy win for Black. That is because their engine works as follows: it is looking for a certain number of best moves for both sides and evaluates the resulting position while considering a number of criteria (material, piece activity, kings’ position, pawn structure, etc.) Fortress is however something permanent, the so-called “eternal”. The position on the diagram will not substantially change even after a hundred or a thousand moves. Programs always analyze to the final depth and thus fail to recognize the fortress.

Ability to recognize the fortress – at least to my knowledge – is the only “skill” in chess, in which also the amateur chess player can do better than the best computers. That is to say that people do not calculate; or rather, they can do more than just calculate. People are capable of synthesis, holistic overall view. And in particular, we are able to think in words, in terms as “fortress”, “a bishop pair” and others.

How do you explain the term “fortress” in the language of ones and zeros? Isn’t it like to explain the “blue colour” to the person who is blind from birth?

This post is also available in: Slovak

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