In the epilogue of Improve Your Chess Pattern Recognition – which from here on I will refer to as IYCPR – I wrote that the number of patterns had by no means been exhausted after the publication of that book. Firstly, at the time some existing material had to be dropped. In addition, I also wrote that I kept running into ‘fresh’ patterns. The two examples with mysterious rook moves which I gave then have grown into an entire chapter in the present book, partly also because it turned out that there was a great link with Nimzowitsch’ writings. And when a pattern returns over the ages, it truly is a pattern! Little has changed in the past year, and even today I am still bumping into ‘fresh’ patterns. Since I also received many enthusiastic reactions to IYCPR, what would be more logical than a follow-up book?
And this is exactly what happened. You’re looking at it! Right away, here I would like to thank Peter Boel and all the members of the New In Chess team for their invaluable patience and dedication. Numerous chapters have again been derived from my columns in the no longer existing ChessVibes Training magazine. The others are new. A couple of these have been published in New In Chess Magazine, but in a different, more compact fashion.
What about the content of Train Your Chess Pattern Recognition? To those not familiar with IYCPR I would like to point out that the patterns described in these two books are not tactical, but strategic. They all concern the middlegame, occasionally overlapping into the opening or the endgame. The central pawn sac with …e7-e6 is an example of the former, while the chapter on major pieces – Major Pieces in the Twilight Zone? – could be considered to belong to the latter. Drawing a distinct line between the three stages of the game is not always easy, but neither will it always be relevant. This is precisely why Romanovsky referred to positions with only major pieces as the ‘fourth phase’, because unlike in ‘true’ endgames the king often isn’t able to become active.
In the middlegame, one particular pattern can be a predominant factor, but in our complex game there are bound to be other typical features, and typical counter-reactions, in certain positions. This is a good argument for studying several examples of one pattern and so become acquainted with the typical pros and cons. Therefore, the basic set-up has remained the same: every chapter contains a pattern with an average of seven illustrative game fragments. Occasionally, more examples – sometimes very famous ones – will be referred to. You can easily find these elsewhere, for instance in the online database of New In Chess.
For my selection of patterns I preferred those which were not mainly tied to particular openings. These will be supplied in any good opening book. Nevertheless, you will find some exceptions – particular Arturito’s Exchange Sac, which I decided to include anyway because, although it is probably quite limited to variations from the Semi-Slav or the Queen’s Gambit Accepted, it’s a wonderful exchange sac, which keeps you guessing about the compensation for quite a while.
Furthermore, I am quite fond of ‘unknown’ or unexpected patterns, like Anand’s piece sac ♘g5 and f2-f4 against So in Shamkir 2015 – see Chapter 7, A Little Leap Forward. Of course this idea had been seen in earlier games, but in completely other settings.
However much fun this may be, in practice you would probably benefit more from studying the more common typical manoeuvres, like swinging rooks or the typical …b7-b5 break. Many of these you will also find in this book. Nice little booklets could even be written on some of them.
For instance, the early, sometimes sacrificial g2-g4 advance is nowadays widespread in numerous openings, but Alekhine already experimented with it a long time ago against Euwe. Coincidentally, two months back I noticed my team member IM Stefan Kuipers (against Werle, Groningen 2015) had ventured an advance that was quite similar to Alekhine’s:
Hector’s Gambit: 1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.♘c3 ♗b4 4.♘ge2 dxe4 5.a3 ♗e7 6.g4 (Alekhine played 6.♘xe4 ♘c6 7.g4)
Of course, this had been tried out by independent minds like Albin Planinec and Jonny Hector long before. I wouldn’t be surprised if somebody had called it Hector’s Gambit already. Anyway, there is too much material for this book’s format – and also perhaps too much to keep you excited for an entire booklet. However, of course the g2-g4 advance did get a chapter in this book.
Train Your Pattern Recognition is divided into six parts. I think that the first four don’t need a lot of further explanation, as the chapters speak for themselves. But I would like to give a little more comment on the final two parts.
I am very pleased to have included a part on various material imbalances. I don’t know whether we can actually call an imbalance a pattern, but it definitely is a striking feature, which many a chess player will take as a starting point to assess a position. But there are other typical features and general guidelines to be found in such situations. I always love to use these positions in training sessions (but lacked any good books on the subject!), because I think they are helpful for developing a good feeling for the activity and coordination of your pieces – in short, a good sense for the relative value of the pieces.
The final section of this book contains a couple of bad patterns. In the first place, because it is useful to recognize a bad pattern. Some of them may be obvious, but beware: even World Champions have had a terribly bad bishop stuffed away in a miserable corner of the board! Even they realized it too late. And secondly, because many a bad pattern has its good side, as the Dutch soccer hero Johan Cruijff has also pointed out in general terms (his adage ‘Every disadvantage has its advantage’ is quite famous in the Netherlands). And, as I mentioned before, I simply like to point out surprising, counter-intuitive possibilities. For me they contribute greatly to the charm of our game.
Remember that pattern recognition is only part of the solution, not the solution itself! A lot of work still has to be done once you have spotted a typical idea. You can use the exercises at the end of each part to check your knowledge. But before you do that, have fun with the chapters, and go ahead and Train Your Pattern Recognition!
Arthur van de Oudeweetering