Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Color Complexes and the Bangiev Method

Color Complexes and the Bangiev Method

I've been interested for some time in Alexander Bangiev's "B-Method" of decomposing a chess position so that one can find reasonable candidate moves based on (what I find) his unique and innovative system called the Squares Strategy. Here I'll attempt to explain as much as I can how a run-of-the-mill player like myself views this method and if it is something that the average Joe chess player can take advantage of. Bangiev claims that this method targets players rated approximately 1800 in the german rating system, and that is just about where I sit today, give or take 100 points. I will leave out the "B-Notation" - the shorthand symbolic language he uses to discuss the specifics of a position - as that just tends to confuse the new learner. I'll attempt to explain it in laymans english. Hopefully I do not violate any copyrights. If I do, I apologize.

First we must define what it is we are looking at: What is The Squares Strategy? If you were to read the scant reviews about Bangiev's Chessbase CDs on Chess Cafe and other 'reputable' sites, you'd most likely be put off on purchasing these CD's, and that might be justified at some level, but I find that the reviewers missed the mark in attempting to understand what Bangiev's B-Method is all about: Color Complexes.

Everyone knows what a 'color complex' is, even if you are not specifically aware that is what it is called. All chess players have erroneously played g3 in front of their castled king position after trading off their light-squared Bishop, at some point in their chess career, and had the unwanted pleasure of watching your opponent occupy the squares f3, g4, and h3 and proceed to slaughter your King where he stands. Those squares are a 'color complex' of light squares. This is the basis of the B-Method, but don't let the terminology scare you away. Just knowing that is where the ideas are coming from is enough to get us started.

The B-Method begins by asking the same three questions at each move of the game:
1) The Strategy Question (SQ)
2) The Direction Question (DQ)
3) The Color Question (CQ)

After answering those three VITAL questions, we can continue with three more questions:
4) Put to Question which pieces
5) CAndidate Moves
6) The Game Move

Naturally, one has to understand the question before one asks, so lets try and decompose each question in simple(r) terms.

The Strategy Question (SQ)
The Strategy Question is the starting point in Bangiev's B-Method. It seeks to give the player a consistent starting point from which to develop the correct plan from the central pawns based on the players' perspective, i.e., from his point of view. It takes into account only the true center of a chessboard: d4 and e4 (from the white perspective), and e5 and d5 (from the black perspective). Given that, White is restricted to two specific strategies: d4-Strategy and the e4-Strategy. Black, on the other hand, is restricted to two similar strategies: e5-Strategy and the d5-Strategy. Naturally, a different (but similar) strategy manifests itself depending on which square is taken into consideration. For example, after 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 it makes perfect sense for White to consider an e4-strategy as the e4-pawn controls the white squares d5 and f5. Naturally White will want to occupy d5/f5. A similar idea exists for Black in the same position: he would consider the e5-strategy and direct his efforts along the black squares d4 or f4, and attempt to occupy those squares. As you may see at this point, this leads to the Question of Direction. Which way do I go?

The Direction Question (DQ)
After establishing the SQ and the starting point, you are faced with a decision of which direction you should seek play in. As is well known in chess, you cannot attack in two directions effectively simultaneously. Answering the Question fo Direction properly gives you the most likely and effective direction based on piece and pawn placement in the current position. But, to answer this question, you must make some assessments in the position. Here your task is to determine which direction (in our example of the e4-strategy above) your pieces cooperate the best in, i.e., which direction from e4 do your pieces concentrate their infuence the most in. Given the correct strategy from SQ, there can be only one of two answers for our e4-strategy example: d5 or f5.

The Color Question (CQ)
Once here, we know two things: The strategy (e4), and the Direction (d5). Contrary to the Direction Question in which you ask 'which direction are MY pieces cooperating in?', here we look at the opponent's pieces and ask 'what color squares do my opponents pieces defend?'. If, in our e4 example, Black is defending the dark squares heavily, then you may want to consider a Color strategy on the opposite color, which makes sense because there will be less resistance on that color. Your decision here should be primarily based on the defender's piece placement and your ability to eliminate or neutralize defenders on the color you choose to play on. Also note that Pawns, Bishops and Knights all attack a single color at any one time. Coordination of these pieces and the selection of the proper color to play on is vital to success when using the "B-Method", and is its strength with regard to Color Complexes.

Put to Question (PQ)
The next step we consider is: which opponent's pieces are defending the color squares which we have chosen to occupy/attack from CQ? Here we look for candidate moves that will eliminate or get those pieces entangled or caught up in the action. This is obviously the most difficult part of the B-Method, but given the focus from the previous three questions, this should limit to only a few moves for consideration as candidate moves, the next step.

Candidate Moves (CM)
Your candidate moves are those moves you came up with in the PQ step. Enumerate them and analyze to determine which move meets the needs of the position the best.

Game Move (GM)
The Game move is the move that meets the needs of the position the best from your list of Candidate Moves.

This is, in a very broad nutshell, the B-Method. Is it useful as described above? I think it is, but it will take a certain amount of practice and training to get used to the ideas presented. A good start would be to take a bunch of master games and play the first several moves then do the assessment yourself for both sides, note it, and see how the players follow your ideas. Continue to reassess the position every move or so. Naturally, a better way is to buy all three CDs but I don't want to sound like a Bangiev Shill, but they can be had at the Chessbase Store on the internet.

Happy Chess!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Glad to see you posting again. Your posts are always very insightful and helpful.