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Lasker System

Mr. Emanuel Lasker, the second World Champion analyzed the Steinitz's principles, appreciated them a lot but also found certain weaknesses. Steinitz did not say what to do in balanced positions. Shall we just wait for a weak move by opponent (again shifting to gambling). Lasker  found the answer as "Piece Coordination".

The theory of Piece Cooperation:    Pieces shall be coordinated in all the three positions. Though it looks similar but in fact, piece coordination in these 3 conditions is quite different :

1. Attacking Positions: Cooperation shall be achieved to strengthen each element of the group. Here, pieces shall attack the same square (normally weak square) and if more pieces are able to accumulate and focus the same square, it may result in material gain after exchanges.

2. Defending Positions: Here, pieces shall safeguard each other. 

In the above two cases, as a compromise of focus/ defence, the pieces will not be able to cover the squares left by other pieces.

3. Balanced Positions: Pieces shall complement each other. Here, pieces cover more and more squares as they need not focus on the same point or safeguard each other. Good Bishop pair is best example in such cases.

Impact of Distance in piece coordination:  Usually it is thought that pieces at a distance cannot cooperate but Lasker pointed out that even distant pieces can cooperate. For example, in the end game, passed pawns on a and h files can cooperate and one can draw opponent's king towards it so that other one can get promoted to queen (principle of two weaknesses).

The theory of local imbalance in balanced positions: Lasker pointed out another fault in Steinitz's theory of balanced positions. There are very few perfectly balanced positions. Other positions are locally imbalanced even if overall balanced. So, the players can attack at different points even if the position is overall balanced often leading to fierce struggles. For example, White may have advantage in queen-side and Black in the king-side.

The Principle of Justice:  Lasker says that in balanced positions, one shall follow the principle of justice. Here, he talks management. Suppose, you are a CEO of a company. Would you afford, some one working day and night and other one sleeping. Or a highly paid one working less and lowly paid working hard. Justice has to be there on chess board as well. Pieces shall act as per their capability and made to contribute fully. However, if a piece can contribute more in the end, it can be kept behind initially and other less or equally capable pieces may be given a chance (so the famous Lasker instruction - Develop knights before bishops).

The Principle of Proportion:  Lasker writes that though Steinitz would have thought about this theory but he could not put it in words. During attack in imbalanced positions, the advantage which an attacker shall expect shall be in proportion to the positional advantage he has before the attack starts. Attack is the means of converting positional or dynamic advantages to material or permanent advantages. In a similar way, the defender can estimate his losses as well. Many attacks and defences have failed due to over-rated expectations or fears. Positional sacrifices shall also follow this principle of proportion.
Psychology in Chess:  Kasparov in his book "My Great Predecessors" says Lasker was master of preparations. He used to adjust his style of play as per his opponent. The psychological advantages he had in most of the games he played due to his perfectly balanced and varied style was the root cause of his longest reign as World Champion.

References: (As the goal of this site is to evolve a grand synthesis, example games are outside its scope unless they illustrate the final theory. Kindly purchase and read these important books for more details and examples for these introductory sections)

1. Lasker's Manual of Chess by Emanuel Lasker, Russel Enterprises, Inc, Milford, CT, USA 2008
2. My Great Predecessors - Part I by Gary Kasparov, Everyman Chess

Nimzowitsch System

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