The Palace of Matteo and the 2-Move Twister

Here is the game between Nunn and Seirawan, Lugano 1983 that we looked at:

How many of us would have thought of N:d5 to destroy the black pawn chain?? But the title ‘Two Move Twister’ refers to how shallow many of the tactics were in the game (many threats were only one or two moves deep!) and yet it was super-rich and complex!
This lecture is on YouTube at

And here is the software I mentioned finding about position and opening study:

‘The Palace of Matteo’ in the title refers to the memory palace inventor Matteo Ricci, a Jesuit priest who taught the technique to the Chinese hundreds of years ago. A google search of the name will give you a pile of material.

The Tabiya of Omar Khayyam

(The word ‘tabiya’ has that sound to it, yes?)

  1. (chess) A position in the opening of a game that occurs after a sequence of moves that is heavily standardized, and from which the players have many possible moves again.

Origin: From Arabic طبيعة (ṭabīʕa, “normal manner”)

One good description of ‘tabiya’ positions is from a blog I ran across where the author talked about them as ‘places where auto-pilot moves run out.’ A common one might be the Closed Ruy Lopez main lines where white plays h3 to prevent … Bg4. From those positions black can no longer play on autopilot but must choose a discernible plan.

From what I have been able to find, ‘tabiya’ studies have been a big deal in Russian (especially state-run Soviet) chess history. Tabiya positions are not collected anywhere that I could find easily in a quick pass, but the general idea is that the opening stage of the game is complete: development is done and it is now time for the themes of the middle game to take over. Commentary about the topic in forums, etc, seems to indicate that at least something like 10 moves have been played, perhaps more, so that you are not distracted by earlier decision trees. The goal is to look at a position indicative of the opening and discern what is really going on, so you might have many such positions from a given opening.

Here is a ‘tabiya’ from the Queen’s Gambit Slav:

With black to move, a common plan from here, for instance, is … c5 and b4, while white might respond with d5.

The idea of finding and studying ‘tabiya’ positions from openings is to discern the advantages, problems and plans as a ‘thematic’ knowledge base about an opening rather than memorizing raw lines. From this position, for instance, you might go find a pile of games and play through them to see what ideas might unfold, allowing you to become comfortable with the ideas and themes of the position.

You might also find such ‘ideal’ positions from openings you want to play in order to simply *aim* for them as you play. No matter the move sequence, if you know what you are trying to achieve you have a better chance of understanding your game as it unfolds and figuring out what you are trying to do, what your idealized plans might be.

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