# For a chess learner, isn't spatial phase after time phase?

In their Steps Method, Brunia and Wijgerden identify the chess development of a child as several stages, namely Material phase, Spatial phase and Time phase in that order (see the image at the end).

Although there is overlap between the phases, progress could be made only in this order according to them.

They also recommend not to try and explain a concept in a phase before the student at least starts transitioning to that phase. Hence, the order of the phases is important.

Here, the material phase corresponds to the force (or simply called material) principle of chess. In 'Play winning chess', Seirawan & Silman use this as the order of the principles: force, time, space, pawn structure, (which seems a more intuitive order to me).

Assuming the phases should apply for beginners (not necessarily kids),
Doesn't time phase come before spatial phase? or does this vary from person to person?

It is probably worth starting by giving some concrete examples of what is meant by the material, spatial and time phases.

``````[Title "Material vs Spatial phase"]
[fen "6k2/ppp1rppp/3b4/8/8/QR5P/PPP2PP/6K1 b - - 0 1"]

1...Bxa3? {Played by a beginner still stuck firmly in the material phase} (1...Re1# {Only really possible once the player has progressed to the spatial phase})
``````

How often in this kind of position do we see beginners grab the queen because it "evens up the point count"? They are stuck in the material phase. Only once they have progressed to the spatial phase do they see and prefer to play the checkmate. Hopefully they progress to this stage quite quickly.

However mastering the time phase is much more difficult. Many intermediate level players still struggle with this phase. Consider this simple endgame where the result depends on who moves first. This requires a grasp of the time phase which usually comes much later than the spatial phase.

``````[Title "Time Phase - white to play and win, black to play and draw"]
[fen "4k3/8/8/8/8/8/4P3/4K3 w - - 0 1"]

1. Kd2 (1. null Ke7 2. Kd2 Ke6 3. Ke3 Ke5 4. Kd3 Kd5 5. e4+ Ke5 6. Ke3 Ke6 7. Kf4 Kf6 8. e5+ Ke6 9. Ke4 Ke7 10. Kf5 Kf7 11. e6+ Ke7 12. Ke5 Ke8 13. Kf6 Kf8 14. e7+ Ke8 15. Ke6=) Ke7 2. Ke3 Ke6 3. Ke4 Kf6 4. Kd5 Kf7 5. e4 Ke7 6. Ke5 Kf7 7. Kd6 Ke8 8. e5 Kd8 9. e6 Ke8 10. e7 Kf7 11. Kd7
``````

For a chess learner, isn't spatial phase after time phase?

No, the time phase is much more difficult to master. Many weaker players never get that far.

• There are two kinds of time: speed & opposition Commented Jan 17 at 0:21
• @Laska Indeed. And if you play through the two lines above you will see both playing their part. Commented Jan 17 at 11:24
• The example for time phase is not suitable here. For most chess positions, time means gain of tempo (from the description of the authors, it is clear that this is their understanding as well). Also, it is overly complicated for a simple example of losing tempo. I am afraid this example does not actually compare time and space aspects. It would be great if someone can give two simple puzzles both containing time and space elements, and then consider how beginners would fare in solving them. Commented Apr 12 at 12:05
• To clarify, the 1st example is great for comparing material vs space. A similar comparison of space vs time would be nice. Commented Apr 12 at 12:06