Tuesday, November 9, 2010


It is indeed hard for a non-chess player to write about chess if he does not speak the lingo of chess-players. Little wonder then that all of us chess-players will tend to misconstrue his intentions.

Analysing why an outcome has occurred after the event, piecing the pieces of evidence that led to the outcome is called post-mortem analysis, not technical evaluation. All good chess players do that at the end of each game for it is rare that both players would arrive at the same conclusions at every juncture after each move, maybe except for the 1st few moves of the opening where it is accepted conventional wisdom. Aided by a reasonable thought process, it is mainly the evaluation of the position after analysis to determine if the move or idea is playable. Through analysis, one learns a great deal about his/her strengths and weaknesses, particularly in the area of chess study and character shortcomings which need to be addressed.

Any amount of analysis will reveal, for the loser, errors in the following:

a. Strategic errors  - Misjudging a position due to the over-estimation  of one's positional factors over that of the opponent. Or it could be trading down to a lost endgame without knowing. Or choosing to delay the decisive blow hoping for more gains, which turn out to be illusory.

b. Tactical errors - Simply missing a tactic that loses material, or failing to calculate the position to quiescence (ie no more checks, captures or threats present in the position)

c. Off the board errors - Nerves, panic in the face of time-trouble thereby leading to b. Other character flaws such as lack of guts or over-estimating the opponent's strength may also attribute.

If one reads Mark Dvoretsky's writings at the Chess Instructor 2009, you will then realise that  purposeful chess training can fix most of the errors outlined above. If someone is weak at calculating, keep putting  complex positions and analyse all variations each move. Over time, you have to get better as your mind subliminally learns from the various patterns and possibilities presented. For time trouble weaknesses, learn to find ways to delay the battle by perhaps exchanging to a slightly inferior endgame and take your chances. Many who have endgame phobia will shun this and rather play to lose in the middlegame, well, that's a choice.

My learned friend across the Causeway asked a very interesting question: " How does one think at the critical point of decision-making"? What is the critical point? How does one know if the position in front of him/her is critical?

Critical point in a position is dependent on a few factors : Amount of time left on the clock, status of the position (winning or losing), what phase of the game its in (opening, middlegame or endgame), the strengths and weaknesses of the player. All these factors will decide the course of action. As to how, I believe a study of Dvoretsky's books will yield some answers, esp Training for the Tournament Player and Technique for the Tournament Player are 2 that come to mind.Or if you prefer, solve the puzzles given by him at the Chess Cafe under the Instructor. 

How about looking up Colin Crouch's Why We Lose At Chess? Or Jonathan Rowson's Seven Deadly Chess Sins?

There's a good review of the book at http://www.chessville.com/reviews/TheSevenDeadlyChessSins.htm

Both books will serve to uncover the weakness of the mind in a chess-player. Believe me, they will serve you better rather than Dr deBono. After all, who understands chess better than the players themselves?

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