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Misevaluations in Chess

  • WGM Natalia_Pogonina
  • | Feb 28, 2012
  • | 9592 views
  • | 45 comments

Life is about defining priorities and making choices. Sometimes we tend to overestimate or underestimate certain factors. Chess is not an exception.

First of all, sometimes we misevaluate what’s happening on the board itself. Secondly, quite often we incorrectly assess our own and our opponents’ options.

Positional evaluation is a key element of the game. It helps us choose the correct plan. If you misevaluate the position, you are likely to lose quickly, while a deep assessment can help outwit the opponent. Overestimating one’s position is a common sin among chess players that leads to excessively aggressive plans, reckless attacks and other uncalled-for activities. Underestimating one’s position can lead to passive play, failing to find the right defensive resources and even resigning prematurely. Misevaluations occur due to lack of mastery, psychological factors, or specifics of the course of the game. For example, let’s say a player has lost the initiative after an unobvious mistake. Instead of switching to playing for a draw, he keeps pushing, while the position objectively doesn’t encourage it. Or, after having been defending for quite a while, a chess player gets a chance to sway the balance in his favor. Instead, he is happy to offer a draw asap and go home. Great chess players like Karpov or Carlsen have been known for being able to “play the board”, i.e. treat any position objectively, without falling for such logical fallacies (“I was close to lost, so if I make a draw, I’ll be happy”).

By gaining more chess knowledge and becoming stronger a chess player starts making fewer mistakes when evaluating the position.

Another common situation is overestimating or underestimating a player, or just not being comfortable facing him over the board. A lot has been said about this in the “Customers and Nemesis” article.  Sometimes the results are very hard to explain. For example, recently I’ve heard that Nigel Short hasn’t won a single game against Alexei Shirov (the score is about 8 wins, 10 draws for Shirov). Both are very strong tactical players, so how can that happen? Or, likewise, how could Kasparov score +17 =15 against Shirov?

Nonetheless, one shouldn’t be religious about attributing his losses to the “nemesis” theory. After all, it spawns future losses, as you are self-hypnotizing yourself. Therefore, it makes sense to find the objective reasons for the failure. Were you not prepared enough psychologically? Does he choose an opening structure that you don’t understand? Is his style unpleasant for you (e.g., you are an attacker, and he prefers to keep the game closed and “dull”)? By coming up with the right diagnosis you increase the chances of getting rid of that nemesis complex.

In the computer age the average level of play has risen significantly. A lot of players are quite well-versed in their openings: they know the right move order, the plans, and even the typical endgames that occur in those lines. Therefore, quite often we see top players lose to amateurs rated like 2000, 2100, 2200. It is also often connected with underestimating the opponent and math expectancy (one is supposed to take a lot of risks, especially with Black, to sustain one’s rating by beating lower-rated players). However, objectively speaking, we should pay more attention to the position than to the rating number on the opponent’s badge. This will save us from taking too many risks.

Another widespread phenomenon is quite typical of open tournaments. Let’s say you have lost/drawn a player rated 200-300 points above you. Then you get paired with someone rated about the same as you. Your thoughts may be something like this: “Ok, now I’ve got a patzer! Let’s dispatch him and get back to playing the really tough guys!”. Meanwhile, you are forgetting that the opponent‘s strength is objectively about the same as yours, and he is by no means a loyal customer willing to donate some rating points to you. Hence, if you persist with your snobbish approach, you are likely to lose.

The ability to cool down and make a rational and objective decision is valuable not only in chess, but in life in general. This is one of the most important skills a person can develop in himself.

Here is a game example from the Women’s World Team Chess Championship’11:

 

I made a bad opening choice and had to struggle for equality most of the game. When a draw was within reach, I blundered and played 31…Ra1. The nature of this mistake lies in overestimating one’s position. I decided: “Ok, I have a draw, but why not try to outplay my opponent?”. Being bored of having to defend passively, I was excited about the opportunity of playing actively, and talked myself into a dubious continuation. The punishment was severe and swift.

Comments


  • 14 months ago

    WGM Natalia_Pogonina

    Let’s stay in touch on social networks! Here are my official accounts:

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  • 2 years ago

    umeshvrindavanam97

    good articles..

     

    Please be relevant, helpful & nice!

  • 2 years ago

    allie77

    thank you for this instruction, natalie,  you are obviously a masterful player.

  • 2 years ago

    nick_79

    One can learn a lot from such a great article and such an experienced woman player like Natalia.

  • 2 years ago

    Kasvarof

    You are so generous to share your own expertise in chess as a Top Ranked Grandmaster in the World! Thanks a lot  Nina...Cool

  • 2 years ago

    Dallape

    Thx for the post Natalia ...:-)...
  • 3 years ago

    karangtarunasemarang

    thanks...Smile

  • 3 years ago

    karangtarunasemarang

    thanks...Smile

  • 3 years ago

    OVAIDO

    another game of pogonina and this game give us a lesson o playing sécilien in black

    the world girls championchip U14 in 1998 at  oprepesa del mar

  • 3 years ago

    OVAIDO

    here another game between Tatiana Kosintseva et  Natalia pogonina in 1997 russian girls championchip st petersbourg .

    and here we see that the chess game is so complicated because 1e4 is the best chance to win the game 1e4 e5 2 Nf3 Nf6 3 N*e5 d6 4 Nf3 N*e4 5 Qe2 Qe7 6 d3 Nf6 7 Nc3 tring this is not bad for white
  • 3 years ago

    OVAIDO

    ti want to talk about your game natalia this is one of your game with Elmira Hasanova in st petersbourg in 1997 the Rusian girls championchips.

    and here 1e4 Nc6 here hasanova play well the Nimzovitch variantion after 1e4 let's see the game

  • 3 years ago

    StrategyFiend

    Thanks for passing along the wisdom!

  • 3 years ago

    ricky_firnadhi

    i love you.

     

    i mean love your game :) keep focus nat :D

  • 3 years ago

    g-levenfish

    Nice analysis.

  • 3 years ago

    soldierpiper

    Misevaluations in chess I call them personal blunders Laughing It happens to all of us lol !!

  • 3 years ago

    puzlman

    Natalia,

    Nice article. Some things you mentioned were reasons I lost my game last night. I am looking forward to the next game.

  • 3 years ago

    esperado

    very useful article, keep it up the good work, i'm looking forward to the next one!

  • 3 years ago

    1prophet1

    Innocent

  • 3 years ago

    retu66

    Thanks Natalia:)

  • 3 years ago

    Kasvarof

    Nice article Natalia... Thanks.Cool

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