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Hi guys. Mostly I play at 15min time control live. This pretty much means making instictive choices and just backing up those decisions where you pretty much play the 'natural' move only briefly checking the most forced lines or calculating carefully in obviously tactical and complex situations.
The thing is I have recently started playing some longer games and some correspondence games and guess what? I realised with all this extra time I should be doing some concrete calculations before I move my pieces - but it makes no difference to the move I end up playing!!!!
Time and time again I pick out the most obvious and natural move immediately, I check that line and it looks fine, but rather than make the move I decide to check out a couple of other candidates and calculate those moves too - because I have the time too.... But on almost every single occasion I end up just playing the natural move my instincts told me was best.
I think with all the knowledge of position and experience of playing games we have in our head our unconscious mind finds the move a lot quicker and easier than concrete calculation. So really - is there that much value in grinding out complex calculations and long lines in your head. Maybe instinct in the way to go. What do you guys think???
NOTE - obv in complex tactical situations you need to figure every move and every line, also in a lot of endgame situations, but I'm talking about general middle game positions with no obvious tactical threats. I mean you have a plan, or should do at least, so just follow that right?
If it's a position that requires a judgement call, lets say which rook to move to the only half open file, and there are no tactics, then it's exactly as you suggest, calculation is useless. Similarly, lets say in a quiet closed position, it's better to figure out the idea/plan and find good squares for your pieces before any calculation... and as you said you only calculate to make sure you're not dropping anything in the process.
More often though, in middle games, it's a mix of both. It's a good to have at least a general idea of the strategy, and then you have to back it up with a concrete line. If you're looking for your opponent's most annoying replys, many times you'll at least have to change the mover order from your initial move choice.
I think it's true that with more experience, our first choice is often the best move, but don't let that make you complacent! Maybe the reason that concrete calculation isn't helpful is that your concrete calculation isn't that good. I don't mean that as a criticism of you personally--far from it, but I find that when I go over my games with a good engine, in at least half of the games one side or another has missed a decisive tactical stroke: a win of a piece or more. Maybe I'm just a poor tactician, but I think this is a common experience. We may be calculating hard, but we're not calculating well. The engines really do look at every check, capture, and threat--and it shows!
Actually there is some truth in what you say - my calculation is not that solid, certainly nothing like a computers. In fact I often take that into account. I f I calculate a complex line and see that I should win a piece, but also see I have another move that will lead to a slow but certain positional win I will probably take the latter course... Why? Because I make mistakes. Often I've calculated a line, double checked it then my opponent goes ahead and finds a better move than I thought he had and suddenly I'm losing! (NOTE - obv I dont mean little 2 move combos but actual complex 5 or 6+ move lines). Whereas if I see a solid positional win it is nearly always going to work out for me. Maybe that is just me, but I feel as humans we definitely should not be trying to compete with computers. We have our strengths and they have theirs.
However I do take your point, maybe if I practised calculating more and got better at it it would become a more useful tool for me!!!
I've been working with a coach recently and he posed the question to me, "What do you understand by the term 'chess intuition'". What he was getting at is an inspiration/perspiration argument. Masters make superior instinctive moves for two main reasons: they calculate more accurately than the rest of us AND they have studied more games and positions.
His argument was that, when I marvel at his apparently instinctive moves in blitz, I'm really seeing the fruits of the thousands of hours of study he has put in. He agrees that superior calculation plays a part but feels it's secondary to his recall and extrapolation of positions.
If you study master games and do tactical and strategic puzzles you will start to build up this knowledge and what you term "instinct" will improve.
I've been working with a coach recently and he posed the question to me, "What do you understand by tYEhe term 'chess intuition'". What he was getting at is an inspiration/perspiration argument. Masters make superior instinctive moves for two main reasons: they calculate more accurately than the rest of us AND they have studied more games and positions.
YES I agree with all of that! Pattern recognition is one of the key things our brain can do in a way that computers just can't (as yet) and this is where most of our [human] chess ability stems from I think.
You can't really find moves using calculation - (unless you are a computer) - so our instinct gives us the move. We then use concrete calculation to make sure that their is nothing nasty hiding in the bushes. Agreed?
Some players are calculators, some are more intuitive, it depends. Both evaluation and calculation are needed though to play a competent game of chess. A few posts on here make it sound like your initial thought is the best one (even though they go on to talk about how many mistakes we all make) which of course is silly.
Obviously no one is suggesting that you never need to calculate.... That would be dumb. But I think that the value of calculation is some positions is very minor. You have a plan. You know what moves you need to make to achieve that plan so your calculataion is basically limited to making sure that when you make the move you WANT to make then nothing nasty will happen.
I have recently tried other approaches. e.g. choosing several candidate moves and then calculating those lines as accurately as I can and then comparing the resulting positions in my mind to see which is best, in the same kind of fashion I imagine a computer would work. But that hasn't had good results for me.
I guess it may be down to style but I find I work best if my instinct is my primary decision maker and I use calculation to back that up. Perhaps other people work the other way round?
I probably lean toward the less calculation side of things, but your term "intuition" is interesting to me. They say the current world champion is an intuitive type player (so you're in good company) but I don't really understand it... but maybe we're talking about nearly the same thing? I like to find moves without calculation as well, but I call it evaluating and then choosing something that makes sense to me. But I also try hard to calculate lines out (not very far mind you) and compare the end positions to see which I like better.
But yes, there are apparently players who work the other way around (which is also mysterious to me). I'm not sure how their minds work either, but apparently they don't move until they've calculated tons of stuff.
In comparison to computers though, humans are very much on the side of intuition/evaluation and so really I agree with a lot of what you're saying. Without even knowing it we ignore millions of moves/positions just calculating a few moves out into a middlegame.
There's that chess cpu you can play online where it visually shows what the computer is thinking on the board with neon lines. It's funny to me when I threaten to force a pawn promotion along the b file it's apparently calculating moves like a3 and Kf2 about 100,000 times lol. But I guess that's also why computers never blunder a tactic, they never ignore a move.
I also try hard to calculate lines out (not very far mind you) and compare the end positions to see which I like better.
This is something I have been trying to do, but it never really works well. I think the real difference in viewpoint is that I tend to already have a picture in my head of how I WANT the board to look, then calculate lines that will get me there, rather than calculating lines and choosing the best one. Do you see the difference?
I would say that maybe I have called it wrong to start. I suppose now we have discussed it it is clearer in my mind what I originally meant. I feel that computers, and maybe some humans use this process of choosing candidate moves then using concrete calculation to see what positions would arise from those moves.
I personally tend to already have a plan and a direction. I know where I want my pieces to be roughly at least. I am going to say, trade a useless night, open the h file and get my rooks doubled down there before I bring my queen in. So now I dont have to wade through all this calculation. I move the pieces to their 'natural' squares, basically just looking at a few of my oppenents responses to make sure I dont somehow blunder either material or the position.
Now I have this straightened in my head at least though I can see a situation where you would need this 'candidates and calculation' approach to planning would be where you have several plans available to you and you dont know which would work best. Then you need to calculate as far as possible down the line to see which is likely best.....
I think that solves my own dilemmas anyways. Thanks guys it definitely helps to talk these things out!
"Calculation" works when there are forcing tactical sequences which limit the choices for each side. Without some degree of forcing, though, calculation becomes almost impossible for the human brain.
Even in finding forcing lines, your experience, judgment, and pattern recognition figure strongly. It is only once the possibilities are recognized that they can be calculated.
Most of the time you must choose a move based on your experience, judgment, and pattern recognition - which all factor in as part of your "intuition." Absent direct threats to answer, you will usually be able to choose candidates more quickly if you have formed a plan of play.
Then you look to see what the opponent may do to oppose your plan and/or further his own. So you are looking ahead and trying to anticipate these future moves, and what they might threaten, but it's not really "calculation" to do this.
We can only positively "calculate" forcing lines and some ending sequences with reduced material - but even in these cases we are guided by our "intuition" in choosing what we aim for.
9/17/2014 - GM Abhijeet Gupta - IM Roeland Pruijssers, Corus C
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