The Butterfly Effect

The Butterfly Effect‎

GM Gserper
64 | Strategy

"Knowledge is power" famously pronounced Francis Bacon in 16th century. I doubt many people would argue with this statement since the more knowledge you have, the better for you, right? Well, almost. Today we'll discuss a very unusual situation where extra knowledge can actually hurt you in chess. I am going to talk about something I would call the 'butterfly effect' in chess.

The well known saying goes like this : A butterfly flaps its wings in Brazil we get a hurricane of the coast of Florida. I am not going to touch such a complicated subject as the chaos theory, but the point is that a tiny, almost irrelevant change in one place can lead to a humongous difference in some other distant place with no visible connection between two of them. How it works in chess? Let's consider the famous Legals' mate position:

If you've just solved this little puzzle it is great, if you knew it, then it is even better. Now suppose you got an almost identical position in your game with only difference is that Black pawn moved from the a7 to a6, what would you do?

Since the whole White's combination takes place in the center and the King's Side, who cares about that little change on the Black's Queen's Side? After all the little Black pawnie is as far from the action as it is just possible, so we use our knowledge and just execute the combination,right?  Wrong! Try to figure out why the famous combo does NOT work now.

Here is another trap which became famous after the next game:

A position from the next game looks pretty similar to the Capablanca's trap, so should we just follow the footsteps of the great Cuban and trap White's Bb3?  Black decided to take the bait and immediately regretted his decision.  Can you figure out what happened there?

So, did the knowledge of the classical trap ruin Black's game?  Yes and no.  Yes, because if Black didn't know the Capablanca's trap, he would probably never go for it.  But from the other side, let me quote the famous phrase (and by the way, even though it is technically correct, I still hate it!): "Guns don't kill people, people do".  So, we cannot blame chess knowledge for such defeats, we can only blame people who use their knowledge blindly. Yes, chess knowledge, just like any knowledge is obviously a wonderful thing, just use your own head before you apply your knowledge!

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