Intuition vs. Calculation

Intuition vs. Calculation

NM CraiggoryC
Aug 22, 2015, 7:47 PM |

Today chess computers are so good that humans emulate to play like them. Computers are known for their cold hearted ability to brute-force calculate every line, many moves deep. Unfortunately, humans cannot even come close to the computer's ability to calculate every move. We do, however, possess intuition; the ability to "educatedly guess" at the correct move. The better, and more experienced, we are at chess, usually leads to an increasing strength of our intuitive moves.

Now if we had unlimited time (and energy) we could just calculate everything, but humans possess neither of these qualities. We have clocks to time us on our moves, and we have energy reserves, that if depleted, leads to a marked worsening of play. Humans must find the perfect balance of using their intuition along with their calculation skills to play at a high level. Too much intution and our opponent may be able to calculate a line that refutes our play and shows it's superficiality. Too much calculation leads to time pressure (which usually leads to blunders) and/or insufficient energy to play at one's best.

Below are 3 puzzles that I've designed to be solved two different ways:

  1. First, put 1 minute on a clock, and come up with a move that you'd play after that 1 minute. Do not write down any moves, just come up with the move you'd play. This is to "test" our intuition
  2. Second, get a pen and paper, and put 10 minutes on the clock. Now write down everything you are thinking and come up with your move after you've spent 10 minutes calculating as much as possible (and writing down this calculation). Don't be afraid to write down words as well as chess notation. This is to "test" your calculation.
  3. Finally, when completed with these two tasks, compare your answers to the actual answer given.

I've had students that could guess the move almost immediately, but then when they were forced to think for 10 minutes, they second guessed themselves and came up with a weaker move. Those students are already very adept at the use of intuition, but need a lot of help with their calculation skills.

Conversely, I've had students that after 1 minute could not even come up with a move, or came up with a very weak move. After the 10 minutes, they were finally able to come up with a good move, but usually did not have enough time to fully analyse the good move they came up with. These students should focus on "guessing" the right move to several puzzles, in order to develop their intuition. In any case, whichever group you fall into, it is very enlightening to find which you need improvement in. It will do wonders for your chess, if you can increase your strength in an area where you were previously weak. Good luck!

 Puzzle #1

Black to move


Now two puzzles with no answers, (I'll try to comment the answers by Wednesday morning) feel free to post comments with your intuitive answer and calculation answer.
Puzzle #2
Black to move
Puzzle #3
Black to move