Death by quiescence error

Death by quiescence error

Mar 23, 2016, 8:21 AM |
Recently, I played a game that was a bit unusual for me. My opponent made some unexpected choices in the opening, and we ended up in the position shown below. I was immediately tempted to take the knight on c3 and go into a tactical exchange variation. I spent about ten minutes calculating, and arrived at the conclusion that the variation would be good for me (black). Only problem is... I was wrong!
Does Rxc3 work?

Ok, the immediate reaction may be that of course it doesn't work. Black gives up the exchange directly by Rxc3, Qxc3. But there is a follow up. I calculated as far as 16... Nxd1, and thought that after the natural recapture Rxd1, I could take the bishop on d8, and we'd have an endgame where I'd either have a bishop vs knight or a more active rook because of the backward pawn on c2. But white is not forced to recapture on d1 right away. He plays the bishop to safety first, and suddenly I have two pieces hanging (on d7 and d1). I could of course have played on and hoped for a blunder, but I was too upset with my own miscalculation to play on.

So this is a clear example of a quiescence error. I calculated correctly quite far, but did not see the final position clearly, and missed the opportunity for my opponent to move his bishop.
My conclusion is that I have to reproduce Dan Heisman's advice: Calculate until the position reaches a state of quiet (quiescence).

You can read a more detailed account of Dan's advice about this in his Novice nook column, no. 55. Here, I have 'borrowed' a little quote:
In general you should stop your analysis if:
  • The sacrifice isn’t calculable and your judgment says the sacrifice is worth it (or not),
  • The reward becomes less than the risk, or 
  • There are no more checks, captures, and threats and you end up behind in material.

I broke the rules and paid the price. The next time, I will remember this, and not go into a mirky variation.
You can also learn more about quiescence errors here on the site. The following videos are quite instructional.

How To Avoid Quiescence Errors - Part 1

How To Avoid Quiescence Errors - Part 2

How To Avoid Quiescence Errors - Part 3