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Oct 16, 2013, 5:15 PM 6

Suppose you are driving a car at night and you come to a curve in the road. Do you:

1) Assume all is clear and just zoom on blindly, or

2) Assume there might be something there and slow down in case there is?

If your answer is #1, good luck! You may not be around to read too many more of my Chess.com blogs!

In driving we call this "Defensive driving" and in life we call this "Assume the worst case".

Many chess situations call for very similar logic. I call the ability to deterimine if a move may possibly have a great affect on the outcome "Criticality Assessment". But suppose your criticality assessment is not that good and you don't know if a move is critical. In that case, if you have sufficient time on your clock, then you assume the worst case - that the position might be critical - take your time, and do the best analysis you can. This would be true no matter how good you are at analysis; you have nothing to lose, so why not try and do your best?

The following game has a position which illustrates that. On move 51, White has plenty of time and there is only a K,R&P vs K&R. The game will quickly dissolve into a win for the player with the pawn or a draw. If you are inexperienced, you might not know which it would be, but you should be able to sense that you are nearing the end, so therefore you have plenty of time to see if you can figure it out. You have nothing to lose.

But instead White very quickly played 51.a7?? allowing 51...Kb7 and a draw. He didn't even try. If he had looked for his checks, captures, and threats, he might - just might - have seen that 51.Rc8+, his only check, wins:

• 51...Kb6 52.Kxd5
• 51...Kd6 52.Rd8+ wins the rook
• 51...Kd7 (best try) 52.a7 (but not 52.Kxd5 Kxc8 with an easy draw) 52...Ra5 53.a8Q wins
Even if you are not a good analyst, it doesn't take a lot of chess skill to realize that you have nothing to lose by trying to figure this out.

As I noted in Chess Skills are not Have or Have Not, even if you are not very good at this, it not only doesn't hurt to try - it actually helps! You will slowly get better, even if you miss the idea. So that means it's doubly good to try - you might succeed and, at worst, you will enhance your ability to try in the future!

To realize that you have to take your time and at least try - especially in the endgame where moves are much more likely to be critical - does not require any great chess skill. It only requires a little "life" wisdom - something any wise adult should have.

So I have dubbed this problem of not playing slowly when you have lots of time, especially when you may not know if the move is critical (essentially not assuming the worst case, that it is), The Wise Adult Syndrome.  Hopefully any wise adult would realize they have nothing to lose and should play slowly and try, no matter what their expectation and analysis skills. You don't have to be a great player to at least take some time and see what you can find.

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