To think like a Grandmaster

To think like a Grandmaster

May 16, 2015, 10:00 PM |

The photo above is of Alexander Kotov. He was the author ofsuch books as "Think like a grandmaster", and "Train like a gandmaster."  Kotov's advice to identify candidate and methodically examine them to build up an "analysis tree." this idea is still used today.

The analysis tree is bascally, take say three moves that appeal to you, calculate any consequences, and then make the decision of which move to make. The number of consequential moves one should calculate(if at all) changes by the nature of the position.

One story that involves the "tree" is one of "Mikhail Tal and the hippopotamus." which shows that, though the tree is important some positions require more instinct than calculation. 

Journalist:   It might be inconvenient to interrupt our profound discussion and change the subject slightly, but I would like to know whether extraneous, abstract thoughts ever enter your head while playing a game?

Tal:   Yes. For example, I will never forget my game with GM Vasiukov on a USSR Championship. We reached a very complicated position where I was intending to sacrifice a knight. The sacrifice was not obvious; there was a large number of possible variations; but when I began to study hard and work through them, I found to my horror that nothing would come of it. Ideas piled up one after another. I would transport a subtle reply by my opponent, which worked in one case, to another situation where it would naturally prove to be quite useless. As a result my head became filled with a completely chaotic pile of all sorts of moves, and the infamous "tree of variations", from which the chess trainers recommend that you cut off the small branches, in this case spread with unbelievable rapidity.
And then suddenly, for some reason, I remembered the classic couplet by Korney Ivanovic Chukovsky: "Oh, what a difficult job it was. To drag out of the marsh the hippopotamus".[25]

I do not know from what associations the hippopotamus got into the chess board, but although the spectators were convinced that I was continuing to study the position, I, despite my humanitarian education, was trying at this time to work out: just how WOULD you drag a hippopotamus out of the marsh? I remember how jacks figured in my thoughts, as well as levers, helicopters, and even a rope ladder.
After a lengthy consideration I admitted defeat as an engineer, and thought spitefully to myself: "Well, just let it drown!" And suddenly the hippopotamus disappeared. Went right off the chessboard just as he had come on ... of his own accord! And straightaway the position did not appear to be so complicated. Now I somehow realized that it was not possible to calculate all the variations, and that the knight sacrifice was, by its very nature, purely intuitive. And since it promised an interesting game, I could not refrain from making it.

And the following day, it was with pleasure that I read in the paper how Mikhail Tal, after carefully thinking over the position for 40 minutes, made an accurately calculated piece sacrifice.

— Mikhail Tal, The Life and Games of Mikhail Tal.

This is an exception to most situations. Let me explain, There is a moral that if you think about a position too long then your calculation can become flawed with "ghost threats" and "falsified defences." Thus causing a blunder. This should mean that our "tree" should be "trimmed" to the minimum so that the position is not misunderstood. However playing on instinct all the time can be just as bad. Please calculate some moves before you attempt answering.

The game you are about to see is that of a "Greek gift." a dangerous sacrifice that should always be considered if ones Knight is not at King's Bishop one or three. This sacrifice, though very compilicated, are often played on instinct instead of calculation. one should not typically do this when a piece is on the line. enjoy.

The sacrifice is very common and should be considered by both sides often. pne note you should take from this is the knight's location. It is not on the natural f8 square protecting the Paramount h7 square. with out the protection of the h7 square the king side became weak and was then attacked. there is a quote by Bent Larsen. "with a knight on f8, you can never be mated." though the knight is less active and doesn't control the center like it would if on f6, a knight on f8 is perfect for defense. it not only supports h7, it can also block the g-file if needed.
I recently had an online game, in which I was on the defending side of the sacrifice. though my defence was fair I became a pawn down with an open king, my position became hopeless. never take this sacrifice lightly! And keep Bent Larsen's quote near and dear to your heart "With a knight on f8, you can never be mated."
Bent Larsen
Hope you enjoyed this entry, more and harder calculating puzzles are on the way.