Sunday, August 21, 2011

Modifying Thought Processes By Time Controls

Dan Heisman, Novice Nook columnist

21 August 2011, Kuala Lumpur – Here is another interesting article written by Dan Heisman (pix above)  for Chess Cafe’s Column called Novice Nook. The article relates to adjusting our thought processes according to the speed of the time controls one plays in.

“With some help from GMs Nunn, Rowson, and Soltis, I can make a general observation that will help us understand a key relationship between time taken and thought process:

When you have a move that is primarily judgment based (non-analytical), taking more time will not improve your judgment. When you have a move that is analytical, then taking more time to work through the analysis as best you can should be beneficial.

This observation holds until the point when you hit one of The Two Move Triggers or about twenty minutes.

Why twenty minutes? Rowson states in The Seven Deadly Chess Sins, "In my experience, it is very rare for a thought of more than twenty minutes to lead to a good move. Normally, if you think for this long or longer, you just end up confusing yourself, and forget which line is which."

This twenty minute danger once struck me. When I first started tournament play I did not understand the idea: "Your goal is to find the best move you can in a reasonable amount of time; once you have identified the best move there is no reason to spend additional time trying to determine exactly how good it is." I had been playing for eighteen months and I was completely outplaying a higher-rated "A" player:

Yehl, John (1940) – Heisman, Dan (1646)
Liberty Bell Open, January 1968
French Defense [C18]

1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.Nc3 Bb4 4.e5 c5 5.a3 Bxc3+ 6.bxc3 Ne7 7.Qg4 cxd4 8.cxd4 Qc7 9.Bd2? Qxc2 10.Qxg7 Rg8 11.Qh6 Nbc6 12.Nf3 Qb2 13.Rc1 Nxd4 14.Ng5 Nb3 15.Nxf7 Nxc1 16.Bb5+

[FEN "r1b1k1r1/pp2nN1p/4p2Q/1B1pP3/8/
P7/1q1B1PPP/2n1K2R b Kq - 0 16"]

Black only has four legal moves, but I quickly analyzed that two of them were easily defeated and the third was also terrible:

  1. 16...Kxf7?? 17.Qf6#.
  2. 16...Qxb5?? 17.Nd6+ wins the queen.
  3. 16...Nc6 17.Bxc6+ bxc6 18.Nd6+ and if 18...Kd7 or 18...Ke7 then 19.Qxh7+ wins the rook with check next move, and 18...Kd8 allows the cute 19.Ba5+ when Black has to give up his queen with 19...Qb6.

Within the first few minutes, I had calculated enough to want to avoid these three moves.

The only legal move remaining is 16...Bd7, but the lines for this fourth possibility turned out to be more complicated than all the others combined. After a short while I realized that 16…Bd7 was likely playable, but I was unsure how good it was. I thought I had been winning, so I wanted this line to be a win to justify my intuition.

However, not only was I unaware of the above principle of not wasting time to see how good the best move might be, my curiosity got the better of me. Therefore, despite the fact that I quickly knew that 16…Bd7 was the only chance, I rolled up my sleeves and unnecessarily thought for the "Rowson danger point" of more than twenty minutes to figure out exactly how good 16…Bd7 was. At the end I concluded that 16…Bd7 was probably winning for Black.”

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