Sunday, October 12, 2014

Intuition in Chess

I'm reading this book at the moment:
Very interesting
It deals with decision making and thought processes, so naturally some of it is applicable to chess. Here is an excerpt that mentions chess explicitly:

Another quote also stands out, as a way of defining intuition:
"The situation has provided a cue; this cue has given the expert access to information stored in memory, and the information provides the answer. Intuition is nothing more and nothing less than recognition." Herbert Simon
As players get stronger, the correct move in a position will more often be one of the first that pops into their head. This intuition is nothing more than recognising a pattern that they have seen before in the position, and already knowing how to proceed. So this suggests a simple way to improve your game: become familiar with as many new positions as possible.

Fortunately this is a pretty easy training method to implement. Tactics training sites are available which show you a position and ask you to spot the best move/series of moves. They generally track your rating if you sign up in order to give you puzzles of the appropriate level, and also so you can check your improvement.

Practice on these sites for 10 minutes a day and you will see improvement in tactical ability.

Here's an example from my own game last week against Rathmines, where I had not seen a particular pattern before and thus my intuition could not prompt me. I was black, and it is my move.

Black to play
The game concluded 49....Nxh3 50.Rxe5 Ng5+ 51.Kg1 Nf3+ 0-1 (I'll take white's rook next move).
This is a huge material advantage, well enough to win easily despite only having two minutes on my clock. But what if I only had two seconds? 

It would have been much more efficient to kill the game immediately, as Jacob later pointed out to me. 49....Nf3+! 50. Kh1 (or 50.gxh3 Rhxh3#) Rhxh3+! 51.gxh3 Rg1 checkmate. It didn't even occur to me to check this line, but now if something similar ever comes up again I'm sure the right move will suggest itself without me even being aware of why.

If anyone has this pattern show up in a game this year, please share. I'd love to see intuition-building in action :)

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