January 25, 2012

Invisible Chess Moves

'Discover your blind spots and stop overlooking simple wins'

authors: Emmanuel Neiman & Yochanan Afek

Have you ever lived the miserable moment of total astonishment, when you realized, back to your room and with en engine on, that your game was in fact winning at some point and not losing?! I bet you did. 
But I am not talking about blunders, which are evident and spotted out almost instantly after you made the 'fantastic' and fatal move. The mistakes I am referring to are more subtle and more difficult to correct. No matter how much the engine jumps from one estimation to another, it's not a sign of how easy or difficult the idea was. Of course, if we tend to dramatize and if we judge by the computer's conclusion, we will get depressed and cought in the vicious circle of blaming the others, ourselves and eventually give up looking for the real reason behind the missed chance.

It's not happening only to you or mostly to you; it's not like you have a monopoly on badluck. We have all been there. How could we explain than those 'blind spots' which stubbornly appear from time to time to anyone of us?
Simply put, some moves are very hard to see for a human brain, which has its own routes and ways of thinking, unlike the cold blooded machine. There are multiple factors that cloud a chess player's brain, tangling the armonious path of our chess judgement. Exactly those psychological, geometrical or positional factors are brought to light by a new fantastic book: "Invisible Chess Moves"!
The book is in the final race for the "Book of the Year" title, on ChessCafe.com; you can also vote your favourite if you follow this link.

I am enjoying it a lot and this is the main reason why it took me so long to share this new discovery with you. To be honest, with my psychological background, I intuitively knew that there are identifiable reasons why the brain discards certain ideas, but I was never really aware of them. It was just somewhere in the back of my brain but how exactly can I use this information?!
The book answers all these questions, gives you a great insight into your own head and, with its beautiful examples, challenges you to discover your own weaknesses. So, it's about time to correct them, to think out of the box and start making 'visible' the 'invisible' chess moves!

What can we expect to find inside? If the two parts of the book, 'Objective Invisibility' and 'Subjective Invisibility', with their very promising chapters, such as: ''hard-to-see moves', 'geometrically invisible moves', 'invisible moves for positional reasons','invisible moves for psychological reasons', didn't convince you yet, here's one illustrative example that I liked a lot:

Yochanan Afek - Arthur Kogan, Israel 1999.
"Classical strategy. With opposite-castled kings, both players bring their forces as quickly as possible in front of the enemy king in order to be the first to give checkmate. But here White opts for an odd move:


Sacrificing the knight on d4. This may not be the best move in a 'scientific' sense, but it reminds us that chess is, before all, a game!
17.Rg3 would be the standard move, with the not so invisible idea 18.Rh3 and 19.Qxh7.

17...Nxd4? (17...Qc7 would have been correct, with a balanced game).

18.Nd5 Qd8 Now comes a bolt from the blue: 19.Ba5!!

A very difficult move to anticipate and an altogether crushing one, after which Black can resign in view of the following variations:
A) 19...Qb8 20.Nf6+ Bxf6 21.gxf6 with mate soon;
B) 19...b6 20.Bxb6 does not change the evaluation;
C) 19...Qxa5 and now:

C1) Not 20.Nxe7+ Kh8 21.Rxd4 Qd8 with an unclear position; 22.g6? (22.e5 Qxe7 23.exd6 Qd8 24.Rh4 h6) 22...h6 and Black has the advantage;
C2) 20.g6!! Illustrating the danger of having the queens aligned on the same rank. 20...fxg6 21.Nxe7+ Kf7 22.Qxa5.

The game continued:

19...Qe8 (if 19...Qb8 20.Nf6+ Bxf6 21.gxf6 g6 22.Qh6; or 19...b6 20.Bxb6)
20.Nf6+! Bxf6 21.gxf6 g6 22.Qh6 1-0."

- an illustrative example for both: horizontal effect and change of the wings theme, which are explained in the book.

Now if you'll excuse me, I have to solve a position which awaits me on the board:) And the move is indeed kind of...invisible!

1. New in Chess shop: here you can order it!
2. ChessCafe.com: where you can vote for the 'Book of the Year' title.


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