Overthinking the silence – Chessbase News

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[Note that Jon Speelman also looks at the content of the article in video format, here embedded at the end of the article.]

Chess (as played by human beings) is both a technical and a psychological battle, and once players become reasonably proficient at the technical side then the psychological one becomes equally important.

Decision-making isnt that hard as such when there are forced lines,since you have to do your best at calculating them and make a choice.But in the space that precedes hand-to-hand combat it becomes much more a case of how you feel.

There may be a decent move which improves your position, by either moving a piece to a better square or (allegedly) upgrading your pawn structure (always remember though that pawns cant move backwards). Or you may have to make a choice between waiting and initiating concrete action.

This eerie silence before battle is perhaps the most difficult moment psychologically and one way in which stronger players often outplay weaker but good ones is by persuading them to break the equilibrium a move too soon. In a balanced position its quite possible that the best course is to do nothing well. But in chess as in everything else, people yearn for certainty,and so there is a strong inclination to clarify matters even among the worlds very best players.

I was drawn to this by a couple of Magnus Carlsens games from the recent FTX Crypto Cup. Of course, he is the world's best player and arguably the best player ever to have lived. But he was in very patchy form (even though he won the tournament in the end), and when he had the chance to make choices they went badly wrong a couple of times.

It must be rather overwhelming to play so many rapidplay games in a little over a week, and even Carlsen was bound to lose a few, but the manner was very instructive in these two especially.

[Photo: Lennart Ootes / Grand Chess Tour]

Select an entry from the list to switch between games

To finish, a magnificent example of winding your opponent up in what I shall call The Immortal Bulls**t Game. Ulf Anderssoon is a fantastic player, and adept at going backwards well like nobody else Ive ever played. Youd attack and hed retreat, and suddenly youd lose self belief or rather I would. We played more than a dozen times and he won once with the rest drawn.

Only against Anatoly Karpov and Gary Kasparov did the spell seem to be broken. They simply didnt believe him, andwhile he beat Karpov twice (no wins against Kasparov), more often than not he didnt bounce back from the edge of the board but was driven into the sea.

When Ulf played Michael Basman in Hastings 1974 he was very much the favourite and quickly gained a nice advantage. But the wonderfully eccentric Basman (future hero of the Grob, the Borg Grob reversed 1.e4 g5, and the St George Defence 1.e4 a6) just sat there and moved his pieces backwards and forwards.Eventually, even Ulf couldnt resist advancing, and when he did, he lost control and Basman cut him down.

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Overthinking the silence - Chessbase News

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