Friday, February 24, 2006

"The Lazy Detective"


diagram

What is Black's best move?
a) 14....Ndb4
b) 14...Bg4
c) 14...b6
d) 14...Nf4


"I have the impression that most players, myself included, rarely 'think things through' as much as they should. We usually prefer to jump to conclusions...."

Thus begins the chapter on "The Lazy Detective" in Jonathan Rowson's Chess for Zebras, in which he shows how chessplayers often make the same mistakes as bad crime scene investigators, who pin the blame and then try to make it stick rather than thoroughly investigating the evidence and allowing it to reveal leads and ideas that can be pieced together. After all, piecing things together and really understanding how they connect is difficult work. It's much easier to jump to conclusions and then try to validate those conclusions by choosing only the evidence that supports your case.

In my first round game at the U.S. Amateur Teams East, I think I made the mistake of the lazy detective. Confronted with the position in the diagram above, which I recognized to be a critical juncture in the game, I decided upon a move and then convinced myself that it was the right one rather than trying to piece together the ideas in the position, develop a list of "likely suspects," and do a thorough analysis of the possibilities. The move I chose was not a blunder, but it did allow him to equalize if he had played precisely (which, fortunately for me, he did not). Meanwhile, there was a much better move that pulled together all of the best ideas in the position into an ultimately winning solution. Can you find it?

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