29 October 2019

Video completed: "How to Trust Your Chess Intuition" by Tatev Abrahamyan

"How to Trust Your Chess Intuition" is the sixth video in the new Chess.com series by Tatev Abrahamyan. It's worth noting that for the series page, she re-did the original video titles to fit the "Why You Should [Always/Never]..." format. Most of these title changes are trivial in terms of meaning, but in this case I prefer the original title, as the idea of "always" trusting your intuition is overstating things (especially for non-masters) and can lead to a misinterpretation of the concept.

The main thrust is the benefit of building your intuitive understanding of positions' requirements via pattern recognition, so good candidate moves "suggest themselves" and then you can move on to calculating their results. Abrahamyan also makes the point that sometimes we may not be able to fully calculate the consequences of a move to the end, but intuition allows us (most times) to evaluate it nonetheless. This topic has been previously mentioned here, for example in "How Carlsen makes us feel better about chess" and "How do you know you are becoming a stronger chess player?"

The first example game presented is a classic game, Maroczy-Tartakower, where Black sacrifices a rook for a pawn on h2 with no forced mate afterwards. The main factor involved in making this decision is White's uncoordinated and blocked pieces. Black is technically behind in development, but can in fact mobilize his pieces more effectively than his opponent. The sacrifice was made on move 17 and White resigned on move 36, so as Abrahamyan points out, this was not an example of brilliant calculation to the end, but rather a deep understanding of the long-term advantages and attacking chances involved.

The second game is Aronian-Grischuk from the last round of the 2018 Sinquefield Cup, which features a rook sacrifice for White's pawn on f7. This was effectively an exchange sacrifice in the main analysis line, with White's queen (if it recaptures) being diverted from protecting a knight on e4. White then gets good compensation for the exchange. However, Grischuk re-took with his king on f7 and it became a full rook sac. White plays Rf1 - Abrahamyan in the video immediately and confusingly then says  "bishop f5" although she doesn't say "Black" or put the move on the board - leading to mate if Black retreats his king to g8 and similar problems if ...Kg6. After demonstrating these, she puts the actual move played (...Bf5) on the board. Abrahamyan makes the point that the sac was a practical decision rather than necessarily the most strong objectively in after-the-fact analysis, in order to give White the initiative and put pressure on Black in a stressful final round tournament situation. The rest of the game is given, which is a pleasure to watch. Abrahamyan commits two of her periodic "think about why" presentation fouls, with the questions about the position followed immediately by the move on the board before you can pause the video.

The final game example is Caruana-Carlsen, World Championship 2018, round 8. Abrahamyan examines the analysis of where White, down a pawn, could have played Qh5 with compensation and the initiative, rather than continuing with a quiet move and ending in a draw with opposite-colored bishops.

The video makes a very good point, but for improving players I think the main takeaway is to value and study all types of chess positions that you encounter - especially the ones that more frequently appear in your games - so you can start getting a feel for what should work, then try it out yourself. If it doesn't in fact work, then figure out why and do better the next time around. Decisions can and should be informed by our intuition about positions, but it's a skill to be developed over time, not a magic chess bullet.

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