14 October 2020

Video completed: "Why You Should Always Pause during Your Calculation" by Tatev Abrahamyan

"Why You Should Always Pause to Calculate in Chess" is the seventh video in the Chess.com series by Tatev Abrahamyan. (An alternate title, a little more reflective of the actual content, is given in the series list, "Why You Should Always Pause during Your Calculation"). The main point she introduces is that you should not make assumptions about your opponent's responses while calculating a line - for example, by assuming that "automatic" recaptures will happen. To minimize blunders and maximize your own opportunities, instead take pauses to mentally visualize these positions and check for more options.

The first example game is GM Alejandro Ramirez - IM John Bartholomew. In the actual game, Black (who lost) played an "automatic" recapture of a minor piece, thereby missing the opportunity to play an in-between move that would have protected his en prise b-pawn, while still keeping White's bishop trapped and defenseless.

The second game is GM Hikaru Nakamura - GM Ding Liren, from the Ivory Coast Grand Chess Tour 2019. Ding quickly played a forcing line involving piece exchanges in the center and an attack on White's queen, but missed a back-rank tactic where Nakamura could leave his queen en prise and recover a pawn, ending up with a winning position.

The third example is a 2019 game featuring GM Evgeny Shtembuliak and Abrahamyan herself. White has what looks like an overwhelming attack in exchange for having sacrificed two pawns. Black looked at a couple of tactical defensive tries, calculated that they did not work, then lost quickly. Post-game analysis showed that she could have combined the tactical ideas with a brilliant intermediate move - admittedly, a difficult-to-find queen sacrifice - that would have resulted in a drawish rook endgame.

This video at 7 minutes is shorter than most in the series, but I think it is the right length to highlight the concept and help make it stick as part of a player's thinking process. Previously I've highlighted the problems involved in always playing "automatic" or "obvious" moves without examining other possibilities, especially the role of powerful in-between moves that are not necessarily obvious.

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