10 September 2022

"When Intuition is Wrong" - article

"When Intuition is Wrong" by FM Cats4Sale on Chess.com [edit: now deleted for whatever reason, but the quote below is the most important] is a helpful reminder of a common phenomenon:

Often times it happens that you play a chess game of which you're proud of your performance that was fueled by intuition, only to think up later with a level head that, in fact, you could've done better.

Ego-stroking yourself about your wins is dangerous for improving players, as it means you may be deluding yourself about the quality of your play. The antidote, however, is simple and should be a core feature of your chess practice: analyzing your own games. Some people make the mistake of only analyzing losses or only taking a superficial look at wins. An objective, open-minded approach to both is best and will strengthen your play that much more.

A personal example that immediately came to mind was a game that I was particularly proud of early in my tournament career, in which I beat a 1700 player for the first time. At the time, I felt that I had undertaken some brilliant maneuvering with my pieces, but in looking at it afterwards, it was more the case that my opponent had missed a relatively unusual long-range bishop move (Bg2-h3) that ensured he lost his pinned Nd7. With additional passage of time, I also can see my lack of understanding of central play and the resulting missed opportunities to open it to my advantage, due to stereotyped opening play and a desire to be a "positional" player and avoid playing moves like d4 or e4.

Intuition is a very important component of chess mastery, but needs to be balanced with concrete calculation and understanding. If you win a game because both you and your opponent missed a key idea that could have saved them, I think it is OK to still feel good about the win - but that does not mean you should ignore the opportunity to learn that key idea, for the next time.