Hopes and fears

I'm going to have to wind into this one from a distance...

Mostly I play chess, but I know how to play some other games, and I'm sort of generally interested in games in general.

http://exeterchessclub.org.uk/slideshow2

Game theory was much discussed from a mathematical angle when I was in college, but what interests me more is the thoughts and feelings of game players, which are usually far from mathematical.

"It seems to us that the theories associated with board reconstruction experiments represent an idealised picture of master chess which may be misleading. ... So often, as any player will agree, it is hopes and fears which seem to influence the choice of a move." -- Hartston and Wason

So I was more than interested to be sent a link by our former tyrannical landlord Steven Crane of Clifton Road Games ( http://cliftonroadgames.co.uk/ ): https://www.wizards.com/Magic/Magazine/Article.aspx?x=mtg%2Fdaily%2Fli%2...

Have a read of that first and see what you think.

Steven commented to me at the time:

"Probably doesn't apply directly to chess, due to the lack of "hidden" information, but there might be something in the general idea..."

Oh, if only there was nothing hidden in chess!

"You see, but you do not observe. The distinction is clear." Sherlock Holmes, in A Scandal in Bohemia

What is so limited in chess, is a firm grasp of what is actually there, and what is so often present, is a paralysing fear of what our opponent might have seen that we cannot see.

It should all be there laid on the chessboard - indeed, I often say that's what I like about the game - but what lies even a short way ahead is shrouded in mist, if not fog, if not a dense curtain... and our history of being surprised by our opponents' replies makes us fearful of what might happen next.

And even when we see things, we may be also be justly admonished as was Watson on another occasion:

"Watson, you can see everything. You fail, however, to reason from what you see. " Sherlock Holmes, The Adventure of the Blue Carbuncle.

I found the discussion of Magic card-counting had parallels with two discussions I had with young people who had agreed draws in these two positions. See what you think first, then I'll tell you what I told them.

[Event "WWE Jamboree"]
[Site "?"]
[Date "2013.03.23"]
[Round "3.1"]
[White "Susevee, G."]
[Black "NN1"]
[Result "1/2-1/2"]
[SetUp "1"]
[FEN "2r1qrk1/1p2p1b1/pn1pPpp1/3n4/2pP3N/2P3NQ/PP1B2PP/1R2R1K1 w - - 0 26"]
[PlyCount "0"]
1. *
 1/2-1/2

Black offers a draw to White: do you accept?

[Event "EJCC vs Newton Abbot Juniors"]
[Site "?"]
[Date "2013.04.18"]
[Round "1"]
[White "Ramesh, Vignesh"]
[Black "Whittington, Reece"]
[Result "1/2-1/2"]
[SetUp "1"]
[FEN "5rk1/2qb2pp/p1n2rn1/1p1p4/1PpPp3/P1P4P/2QNBPPN/R3R1K1 b - - 0 24"]
[PlyCount "0"]
1. *
 1/2-1/2

White offers a draw to Black: do you accept?

To put the question at all to you, suggests that there is something better to do than shake hands and find the snack stand. An indeed there was:

[Event "WWE Jamboree"]
[Site "?"]
[Date "2013.03.23"]
[Round "3.1"]
[White "Susevee, G."]
[Black "NN1"]
[Result "1/2-1/2"]
[SetUp "1"]
[FEN "2r1qr2/1p2p1bk/pn1pPpp1/3n4/2pP3N/2P3NQ/PP1B2PP/1R2R1K1 b - - 0 25"]
[PlyCount "5"]
{A nice build-up by White led to a strong attack, but you couldn't quite see
how to finish off.} 25... Kg8 {} (25... Kg8 {And Black offers a draw. It was
worth putting in a bit of thought here, if only because (a) you thought you
stood better, and (b) you can always take the draw. The Pe6 cuts the black
army in two, and there are all sorts of weaknesses around the black King.}) 26.
Nxg6 {was your first thought and mine, but after} (26. Re4 {
was my second thought, getting ready to play Nxg6. Black can still play} 26...
f5 {but I think White is still better.} 27. Re2) ({
A bit more thought might have shown you that} 26. Nhf5 $1 {works.} {
so Black has to take} 26... gxf5 {but after} (26... a5 {The threat is} 27. Nxg7
27... Kxg7 28. Qh6+ Kg8 29. Re4 {winning}) 27. Nxf5 Qg6 28. Re4 {Black is still
lost. Two things make this a hard move to play: 1. It's hard to spot: the
sacrifice is a 'silent' one, without a check or a capture. 2. It's hard to
steel yourself to play: the mate or win of material is several moves away.}
28... Rce8 29. Rg4 Qxf5 30. Rxg7+ Kxg7 31. Qxf5) 26... Qxg6 27. Re4 {
Black defends by} 27... f5 1/2-1/2
[Event "EJCC vs Newton Abbot Juniors"]
[Site "?"]
[Date "2013.04.18"]
[Round "1"]
[White "Ramesh, Vignesh"]
[Black "Whittington, Reece"]
[Result "1/2-1/2"]
[SetUp "1"]
[FEN "5rk1/2qb2pp/p1n2rn1/1p1p4/1PpPp3/P1P2N1P/2QNBPP1/R3R1K1 w - - 0 24"]
[PlyCount "8"]
{A shame, but you had the more promising position throughout, so don't regret
the missed win, take some pride in the good game! } 24. Nh2 (24. Nh2 $6 {
I was disappointed to see you take the draw, for a couple of reasons: (a) I
thought you were winning, and (b) Taylor was a Queen behind! I guess even if
you couldn't make ...Rxf2 work in your head, could you try something else?
Your position is still better! If you compare your Queen with White's Queen,
your Rooks with White's Rooks... I think all of your pieces are better than
his. Meanwhile, what can White do? Not much...}) 24... Rxf2 $1 (24... Nf4 $5)
25. Ndf3 $2 {
I think you saw this far, and thought you were losing the exchange.} (25. Ndf1
$1 {is more or less forced, to prevent ...Qg3} 25... Nf4 $1 ({or} 25... Nh4 26.
g3 Bxh3 27. gxh4 Rg2+ 28. Kh1 28... Rxh2+ $1 29. Nxh2 Rf2 30. Nf3 Bg2+ 31. Kg1
31... Qg3 {mates}) 26. Kxf2 $2 (26. g3 Nxh3+ (26... Nd3) 27. Kh1 Ne7) (26. Rac1
Nxg2 27. Red1 Ne3 28. Nxe3 Qxh2#) 26... Nxh3+ 27. Ke3 Qf4#) (25. Bf3 $2 25...
exf3 26. Kxf2 Qxh2 27. Nxf3 Nh4) (25. Nhf3 $2 25... Qg3 (25... Rxe2 26. Rxe2
exf3 27. Nxf3 Nce7 28. Rae1 Bf5 29. Qd2) 26. Bf1 exf3) 25... Rxe2 {Logically,
ou must be getting at least two pieces for the Rook (...Rxe2 and ...exf3), but
there are two other ideas worth considering:} (25... e3 $5 {
was your idea afterwards, and looks very good.}) ({But best of all is} 25...
Qg3 $1 {which wins at least a Queen because of the mate threats}) 26. Rxe2 exf3
27. Nxf3 {so, if that's the worst that can happen, it's pretty good!} 27... Qg3
$1 $19 1/2-1/2

I guess I hope there might be some general sort of logic or way of feeling about the position that would make these promising young players look a bit harder and longer next time. I certainly found the language used about the Magic game very familiar, even if the rules and elements were foreign.

Don't be afraid of ghosts, look to see what is real.

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