Thursday, December 31, 2020

Grandmasters Just Dazzle Us Mere Mortals - But Sometimes Brilliant is Easy

 Nobody seems to know how brilliant chess moves come about. But there is a myth about them usually repeated by people who play chess, but more at a casual or even sparse amount. 

This myth is that the "brilliant" chess move came from an hour or so of deep analysis by a grandmaster, who suddenly screams mentally "EUREKA!!". And he wins the game, the brilliancy prize and the praise of his peers. 

Reality is much different. I have played a few brilliant moves in my day. I only found one that won a game I thought was even. One where I found a deep 6-move swindle to win a completely lost game. And a couple of times I found forced repetition draws to save myself from losses. But these took me a lot of time on the clock, as the myth would suggest. But I am not a grandmaster.

It is White's move, GM Averbakh vs Kotov, Candidates Tournament, 1953. 

White is in time trouble and played 30. Ne2. Kotov as Black replied almost instantly 30. ...Qxh3+!!.

This is remarkable because in Kotov's book Think Like a Grandmaster, Kotov declares that a grandmaster is obligated to analyze every reasonable candidate move in considerable detail.

Kotov was not in time trouble and had 40 minutes to make the 40 move time control, but played the first candidate move that popped into his head. 

That is what he said he did. But possibly he had found and analyzed that move during his opponent's longer thinks. Who knows for sure.

The reason a GM can find these moves so fast is that he naturally looks first for forcing moves such as captures, checks and major threats. 'Quiet', defensive and tempo moves win occasionally, but most 'shockers' are forcing moves.

Since there are only a few forcing moves in most positions, GM's run thru those early and quickly.

Here is White Karpov vs Anand, Las Palmas 1996. Anand attacks the rook with 20. ....Ba6.
Karpov focused on the capture, 21. Rxd5. This is natural since it meets the threat and wins a pawn.

But Karpov's analysis made him decide that 21. ...Bxd3 might be difficult to win. That is when he looked to the most forcing move in the position, 21. Bxh7+!!.  He could find no defense for his opponent after 21. ...Kxh7, 22. Qh5+, Kg8 23. Rb3, and then Rh3 won what was the best game of that tournament. We know that 21. Bxh7 was Karpov's second choice because he said so after the game. Such honestly about a brilliancy is rare.

This game is Levitsky vs Marshall, Breslau, 1912.

If you look for forcing moves for Black, there are only two, and both are knight checks. 

Black doesn't have a good follow up to 23. ....Nf3+, 24. gxf3. So Marshall looked to the other check 23. ....Ne2+, 24. Kh1 and found the good 24. ....Ng3+!.

This works because 25. fxg3, Rxf1 is mate and 25. Qxg3, Qxg3 wins a queen. 

This would have been the end of the analysis for us mere mortals, but Marshall looked a little longer and found the immortal 23. .....Qg3!!
Now the Eureka Myth would have you believe that the move that was dubbed the BEST EVER PLAYED was found after intensive study. And that was not the case. It was simply the quick follow up analysis after finding a good move, and looking for an even better one.


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