View Poll Results: Which of the following tends to apply to you?

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  • I'm more prone to thinking I'm in trouble when I'm actually doing OK or well

    4 36.36%
  • I'm more prone to thinking I'm winning when I'm actually not winning or even worse

    2 18.18%
  • I'm about equally prone to both of the above

    2 18.18%
  • I think I generally know where I stand

    3 27.27%
Results 1 to 6 of 6
  1. #1
    Monster of the deep Kevin Bonham's Avatar
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    Conservatism vs complacency in evaluation

    Something I've noticed with a lot of games I've played in the last few years is that I tend to think my position is really terrible when it actually isn't. I get very reluctant to make sharp moves that create weaknesses (even if the advantages outweigh the disadvantages) and if the position is complex I will quite often play something that dissipates my advantage and causes a draw. Often when the opponent attacks I think there is something dangerous there, and most of the time it was objectively nothing. If a sharp line looks risky I'll often avoid it, but sometimes I later find it was actually just plain losing, while other times I find that it was sound.

    Yet in other games I can get quite carried away with what a stellar position I think I have, to the point where I miss something completely obvious and hang the exchange on move 15 or something. I find it really hard to get the right balance between over-cautious and over-optimistic evaluation of my own position on the board.

    Does anyone else have this issue and if so how do you deal with it?
    Last edited by Kevin Bonham; 25-09-2012 at 03:44 PM.

  2. #2
    CC Grandmaster Capablanca-Fan's Avatar
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    Alexander Kotov's famous Think Like a Grandmaster mentions what he calls “Blumenfeld's rule”, after the Russian master Beniamin Blumenfeld who wrote insightful articles about thought processes during a game:
    It often happens that a player carries out a deep and complicated calculation, but fails to spot something elementary right at the first move. In order to avoid such gross blunders, the Soviet master B. Blumenfeld made this recommendation:
    When you have finished your calculations, write down the move you have decided upon on the score sheet. Then examine the position for a short time “through the eyes of a patzer.” Ask whether you have left a mate in one on, or left a piece or a pawn to be taken. Only when you have convinced yourself that there is no immediate catastrophe for you should you make the planned move.
    Last edited by Capablanca-Fan; 30-10-2012 at 12:38 AM.
    “The destructive capacity of the individual, however vicious, is small; of the state, however well-intentioned, almost limitless. Expand the state and that destructive capacity necessarily expands, too, pari passu.”—Paul Johnson, Modern Times, 1983.

  3. #3
    Monster of the deep Kevin Bonham's Avatar
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    Blumenfeld's Rule is banned now (indeed it was arguably always banned) as writing down a move before playing it has been outlawed since about 2000 (which did not stop one of my opponents this weekend still doing it and sometimes changing his moves too; I told him after the game that if he does it in our future encounters I'll complain to the arbiter. The worst part of it was that some of his moves were illegible!).

    Of course, a mental equivalent is still possible.

  4. #4
    CC Grandmaster Capablanca-Fan's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Kevin Bonham
    Blumenfeld's Rule is banned now (indeed it was arguably always banned) as writing down a move before playing it has been outlawed since about 2000 (which did not stop one of my opponents this weekend still doing it and sometimes changing his moves too; I told him after the game that if he does it in our future encounters I'll complain to the arbiter. The worst part of it was that some of his moves were illegible!).

    Of course, a mental equivalent is still possible.
    Yes, I forgot to delete that illegal part. I had to enforce the ban at the Logan club when it became part of the Laws, and one Russian emigré evidently brought up on the whole rule was shocked. The same with the ‘barrage technique’ advocated by the old editions of Simon Webb's Chess For Tigers.
    “The destructive capacity of the individual, however vicious, is small; of the state, however well-intentioned, almost limitless. Expand the state and that destructive capacity necessarily expands, too, pari passu.”—Paul Johnson, Modern Times, 1983.

  5. #5
    CC Candidate Master
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    I tend more toward the optimistic approach in evaluating my positions. Needless to say my positions are not always as good as I think they are.

  6. #6
    CC Candidate Master
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    I'm a bit on the pessimistic side. I generally know who is better, but sometimes if my opponent has a big advantage I will interpret my position as 'lost'. Lost with perfect play no doubt, but with practical chances that I tend to discount too much. Eddy Levi refers to such positions as 'West busted'. Sometimes after a game that I won I'll tell him I was busted and he'll ask, 'Really busted, or just West busted?'

    To an optimist like Alex Wohl or Stephen Solomon (or Mike Woodhams, going back a bit) West busted would just be unclear, and a position I'd consider roughly equal they would see mate in 13.

    Seriously though, the stronger the player, the more likely they will be fairly accurate in their evaluations, as good evaluations are a large part of what actually constitutes chess strength.

    On the whole I'd say that it is advantageous to be a bit too optimistic rather than a bit too pessimistic. Solo has by way of example won a few positions that I would have already resigned in. However, it's hard to change what you see as reality. I don't think I'm being pessimistic at the time, I just think I'm seeing it as it is. Then Houdini shows me that the terrifying looking attack of my opponent was defensible and I was always okay...

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