In 1938 Dutch psychologist and master Adriaan de Groot questioned several players including Alekhine, Euwe, Fine, Flohr, Keres and Tartakower about their thinking process and compared the results to those of weaker players. What de Groot found was that when deciding on a move the GMs did not calculate any deeper than the weaker players.
De Groot also discovered that unlike Kotov, who recommended a systematic evaluation thinking process and said you should examine each variation only once, players of all strengths just don’t think like that. They do not make a short, neat mental list of candidate moves then consider them one at a time; their thinking was as haphazard as anybody else's.
Most of the time all that is necessary is to see tactics only two or three moves deep. After Botvinnik was defeated by Reshevsky in the 1954 USSR vs. USA match, Botvinnik wrote that his loss showed that he needed to perfect his play in two move variations. If visualization isn’t the answer, what is?
Studies have shown masters use different parts of their brains than amateurs, maximizing intuition, goal-seeking and pattern-recognition. Researchers used magnetic resonance imaging scans to compare the brain activity of amateurs and professionals Shogi players and they found that certain regions of the expert’s brains lit up while the amateurs' did not. Experts' brains showed more activity in the area associated with visualizing images and episodic memory (i.e. memory consisting of a series of loosely connected parts or events) what is known as the precuneus area of the parietal lobe.
When pressed to come up with a move quickly, activity surged in a region of the brain where goal-directed behavior is rooted. This did not occur in the amateurs or when either group took their time in planning their next move. Researchers believe that Shogi experts have, or are, perfecting a circuit between the two regions that helps them quickly recognize the state of the game and choose the next move. This results in their being intuitive with the result that the candidate moves are generated quickly and automatically without conscious search. Like pattern recognition in chess masters.
Of his game against Pilz at Warsaw in 1934, Najdorf wrote, "This game was awarded the first brilliancy prize and nobody was more surprised than me since I can remember at no time seeing more than two moves ahead."
Nunn wrote of his game against Tal at Wijk aan Zee, 1982, "So far as I can remember, I hardly calculated a single variation more than a couple of moves deep during the entire course of the game." That game is pretty well known...you can view it HERE.
Let’s take a look at Najdorf’s game against the mysterious Pilz. I was unable to identify who Pilz was and what the event was. My first thought was that it was played in the Olympiad that was held in Warsaw that year, but Pilz’ name doesn’t appear on any of the twenty teams. Perhaps it was the 3rd Championship of Poland at Warsaw in 1935. If that was the tournament, it was won by Tartakower.
Concerning this game Najdorf wrote, “At that time I was barely 24 years old; I was a chess lover who played without knowing theory. But, I had a great teacher, known to all of you: Master Tartakover, Lord of the Board, who always said to me, “Learn to reason...the first thing is to reason.”
Of his fourth move he wrote, “And so without delving into what the correct move was, I tried to prevent Black from doubling the Pawns and that's why I played: 4.Qc2."
If you know Spanish you can read Najdorf’s own comments to this game HERE. The pdf scan, a selection of games with his comments, is a gold mine; the Pilz game is on page 4.
Najdorf - Pilz
[...] 1.d4 ♘f6 2.c4 e6 3.♘c3 ♗b4 4.♕c2 This is the Classical (or Capablanca) Variation which ranks in popularity right behind the Rubinstein Variation (4,e3). In those days it didn't have a name. White intends to acquire the two Bs without compromising his P-structure. The disadvantage is that the Q will have to move again and white's K-side B pair back should try to open the game quickly to exploit his lead in development. 4...c5 Black has three common replies: 4...0-0, 4...c5 and 4...d5. On occasion he has also played 4...Nc6. 5.dxc5 ♗xc5 Nowadays it's known that the immediate 5...O-O is somewhat better. 6.♘f3 d5 7.♗g5 dxc4 8.e3 O-O
8...h6 9.♗h4 ♗e7 10.♗xc4 a6 11.O-O ♕c7 12.♗b3 ♘c6 turned out better for white in Pekarek,A (2455)-Mrva, M (2345)/Czechoslovakia 1992
8...♗e7 9.♗xc4 ♘c6 10.O-O a6 11.♖fd1 ♕a5 12.♗xf6 ♗xf6 13.♘e4 ♗e7 14.♘d6 ♗xd6 15.♖xd6 O-O ans white was much better. Atalik,S (2585)-Ulker,A (2147)/Izmir 20089.♗xc4 ♘bd7 Najdorf was critical of this and recommended 9..Nc6 as leading to smoother development. 10.O-O h6
10...a6 11.♖fd1 ♕c7 12.♖ac1 b6 13.♘e4 ♘xe4 14.♕xe4 ♗b7 favors white. Rother,C (2279)-Tran,P (2271)/Bayern 200611.♗h4 ♕a5 Najdorf called this a strange move, but it's not without a resonable strategic idea. Pilz wanted to play ... Be7 and ... Ne5 which, according to Najdorf frees him up a bit. Therefore Najdorf tried to evict the Q from a5. (11...♗e7 12.♖fd1 and ...Ne5 isn't playable.) 12.a3 ♗e7 13.b4 ♕b6 14.♖fd1 Wrong would be 14.Rad1 because this R must be reserved to occupy other free files. Najdorf comments that white does not make any extraordinary moves; he just develops according to sound principles. He wrote: To win a game you need two things: one that plays well and one that plays poorly, or one that plays poorly and another worse. After completing the development of my minor pieces, I finish the opening by mobilizing my major pieces. 14...a5 15.♖ab1 axb4 16.axb4 While this position favors white because of the greater activity of his pieces, black is not without defensive resources. However his next move turns out to be a serious mistake because it allows white to gain control over the squares on the b8-h2 diagonal. 16...♔h8
16...♖d8 17.♘b5 ♘f8 would have the effect of nullifying white's control on the diagonal.
16...♖d8 17.♗d3 This allows white to keep up the pressure after 17...♘f8 18.♘e5 ♗d7 19.♘c4 ♕a7 20.b5 b6 21.♗g317.♘b5 ♘b8 18.♗g3 ♘a6 19.♗d6 Black's next move loses immediately. Better chances were offered by playing 9...Nd5 blocking the d-file. 19...♘g8
19...♘d5 20.♗xe7 ♘xe7 21.♖d6 ♘c6 22.♕d2 and white is better, but there is no immediate forced win.20.♘e5 For the remainder of the game, Najdorf played "obvious" moves that required little calculation. 20...g6 21.♗xe7
21.♘xg6 fxg6 22.♕xg6 ♗xd6 23.♖xd6 ♖f6 24.♕g3 also wins as black's Q is trapped.21...♘xe7 22.♖d6 ♘c6 White's position is so good that he has two winning sacrifices! 23.♘xg6
23.♘xf7 is less forceful, but it also wins. 23...♖xf7 24.♕xg6 ♖e7 25.♘d4 ♕c7 26.♕xh6 ♔g8 27.♖xe6 ♗xe6 28.♘xe6 ♕d7 29.♕g6 ♔h8 30.♘f8 ♖xf8 31.♕h6 ♖h7 32.♕xf8#23...fxg6 24.♕xg6 ♘axb4 The capture of this P is of no consequence.
24...♘e7 does not help. 25.♕xh6 ♔g8 26.♗xe6 ♗xe6 27.♕xe6 ♖f7 28.♖xb625.♕xh6 White has a mate in 7 moves. 25...♔g8 26.♖xe6 ♗xe6 27.♗xe6 ♖f7 28.♕g6 (28.♘d6 ♕c7 29.♘xf7 ♕xf7 30.♕g6 ♔h8 31.♗xf7 b6 32.♕h6#) 28...♔h8 29.♗xf7
29.♗xf7 ♘e7 30.♕xb6 ♘bc6 31.♘d6 ♔h7 32.♕b2 ♖d8 33.♕f6 ♖xd6 34.♕xd6 b5 35.♖xb5 ♔g7 36.♖b7 ♔xf7 37.♕xc6 ♔f8 38.♕f6 ♔g8 39.♕xe7 ♔h8 40.♕h7#
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