19 January 2016

The importance of CCT: example #8 - Tata Steel 2016, Round 3

Another timely example of the importance of CCT (checks, captures, threats) to your thinking process recently happened at the super-GM Tata Steel tournament.  Below, if you go to move 37, Black (Eljanov) has just played ...Rc8.  White (Mamedyarov) fails to see what has changed in the position now in terms of new threats (in this case, the Black Qe4 to the unprotected Rb1), so blunders on the next move.  White had temporarily postponed the threat with his own threat (37. Qg5) but then proceeded to ignore his own hanging rook.

Why does this type of blunder occur?  One problem with trying to achieve 100% accurate board sight is that our internal, mental picture of the position and its key features can be too static.  In other words, we proceed with our plans, relying on the mental assumption that nothing important about the position has changed.  In some cases, this may be a useful and perhaps even necessary thought process shortcut, since we are not computers and should not be explicitly calculating everything on the board each move.  However, the below game is a reminder of the utility of "stepping back" mentally - something I incorporated into the simplified thought process I worked out a while ago - by taking at least a brief moment to update your internal, mental view of the position's characteristics and compare it with the reality of your opponent's move on the board in front of you.

In this specific case, I suspect that pattern recognition - normally a chessplayer's friend - may even have played a negative role in reinforcing White's play.  The Qe4 is in an unusual place for a queen and it's rare to see this particular threat, along a diagonal to an unprotected Rb1, actually on the board.  White may also have focused on the threat to the c-pawn, without even noticing the other attack.  So there was no automatic danger signal for White, who failed to ask the mental question (or forgot the answer) regarding all of the new checks/captures/threats that Black's move 36...Qe4 generated.

One shouldn't give too much weight to a one-off blunder, which is also a comforting thought for improving players.  We're not alone in blundering, but at the same time it's important to identify why it occurs and reduce the phenomenon, even if it can't be completely eliminated - including at the top levels.

Mamedyarov, S. (2747) - Eljanov, P. (2760)

Result: 0-1
Site: Wijk aan Zee NED
Date: 2016.01.18
[...] 1.d4 d5 2.c4 c6 3.¤c3 ¤f6 4.e3 a6 5.¤f3 e6 6.b3 ¥b4 7.¥d2 O-O 8.¥d3 ¤bd7 9.£c2 £e7 10.¤e5 ¤xe5 11.dxe5 ¤g4 12.f4 ¥c5 13.¢e2 ¦d8 14.h3 ¤xe3 15.¥xe3 ¥xe3 16.¢xe3 d4+ 17.¢f3 dxc3 18.¦ad1 ¥d7 19.¥xh7+ ¢h8 20.¥d3 f5 21.£xc3 c5 22.¢f2 ¥c6 23.¥e2 b5 24.£e3 bxc4 25.¥xc4 ¥b5 26.¥e2 ¥xe2 27.¢xe2 c4 28.bxc4 £b4 29.£b3 £c5 30.£c3 ¦ac8 31.¢f3 ¢g8 32.¢g3 a5 33.¦xd8+ ¦xd8 34.¦b1 a4 35.¢h2 £c6 36.£g3 £e4 37.£g5 ¦c8 38.c5 £xb1
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