You Have to Be Honest With Yourself

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One of the almost universally accepted pieces of advice that improvers get it to analyze your own games.

I will be the first to admit that many times in my life I have “analyzed” my games by simply turning on the engine and turning off my mind. I also have fallen victim many times to the idea that “I would have seen that.”

That last phrase is an insidious one. It’s so easy to trick yourself into believing these things that it can have a massive negative impact.

Let’s take this position, for instance. Here, my opponent has just taken on d4 with the knight which had been on f5. After the game, he said he had missed that my queen would guard the f2 square so his rook couldn’t penetrate.

If I take the knight, I’m simply up a rook for a pawn, and with so much weak material in Black’s camp, it will soon be more. But wait, isn’t 35.Rxg7+ the start of a three-move mate?

Well, back when I first came back to chess in 2011, and for a few years afterward, I had this horrible habit of missing escape squares. Luckily, this behavior manifested itself more often in my puzzle-solving than in my playing, but let’s just attribute that to luck.

So what happens here?

Well, calculation shows two possibilities. The first would be 35…Kxg7 36.Bf6+ Kf7 37.Qg6#. OK, that’s good. The second possibility would be 36…Kh6 37.Qg6#.

Good news, we have a forced mate on the board! However, remember what I told you above about my habit of missing things? I wanted to make sure that I didn’t run into anything like that here. So I really took my time and spent a few minutes making sure.

So ultimately I played the move, and here is the final position of the game.

Nice, right? Everything came out just as calculated. Except it didn’t, and this is where today’s lesson of honesty comes into play. When I was calculating this OTB, I completely missed the fact that the Black king could go to h6 in the first place.

“But I would have seen that in the game!” Yeah, sure. I would have 100% seen that 37.Qg6 is mate in one. I have no doubt about this. In addition, the knight is still hanging on d4, so does any of this truly matter?

Yes, of course it does. If you really want to get better, you have to have a deep and abiding honesty with yourself. You can’t brush these things aside.

So, while I am pleased overall with the game and the result, I am not happy with my performance on this move.

Til Next Time,

Chris Wainscott