Thursday, January 24, 2008

A Pretty Time Pressure Combination

The Westchester Chess Club started a new tournament last night. I played one of the regulars. Regardless of the time control our games always come down to the last second. Last night was no different. The time limit had been G/75 with a 5 second delay. When the game ended in this position, White's clock read 00:00, Black's 00:05.

Earlier Black had won the exchange, but neither of us remember quite how White got it back. In this position White had just played Qe4+ and Black replied with f5. White flagged trying to find the non-existant defense to ....Qh2# The obvious Qh1 doesn't work because of Bf1+. White's best defense puts off mate for 4 moves. I haven't had a chance to try to reconstruct what happened between the final written move and Qe4+ to see if White had a better move then that.

Before you give me a big round of applause for such a pretty little mating attack, I need to tell you something. I was White. :-( That little detail not withstanding, it still was a cool ending. If I had come up with the moves that put off mate for 4 moves, he might have flagged instead of me. This is a prime example of why I tell my students it's important to be able to force a mate in as few moves as possible.


Glenn Wilson said...

"This is a prime example of why I tell my students it's important to be able to force a mate in as few moves as possible."

Or in as little clock time? Not always the same thing. And looking for the best defense or the shortest mates in a time scramble can be a mistake -- first stay alive by making a decent move before you lose on time.

I came across this recently and it strikes me as relevant to chess and time scrambles in particular:

As the dogfight begins, little time is devoted to orienting unless some new information pertaining to the actual identity or intent of the attacker comes into play. Information cascades in real time, and the pilot does not have time to process it consciously; the pilot reacts as he is trained to, and conscious thought is directed to supervising the flow of action and reaction, continuously repeating the OODA cycle. Simultaneously, the opponent is going through the same cycle.

How does one interfere with an opponent's OODA cycle? One of John Boyd's primary insights in fighter combat was that it is vital to change speed and direction faster than the opponent. This is not necessarily a function of the plane's ability to maneuver, rather the pilot must think and act faster than the opponent can think and act. Getting "inside" the cycle — short-circuiting the opponent's thinking processes - produces opportunities for the opponent to react inappropriately.

Polly said...

Glenn: That's an excellent point. In this position Black clearly could have gone terribly wrong if he had blocked the Qf4 check with g6 instead of f5. The f pawn was on f6. If he plays g6 instead then I'm the one with the unstoppable mate. He had spent about 8 seconds including the 5 second delay to come up with f5.

Trying to find a defense to Qh2, I had used up the 5 second delay and my remaining few seconds. If in the 5 second delay I could have found 1. Rh8+ Kxh8 2. Qe8+ I "might" have bought myself time to rattle him enough that maybe he would have flagged. In reality black has nothing to think about since white runs out of checks, but knowing how he reacts in time pressure at times would have given me a slight ray of hope.

In terms of forcing that mate in as few moves as possible, I mean moves not time. Sometimes one will use a few extra seconds to work out the mate, and then be able to play out the moves in the remaining clock time. It's a delicate balance and varies from situation to situation.

I like the OODA Loop. I think it ties in perfectly with chess. Not just in time scrambles. Any position that is complex with possibilities for both sides needs this sort of thought process.

Chessaholic said...

oh bummer. I was already cheering for you and ready to break out the confetti :)

Anonymous said...

Polly what about Qh1

Polly said...

Anon: Bf1+. That's the brutality of f5. It not only blocks my check, but it cuts off the escape of my king. So I have to play Qg2 and black plays Qxg2#.

Aaron Durst said...

I saw your post and glenn's comment about OODA. It intrigued me and led me to write my thoughts on chess and OODA ( I guess those thoughts could be summed up as strategically rather than trying win the game through checkmate, attempt to win the game by forcing your opponent to run out of time before you do. I think that is the lesson of OODA applied to time controlled chess games.