Jul

11

Despite chess being a game of 'perfect knowledge' (game theorists’ term, not mine) we are nonetheless beset by uncertainty. Even in relatively benign, 'typical' positions, it can be difficult if not impossible to assess outcomes with any accuracy.

But does one need to know, to have deep insights? Here the answer is much more clear, in fact it's a definite 'no'. The players who win tournaments are those who play good moves, not the ones who see very deeply. And as evidence I cite the example of Friedrich Saemisch, inventor of several important opening systems but famous for losing on time.

Interestingly Saemisch's impracticality went beyond the bounds of the chessboard, as illustrated by these stories related by Ludek Pachman:

'Isn't Hitler a fool? He thinks he can win the war with Russians!' Samish said completely aloud. Prague of those days was full of Gestapo and Samisch had to be overheard at least at the next few tables. I asked him to speak quietly. 'You don't agree that Hitler is a fool?' was Samisch unconcerned retort.

"Samish stayed 'afloat' untill the Summer of 1944. Then he let his mouth run off at the closing banquette after the Madrid tournament. Upon his return, Samisch was arrested right at the German border and shipped to a concentration camp. In Apr, 1946 I asked Samish in Switzerland what was his internment like. 'Unglaublich, uberhaupt nichts zu Rauchen!' Samish replied; and immediately added: 'Noch schlimmer ist es, dass ich jetzt volkommen frankelos bin!'…" (Unreliable GM translation: 'Unbelievable, above all nothing to smoke. Even worse is that now I'm completely broke.') 

Gabe Ivan remarks:

Bruce Pandolfini says:

Most people believe that great players strategize by thinking far into the future, by thinking 10 or 15 moves ahead. That's just not true. Chess players look only as far into the future as they need to, and that usually means thinking just a few moves ahead. Thinking too far ahead is a waste of time; the information is uncertain. The situation is ambiguous. Chess is about controlling the situation at hand. You want to determine your own future. You certainly don't want your opponent to determine it for you. For that, you need clarity, not clairvoyance. 


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