Clarity in Action

Viswanathan Anand’s talk on thinking in chess has already been advertised on several chess sites and blogs, but I’d like to quote a snippet from the talk that struck me as an important “psychological chunk” on how to approach the game and how to approach a position. Anand reiterates — in slightly different terms — the old adage that it’s better to have a bad plan than to have no plan at all:

It’s much better to be deluded and confident than to have the right information and not know what to do… because in the end what you are looking for is clarity at the board, or clarity in action. You want to be able to play a position, you want to be able to enter it if that plays to your strengths, and that’s all that really matters. So even some false confidence is fine.


4 Responses to Clarity in Action

  1. ChessAdmin says:

    Nice highlight. This struck me as similar to the military adage that in a high-pressure crisis situation, taking action (even an objectively incorrect action) is better than taking no action at all. Basically, you’re almost guaranteed to lose if you have no plan, while doing something that at least has a positive outcome in mind will give your opponent a chance to be surprised and/or make an error in turn.

    Also reinforces the idea that a strong, positive attitude at the board is in itself an important contributing factor to victory.

  2. Chunky Rook says:

    Thanks for your comment. There’s definitely the psychological advantage to consider, but also the practical implications: with a plan, candidate moves come easier to you, you’re less prone to waste time and energy to find feasible moves. On the downside, you might skip important calculations because you’re too caught up in making “natural” moves… there’s all sorts of pros and cons to having a plan, but for all intents and purposes, the advantages likely outweigh the disadvantages.

  3. I’m not an expert on Anand’s style of play, but it sounds a bit to me as though he is favouring an aggressive style of play as opposed to a more cautious approach. I think a lot of players tend to wait and see what their opponent is going to do before finally deciding upon what their own stratergy will be.

  4. LaurentS says:

    IIRC correctly, this comment by Anand was also linked to the increase in strength of engines. Basically, he was explaining that a couple of years ago, he was ready to enter positions assessed as favourable by engines, but that today’s engines would dismiss as without prospects, or even plainly bad.

    So it’s better to play an inferior variation without knowing it’s inferior and when you know what to do, then know the [engine] truth and being stuck by fear of landing into an objectively inferior position.

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