Even in a hurry, I am still positively mortified when I fail to explain myself correctly. Like when I don’t chose the correct words or phrase my intended sentiments incorrectly.
I like to say everything precisely. And the American juvenile habit for talking shit – talking about whatever pops into one’s mind – just to fill in an otherwise quiet and peaceful moment does not past muster with me.
As the old expression goes, ‘Say nothing unless you can improve on silence.’
But I am getting off track. The subject is precision and I just got into a minor online pissing contest with a writer over her statement ‘that a competent chess player can see 10 moves ahead.’ She was merely drawing an analogy but I took umbrage to her statement.
And I replied to her post saying, “Chess players do not see 10 moves ahead. Not even grandmasters. In fact they do not even see a single move ahead. Why? Because a single move on a chessboard changes the entire landscape of the board hence making foreseeing future moves impossible.”
She replied to my email saying effectively that I was full of shit because both of her sons are excellent chess players and they both said that all great chess players could see 10 moves ahead.
I replied saying to the effect that the facts from a chess player website state ‘there are over 9 million different possible positions after three moves each. There are over 288 billion different possible positions after four moves each’. I went on to say, “The chessboard is reassessed after every move. So from there, how does one imply any possibility of foreknowledge, esp. to the ludicrous extreme of 10 moves out?”
And then it occurred to me. What she should have said was ‘that a competent chess player can think 10 moves ahead.’ Which would make perfect sense. A great player could look at any static board frozen in time and thus given the immediate situation project out a probable play scenario 10 moves into the future. The operative words are ‘think 10 moves ahead’.
But anytime a player moves, the board changes, and with it the future.
So in my opinion, our disagreement came down to just those two words- see and think. And she positively chose the wrong word. But was that her fault? Probably not. Conventional wisdom would agree with her because many chess websites – I checked – use the same phrase/terminology. But just in case you didn’t know, what passes for conventional wisdom is generally wrong. (I believe I am subconsciously citing Malcolm Gladwell here.)
So while I will agree that a great chess player can think 10 moves in advance, no chess player on earth can see 10 moves ahead.
PS – “The notion that a good player can see X amount of moves ahead is nothing more than a myth and doesn’t quantify your capabilities as a chess player (and honestly it’s annoying because that’s literally the first thing people that have no clue about chess want to talk about).”
Note: If you click on the above article you’ll how the ‘see X moves ahead’ argument is both discredited and undermined using an entirely different argument than mine. However, that argument ties back to how the chessboard changes and how it’s not about seeing ahead that makes a good chess player but instead is about recognizing patterns and structures.
PPS – I am one critical bastard am I not?