The Danger of Making Natural Moves - Learn to Fight Your Reflexes

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All humans are followed by reflexes. Wikipedia names more than 50 reflexes known to modern science. But I know one more reflex that is unknown to Web Encyclopedia. I call it “natural moves” reflex. ABSOLUTELY every chess player has a set of chess instincts that (1) make some moves undoubted or (2) makes some moves not possible for him/her.

For every level of players, there is a different set of reflexes. For example, beginners take everything they can or attack the queen whenever he/she can do this. Experienced players already understand that such behaviour does not bring dividends and become more flexible. Stronger players know that in the endgame king should go to the centre; when you attack you do not need to exchange queens; do not exchange fianchetto bishop when your king is castled to the same side etc. Such a list can be enormous. But in chess every single position is individual. Every single position has own nuances. Even the flap of a butterfly wing on one continent may cause an earthquake on another. Rephrasing this formula of Chaos Theory we can state that a move that was good with the pawn on h2 may be a fatal mistake with a pawn on h3. Definitely, reflexes help us when we are short on time. But if we have enough time on the clock, we need to consider all nuances and to double-check all around do not miss something important that can be out of our reflex system. Now let me show how all this can influence on our play.


What can be more natural than to take an opponent's piece - especially when he/she took our piece on the last move? One of the first things we learn as chess beginners are how to capture and this reflex goes through all our chess life. Even top players are affected by to-take-instincts. But chess is not draughts and capturing is not compulsory in our game.

The first example I would like to share demonstrates the most primitive form of this reflex. You take - I take.


Black was my former student who could not handle with own instincts. The last move was not the best - a7-a6 - and White confidently takes this pawn 30.Bxa6. My student admits that he made a mistake and without any doubts takes back 30...bxa6? (The best move was out-of-reflexes 30...Rd6!. Black defends the knight and forces the bishop to retreat). White played 31.Rxb6 and rapidly Black lost but there is no sense to see the end of this game. We can make two conclusions based on watching this game - one concrete and one general. The concrete conclusion is when the opponent takes something we should not hastily take it back. General rule teaches us that we should always create a list of candidates moves. Even if you see a good move that wins a pawn look around before making the move. Maybe instead you can win a queen and end the game.


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