An unexamined life is not worth living.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Blink – the Power of Intuition in Chess

Reading the book “Blink”, I could not help thinking about how it relates to chess. Blink by Malcolm Gladwell discusses how certain decisions can be correctly made with only minimal amount of thinking. It also gives examples where extra time taken to make a decision lead to worse results. The author also suggests the following:

In complex situations, quick intuitive decisions are often more likely to be correct than those based on a lot of complex analysis.

In simple situations, logical analysis actually proved useful and led to good results.


The book actually does not use the word “intuition” enough, but decisions made at the blink of an eye - obviously represent a person’s intuition. The above rules work in chess as well. Very often chess annotators point out that a chess player did not play a move that he would have easily played in a blitz game, instead went with a more complicated idea, which unsurprisingly turned out to be wrong. Another common observation is that “A long think usually leads to a bad move”.

To me - this just goes to prove that improving one’s intuition is very useful for blitz games, but will also make you an overall stronger player, save you time on the clock and add to your confidence as a chess player. For further discussion on the role of intuition of chess – read Dvoretsky’s book Attack and Defence In Chess.


  1. But how many times have players' annotations read something like: "After a long think I discovered the only winning plan was..."?

  2. Fair enough, that happens too, but my guess is that if a position can be understood with logical analysis during the game, it falls into the category of 'simpler' positions. What I was getting at is that some positions are so complicated that trying to dissect them by visualizing variations may be less effective than going with the gut feeling about whether or not a sacrifice is likely to be sound.

  3. Intuitive moves are best made in time-trouble, which is a desperate situation by definition.

    "Intuitive sac" earlier in the game, should be based on experience and analysis. It's only intuition in the sense that you have a strong opinion about the move, which lead you to do some serious analysis of it in the first place.

    I don't like where your argument could lead to, which is yet even faster time-controls!

  4. Agreed that intuition is based on previous experience. Just to be clear, I was not arguing for faster time controls. My take on it is that during a standard time-controls game - intuition is helpful for making a list of candidate moves. During speed chess and blitz games - we have to make the first move that intuition suggests (so it is important in both cases, just how it is used is a bit different). And ... I know that most of my long thinking sessions are caused by lack of confidence and unorganized thinking process - that's what I was mostly getting at in the original post.


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