Traps, Tricks & Mistakes: Inaccuracy or Mistake?

Chess players know that the goal in chess is to checkmate the opposite king. People also like to mention that chess is a game that combines art and science. While people also relate art to beauty, checkmating the opposite king as a result of a beautiful combination would be the appropriate way to play this game. That said, nowadays we are confronted with the paradoxical situation that computers are showing more beautiful combinations than human players.

Let’s take for example the game Van Foreest vs Giri from the Tata Steel tournament 2022. These two players faced each other on round 11 and the following position arose on the board after Black’s 14th move.

Because Van Foreest didn’t play the most energetic 15.Rxf6, would we say that he made a mistake? I think it was clear for him that the sacrifice was an opportunity for playing a beautiful game. However, he was unable to visualize a favourable position in lines that involve illogical moves. Human limitations for properly evaluating a complex position played a key role in his decision.

Referring to the position after Black’s 14th move, his comments after the game are interesting: “I thought, with his pawn on c5, I get this nice bind with all the pawns in the middle of the board. Whereas if his pawn is on c7, he can often, for example, quickly transfer his knight from b7 to c5. So I didn’t think it was so clear there; I wasn’t even sure how clear it was in the game, but as it turns out, it was probably very good for White always.”

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