SPRAGGETT ON CHESS
In chess, curiously, the best move is not necessarily the strongest move! For the sake of argument, let me define the best move as the move that leads to the fastest checkmate. However, if one considers the object of the game of chess to defeat the opponent (as opposed to simply mating the opposing King) then the move that brings about the resignation of the opponent BEFORE delivering mate must be considered the most efficient solution –and hence strongest move!
Chess masters have always struggled with this concept. And naturally so, for we humans are not digital machines–always playing the best move is the computer’s forte. For humans the game of chess is also sport and art…beauty and elegance are qualities that we willfully attach to our moves and play a fundamental role in our games. We sometimes prefer to play the second best move on purpose! Consider the following simple example, taken from an old game played in 1939:
POSITION AFTER BLACK’S 61st MOVE
GM ELISKASES (AUSTRIA)
It has been a long and VERY interesting game where Eliskases has patiently used all of his skills in nursing a very slight advantage until Black finally cracked. Here White can crown his efforts with 62.Bb4-ch!, leading to a mate in 5 , all forced. Hence 62.Bb4-ch is the best move.
However, White suddenly sees a stunning Queen sacrifice that is hard to resist 62.Qb6-ch: if Black accepts then 63. Bb4-ch is mate! Ofcourse, if Black simply retreats 62…Ke7 (!), then White should still win quickly enough…but in MORE than 5 moves!
What should White do? What would you do? The quickest way to win or the elegant Queen sacrifice?
Eliskases chose the Queen sacrifice! After all, how often can we do this in a tournament game? As for Black, he decided to immediately resign! So, 62.Qb6-ch was indeed the strongest move!
Tarrasch (left) and Lasker
”Dr. Tarrasch is a thinker, fond of deep and complex speculation. He will accept the efficacy and usefulness of a move if at the same time he considers it beautiful and theoretically right. But I accept that sort of beauty only if and when it happens to be useful. He admires an idea for its depth, I admire it for its efficacy. My opponent believes in beauty, I believe in strength. I think that by being strong, a move is beautiful too.”
– Emanuel Lasker
SPRAGGETT ON CHESS