Chess Calculation: Try not to calculate anything! Magnus Carlsen example (

Chess Calculation: Try not to calculate anything! Magnus Carlsen example (

Afternoon all. I thought I would like to do an interesting discussion video about trying not to calculate anything. A
lot of you might hold calculation in very high regard
like candidate moves, looking at variations you might hold this all in
very high regard and you might find this example shocking.
Okay magnus carlsen was playing black here and white just played Knight e5
attacking the Queen so if I give you 20 seconds here I wonder what you would
play and why?! So 20 seconds starting from now okay you might want to pause the video
or basically a lot of analysis was done by white in this position by Luke McShane
and very very little analysis of variations was done by Magnus. You might
think how is this possible?! and what did Magnus play which
reflects this and more importantly why and I want to discuss why at various
different levels of abstraction Magnus played the move Queen d6 and the
interesting thing is he pointed out in post-mortem and I’m pretty sure he
wasn’t joking then he rejected Queen b5 in this
position because b3 and there’s not much counterplay here
okay that’s basically what he said. You know we’ve not much counterplay. The
Queen but if we look at it in more detail just at an abstract level the
Queen coming here is away from the king and you can actually do a numerical
counts of potential attacking pieces that there’s actually four attacking
pieces here and just three here and also you might want to consider this pawn is
almost an attacking unit. Kasparov has indicated pawns next to the King almost
can be counted as attacking pieces more dangerous perhaps if it was on h6 at
some point or closer to the king but even on g5 it could be dangerous
so intuitively even without tons of analysis of Queen b5 it might be the
case that Magnus’s move is actually better
Magnus played Queen d6 and now this is an important paradox to really really
really think about because it has big implications first of all this numerical
counts business comparing a number of attacking pieces will the number of
defending pieces you might think is absolute nonsense can that actually be
used in the process of thinking about chess?! Well actually a recent video was
about interfering with the opponent’s forcing moves and shortly after doing
that video and I’ll give you the link in the description
it occurred to me that the very first example I was actually removing one of
the opponents attacking pieces in particular sector of the board to be
able to Queen the pawns and you can see that if you are thinking in terms of the
relative attackers and defenders in a sector of a board that is an important
generalization looking at the sources the actual very sources of forcing moves
where to forcing moves come from?! Forcing moves come from pieces in a particular
sector of the board usually around the opponent’s king because forcing moves
like checks you can’t do anything that checks so if you compare literally the
number of pieces around the king and number of pieces defending you might
on general principles on general principles of such accounts discount Queen b5 and
the very interesting thing about this game is that Luke McShane must have spent I think
more than half an hour analyzing various pawn sacrifices on b2 and
rook sacrifices and almost making the attack work and being really prepared
for Queen b5 and a lot of energy was spent – mental energy – and and the
interesting thing as well is that in the game after the move Queen d6 was played
– after all this energy was played he misses a simple forcing move from black
which at least equalizes Knight takes g5 because the Queen is actually useful
it’s around the king and it’s also got its own forcing moves available with it
then actually now if Queen takes we have Bishop takes f6 and if Bishop g5 then f6
and the attacking pieces of starting to be repelled and the Magnus went
on to grind a wing from there so there are various things we’re told in
Kotov’s ‘Think like a Grandmaster’ (book) about candidate move trees and analysis. I think that is very well suited to computers. Why is it very well suited to
computers and not to us?! Well the simple matter is we can’t calculate millions of
positions like computers do like bean counters. Imagine tons and tons and tons
of bean counting in this position then you might think
yeah queen b5 might be justified compared to Queen d6. After Ne5 you might
think Queen b5 you might try and work it out so your
analyzed all the candidate moves after Queen b5 and we could do a technical
analysis but I just want to explore this other idea first. What we’re talking
about – what are we talking about when we’re comparing the number of attacking
pieces with number of defending pieces?! We’re talking about a ‘causal analysis’
cause NOT effect so like symptoms are caused by causes yeah if you if you want
to avoid a cold you sometimes might not want to go to places where you could
pick up a cold. Having to deal with the cold is a pain so what you try and do is
determine cause and a ‘causal analysis’ in a chess position is on an abstract level.
We’re given equipment to assess positions, evaluate positions since the
very first world champion for example passed pawns, King safety, pawn structure,
the bishop pair , centralization, the importance of the center, different types
of center help us evaluate and determine cause – not affect – a ‘causal analysis’ here
implies actually you can try and quickly determine but if you want to keep the
count of defensive pieces relatively imbalance to the attacking pieces then
on intuition to play the move Queen d6 is very very interesting. What does our
being bean-counter tool toolkit say if we did analyze this position so on depth 14 …15
Queen b5 is mentioned and we’ve got Queen d6 as the second candidate so
Queen d6 is Magnus’s move and now on depth 16 Queen d6 so what is going on
here with Queen b5 anyway so intuitively we can think it’s a piece away from the
king so that abstract counts of the attacking pieces versus defensive pieces
is in White’s favour after Queen b5 and I think some people might have mentioned
that intuitively you often see games on this channel where as soon as the Queen
goes away from the king the King gets mated we’ve seen a number of examples of
that in Tal games for example on this channel or in other attacking games
where the Queen’s actually are distracted maybe with some bait and then
the King is slaughtered because basically it’s to do with abstract reasoning. One
player perhaps is intuitively thinking about this. A count of attacking pieces
and defensive pieces will be a cause of forcing moves which are irresistible and
in fact you might think this is a joke surely?! But no Kasparov as well there’s a
very famous game Kasparov against Karpov in the Ruy Lopez which Kasparov has
labeled ‘the punishment’ and in his notes he talks about the game and he
talks about the number of attacking pieces versus defensive pieces as a ratio and
keeps referring to that ratio and it’s more than just a joke. This is more than
just a joke so this causal analysis is something
which you might think is common sense to think about causes but why are we lured in chess to want to look at candidate move trees. The lure is
basically in forcing sequences in particular. Forcing sequences can
transition games dramatically so you need to calculate those as very high
priority because the branches are very few but as a generalization as humans
were not very good at calculating and okay we can calculate forcing moves and
a lot of the brilliancies we call masterpieces and immortal games – they
have these fantastic moves but if you look at a lot of them they’re to do with
Kings safety and forcing moves in particular. In the general sense we
want to bear our intuition our patterns. Chess on a human level is a ‘patterns
war’ it’s a war of patterns – it’s not a war of ‘bean-counting’ – I think that’s a
really really interesting concept it shows it might be about being bean-counting
because sometimes people calculate and they find amazing variations
but often a large ingredient of that is forcing moves but chess is really a
patterns war and it has been since the advent of Steinitz – the first world
champion looking the elements of chess but not just the the patterns of
position – you can look at more abstract patterns like counter play, number of
attacking pieces versus defensive pieces so here it seems white is actually
better – the computer has worked out at depth 23 by the way that white is better
with Bishop takes g7 King takes g7 so is it going to confirm what we see that the
queen is away from the king. It’s a fundamental fact – there’s one less
defensive piece near the king. Let’s have a look at rook e1 and now it’s difficult
in fact for the Queen to even come back because the knight is covering d7. How is
the Queen actually coming back to the defense?! And this would be a very very
different game. White has uncomfortable pressure. Say Knight g8 okay and now b3
which Magnus mentioned earlier in I mean he mentioned that b3 initially
Queen a5 what does Queen a5 do?! Again it’s
material grabbing but visually we know as human beings we’ve got more pieces
around the King than it’s defending it and in this position this would
technically apparently be be troublesome for Black Knight d7 and what is the
actual threat of Knight d7 it’s now Queen e5 check. A major threat of Qe5
check and look how useful that pawn is for holding up f6. So we’ve done
something which seems idiotic to move the Queen away from the King just from a
numerical counts perspective. An abstract perspective of the number of attacking
pieces versus defensive pieces in a particular sector of the board – we can
argue that the intuitive move triumphs what we can calculate as human beings.
Sometimes we need to throw away the calculation aspects of chess and really
focus on causal reasoning. On the patterns war. The war of patterns. And I’m not
sure it’s been described like that before so this is something to think
about. There’s a war of patterns going on here and black by playing Queen d6
but nevertheless Magnus is seeing forcing moves because his next move goes from
this very very intuitive move to a very very tactical move straight off the bat –
he’s looking at forcing moves as well so he hasn’t thrown away completely the
human side of calculation but where the human side of calculation really excels
is in the calculation of forcing moves so Knight takes g5 was found so we have
here two profoundly different results of different types of thinking. The move
Queen d6 followed by the move Knight takes g5
this is like Jekyll and Hyde. It is such a contradiction in thinking style
but Magnus has mastered clearly both types of thinking and if we did go
material hunting for those interested so let’s like take the pawn on b2 as well
it will just just show even more that what is the queen doing away from the
king so say we go for let’s say Queen f3 I think there’s a lot of analysis by Luke McShane
on a video somewhere about this Queen takes b2 and there might be a
way for White to sacrifice the rook even so even this – Bishop takes g7 is not
maybe completely losing for white it’s not ludicrous because we see the Queen
away from the king we have a numerical superiority of pieces here around the
King so in this position this might actually get quite dangerous if if
blacks not careful so already look you see Queen g4 and why would this be a
shock to see the engine changing its mind. What we can see as human beings is
patterns. That’s what we can see and it’s like confirming what we already saw so
do we do we kind of try and work like a computer in efficiently because a
computer can calculate many more millions of positions than us or do we
sometimes trust our instinct. Our instinct is dealing with what I’d call
the patterns war. It’s causal reasoning. What is the cause of forcing
moves?! Have you ever asked that the cause of forcing moves or the cause of attacks
to be undefendable in numerical counts of attacking pieces versus
the defending pieces and I think just to reinforce this point we’ll take
the Kasparov Karpov game in a later video where he destroyed Karpov’s Kings side and we’ll look at from a numerical perspective of attacking
versus defensive pieces. Anyway I just thought this is something I wanted
to get out there this idea of chess as a patterns war and
the illusion of calculation has really often celebrated with forcing moves to
get to get rewards for calculation it’s usually forcing moves which which can be
really decisive in games but you see here Magnus using both toolkits
intuition ruling out very very quickly Queen b5 on the on the basis of b3
without much counter playing versus the huge amount of calculation by whites on
Queen b5 and the ramifications of that but then on the very next move white
blunders may be exhaustion etc has set in and he should have played h4
defending g5 when white is actually okay White’s actually got a promising
position but it was all wrecked so comments or questions on YouTube. Thanks very

99 thoughts on “Chess Calculation: Try not to calculate anything! Magnus Carlsen example (

  1. My weakness in chess is "bean counting" and i agree that it can be efficient to move intuitively on abstract principles, but in my opinion a stylistically polarized chess player isn't a very good one i.e. one that makes decisions wholly on concrete calculation or wholly on intuition. Calculation is necessary for correctly evaluating a forcing sequence or determining whether or not a certain move is a threat that needs addressing. Your point that over-calculation is harmful is important to remember, but under-calculation can and has lead to disasters as well.

  2. The truth about this patterns you're talking is that there are cases in which they do not count at all, and case in which they are important, and the real difference between great player and bas ones is in fact that they are able to tell which aspects of the position are actually important, but how they really understand this things cannot be "patterned".
    It's true that even best player in the world use these "extremely simple looking" patterns but they use once a particular pattern and chose with it the best move, but if they would have used another they could have chosen the worst one, but they just do not. There are millions of bad players who know this patterns rather well, but there are 10 or more of them to take in cosideration but only one or two are really influential in a particular position, or maybe neither one and you have no pattern to understand it.
    It is true that this patterns could help, anyway modern chess are about finding the best move, no plans, no strategy, no patterns, more accurate you are on every single move, whatever is the reason that makes you think it is good, stronger you are.
    (About this game, maybe Carlsen said that intuitive idea about the position of the Queen, but he actually calculated the whole line coming from there.)

  3. You must read a book "thinking,fast and slow" by Daniel Kahneman.Design making process with a slow  as reasoning system and fast as an intuitive system!

  4. i honestly don't think this is rocket science. i'm not a strong player, but the first thing i looked at in this position was Nf5, seeing if a counterattack on the queen was possible. doesn't work here. so the queen has to move. Qd6 looks attractive, it's on a good diagonal there, enabling you to trade queens in an emergency if the knight attacks, while also laterally eyeing the bishop. Qd8 looks just strictly worse by being on the white's bishop's diagonal instead. Qb5 looks very questionable to me. it doesn't do a lot there and it seems we've made one move away and it might take two moves to come back. intuitively, it looks like a horrible move to me. not by counting pieces, but by weighing what it does for us (little to nothing) vs what it does for the opponent (might have gained a tempo in the attack). so it seems incredibly unlikely that concrete analysis and calculation would end up favoring Qb5 here, since it does so little. it makes a lot of sense to not even seriously consider it here. if it took only one move to get back to defense, it might be a different story.

    magnus carlsen is a genius, but finding this move doesn't take one. it's not a close call here imo. maybe resisting the temptation of doing further calculations here takes guts, discipline and a healthy psyche, but i don't think it takes a genius

  5. Carlsen has also said that his mind works in a way that he sees right away what he wants to do and whats the right move to play. Yet he doesn't blitz out championship games. Why? His answer was : "i sit there and CALCULATE and confirm I didnt miss anything." Intuition to play some move comes from experience and every move has to be calculated correctly to justify them.

  6. I like how chess players use the word "calculate" for when they think about a move, as if they're solving math problems. You're just moving pieces around, not doing calculus lmao.

  7. Magnus Carlsen's ability to play every position and make the most out of it reminds me of Petrosian's games. They can grind down an equal position and get the most out of it.

  8. A 15 minute video that could have been a 10 seconds video that said- only an asshole would move his queen into no man's land trying to capture a pawn that is easily defended- video over.

  9. He was born a chess wizard so he can calculate his move without much effort but actually his mind had think. How coul he knows his move without thinking?

  10. I love what you said about the idea of chess being about patterns rather than meticulous calculations. I think you've provided a very nice insight here and I agree with what you said though I think it is also important to note the time it takes when one is studying the game to go through those calculations in order to be able to recognize patterns in their future games. Great video!

  11. This makes me wonder if we will ever find a true chess savant, who will play without calculating anything. Look up Derek Paravacini piano. Someone like that, but whose mind best conceives chess. While nowhere remotely near the levels of GM players, I find that I do better without overthinking the board. It often just looks like I should make a particular move, for reasons I don't even understand, and that move is often better than the one I spend a lot of time working out.

  12. On try not to calculate anything: This process of thinking ( or not thinking) cannot be achieved without a deep understanding of the game. Only through countless hrs playing and study can this be achieved. I played for 5 years when I was young 1800 was as far as I went but strangely its in the Martial Arts is where I draw the example. After years of practice your body and mind react in perfect balance without any conscious thought about the action that needs to be taken but it is the correct action. We call this Mushin or no mind. Chess, or any other skill is no different. Once we practice long enough the mind knows the correct path to follow at a glance without calculating. You can see this in life all around you. From a artist, tennis player, mechanic, delta force operator. We all do it in a small degree everyday. Very few reach true mastery. Does this make any sense?

  13. I consider myself fairly sub-par in chess (watching videos such as this to improve), but at least I intuitively said D6. Yay, slight ego boost! My justification was more along the lines of trying to force white into going defensive. I suppose I may as well not entirely throw out this line of thinking moving forward, then.

  14. how do you go about playing chess as a beginner to advance player without memorizing tons of strategies and protect yourself at the same time against everything that can be potentially dangerous?

  15. I think due to advent of computers and access to the " best move" there is too much importance placed on the "best move" instead of playing the game to win.Using computers to analyse positions is of-course very valuable but trying to apply a static set of remembered patterns to an ever changing fluid mechanic in the end is self defeating.

  16. I saw a long VHS video of that Kasparov-Karpov match and game (Ruy Lopez) some time ago. The game in question was where Kasparov was excited that he had NOT calculated his Queen sacrifice. Of course he calculated many of those. He was counting the forces on the King side on his fingers…Of course he meant, he didn't calculate in the usual thorough way. In fact he played it on intuition. There is also a book by Soltis where he shows about 6 or moves by Karpov and Kasparov in a game where any player, as Soltis points out, could see the reason for the moves so they were played very quickly with minimal calculation. There is the real problem of so many moves and 'trees' and the state of one's clock etc There is a trade off I think between deep calculation and time. The other factor is that, of course a "blunder check" should be made on every move.

  17. I think it's a mix. There was an old fellow at our chess club who, in one way, had the right idea, he would go through his games with me, and try to look at every move, or many more moves than I would although I was in the A Grade and he was in the C. He wasn't that bad but his obsessive searching for dangers and best moves went too far. To be practical there is a need to calculate a few moves ahead, check if the move looks good (good if one has a plan also) and then move anything reasonable as long as it's not a blunder!! Avoiding blunders (most, impossible to avoid all) is said to improve one's play by 100 points. But the old fellow's problem was that, while he did see quite a lot of interesting things, he ended up frequently losing on time. When I play OTB I try to keep ahead of my opponent on time. (But that can be a trap also as it pays to slow down at certain points: sometimes I have made the mistake of trying to play faster and have lost that way.

  18. But, yes, certain general aspects count: of course sometimes the 'rules' can be broken. I found that Qd6 move for the same reason. I simply thought: that is where the action is, I loked at about 3 moves to see there was no immediate win. I didn't even look at Qb5 for more that a second. My thought was simply: wrong direction. Also I noticed that if one of the Ns moved I had Qxg3+ In this sense at times Carlsen is a patzer-friendly genius! In certain kinds of his games I understand fairly well what he is doing. I rarely understand the GMs when they analyse intensively. So I like that: not Qb5, not much doing there: and we have done it in quicker time than the computer….But as you say, that doesn't eliminate all calculation of course!

  19. Let us stop being polite about a major figure in Chess history. "Think Like a Grandmaster" was an educational disaster with a false promise. Kotov's misconceptions about how strong players think probably ruined the development of countless promising chess players. Of course other grandmasters have always know this.

  20. The trouble is confirmation bias. Fewer chess videos show us stupid things that grandmasters do than we really ought to see. How many times do GMs make an "instinctive" or not-overly-calculated moves and get trounced, especially early in their careers? In this video Carlsen wins, but if he had lost, wouldn't we be saying, "Boy, shoulda spent a moment calculating the thing."

  21. black was positionally crippled,, b5 couldnt be a good posssibility as for kings safety ,,,,,,,, thanx gud lesson

  22. Having positions like this as an average player my first instinct would be to lash out and try to crease threats and counterplay and Qb5 does on the surface seems to achieve this.I would be very nervous as black in this position. Placing the king on a square where king and Q cant be knight forked seems very sensible but bishop takes bishop does bring the king back to a forkable square. I don't believe there was no calculation on his part, it's just that he ruled out what seemed an obvious move but bad move very quickly. Brilliant example and analysis KC thanks.

  23. This is a wonderful video!

    Thank you so much for making it! And thank you also for putting this quote from Kasparov in the comments. A perfect ending so a very intuitive symphony. 😉

    It's good you pointed out that he has two key abilities:

    Intuition AND calculation. But whereas hours of exhausting calculations fail, intuition wins. I don't like this idea of only looking at what would happen if he put his Queen on B5. I think most chess players need to change their thinking to be like this. I think most PEOPLE should change their thinking to be like this, because it applies all across the board of life, like another person mentioned. But there is something very unique about chess that is not the same as athletics or tennis, because in tennis you have no need to "calculate" in what position you'll be standing in because you never know, whereas in chess, it's a unique opportunity to envision the way you want a landscape to look. It's more like painting and having a clear grasp of what you want the picture to look like, even when another person has a chance to paint the same picture. It's like taking turns painting the same picture and whoever has the stronger ideas will end up being more clearly visible to onlookers.

    As Seirawan likes to say, "Chess is a battle of ideas."

    This video mentions things that science and mere calculation from computers cannot reach yet, just like the abilities of Daniel Tammet. Intuition is one of the most important things in life, and also in chess, and I think so many people (let alone chess players) sadly lack that. It's too bad, because it would make them better people.

    And when others comment "Oh I could recognize that move. That's easy," it's funny, because (probably) not one of them is over 2500. XD People love to say "it's easy" after seeing someone else do it, but trying to be creative in an original way like that on your own when you're in front of a crowd and up against some of the greatest minds in the world is another talent altogether. Anybody can say that, but not just anybody can do it, otherwise all these people would show us their videos of their 10 games where they beat Carlsen "easily."

  24. Yeah, I probably would have played Qb5, for lack of a better move. I didn't see Qd3, unfortunately. Very nice. That's what separates the GM's from the C class players.

  25. ….uhhh
    I think the point Magnus was making is to not discount intuition. Everyone tries to calculate in chess, but the fact is we aren't computers, we consciously can't crunch enormous data without reaching mental exhaustion. But intuition can.

  26. Im hardly a strong player. But i thought Qd6 was the only move which made sense. Qb5 looked positionally ugly to me.

  27. Looking at the position, Qd6 was the logical move that provided more opportunities for attack and counter-play much sooner than Qb5, or any other. As I paused the video before the move, I thought "this can't be this easy" and I went about to calculate (second-guess), looking for the "better" tactical move. One which would reveal it's "brilliancy" only further down the road.
    Upon restarting, and seeing Qd6 was the move taken, I kicked myself for over-thinking, and the answer to the question of why not to calculate anything was played out. I still don't understand why Qb5 would ever be considered. That move seemed to be peripheral and distracting; almost as if it belonged in another match completely.
    Maybe a better title might be "Don't over-calculate everything!"

  28. The Russian word for education is obrazovanie (transliterated).

    Obraz is the root word for pattern.

    Pattern recognition is a critical part of innate intelligence.

  29. Well, im very lazy and i dont calculate more than 3 moves ahead, so, this is a time saver. Good video, good point.

  30. In the following video, Kasparov talks about his thoughts on a game he played against Karpov. Kasparov admits that he didn't calculate, and the interviewer confirms that Kasparov was moving very quickly. Kasparov goes on to explain why. He talks about the number of defending pieces of his opponent as well as the number of his attacking pieces.

  31. Replayable game link:
    Join me or other Youtubers for a game: – Cheers, K

  32. An important critical outlook on how we can defog our brains from the influence of countless studied systems and ways
    to play the royal game. The explanation is clear and convincing and the point is not emphasized in chess enough.

  33. I like how there are four knights on the same column.
    Something I have never seeing before..
    thanks for sharing. Great video!!!

  34. Josh waitzkin talked about this in his book. That expert chess played teach a level where they actually blur out when they play not focusing on particular sections of the the board. Everything looks intuitive and automatic. However to reach this level of pattern recognition you need a lot of training. A novice cannot have this intuition.

  35. I am not a very strong player really, rated around 1500 in online games. And I have always felt the reason for my relatively low rating was a poor ability to calculate variations. I am excited really about keeping the information in this video in the forefront of my mind during my games. Thanks, for the video!

  36. Would you say this was the way the Romantics played? I feel that their gambit and sacrifice plays weren't preceded or followed up by deep calculation, but rather positioning which 'felt' right.

  37. Hi sir
    Sir i want some advice from u
    I want to make chess videos in hindi language
    I am not getting proper direction of how to do it
    Which app to use..
    And how to highlight a square or put arrows in the video..
    Please guide me and give me some tips and easy way of doing it

  38. Ok, if I should not calculate anything, I play 1.-Ne6:g5.
    Why? Because I did not calculate. It is just a random move.

  39. Less calculation more composition, sort of . Django, Morphy spring to mind like Georgie Best letting the ball take him forward rather than the other way round .
    intuitional instinctive geniuses can produce art on the pitch ,board and the fretboard.

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