A Chess Puzzle

I recently encountered a chess puzzle that revolved around capturing my opponents material due to a forced mate in one threat. While exploring various permutations of moves, I struggled to choose the right piece (between the bishop and the knight) to simultaneously block my opponent’s mate in one threat while allowing me to freely capture a few of his minor pieces. After a brief though I played Knight C3 -> D5, blocking my opponents mate threat on g2 and adding an additional attacker to the black knight on F6. I completely missed that by moving the knight I was unveiling my opponents Queen to be able to attack my queen. Just a single move, only 64 squares, and I was entirely blind to the undermining of my idea. After black captures on D5 with the pawn and I take the knight on F6 with my bishop, my opponent can simply capture my queen, negating my mate threat and forcing me to respond by taking back with my bishop.

To my surprise, the solution was quite simple: I moved the rook one square up instead of to the right. I had been fixated on the idea of the rook moving horizontally, a pattern I was familiar with in trapping queens. Faced with this new scenario, I failed to reevaluate the rook’s positioning and didn’t realize that a slight vertical shift would solve the puzzle.

  • I had been trapped in my accustomed patterns and couldn’t see the obvious queen attack that should have been my initial consideration.

Inattentional Blindness?

It’s interesting how we can become blind in opposite degrees of experience. When we’re beginners, we struggle to discern crucial elements in a sea of information, unable to recognize common patterns and solutions. Our thoughts are malleable, as we miss many things but discover new patterns. As we become more seasoned, the details start to fade into the background, and a sort of “flow state” takes over, making everything seem almost automatic and fast. Taking a familiar walk around the block can feel like teleportation, with the journey happening almost unnoticed. Conversely, exploring a new place can overload our senses, making it easy to miss small details in the midst of absorbing so much new information.

There’s some fine balance between routine and new. New is good, it seems to slow down time and deepens perspective. However, routine seems to be critical to making considerable progress on activities I’d like to be good at, it removes the newness and mental overhead. I can focus on getting better or ‘teleport’ my way through difficult moments I might otherwise struggle to make it through.