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Shelby Lyman on Chess: It’s Not DNA

Hint and Explanation: Feint Right, Hit Left

There is a strong tendency to explain extraordinary prowess in chess, as in other pursuits by the possession of innate aptitudes and talents.

So we are told that Bobby Fischer and Garry Kasparov had exceptional memories in light of their abilities to recall innumerable chess positions.

But the ability to recall is a matter of focus, practice, emotional involvement and even physical health, as well as DNA.

When the Yugoslav writer Dimitrije Bjelica laid exaggerated claim to the importance of memory during an interview, Fischer scoffed. And Kasparov, when faced with the same issue, was happy to explain that outside of chess his memory was good but not extraordinary.

The same may be said of calculating powers which can be cultivated and improved significantly by focus and training.

In fact, the best players often calculate the least, relying instead on their accumulated intuition which is a demonstratively more powerful tool for winning chess games.

American and Soviet studies have found that top players seem to have no special chess aptitude, per se, except a strong general intelligence, which is necessary for superior achievement in any field.

It is necessary to remind ourselves that chess is above all a sport. The ability to wage battle may be the most essential trait for success in the game.

As Bobby Fischer was proud to admit: “There are tough players and nice guys, and I’m a tough player.”

Below is a win by Baadur Jobava against Radoslaw Wojtaszek from the Tata Steel Challengers tournament in Wijk aan Zee, Netherlands.

Wojtaszek Jobava

1. d4 Nf6

2. c4 e5

3. dxe5 Ng4

4. Bf4 g5

5. Bg3 Nc6

6. Nf3 Bg7

7. h4 N(g)xe5

8. Nxe5 Nxe5

9. Nc3 g4

10. e3 d6

11. Be2 Be6

12. Rc1 O-O

13. b3 c6

14. h5 f5

15. h6 Bf6

16. Qd2 Qe7

17. f4 gxf3

18. gxf3 Kh8

19. f4 R(a)d8

20. Qc2 Ng4

21. Bxg4 Rg8

22. Ne2 Rxg4

23. Kf2 d5

24. R(c)d1 Re8

25. c5 Bf7

26. Qc1 Qe4

27. Nd4 and White resigned

Solution to Beginner’s Corner: 1. Rh7! (threatens Rh4 mate). If 1. … Rh8, 2. Rf7 mate! (Giri-Naiditsch ’14).