I’ve been playing chess for at least three decades now. By far, the most frequent question I encounter from non-players is, “So how many moves do you see ahead?”
It is a hard question to answer. Do I tell them I know the first 20 moves of an opening? Is that really seeing 20 moves ahead or just memorization?
How about a forced mate? We all know how to force a mate with a lone queen (or at least I hope we do), the smothered mate, and other techniques needed to win the game.
Do I tell skeptics I just know that the move I am playing leads directly to forced mate, without necessarily seeing all the subsequent moves? How then do I know if the move leads to a mate? Should I say that it is mate in less than 10 moves? Sounds awfully vague to me. How about, I who have been playing for a couple of decades, have developed an instinct (or intuition) for what moves leads to mate and what does not lead to mate? Sounds a little egotistical to me. But it is true (both the instinct and the ego).
A good example is this phone game. Black plays some rather weak moves in the opening. And when Black played his 11th move, I knew I had a mating attack. I just didn’t see everything.
Cell Phone game, Feb. 2017
1.e4 d5 2.exd5 Qxd5 3.Nc3 Qe6+?! 4.Be2 f5 5.d4 b6? 6.d5! Qf6 7.Nf3 c6 8.Bf4 Nd7 9.dxc6 Nc5 10.Nd5! Qxb2 11.Be5! (The attack is merely a decoy. White is after more than a mere queen.) 11…Qa3
12.Nc7+ Kf7 13.Ng5+ Kg6 14.Bh5+ Kxg5 (Giving up a piece. By the way, 14…Kh6 15.Nf7+ is mate.) 15.h4+ Kh6 16.Qd2+ 1-0 [Black could continue with 16…Qe3+ 17.Qxe3+ f4 18.Qxf4+ g5 (or 18…Kxh5, with White giving up a second piece but still mating Black in the same way.) 19.Qxg5#]
It looks like I’ve solved my problems with posting diagrams on this blog. More posts coming! =)