My Thoughts on Chess Blindness

Chess Blindness is also called Amaurosis scacchista and that term was coined by Dr. Siegbert Tarrasch. This term is often used to describe when a player of any strength misses a move that should be obvious to any decent player. Even top grandmasters of chess can fall to this disease.

Beginning chess players often miss the obvious moves simply because they lack the understanding of chess that comes with experience. I have been playing for more than 38 years. The only excuses that I can use are fatigue and hangovers from medications.

In the game below I played a little boy who was about ten years old at the time we played this game. He was, and still is, a student of a friend of mine. We had played each other two or three times before so we each had some idea of what to expect from the other. I had Black in this game and I knew that if I played the Sicilian Defense that Roshan was going to play a Closed Sicilian – King’s Indian Attack against me. If I played the Modern Defense he was going to use his “chicken bone” thing against me. So, I decided to confuse Roshan with a different move order.

By playing this move order I avoided the “chicken bone”. (I would need to make explaining this into another article.) After 5 moves White has a lead in development, but I have the pawn structure that I wanted. Also, with this move I start chasing the Light-squared Bishop around. Roshan had never seen this kind of setup for Black before and thus was using quite a bit of time in the opening.

By move 8, Black is starting to catch up in the development of his pieces partly because White has moved a Knight and a Bishop more than once each. My tenth move was a little inaccurate, but White’s response to it was worse. By move number 12 Black is once again attacking White’s Bishop and has more space on the Queenside and in the Center.

White’s 13th move is an attempt at the “chicken bone”. My response to that gave me a winning advantage. Unfortunately, I blew my advantage two moves later. Roshan left his Queen hanging after looking at move 15 for at least ten minutes. The very first time that I had played Roshan I got careless on one move and stalemated his King in the middle of the board! Afterward, I may have been guilty of giving him too much respect! I did not want to spend ten minutes looking at the Queen capture and figured that Roshan must have found a reason why I could not capture it. I saw that White could capture on f7 and d7 with check and I spent several minutes looking at both captures. What never occurred to me was to just castle out of the attack! From move 16 on I was clearly losing. My failure to castle out of a counter attack caused me to go from winning to losing with just one move!

I have noticed in his games against other players that Roshan would take about ten minutes to look at a move and still miss something that I found in about 30 seconds. I have also noticed that he tends to get into time trouble quite often. There is no substitute for experience and an 11 or 12 year old boy is not going to have the deep understanding that can come with 30+ years of playing. However, he has more endurance than I do and he can simply wear me down.

There have been times that I have looked for Knight forks and missed them anyway. There have been times in which my opponent made a strange looking move and I could not find the threat to the move. There have been times that I saw one threat but totally missed the other threat that a move made. I have missed mates in one. How to overcome these problems may be a subject for another article.

Mike Serovey, MA, MISM