“Satisficing” as a Strategy for Rapid Games

I played a rapid game bright and early this AM. I was up by 6:30 AM and playing before 7AM. My opponent and I were pretty much equally rated.

I’ve been watching Nigel’s ChessBase video on the QGD Exchange Variation all week. It’s an excellent video for chess improvers, since Nigel focuses on plans and ideas rather than memorizing lengthy variations. The last few clips discuss how the lessons one learns with focused attention on a particular opening can often be transferred to other openings.

A case in point was my game this morning. I chose to play 1.e4 and my opponent decided to play a Caro-Kann Defense. One of the examples Nigel demonstrates on his DVD is a Caro-Kann Exchange Variation that transforms to something like a QGD Exchange Variation with colors reversed. I opted to try for that. We didn’t get there, but we did get to a game where I could use some of the strategies from the QGD Exchange Variation.

Rather than adopting the minority attack, I decided to use my IQP to lever open the center. I consider the position in the diagram below and decided that 12.d5 was a strong move. I had three pieces defending my IQP on d5. Black had only two pieces defending d5 and had an undefended bishop on d6.

Black made a dubious move with 13…Rb8. Black should have played 13…Ne4. My evaluation of that position was roughly equal. We could have had a good game with reasonable chances for both sides. My reply was strong, trading knights on f6 and then bringing my rook from f1 to d1, where I could hassle the black bishops.

Black made a futile piece sacrifice, 16…Bh2. Black was down a piece with no compensation, except the h2 pawn. I didn’t make a serious blunder in this game, so the fruitless bishop sacrifice was enough to cost Black the game.

My weak play in this game was in the endgame. I waited much too long to get my connected, unopposed queen pawns moving. Delaying their movement didn’t change the outcome of the game. Two pieces up after 29.NxR, I was reasonably confident of the win throughout the endgame. Mobilizing my queen pawns earlier would have shortened the endgame. It was better endgame technique. Inefficient play is to be avoided, especially for us older players during a weekend tournament. Extra moves require extra time and mental energy, which increases opportunities for fatigue in later games and that can lead to costly mistakes.

I didn’t consciously relax my game during the endgame. I didn’t look for the quickest win, either. With rapid games, there is usually not enough excess time to calculate the most efficient solution. Instead, I often “satisfice.” I look for a satisfactory solution that is sufficient to win. That’s what I did in this game. I “satisficed” my way to a winning endgame.

Glenn Mitchell