Deficiencies of Attention

When I was a rising junior player, I remember reading Nikolai Krogius’ “Psychology in Chess.” Marvin Dandridge showed me the book after it was given to him as a gift. I treated that book as a reference source of how I should conduct myself at the board. In this book, it discusses attention, board demeanor, time pressure, intuition, visualization, tactics and… deficiencies of attention. Alexander Kotov’s “Think Like a Grandmaster” and “Play like a Grandmaster” were also valuable instructive books dealing with psychology and thought processes.

Today I saw an amazing game that was played with so much energy that I was immediately impressed. That game was between GMs Pentala Harikrishna (India) and David Navara (Czech Republic) at the Ordix Open in Mainz, Germany. 

The game was a tactical slugfest, but ended up in an interesting ending of rook versus two knights. Harikrishna is known for his endgame play and played masterfully, but… he forgot one thing.

Watch Harikrishna-Navara to find out what happened!
Photo by Frederic Friedel, ChessBase.

Yes… Harikrishna lost on time in the final position. You may ask… how could he sit there and forget about his clock? Harikrishna knew he was close to victory and became so immersed in this thought that he forgot about everything else. Remember Tigran Petrosian’s famous game where he hung his queen on d6 after his opponent just attacked it with a knight? Petrosian was dominating the game and merely forgot about his queen. Krogius states,

Some games have special competitive significance. One must win in order to win the tournament, or draw to complete the master’s norm, or to get into the next round of an elimination contest. Often these competitive considerations created excessive nervousness and a feeling of unnecessary responsibility that lead to constraint. The importance of each move is increased since a single mistake can affect a player’s overall tournament result. 

It is hard to say why the young Indian star forgot about his time, but there was certainly a deficiency of attention. Krogius discusses further,

The power of a player’s attention depends on several factors; his temperament, the complexity of the position the significance of the outcome of the game, tiredness and so on. Apparently, at one tournament it happened that a waterjug fell to the floor with a resounding crash. Almost all those present looked up, with the exception of the English master Burn, who carried on gazing at the board as if nothing had happened. Later he said that he had not heard anything. And this is not exceptional.


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