idea of strategy CC 0 photo from Pixabay courtesy of geralt - edited    Chess Hallucinations

“Chess is imagination” – David Bronstein

When a player calculates complex chess variations he has to “see” the pieces moving on the board. He has to imagine them in action, capturing or being captured, sacrificing themselves in a bold, aggressive attack, or protecting a weak spot by taking a defensive stance.

While disentangling intricate calculations, a player can easily fall victim of what is called a “chess hallucination.”

For example, you’re considering moving your rook from the a-file to the e-file. You evaluate your opponent’s likely responses, then promising continuations. For each one of these lines you reach a critical position to which you give a rough estimate. If you’re not happy with any of the resulting setups, you go backwards in your mind until you reach the initial position, and try to find other possible good alternative moves.

To make this happen, you’re racking your brain trying to visualize several hypothetical positions in your mind.

And this is how hallucinations happen. All of a sudden, you find yourself completely absorbed into some imaginary board, so much so that you end up removing the real one from your perception, the actual, real position of the pieces you could see right now under your eyes if you were just looking.

Suddenly, your perception becomes your reality.

Even if the rook is currently placed on the a-file, you really can’t see it, because your imagination has lead you to imagine it being on the e-file for such a long time. You got accustomed to seeing it on the e-file, and you’re now quite relaxed about it. No need to check again the rook’s position with your actual sight because you’re pretty sure it’s stationed on the e-file… And there you go.

“Imagination is the ability to form new images and sensations that are not perceived through senses such as sight, hearing, or other senses” – Wikipedia.

So, the basic difference between “imagination” and “hallucination” seems to be a person’s will: imagination is usually carried out voluntarily, while hallucinations just seem to happen, randomly and incidentally. On a perceptual level, “sea legs” are a kind of hallucination. A person newly on land after spending long periods at sea may sense an illusory rocking motion, having become accustomed to the constant work of adjusting to the boat making similarly swaying movements.

Accustomed and relaxed – that seems to be the soft spot where even the most trained imagination can be overcome by the involuntary hallucination, both in chess and in life.

Imagination is a powerful tool to use when setting your life goals and planning how to fulfill your dreams. But you should never forget that hallucinations, or delusions, are a very likely byproduct of the imagination that can seriously hamper your results.

When you gain a strong position in life – or what you perceive to be a strong position – don’t get accustomed too easily to what you have; don’t relax and cease to pursue your dreams too soon.

You passed your exam? Nice! It doesn’t mean you can quit studying though. Boss just gave you a raise? Congratulations! Work even more and show him you’re worth it. Your life dream came true and you’re leaving for a around-the-world trip? Awesome!

The trick is not to be overcome with the image, riding off the most recent achievement’s glory. Keep your imagination grounded and active, and don’t let the occasional “rook on the wrong file hallucination” ruin your dream.

You must take action to fulfill your visions of how you want things to happen. Just remember Reality is dreaming about YOU on the other side of the board, so you have to be defensive too. To live your dreams, your sense of what is possible, probable, and real will determine what your next move will be…

“Can you imagine what I would do if I could do all I can?” – Sun Tzu


image: hallucination of strategy CC 0 photo from Pixabay courtesy of geralt – edited

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