Some chessplayers make it look easy

      Chess is, above all, deceptively simple.

      The rules are short and mostly straightforward. As players strive to gain proficiency, the advice is brief, and almost universal.

      Chess publishers are glad to help, offering us move-by-move guides to establishing winning positions. When an opening book says “Winning with the Burpfart System” on the cover, the lists of moves inside must be implementation steps for the winning algorithm, right? Winning at chess is that easy!

      Now this TV show shared by 62 million viewers, it says any orphan kid could possess heretofore-unseen talent, why not you?

      The flash flood of chess beginners it inspired is evident at the chess question/answer sites. “I lose whenever I trade queens. Should I avoid trading queens?” “Are two bishops better than two knights or one rook?” “When they play the Aardvark Defense, should I move my king rook pawn one square or two?”

      The answer to almost every question is: “It depends”. If one thinks the answers are yes and no or can be determined without seeing the whole board, it’s a dead giveaway for inexperience.

      One of the reasons chess is so difficult is that there are so many shades of gray in a position, and judging which of them deserves one’s immediate attention takes wisdom or talent or something.

      Couple that with the situations that are black and white, the positions that are concrete and provable. Technically speaking, those are easier because the answers are there for the seeing, but in practice, this is where 99% of the mistakes occur.

      Chess is very hard, and the players we admire most are the ones who make the deceptively simple look really simple: Morphy, Capablanca, Harmon, and AlphaZero.