In the annotations to one of his chess games a Grandmaster wrote, concerning a complex position, "At this point I decided to take a long think." He settled back and pondered the board for most of an hour.

The phrase "a long think" stuck in my mind. In fact, I remember saying it to myself at a tournament back in 1992, when on 26 April in a highly tactical Giuocco Piano opening my opponent, Alexander Passov, deviated from the line I expected. I thought I might be able to gain an advantage and so, even though the time control was SD/30 (Sudden Death in 30 minutes), I invested more than five minutes in a (hurried) long think. It paid off: I emerged from the middle game with a significant material advantage and managed to stay ahead and win in a scramble of an ending --- checkmating the foe with less than 30 seconds left on my clock. Whew! The victory was particularly sweet since:

As it turned out, a slightly longer think would have been an even better investment. A few years later I took a couple of lessons with International Master Allan Savage, who lives not far from me. He helped me analyze some of my games, and in the key position of Zimmermann-Passov pointed out that I could have had a forced mate in five had I only seen a little deeper into the position. So my instincts were stronger than my calculational skills.

"A long think" sometimes seems appropriate in other arenas. There are a couple of philosophical issues that have come up recently in correspondence and conversation ... questions about life, meaning, and morality ... all of which deserve a long think before I say anything more about them.

TopicPersonalHistory - TopicThinking - 2002-04-09

(correlates: OneThingAfterAnother, OutOfMyWay, Chess1991To1993, ...)