The question we all dread

I’m sure you have all had the experience: you are talking to a non-chessplayer, and reveal that you play the game seriously. Within no time at all comes the question we all dread: “So how many moves do you see ahead when you play?” If you are like me, you mumble something about it varying according to the position. The result is usually a sceptical look from your interlocutor, suggesting that they think you are full of shite, and you can’t be much of a player, if you don’t even know how many moves ahead you look.

But, as we all know, it really does vary. And what makes chess so difficult to play really well is that, very often, the hardest things to calculate and see are not the long variations, but something very short. Take this example, which I have just come across, again in Willy Hendriks’ wonderful book, which I am currently proof-reading:

A simple question: What should White play?  Answer tomorrow.

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