There is no instinct like that of the heart. ~Lord Byron (1788-1824)

Reasoning at every step he treads, Man yet mistakes his way,
    Whilst meaner things, whom instinct leads,
    Are rarely known to stray.
~William Cowper (1731-1800, another British poet)

Intuition Helping Find The Next (Winning?) Move

Please be forewarned – this post is a little bit too long. I know, I know, but my instinct simply took me.

The mind is like an iceberg, it floats with one-seventh of its bulk above water, Freud told us. Yet we know how the under-surface thinking without thinking is powerful and that logic is highly overrated after all.

According to reason, there are two realms: the known and the unknown. The logic and science assure us that the unknown will someday be known (you sure?). But there’s also the unknowable. And that’s the realm of our today’s guest: intuition, our sixth sense.

What is intuition? Webster’s dictionary defines intuition as “the act or process of coming to direct knowledge or certainty without reasoning or inferring.”

Intuition is an impression that jumps in an instant with absolutely no forethought. Intuition communicates with you constantly if you are paying attention. Its purpose is to help you have a more successful life.

Good instincts usually tell you what to do long before your head has figured it out. Raw, intense, and unexplainable, intuition is increasingly valuable in a world that is more complex and connected, where we have to make decisions in real time quickly based on minimal information available, or just because we’re flooded over with it! Deliberating over a decision is often a luxury we cannot afford. Over the chess board either.

Our intuitive brain is “way out in front” screaming warnings and protecting us while our analytical brain weighs in later, draws on logic and deduction and selects the most reasonable decision. Or simply put, analysis = paralysis.

So be very, very glad you have intuition and learn to trust it. And you may become a better chess player, among other things.

As an example what intuition is able to do for you and your chess, we’ll take a look at a game played 60 years ago, in which NM Terpugov, Evgeny Mikhailovich sacrificed three pawns against the great Yefim Geller (with a double exchange and a, just, single Queen sacrifice in sublines, see line C) and the comment after 19th). He almost won. Well, intuition did the job masterfully, it could be that perhaps reason flopped again, the British poet Cowper might say?

Evgeny Terpugov – Yefim Geller

19 USSR ch, Moscow, 1951

A43 Schmid Benoni

1.d4 Nf6 2.Nf3 c5 3.d5 d6 4.Nc3 g6 5.e4 Bg7 6.Be2 O-O 7.Bg5 Nbd7 8.Qd2 Qa5 9.O-O Re8 10.Bh6 Bh8 11.Ng5 a6 12.f4 Qb4 (you can use the ChessFlash replayer below)

Terpugov-Geller after 12…Qb4

13.Kh1! “I just get an idea and then all of a sudden I’ve got a song”, John Lee Hooker, the last link to the blues of the deep South made his comment here.

A beautiful song for the cost of just three little Pawns… But how did the triple pawn sac we would see in a moment actually leaped in Terpugov’s mind? Intuition? Gut feeling? Vision of what may be possible? Holistic grasp of complex situation, moving between intuitive and analytical approaches? Going beyond general principles and creating his own interpretation? Who knows?

We don’t know what happened in the mind of Evgeny Mihailovich Terpugov, Master of Sports of the USSR, an engineer by profession. But he offered us a masterpiece, though not fully expressed, perhaps as his analytical skills of an engineer simply failed on that day.

It will remain a mystery to us, but what we’ll see from this game is that he’ll have demolished the great Yefim Geller (who was a terror for World champions scoring +40 -32 =123 against them: Euwe +1 -1 =0, Botvinnik +4 -1 =5, Smyslov +11 -7 =31, Tal +6 -6 =22, Petrosian +6 -2 =33, Spassky +6 -9 =22, Fischer +5 -3 =2, Karpov +1 -2 =5, and Kasparov +0 -1 =3).

Anyway, intuition is a useful way of dealing with a given situation. And may also be beautiful! Go on!

13. …Qxb2 14.Rab1 Qa3

Terpugov-Geller after 14…Qa3

As said above, we might just imagine how intuition jumped in Terpugov’s mind. We say it’s a jump, or a leap, otherwise the intellect will be able to explain it. That is why reason denies it. Reason denies it because it’s incapable of encountering it; reason can only encounter phenomena that can be divided into cause and effect.

Still, let’s try to see how the triple sac was possible by using, well, inferior analytical thinking tools (we know that intuition is instant, without logic and beyond words).

When we look at the current position, any position in fact, we need to feel what is the key to it. An experienced eye will see that hidden under all complexity of the position the f7-post is the true key. Why? Because it’s already attacked once. Secondly, we  know that the essence of chess is mobility, and here with the space the Black pieces occupy there’s no capacity to accommodate them efficiently. They get in each other’s way reducing mutual activity. Put it in simple plain English: Black position is cramped. Here that means that they won’t be able to afford more protection to the f7-pawn that easy if need be.

Maybe this was Tepugov’s eureka moment when his intuitive mind showed him the way. What did he see? It’s not easy to get access to f7? It should normally be along f-file, the central a2-g8 diagonal and possibly 7th rank. The central pawn breakthrough seems improbable as Black controls the possible intrusion point e5 for now. Still, let’s check how it would be possible to clear up a2-g8 diagonal? The d5-pawn is blocked, but the blockader could be deflected by e4-e5!

15.e5! dxe5 16.d6! exf4

Bad is 16…exd6 17.Bc4 Re7 18.Qxd6.

Closing the deadly a2-g8 diagonal does not help either:

16…e6 17.fxe5 Nxe5 18.Rf4 with two threats Ra4 and Rbf1. For example:

A) 18…b5 19.Rbf1 Ned7 20.Bf3 Rb8 21.Bc6 Nh5 22.Nd5! with a rout,

B) 18…Nd5 19.Nxd5 exd5 20.Qxd5 Be6 21.Nxe6 fxe6 22.Qxb7 and there’s no hope for Black,

C) 18…Qa5 19.Rbf1 Ned7 20.Rxf6! Nxf6 21.Rxf6! Bxf6 22.Nce4! Qd8 23.Qf4 Bxg5 24.Bxg5 f6 25.Nxf6 Kh8 26.Nxe8 Qxe8 27.Qf6+ Kg8 28.Bh6.

On 16…b5 comes 17.Nd5 with the strong attack moving on. The text shouldn’t drag out the game long either…


Terpugov-Geller after 17.Rxf4

All of a sudden the main pathways are cleared off and white pieces can sweep the board, reaching toward the king from all directions! Only Nf6  is blocking the f-file for the moment. Compare with the previous diagram just 2 1/2 moves away!

17. …c4

If 17…Qa5, then 18.dxe7 and bad would be 18…Rxe7 due to 19.Nd5. Now White starts a combination with a Queen sacrifice…

18.Bxc4 Ne5 19.Qe2!

19…e6 20.Qxe5 Nd5 and Nc3 is under triple attack. But then the Q-sac would follow: 21.Qxh8! Kxh8 22.Rxf7 (threatening a mate in three) 22…Qxc3 23.Rbf1 and Black is defenseless

19. …Nxc4

19…Qxc3 20.Qe5!

20.Qxc4 Be6

20…e6 21.Qc7 Bd7 22.Nce4 Nxe4 23.Qxd7 Nxg5 24.Bxg5 f5 25.Rh4. With the text Geller gives out a piece and prolongs the doom a little…

21.Nxe6 b5 22.Qc6 Rac8

Of course not 22…fxe6, because of 23.d7!

23.Nc7 exd6

Terpugov-Geller after 23…exd6


Too bad for intuition, we are imperfect sometimes (maybe Terpugov used more of his logical brain here, he was an engineer after all). After 24.N3d5 Nxd5 25.Qxd5 Rxc7 26.Rbf1 mate is inevitable.

24. …Qa5 25.Qxa6??

Not only throwing his win away, he’s losing now. After 25.N3d5! Nxd5 26.Rxf7! Re1+ 27.Rff1 Rxf1 28.Rxf1 Nf6 29.Qxd6 there are still some chances for a victory.

The rest as follows: 25…Qxc7 26.Nxb5 Qxc2 27.Rbf1 Qe2 28.a4 Rc2 29.Rg1 Ng4 30.Bf4 Nf2+ 31.Rxf2 Qxf2 32.Bg3 Qe3 33.Nxd6 Qxg1+ 0-1

You want to be more creative and successful in life, business, sports, connecting with people…?

Then try not to second guess or fight your intuition. No one has ever regretted listening to their intuition but there’s plenty of stories of people who ignored their intuition and wish they hadn’t.

Intuition is what tells a wife her husband has done wrong before he thinks of doing it.

Intuition is a complex cognitive reaction that is brilliantly engineered by your watchful female brain (sorry machos!).

Let your intuition lead your path!

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