Two Moves Ahead

I’ve been learning how to play chess over the last few months. I’m a total beginner. I knew how the pieces moved, have always been interested in the game but from a great distance. A video I saw by chance on YouTube has hooked me, and now I’m trying to get good enough that I can help my daughter when she starts learning in school next year.

As I’ve been learning recently, you have to analyse constantly in chess. Be thinking several moves ahead: if I play like this, what are the possible likely responses, and what could my responses be to those moves. It’s a curious thing: I’ve played lots of kinds of games over the last few decades, and played plenty of games where you have to think ahead, but never has it struck me in the way that chess has now. In doing so, it’s giving me a new way of seeing games (when you’re playing to win!).

Another thing that stands out to me is that this way of looking ahead in playing chess is completely the opposite of how I think about the viva and preparation for it. Thinking two moves ahead for the viva doesn’t work. You can’t game the viva by writing your thesis in a certain way, to avoid questions or lead examiners in a preferred direction. It’s not possible to think ahead and anticipate all of the questions you might be asked, then think about possible responses – and think abut the remarks or questions that might come from those responses.

Thinking two moves ahead won’t help you win your viva: instead you have to continue with the same long-term strategy. Do good work. Learn things. Become talented. Keep going. Then whatever move your examiners make, you’ll be able to respond well.