Monday, January 16, 2017

How Do You Capture ?

How do you capture?

What I am wondering is:  when you perform a capture using real pieces on a real board, how would you describe the series of motions?

An Example

In this position,  White is about to make the capture 8.Qxg7

2 Patterns

Watching people play chess, I have observed 2 distinct patterns in how this is executed:

Pattern 1:

  1. White picks up the pawn on g7.
  2. Picks up the queen on g4 (holding both the queen and pawn in the same hand).
  3. Places the queen on g7.
  4. Hits the clock (pawn still in hand)
  5. Places the pawn on the table.

Pattern 2:

  1. White picks up the queen on g4.
  2. Picks up the pawn while placing the queen on g7.
  3. Hits the clock (pawn still in hand)
  4. Places the pawn on the table.

Why would anyone use pattern 1 ?

In my career as a manufacturing process engineer, I have been trained to identify and eliminate wasted motion.  Clearly, pattern 1 takes one more arm movement than pattern 2.  If there were a work instruction for capturing a piece, I would require the use of pattern 2 so as not to wast time.

Strangely, my observation is that stronger players (masters and up) tend to use pattern 1 more than than lower rated players.  My best guess is that these players learned to play chess before they were old enough to hold both pieces in their hand at the same time, so they actually picked up the pawn (step 1) then placed it on the table (step 5) before moving the queen (steps 3 and 4).

Why you should use pattern 2

  • Fewer arm motion steps (this could be critical in time trouble).
  • The arm does not have to change direction as sharply in most cases (again time savings)
  • The order of the steps matches the notation:
    • 8.Qxg7 (the queen on g4 takes the pawn on g7)
    • Not  the pawn on g7 is captured by the queen on g4
  • Touch move rule:
    • If you touch the pawn first, you are obliged to capture it (with only one option)
    • If you touch the queen first, you are obliged to move it (with 14 legal options)
    • The less committal option could allow you more options to salvage a mistake.
  • Less likely to misplace the piece (I have seen the queen put back on the wrong square)
  • It just looks cooler

Your thoughts?

If you use pattern 1, please leave a comment explaining why.