Christopher Chabris

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  • Christopher Chabris

    Christopher Chabris is a a highly respected American research psychologist and author who did his PhD thesis at Harvard on "Cognitive and Neuropsychological Mechanisms of Expertise: Studies with Chess Masters".

    Nonetheless, I find his WSJ piece (see link below) on "variability" vs luck in the game of chess as seriously flawed. To argue that there is zero percent luck involved in chess (equating the luck factor to the tying of one's shoes) is, at least to me, utterly absurd. While luck is almost certainly only a minor factor at the elite level, perhaps no more than 5 to 10%, it's still not zero %.

    To cite but one simple example, whom one gets paired with can be extremely fortunate or unfortunate on any given day. For me, getting paired as Black with an e4 player vastly increases my probability of winning simply because I've played thousands of Marshall Scandinavians and will know the opening far better than my opponent. In the same vein, there's an opponent at my ACC who remains determined to prove that the BDG is a 'bad' chess opening and continues to let me play my beloved gambit despite his 0/7 score (:

    Even at an elite level, there's always the risk of playing the wrong opening that day and walking into your opponent's home prep where you're essentially playing a 3300 rated computer for much of the game. Indeed, this risk is significant enough that a number of elite GMs will opt for a sub optimal move in the opening just to decrease the probability of encountering home prep. In essence, I would say such a player is endeavouring to remove the 'luck' factor from the game (: