What’s the answer, Yes or No? – KCP Levels

The Chess Move (Knight Capture Pawn Levels)

There is a chess question: can the Knight take the pawn? It is not a trick question, it is a logic question whose answer is yes or no based on the perception of the person answering it. Indeed only one answer is right, not both and the reasons for it are present on the board within a finite set of guidelines in the game of chess as is defined today. It would seem that an answer to a question whose answer is either a yes or a no answer has fifty percent chance of being right or wrong. However, I posit that this question will have so many wrong answers and only one correct answer. Through this illustration, I want to present the concept of qualitative value of an answer, or simply put, a qualified answer. This matter presents a common challenge in modern day thinking and argument.

You see, our current default is to look at the final answer, if there is such an answer, and claim to be right if it matches our answer. The current argument on correctness is not based on understanding and knowing why the answer is right, but on the answer at the back of the book.

To understand what I am talking about, allow me to break down in levels the response to the Knight Capture Pawn Question Lets break it down by levels.

The first level of respondents will answer yes or no as a random guess. The answer is one of these two. There is a 50% chance that one is right. What is there to lose. They may not even know what chess is. Another group may know what chess is but not bother to check the position and give one of the two answers based on the same logic. Some want to move on and answer to see what is next.

Another group knows some chess. However, one person doesn’t realize their Knight movement is wrong and so from their perspective, the Knight cannot capture the pawn, so they answer no. Another sees that the Knight can move to the square of the pawn and actually answers yes. This is the second level. Clearly, there is greater understanding of the subject matter among this group. Not only that, but there is a greater application of mental effort. This group is checking the geometric ability of the Knight to land on the square. For the purpose of this illustration, the Knight can land on the square and capture the pawn. In this regard, is the answer Yes?

Another set of players sees that the once the Knight captures the pawn, the Knight itself can be captured and so they answer no. Not because they cannot see that the Knight can physically capture the pawn, but because they see the consequence of that capture. They know that the pawn is worth one point while the Knight is worth three. They assess that the exchange of a Knight for a pawn is bad business for the side with the Knight simply from the absolute value of the pieces. They go a step further and demonstrate their understanding of chess speak. This choice of words in this very statement will itself be a subject of debate: the use of the word “can” vs the word “should.” A non-chesser will say can means physical ability, a chesser will tell you it means tactical correctness. You can already see an argument between the yesers in level one and the Noers in level two. Is the answer no?

The next level sees that the Knight can physically capture the pawn, sees the piece being captured back, knows the relative value of the pieces but also sees that capturing the Knight opens a line for attack against the opposing King. This level of thinkers understands that beyond the absolute value of the pieces, there is the relative value and it is not uncommon for a knight to give itself up for a pawn that is about to become a queen or to deliver checkmate (checkmate is the end of the game). They see a bigger interplay among the pieces. With this promising attack, they answer yes: the knight can capture the pawn.

The next level sees that the reason why checkmate is possible from the capture of the Knight is because there are pieces belonging to the King’s army that are blocking the King’s escape. They see an in-between move: Knight captures pawn, but before the Knight is captured, black can give a check with his queen. This check clears an escape square for the King. This means that the sequence considered by the previous level will not result in checkmate as the King will now move to the square the queen vacated in the intermediate move. This is a much higher understanding of the position and a higher level of thought. For this reason, this level answers no.

Still, another person comes along and sees everything that the preceding groups had seen. However, he also sees the alternatives to the Knight capturing the pawn and finds many lines that sees the uncaptured pawn becoming a queen (this is possible in chess and only pawns can make this transformation). He sees variations in which this new found queen captures not only the Knight and its Bishop but ends up delivering checkmate. He calculates a variation that seems to result in draw that first starts with Knight capturing pawn. Not to win material, but to survive. And so he answers Yes. In this same group, another sees the full variations. He assessesses his opponent and from his knowledge, determines that those variations are too complex and too deep for him to understand. He estimates that even if the opponent stumbles across a few accurate moves, he will still outplay him in the endgame and so he doesn’t capture the pawn.

Obviously, there can be, and often are infinitely more levels to a given chess question, especially early on (chess is a good example, as believe it or not, from the starting position, there are more possible moves in one chess game than all the atoms in the known universe. Google it.) As you can see, there are multiple levels of yes, and multiple levels of no. The level one no, is morphologically similar to level 6 no. The question is this, all those who said that the Knight could capture the pawn, are they right? All those who said No are they wrong? Can the person who said yes based on the simple geographical move (level 1) gloat over the person who said no at level 4?

Let me make this simpler: Arsene Wenger or Jose Mourihno make a decision to leave out a player and instead play another player whom the fans consider to be much better. Their teams lose the respective games. Should they have played the omitted player? What will be the sentiments of the fans? What is the possibility that the fans knew better than Jose or Arsene?

In this regard allow me to introduce two concepts in argument:

  1. Seeing further – It is not that I have not understood what you are saying, I have. It is only that I have seen further. What I am asking you to do is to see what I have seen and then together, we can look even further and perhaps do better. To explain this better, I am alleging that your argument is KCP 3, mine is KCP 4. Lets put our heads together and see if we could now make a KCP 6 argument.
  2. If the point you are raising is so simple that a small child would arrive at the same answer, yet your colleague is arguing, either you are wrong and the matter is not as simple as you think it is, or your colleague is too daft to understand basic things.

I want to introduce a new concept in argument and thought: it is not that I have not heard nor understood what you are saying. I have. It is only that I have seen further and I am inviting you to see even further with me. Maybe more lies ahead. Hence, in that line, the direction seems complex, despite the few choices. Indeed this illustrates a truth about dichotomous opinions and realities. Who is right? Who is wrong? Why.

Let’s get back to the KCP position. Turns out that capturing the Knight does not result in a draw and infact results in no more than a loss. If statements do not improve this outcome. An if statement is something like, it is a good move move if there is no check. Making assumptions to account for the check will not make it right. Assumptions like: assume there is no check. Assume the check doesn’t count. In fact, in this case, black has hundreds of other choices to make. All of those choices result in losses but this one simple move, negates everything. In chess, despite the multiple other options, the fact that there is one fatal flaw, makes the whole variation wrong.

The correct course of action after such thorough analysis is to abandon the move and look for a different that hopefully doesn’t lose. This same approach may be applied to theories. Many theories sound brilliant at the outset. However, as time goes by, discoveries are made that poke holes in the theories. Some of these holes are sealed, but some of these give birth to new theories, arguing from the premise that the original theory is right. Theoretical science says that if it fits 99%, it must be right with a little adjustment. Accuracy says if the 1% is fatal, the whole thing may be wrong. Abandon it and try something else.

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