Conditional moves and sliced bread

As the millennium approached I was the breakfast announcer on AIR-FM, a community radio station in Sydney's west. I'd been thinking about the Seven Wonders of the World and realised that there were, in fact, twenty-one of them—seven each from the ancient, mediaeval and modern worlds. The problem seemed to be that none of the modern wonders had been achieved more recently than fifty years previously, so I set my listeners the task of nominatingr the Seven Wonders of the Millennium. Click on THIS LINK if you want to see what they selected.


One guy nominated sliced bread because, if that didn't exist, we couldn't say, “That's the greatest thing since sliced bread.” Which brings us back to chess because I think conditional moves are the greatest thing since sliced bread.


I thought everybody else probably thought so too until, during the week, one of my friends complained fairly strongly about my conditional moves. “Why?” I asked. “I just don't like them.” I offered a couple more during the game, but will respect her feelings in future, and refrain.


I spend a lot of time on It's not that I sit here doing nothing but wait for moves to come in, but my computer is linked to the Internet for about fifteen hours a day and when I see a move has been made I usually sit down and reply. The result is that I have a low average time per move which, of course, is neither good nor bad—it's just the way things are.


But my low average time isn't only dependent upon quick responses—it also gains a lot from conditional moves. If I know I'm going to be away from home for a longish part of the day, of if an opponent is off line when I move, I use conditionals to continue the game and, of course, they incur no time penalty.


Sometimes a reply might be forced, or might be the most logical move in a given position, so a conditional is appropriate. Sometimes, usually in end games, a whole sequence of conditionals is possible. Several times I've managed as many as six or eight conditionals, occasionally culminating in mate. (This becomes easier in those games where an opponent has lost a great deal of material but wants to play on.)


I won't go as far as nominating conditional moves as a wonder of the millennium, but they're certainly a wonderful tool to use in our on-line play.


But I'd like to hear what you think. Do you like using conditionals? Why? Do you hate them? Again, why? Let's turn this into a discussion. Add a comment. Share your thoughts.


  • 8 years ago


    Pirc:  "I mostly just use them when my opponent is playing too slowly."

    That's the quality I like most in a chess player:  patience.  Wink  It was GM Ano Nymous who said, "I never think when I'm playing chess; it slows down the flow of the game."

    But I know just what you mean, Pirc ... sometimes slow can be a pain.

  • 8 years ago


    I mostly just use them when my opponent is playing too slowly.

  • 8 years ago


    And a couple of comments that came in while I was writing the last piece...

    qtsii:  thanks for the kind thoughts.

    Phil_from_Blayney: "I only use them when I am absolutely sure that it is a forced sequence though."   I had a sequence the other day that started with a sacrifice and, I thought, ended with mate.  But in the middle my opponent found one move I'd overlooked and...  But all's well.  We now have material and positional equality and if it doesn't deteriorate into a draw one of us will have to win it all over again.

    Platolag: "Conditional moves could possible give an hint to ur opponent, that he has played at least one of the expected moves."  Indeed, but as Aldrin pointed out, this can lead to a psychological advantage.

  • 8 years ago


    Thank you all for commenting.

    Erik's "I love em"  and teohyuahui's "Love it very much, it saves time" speak for me too -- especially the bit about saving time.  But you already knew that.

    JPF917: "I'd use them except for an acquired fear of them." Give them a try.  It isn't like postal correspondence play and the fact of setting out your moves on the conditional chessboard allows you to try a sequence of moves and see the outcome before sending it away.  You can always hit the delete key if it didn't work out the way you expected.  Thanks for attaching a game but there's a problem with the series of moves.  Would you have another look at the moves (and position) after move 20, please, and post it again.

    Aldrin: "i love'em too. conditional moves are a strong psychological weapon". They're certainly that, but shouldn't be.  I commented elsewhere that "Cheating at chess is walking around to your opponent's side of the board so you can see what he's thinking".  Conditional moves may  certainly indicate that our opponent (or we ourselves) have come up with a potentially winning sequence, but is that any different from a surprise move in OTB play which can be equally devastating.  (As GM Ano Nymous said, "A man surprised is half beaten.")

    "is it possible to have a "save line" button?" This already exists but isn't labelled.  If you click on "New Line" your existing line is automatically saved.  You can then add an alternative new line.

    professorfreedom: "I set up a conditional follow-up move, which must have tricked my opponent into thinking I had made a planned sacrifice..."  LOL.  Fortune favours the brave, prof, but you're in good company.  Tal once made an intuitive knight sacrifice after allowing his mind to wander for forty minutes.  When he won the game he was given credit for "an accurately calculated sacrifice."  Read about it HERE.

  • 8 years ago


    Conditional moves could possible give an hint to ur opponent, that he has played at least one of the expected move.

  • 8 years ago


    They're OK. I only use them when I am absolutely sure that it is a forced sequence though. Otherwise, I prefer to look at the position at each turn and be sure it is headed where I thought it was headed.

  • 8 years ago


    I have never tried them - keep up the great articles Dozy!

  • 8 years ago


    They are indeed a potent weapon. In one game I blundered, giving away material. I set up a conditional follow-up move, which must have tricked my opponent into thinking I had made a planned sacrifice, because he seemed to panic afterwards and soon lost the game.

  • 8 years ago


    Love it very much, it saves time.

  • 8 years ago


    i love'em too. conditional moves are a strong psychological weapon. when you face a sequence of conditional moves you feel that your opponent controls the game and points you the only possible path you can take, and that leads you to the inevitable doom. one is tempted to become a fatalist and accept the defeat.

    but i think there should be a way of playing a conditional line and then saving it in conditional moves window. just like we have submit move button in game window. now the moves are saved automatically, and it has happened that i have placed my piece in a wrong square by mistake, the false move has been saved automatically and my opponent has made his/her move before i have had time to delete the erroneous line.

    is it possible to have a "save line" button?

  • 8 years ago


    I'd use them except for an acquired fear of them from postal chess. Smile Ever since playing by mail, I get nervous about using them because it can send my opponent somewhere they hadn't thought of.  Although that wouldn't happen here, I still steer clear. Whether the following game is good or bad isn't relevant.  It was fun. With 19 games going on, I had started to include if 28. QxB then QxQ.  but my old play by mail fears prevented me and the wrong capture was, thankfully, made with the knight .

    1. e4 c5
    2. f4 Nc6
    3. Nf3 g6
    4. Bc4 d6
    5. d3 Bg7
    6. c3 Nf6
    7. Be3 O-O
    8. O-O Bg4
    9. Nbd2 a6
    10. a4 Rb8
    11. Qc1 Na5
    12. Ba2 b5
    13. axb5 axb5
    14. Nh4 Be2
    15. Rf2 Bxd3
    16. f5 c4
    17. fxg6 fxg6
    18. b3 Ng4
    19. Rxf8+ Qxf8
    20. bxc4 Nxc4
    21. Bxc4+ bxc4
    22. Ndf3 Nxe3
    23. Qxe3 Rb1+
    24. Rxb1 Bxb1
    25. Ng5 Qf6
    26. Nhf3 Qxc3
    27. Qb6 Bd4+
    28. Nxd4 Qe1#
  • 8 years ago


    i love 'em!

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