A long time ago, someone told me about the negative thinking method. There is a saying that in every position there is a move that will not worsen it. The method goes as follows.

You chose n candidate moves which are possible in the position. You try to find out some good moves. If you reject n-1 move because they are worsening the position you can immediately play the n-th candidate move.

It has its, flaws but it could be useful sometimes. I tried to find out more about this technique, but I did not have luck. Has anyone here heard about that or something similar?

  • I now wonder if negative thinking can be replaced by reverse thinking Mar 24 at 12:45
  • 2
    Isn't this just a cumbersome way to describe how normal chess thinking works? But in the way you describe it, it would require you to know the exact evaluation of the position beforehand, which is not possible unless you already know what the best move is
    – David
    Mar 24 at 13:45
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    The method you're referring to seems to be what people normally refer to as the method of elimination. This method is often used by the defending side to find 'only moves' in positions where the opponent has many threats and it's hard to find active counterplay.
    – Scounged
    Mar 24 at 14:09
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    That's like saying something is always in the last place you look, so you can skip all the other places. Yea, but you won't know what the last place is until you've gotten there.
    – Mast
    Mar 24 at 18:26
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    Adding to scounged's comment, elimination is also quite frequent in endgames (where you can calculate more easily). Obviously, if n-1 moves lose forcedly, it's rather probable the nth loses either... Mar 24 at 18:49

Taken literally, this seems a bit absurd. You don't explicitly reject moves that are so awful that no chess player would seriously consider them in the first place. Furthermore, there isn't a simple dichotomy of bad moves and good moves, where all but one move is bad (so that the good one can be arrived at by a process of elimination). There is more typically a continuum between awful moves and excellent moves, with many of the non-excellent moves not being actually bad but just not as good as possible.

On the other hand (if taken less literally) this way of thinking is related to prophylaxis in chess, which is a recognized approach to chess planning. Petrosian was a virtuoso in prophylaxis. He likely sometimes made moves after determining that any plausible alternative left his position potentially vulnerable to some future threat.

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