Decision-making: Tennis and Chess
Sunday, September 22, 2013
(Published in print: Sunday, September 22, 2013)
Hint and Explanation:
Pick Up the Rook
As a high school and college student, I sneered at multiple-choice tests. They rarely came close to offering an authentic measure of what had been studied. But I’ve come to appreciate that life itself is a continuous multiple-choice test. It is a continuous act of recognizing, evaluating and choosing possibilities.
It’s not always pretty. We must often make decisions when we have limited knowledge and little time to assess possible results.
Usually doing well in multiple-choice exams, I intuitively understood that my chess abilities and practice played a role.
The multiple-choice algorithm is obviously applicable not only to chess, but to virtually all other sports, as well as a myriad of other activities.
Consider the following description of decision-making on the court by tennis-great Billie Jean King: “Every decision we make, there is a consequence. Every single one in your life,” King said.
“The ball’s coming toward me. I have to accept responsibility for it. I have to decide where I’m going to hit it, the spin, how hard I’m going to hit it, all these things. If I’m returning a serve, I have less than one-tenth of a second to make these decisions.”
The trick, King said, is not to let one’s attention lag, to be completely into the game. “Seventy-five percent of the time in a match, you’re not hitting a tennis ball. The champions use that 75 percent of the time better than anyone else.”