Saturday, September 11, 2010

Serendipity, Synchronicity and Coincidence.

Three long words for the title of a blog post!

Serendipity is defined as "a propensity for making fortunate discoveries while looking for something unrelated" in Wikipedia.

Synchronicity is "the experience of two or more events that are apparently causally unrelated occurring together in a meaningful manner" according to Wikipedia.

Coincidence is defeined as "a chance occurrence of events remarkable either for being simultaneous or for apparently being connected" by the free online dictionary.

Now I'm not particularly sure of the differences between the three terms above but I was wondering whether there may be some chess scenario's that could be discribed by the 3 terms.

For example, I remember playing a game of chess against James Morris and both of us aiming for a similar position that James described as an English opening and I rationalised as a Sicilian. I wonder if transpositional ideas can be described by either of the 3 words above?

Last week I was thinking of some variations that I could look at with some of my students, and while looking through a recent TWIC I noticed a mainline of the 2 Knights opening where White retreats his knight on g5 to h3 rather than f3. I did some research and spent some time looking at some ideas and had planned to look at a game played by Fischer.

About 2 days later, this variation is analysed in depth by Yasser Seirawan on the excellent ChessCafe site. Are there elements of Serendipity, Synchronicity or Coincidence happening here?

The same sort of thing has happened numerous times when I've been preparing material for the MCC Endgame Group. I have selected some material and then seen it analysed shortly after, often by Alexander Baburin in his fantastic daily newspaper, Chess Today and sometimes, even by Karsten Muller in his articles at Chess Cafe. The most noatble of these was when we were looking at an endgame played by one of our members, Frank Lekkas, in an ending of Rook and pawn versus bishop and 2 pawns. We linked into this the ending of Rook and pawn versus bishop and pawn and looked at a game from late last year won by Kramnik.

In May of 2010, shortly after we had examined this ending in some depth, GM Karsten Muller wrote an article about it in Chess Cafe (check the archives section to find it).

So Serendipity, Synchronicity, Coincidence? Or has too much chess study scrambled my brains?


  1. have never seen an example of chess synchronicity! Love it.

    Your blog came up in a google alert for synchronicity. Hope you'll drop by our blog on the topic and join the discussion. I have to admit, though, we've never posted anything on chess and synchros!

  2. Thanks for coming to the site Trish and Rob. I'll give you a famous example of chess synchronicity. Nobel Prize winner, Elias Canetti wrote a novel called Auto da Fe about an obsessive chess player called Fischerli, which was shortened to Fischer. Many of the characteristics of the character bear resemblance to the 11th Chess World Champion, coincidentally named Fischer. eg he was obsessed by the game, dreamt of buying loads of good clothes from the riches he could earn and he wanted to live in a chess palace. All this would seem ok until you discover the book was written 8 years before Fischer was born. 8 is the number of squares along the side of a standard chess board. Fischer died at the age of 64, which is 8 squared. So does this fit into the synchronicity model?