Like most people, I just love the Olympic games. Summer games and winter games. Love ‘em both. 

Like most people, I just love the Olympic games. Summer games and winter games. Love ‘em both. I’m also guessing (since I don’t actually KNOW “most people”) that like me, each of us has favorite events and least favorite.

Strangely, even though some events are “favorite” during the games, I still don’t watch them outside the games. Curling. I love to watch curling during the winter games, but never watch it any other time.

But the one that puzzles me is the biathlon. Who thought this up? Admittedly, if it was JUST a cross-country ski, it probably would be boring, so they threw in … shooting? Ski a while. Stop and shoot. Ski some more. Shoot a little more.

You have to carry your rifle and ammo with you, too. Supposedly, it hearkens back to days of hunting, but who in world ever hunted in the woods of Norway with a custom-made .22?

To me, that’s already odd enough, but it gets stranger. Every target you miss, you have to go ski in a circle one time. Miss two, make two circles. Everyone starts out even, but if you misuse your shooting, it relates directly into time.

The rules of this sport deliberately make you waste time.

Our third element of chess is ... time. In chess, time is measured in moves. According to the United States Chess Federation (USCF), the average game of chess lasts 40 moves. That’s one move for white and one for black, 40 times.

Imagine for a moment that one player uses all 40 moves to his advantage while the second player squanders ... oh ... three moves. In effect, it’s 37 to 40.

Guess who’s going to win the game?

And yes, our (starting-to-get-worn-out phrase) bird’s-eye view helps us see it. At least I’m using a new diagram this week. We see material for each side is about equal. Space too. But white has spent his TIME lining up all his heavy pieces into one really pretty stack of power on the e-file. Meantime, black’s three pieces are all working on different plans ... separately. Additionally, black has spent a couple of moves on the a pawn and b pawn.

While he was doing that, white was consolidating.

All of that guarantees white’s winning command of e8 and black must lose his queen.

How do you prevent yourself from wasting moves? Know what’s going on.

In theory, you already know what YOUR plan is. Or the hope of it. But you don’t know what the other guy is doing until he gives a clue.

His move is your clue.

Every time he moves, you need to ask yourself, “What is he up to? There are three possible answers: 1. He doesn’t understand what he’s doing. 2. YOU don’t understand what he’s doing. 3. He does understand what he’s doing, but it’s not going to work. 4. It IS going to work and you need to shelve your own plans for a moment and deal with him.

If you don’t, you WILL waste moves. It’s possible he will too, but do you really want to count on that?

Recognizing “what’s going on” is a big step to becoming a decent chess player, and the four elements will lead you there.

Beats buying a $4,000 biathlon rifle.