Pseudo Sacrifice vs. Speculation

Adrian Hanft
2 min readApr 1, 2017

Observers are stunned when they witness a queen sacrifice. For a chess player to abandon their most powerful piece seems like a daring risk. The sacrifice is followed by a decisive combo resulting in checkmate. Bravo, the crowd goes wild.

In hindsight you realize that what you thought was risk wasn’t all that risky. When you have the chance to trade your queen for victory you don’t have to debate the pros and cons.

That is why analysts divide chess sacrifices into two categories: pseudo and speculative.

A pseudo sacrifice is when the lost piece is quickly recovered or exchanged for a win. Pseudo sacrifices involve zero risk.

A speculative sacrifice is when a piece is surrendered and the player must play with fewer assets for a long time. Speculative sacrifices are risky.

We don’t live in the black and white world of the chess board but everyone struggles to discern whether risk is real or an illusion. We search for greener grass, dream about jackpots, and study winners hoping to discover their secret formulas.

Most of us stumble through life, tripping over the squares, knocking over pieces, falling into traps, and occasionally lucking our way to moderate successes.

The upside to the game is that we get to decide whether the risks we take are real or shams because we control the words we use to describe our circumstances. This is the magic that allows survivors to turn tragedy into triumph. It is the spark that fuels every underdog. It is the difference between one-hit-wonders and decades-spanning careers.

Call it attitude. Call it positive thinking. Call it reality distortion.

The alternative is to become victims. It’s easy to deflect blame, to make excuses, and pardon ourselves from the burden of responsibility. That is where the real risk lives, in the realm of speculation. You focus on your sacrifice, accept that the outcome is a coin toss. You might win, you might lose. The game plays you.

Last year I played a gambit. I left a great job working for a company I loved. It was a step into the unknown, a scary move that took me out of my comfort zone. Would the gamble pay off? As risky as that might sound it can only end one way: I will be in a better place regardless of where the pieces fall. It was a pseudo sacrifice, a winning move that only looks risky to outsiders. Where are the opportunities in your life, the situations where you can transform hazardous speculation into the safety of pseudo risk?

Thanks for reading. If you made it this far you should follow me because I write pseudo-risky stories like this every weekend and you don’t want to miss the next one. Stay creative.



Adrian Hanft

Author of User Zero: Inside the Tool that is Reshaping Dystopia