Tuesday, May 21, 2019

How to educate system I?

There are a few tasks which can be done immediately when a new chess problem is presented:
  • See the material balance
  • See whether a position is about mate, promotion or gaining wood
  • See the points of pressure
  • See the lines of attack
  • See the function of the pieces
 The first two skills seems to be invented especially for chess problems. Since when you play a game you already know what the material balance is, and what the position is about. I consider it a waste of time to hone these skills. I don't want to become better in puzzles, I want to become better in OTB play. I don't think it is bad or harmful to train those skills, if you feel happy about it, you should train them. But I don't consider it to be worth the effort for myself.

How useful is it to train the PoPLoAFun skills? What are the advantages, what the drawbacks?

The testimony of Robert seems to indicate that training the PoPLoAFun skills is beneficial for his game. Maybe he is willing to elaborate (again) on how he trained it. I must admit I haven't paid attention to his method sofar. (As you can see, this was written some time ago, in the mean time Robert has already shed more light the subject).

Behind the the board I simply forget to apply the PoPLoAFun system. Usually a telltale sign that a task isn't automated.

Transferring intelligence from system II to system I
In order to become semi intelligent, system I must imitate the intelligence from system II. How is that accomplished?
From my youth I remember that my king often was chased by a knight in the endgame. And that I could win a tempo by placing the king at the same diagonal as the knight, but at one square distance. This knowledge was poured into a pattern as a kind of mold. System I retrieved the pattern whenever it was appropriate.

Working magic
What keeps haunting me though,is the metaphor of learning how to drive a car. There is no such thing as the transfer of knowledge from system II to system I. How does system I master to calculate the best speed when slowing down for a bend in the road, when to shift gears based on the sound of the motor, the speed of the car and the prevailing position of the planets? No math seems to be involved, yet the skill is performed accurate. Even on autopilot.

That is why I keep saying that system I seems to work by magic.

Monday, April 29, 2019

How does system I work?

I postulate the following: only system I can make you perform better at tactics.

Rehab of trial and error
That is why I want to rehabilitate trial and error. Since that is the way system I works best. If you need to guide system I by system II, you add slowness to the equation. Since system II is notoriously slow.

When trial and error fails
trial and error fails in practice, for different reasons:
  • repeating the same moves and lines over and over again
  • entering a tunnel and continuing ad infinitum

The actions of systems II that can be safely incorporated
The actions of system II involve the following:
  • Stopping system I when it is repeating itself
  • Stopping system I when it is working in a tunnel with no end
 These actions can be safely incorporated into your solution process, since they don't  require time. Thinking should not be incorporated, since thinking requires time.

The two actions of system II that don't require time, do require attention.

Where system II is, there is attention. Where attention is, there is the power to discriminate. Where attention is, there is intelligence.

System I is semi intelligent
System I is only semi intelligent. It emulates intelligence. It brings you safely to your office. Even when you didn't intend to go there. Without the attention of system II, it can do silly things in an intelligent looking way. System I can work on autopilot. But it can't learn on autopilot. It continues to make the same mistakes over and over again. We even have a name for this type of "training". We call it the salt mines of Krakau.

It is relative easy to learn to see the material balance in a glance.
It is relative easy to learn to see whether a position is about mate, promotion or gaining wood in a glance.
It is relative easy to learn to see the points of pressure in a glance.
It is relative easy to learn to see the lines of attack in a glance.
It is relative easy to learn to see the function of the pieces in a glance.

But it is not easy at all to remember to look at all five issues above without thinking. And with thinking you add time consumption, mental resource consumption and energy consumption to the equation.

Sunday, April 28, 2019

Trial and error rehab

It is not that there is nothing happening in my chess realm lately. It is more that I lacked the energy to write about it.

I adopted three new openings, for instance: The London System with white, The classical dutch and The Sniper with black.

I have become webmaster of the local chess club, and I have written two long articles on chess tactics in dutch.

I'm asked to developed a tactical course for adults by my local chess club. Which is good thing, since I am now obliged to reformulate what we have found sofar. While trying to do so, I am forced to iron out all inconsistencies in the theory.

It would be helpful if you comment on my reformulation of theory. Please don't spare me if you find contradictions in my musings. Expect some controversy. Take for instance the title ;) So, in no particular order:

Tackling the bulk consumers of time
In order to get better we need to tackle the bulk consumers of time. To name a few:
  • Tunnel vision
  • The flight of the vulture
  • System II
  • Repeating trial and error
  • Thought process
  • Redundancy in thought processes

Tunnel vision
There is nothing wrong with tunnel vision. As long as we enter the right tunnel. When we have entered the wrong tunnel though, there is no clear way to get out. At least, I haven't found a method which isn't time consuming in its own right. Stopping the mind when entering a dead end should be a task of system II.

The flight of the vulture
The flight of the vulture was designed, to prevent tunnel vision. There are two problems with this:
  • The flight is time consuming by itself
  • There is no guarantee you don't miss important details
  • It doesn't help against bias. You see what you expect to see

System II
System II is a big spender when it comes to time. We must transfer as much tasks as possible from system II to system I

Repeating trial and error
When trial and error doesn't lead to a result, we tend to repeat it. The stopping of endless repetition of trial and error is a typical task for system II

Thought process
Since a thought process is typically powered by system II, it is notoriously slow.

If a thought process is too generic, it fails to cover a lot of special positions. Covering more positions can only be obtained by adding details to the thought process, which in turn are redundant for other positions. There is no workable "sweet spot".

System I should do the trick
When pondering all of the above, my conclusion is: adult progress can only be achieved by system I. System II adds reason and understanding, but it is way too slow.

The conundrum to solve is the following:
How can we educate system I by system II, while both systems speak a totally different language, and work in a total different tempo?

I will elaborate on that in a following post.

Sunday, February 03, 2019

Defensive mental mayhem

Now I know that I only need about 10 hours solving time per tactical theme, I decided to take matters up a notch.

The second theme, exposed king, was about reviving the good old mate patterns of papa Polgars first brick.

Yesterday, I started with the theme defensive move. I already figured I am very bad at that. As I use to say: "I must have a feeling for chess, because I always find the wrong move when skedaddling away when under attack. If I would have no feeling for chess at all, I would statistically find the right move every now and then."

Defensive move problems in the 1550 - 1620 range feel the same as 1900 - 2000 problems with the two other tactical themes. I often have no clue.

With a defensive move, you try to accomplish trivial things like skedaddling to a square where your king can't be checked again, skedaddle and attack, skedaddle and defend, take back with the right piece that adds an additional punch, take back with the right piece that adds an additional defense, that kind of things.

So lots of room for improvement here.

White to move
1rb4k/3n1r1p/p1R3p1/1P1Pb1B1/2B1P2q/P1N2Pn1/3Q3P/2R3NK w - - 1 1

This problem took me 3:34 to solve correctly. Go figure!

Wednesday, January 30, 2019

Weird things can happen

From time to time I'm presented with a problem that takes me an absolute weird time to solve. Take for instance the following diagram:

White to move
4r2Q/p2r1k2/1p6/3b2Pp/2q1P3/2B2PK1/8/8 w - - 1 1

It took me a shocking 6 (!) minutes to solve this problem. I kept repeating the wrong moves over and over again in my mind.

Now I have made a new pattern of it. The queen as a hammer, and the two squares behind the king as an anvil. Belief me, I have used this pattern very often since I invented it. I just look for the squares that are suited as an anvil to crush the king against. It is much easier when you know what you are looking for.

Saturday, January 26, 2019

Just connect the dots

I started exercises dedicated to fork/double attack only, at Jan, 1rst. I use 3 sets of 70 positions (ca 210 in total), rated between 1550 and 2000. The problems are only 2 moves deep.

I unearthed new patterns, not only usable for double attacks, but for other themes as well. Which is logical, because the problems are only 2 moves deep. Double attack + 1 other theme, or 1 other theme + double attack, idealiter.

I take my time to ingrain the new patterns. To grow a feel for it. Even after training for 26 days in a row, the new feel is still a bit wobbly. It is still easy to be distracted by old habits.

Taking one month per theme seems to be about right. But I expect I can't do without some exercises to maintain the newly learned patterns in the future.

So far, it seems to work. I won al my games at the club by tactical means, and the new patterns play a role in every game. So far, the competition hasn't been very stiff, though.

Black to move
5rk1/pp4p1/4q3/7R/8/2B1P3/PP4PP/3R3K b - - 0 1

New pattern: get a feel for connecting the dots between:
  • target 1
  • target 2
  • attacking square
  • attacker
New pattern: combine LPDO with loading a battery.

Today I'm going to start with a new theme: exposed king.
Which is a mate in the middle of the board, in 90% of the cases.

Sunday, January 13, 2019

Looking for tasks to be automated

I focus on the following themes:
  • double attack
  • exposed king
  • defensive move
  • sacrifice
  • coercion
 Which make out 37% of the total problem set at Chess Tempo.

  • Min rating: 1500
  • Max rating: 2000
Given the type of problems presented, it should be doable to solve every problem below 2000 in under 30 seconds.

I  have taken a peek at the higher rated problems. They are higher rated because there is more going on in the position. There are a lot of seemingly attractive lines which only distract you from the solution. It doesn't make sense to worry about problems with a higher rating than 2000, before you master everything thoroughly that is below 2000. Above 2000 it are the same themes, but there are more themes compacted within a single problem.

Themed exercises
Currently I do problems with a rating between 1780 and 1830. The common theme is fork/double attack. What I try to do is to recognize problems with the same characteristics. These characteristics aren't commonly known.

I suspect that these newly defined categories aren't limited to double attacks only. The themed problems make it easier to recognize the characteristics of such new category.

New category
A new category I recently discovered, are problems where the opponent takes a minor piece of you. In stead of taking back immediately, you start a duplo attack of your own, threatening a piece with a higher value.

White just played Nxe6 (taking the bishop). Black to move

4r3/kp3pB1/p2Rb1p1/4p2r/3N4/2R5/PPP2n1P/2K5 w - - 6 1

White is a minor piece ahead. He has just captured the bishop on e6. In stead of taking back, you start a double attack of your own. Under what conditions is such action profitable?
  • The first condition is that one of your targets has a higher value than the piece that was just captured. 
 In the diagram above, you play 1. ... Ne4. The unprotected rook on d6 justifies the postponement of the take back on e6.
  • The second condition is that your target has to be unprotected
Additional: The net value of  one of your target (Rd6) minus the value of your attacker (Ne4) must be greater than the piece your opponent has taken (Be6), in case the target is protected. If both white rooks were protected, you basically exchange two minor pieces for a rook.
  • The third condition is that your opponent needs a tempo to get his high valued target into safety
You wasted a tempo to initiate a duplo attack. Now he must waste a tempo to save his target.
  • The fourth condition is that white has no double functional move at his deposal.
If white can save his knight on e6 AND can protect his rook at the same time, then your chances are gone.

Cluthering my Short Term Memory slots
This type of problems will typically overload my Short Term Memory slots. Taking stock of the values of the pieces while trying to remember in which branch of the tree I am will typically cause an administration shutdown. The problem will take ages to solve OR I go for the wrong solution.

If you take a close look at the problem, it is not exactly rocket science. The decisions to be made are simple and straightforward when you know what to look at.

By exploring these new categories, I hope to simplify my chess thinking. These counter threats aren't limited to double attacks only, of course.