Tuesday, July 09, 2019

The ABC of tactics

Black to move

In order to solve a tactic puzzle, you need to know your basics well. What are the duplo attacks in this position?

There seems to be a discovered attack to the king. But wat is the target for the bishop?

There is a double attack of the knight.

There is a discovered attack against knight d3.

And there is a discovered attack against rook e4

Do you see how the PLF (PoPLoAFun) system is closely related to the duplo attack?

Sunday, July 07, 2019


The PoPeye system we are developing for the education of system I has already a fundament of two firm pillars.
  • Themed problem sets
  • Highlighting the PLF (PoPLoAFun)

Themed problem sets
I use Chess Tempo to make themed problem sets like all double attacks with a rating between 1600 and 1650, all discovered attacks with a rating of 1700 to 1780 et cetera. The problems are only two moves deep. That diminishes the complexity of the problems. Albeit solving a 2200 rated problem can still take you quite some time.
The diminished complexity usually reveals itself especially in the stage of the post mortem analysis.
By reducing the complexity during analysis afterwards, system II is no longer confused or overwhelmed by occupying all Short Term Memory slots. When system II is confused, system I will not store information to the long term memory. For safety reasons, possibly. Or economic reasons.

Robert introduced the highlighting of the points of pressure and the lines of attack. I added the highlighting of function to that. With the aid of macro's I copy the board to Paint. With lines and shapes of different colors, I can highlight any aspect of PLF (PoPLoAFun), duplo attacks and so on. It seems that the act of highlighting is a way of absorbing knowledge by system I. Robert pointed out the importance to use what is in the here and now on the board, in stead of using mental (verbal) constructions of system II which might represent a possible future.

Third pillar
Today I pondered what the third pillar of the PoPeye method for education of system I might look like. I think that it is based on the discovery of new patterns by system II. By simplifying matters by pillars I and II, system II is more at ease, and more sensitive to new ideas. Because of the themed problem sets, the frequency of reoccurrence of patterns with similar structures is much higher than it would be otherwise. That way your chance to encounter a similar structure before you forget the previous one is much higher.

White to move
Take for instance the diagram above. Qg4 is a duplo attack. Target 1 is Rf5, target 2 is Qe2.
The move Qg4 is loading the battery against Qe2.

The loading of a battery as part of a duplo attack is a new structure that you encounter time and again when you are working on the themed problem set "discovered attacks". The focus of attention and a system II that is not overworked seems to be the ideal conditions for system I to work its magic.

Saturday, June 15, 2019


Margriet has not been well, lately. At a certain moment she weighted only a mere 45 kg after a weight loss of about 32 kg in a year. . They have found the cause, and with medication she is doing reasonably well now. According to the doctor, she had walked along the edge of the abyss. So understandably I had a lack of energy and focus to write about chess the past months. I hope that I can pick up the thread again now she is doing better. I started this post long ago, so maybe certain sentences are outdated.

Robert has painted a broad overall picture of the problem we face. I'm glad he did. The sheer amount of facts is overwhelming, and by sorting it out already, my mind is freed from the looming clogging up. I can focus solely on the important details now. Thanks for that!

The square of the knight method (SOTK)
We talked about the transformation of knowledge into a pattern. When your king is chased by a knight, you can gain a tempo by putting the king on the same diagonal as the knight, with one  square in between. For convenience, I call this move the square of the knight. (Like the square of the pawn who wants to promote).

The shifting of gears method (SOG)
We talked about the fine art of shifting gears. System I seems to make use of mathematics of its own invention when calculating when to shift gears and when to push the brakes. These mathematics bare no resemblance with the mathematics of system II. Analogies seem to be an important ingredient of the working of system I.

Comparing SOG to SOTK
In the beginning there was only the SOG method. While we are learning how to drive a car, system I peeks over our shoulders, and assists the attention by adding its magic when needed. It is system I in its purest form.
SOTK on the other hand, needs some preliminary work to be done by system II. System II invents the pattern, and system I stores it under the appropriate cues.

I hypothesize that we do best by first extending system I by using the pure SOG method. That way, we maximize the added magic.

After system I is optimized in its own realm, we can start with the SOTK method. Meaning pimping knowledge into patterns with added intelligence borrowed from system II. With which system I can show off its own magic.

A little something about system II
Somewhere I described system II. While writing, I noticed already a few particularities. We talked about slow verbal thinking. And we talked about attention. I reckoned they both belong to system II by then. Thinking and attention seem to be very related. Even so, that some guy in the past thought that he was, just because he was thinking (cogito ergo sum).

Since we don't know that we are thinking when there is no attention, we supposed that there is a relationship between the two. But the peculiarity that I noticed, was that attention and thoughts function at total different speeds.

In the Vedantic world, there is a part of the mind that is called the Buddhi. We might call it the center of discrimination. For the xenophobes among us, we maybe should call it simply system III. System III represents the flight of the vulture.

Everything system I does, must be under surveillance of system III. The same holds true for everything system II concocts. There is no intelligence in thinking. Intelligence is added by system III, the quiet center of discrimination. Logic thinking is destructive by its very nature. It can only work by falsifying matters. It is not creative. System I is creative. But since there is no intelligence in system I either, everything must have the sign of approval of system III,  the center of attention. The center of intelligence. Without the intelligence of system III, we are surrendered to the mercy of mere chance. Are the solutions which system I and system II come up with fit for the situation at hand or not.

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 on 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!