Saturday, February 19, 2005

From bungler to crack in 0.2 seconds

For the quest of chess improvement I observed a lot of chessplayers.
A fact that astonished me over and over again is the extreme difference in speed of calculation between two persons who differ only 300 points in rating.
And what is even more amazing is that nobody ever seems to notice.
It looks like a conspiracy that no one ever talks or writes about this phenomenon.

To explain what I found to be the cause of this extreme difference in speed I'll give an example.
Say, I want to go to Rome. For a grandmaster that is no problem since every road leads to Rome (=at least a Dutch saying). But for me, who knows nothing about cars, even the most minor event will cause me trouble. When it starts to rain, I have to pull over because I cannot see through the front window any longer. I can figure out that those two little bars have something to do with cleaning the windows. I have to open the hood, where is the handle for that?
Where are the cables of the screen wiper? I have to demolish the dashboard, I can't see them.
Why are there six blue cables? I regularly mix things up and have to start over again.
Rain on the connection joints, blowing fuses, where are new ones?
When I finally get the screen wiper to wipe, rain stops pouring and my flag is about to fall.
For the grandmaster, the rain is a non event which takes him 0.2 seconds to put the wiper on.

Scientific research has found through brainscans that the bungler sees every position on the board as new. So he has to be creative to find out what the position is all about and what to do. Like finding out how the screen wiper works.
This is an extremely slow proces, which cost him much effort and concentration.
The grandmaster though, relies far more on his long term memory. Because most things he has seen before. It is estimated that a grandmaster has about 50,000 patterns in memory where he can make use of.
So we do something totally different from a grandmaster, and we do it with a different part of the brain!

With some calculations and experiments I found that the average difference in speed is about 3 times per 100 ratingpoints. That is to say, when you differ 200 ratingpoints, the difference in speed will be about 3 x 3 = 9 times. Apply grain of salt to your needs.
That's why we loose a simultaneous game!
Statistically you can never win a game from someone who has 700 points more than you.


  1. Hey, I got your bicycle repaired. Where are my 35 euros?!

  2. Tal was someone who other GMs were in awe of in this way, but I think your right about us class players.

  3. CD, as you can read, I'm still talking nonsense and seeing conspiracies everywhere. I'm not gonna pay for such bungling!