Sunday, February 13, 2005

Tactics, tactics, tactics?

When you ask around about what is the essence of de la Maza's method then you will probably hear something like "when you train your butt off with tactical exercises you will grow in chess until you are an expert". Even de la Maza himself would possibly say so.
But is this really the essence?

I noticed a lot of different opinions about what tactics are.
For example gm Jeremy Silman says something like "when you cannot gain wood and cannot force mate there are no tactics"
Another view I heard is that endgames are for 99% based on tactics, conquering the 7th rank is tactics etc.
Of course it makes a lot of difference how many things you understand by tactics.
If it is little, you will possibly not agree with the idea that exercising tactics will lead to expertship.
If you understand a lot by tactics you possibly agree more with this idea.
This difference in definition of tactics causes a lot of confusion and disagreement.

Imho is the essence that de la Maza found the importance of pattern recognition in learning.
And that this pattern recognition can be imprinted in the brains by repeated problemsolving.
This system of learning goes far beyond tactics.
Even far beyond chess.

For the system of de la Maza it makes ofcourse no difference if the problems you solve are of tactical nature or of positional nature.
You imprint the patterns in your brain that are in the problems.
If you use problems of bad quality, the patterns in your head will be of bad quality.
If you use problems of medical nature, you will become a doctor.

The grandmaster recognizes the pattern of the postition on the board.
He diagnoses it and applies a remedy, all by experience of similar positions in the past.
The doctor recognizes the pattern of the pimples of the skin.
He diagnosis it and applies a remedy, all by experience of similar cases in the past.

A really interesting article about the five stages of development from novice to expert:


  1. Right on. Deep training in pattern recognition appears to be the key to alot of different challenging endeavors.


  2. Thanks for the link. I can't read teh whole article now, but it looks very interesting.

  3. One of my more dubious purchases in chess instruction was Andy Soltis' "The Inner Game of Chess," a book I thought would help me learn to calculate. I gave up on it after the first few chapters as I found it's ideas not quite concrete enough. However, this was the first time I had learned about the idea of pattern recognition. In essence, he states that Grandmasters aren't necessarily constantly calculating, but when they start to see the formations of a promising pattern they then put their calculating hats on to find out if an advantage can be had. So hopefully by recognizing patterns you'll cut down on raw calculation. I'm not sure I had much of a point to this, but there it is.

  4. That's an interesting point, PMD. I've been beating myself up, because I haven't been calculating on every move in my OCL games. Those games haven't been perfect by any stretch, either...but, you know what? I haven't lost any of them. I drew the first two games against people much higher rated than I, and I won my most recent game. Maybe I've been seeing some chunking occurring and am seeing more patterns. I know my thought process is far from perfect, but perhaps it is improving.