Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Why we are patzers

The problem is that when we play chess the main tool we use is our short term memory.
In this memory is room for only 6 to 12 items which stay there for about 30-45 seconds.
So ofcourse it is impossible to have a good thoughtproces. Not only all the moves and the subvariations do we try to store in that little space but also the bookkeeping of how much wood we win and loose during exchanges. No wonder that we play so badly!

The trick is that we make use of our long term memory. When the pattern is edged in your brain (i.c. the long term memory) that a bishop or pawn on f6 causes backrank problems for the black king and that mate will follow within 5 moves when a white rook arives on the backrank than can you abbreviate this whole line to one item. So the short term memory has to work only with this one abbreviated item.

The more long lines are stored in your long term memory, the more complex problems you can handle in your short term memory.


  1. Hello,

    When are you going to continue part two of "few oppressing questions"? I am really interested in seeing the continuation. This is because we have a lot of similarities. Like you, I studied endings/openings/going over master games for two years and felt that my chess understanding has become deeper. But I would get blown over by people that does not study whatsoever. And like you right now (and the other knights), I am following a (slighty modified) delamaza-style tactics training program. (I have a book of maxim blokh of about 1000+ problems and I would go three circles per chapter.). But I am deeply interested about your findings with regards to the chess understanding vs ability duality(?) - regards

  2. Hi Anonymous,

    Because I'm new to the world of blogging I have to find my way. The first thing to I noticed is that a month has about 30 days, even in America (in spite of being discovered so late). So I have to spread the things I want to say a little. Otherwise you would get one post of about 150 pages and then no more posts. The second thing is I want to reckon with the responses I get. For example this comment of yours will change my plans. Maybe you'll need a little patience, but don't worry, I have not forgotten what I wanted to say when I wrote "to be continued...". Only I'm not sure if the title will be "a few oppressing questions Part II".
    To be continued...