Sunday, March 20, 2005

Survival of the fittest

Patterns in the long term memory behave like animals in the jungle.
Only the fittest will survive.
The human mind is very efficient. It never tries to find the objective best solution but it settles for the first solution that has succes.
A solution just good enough to survive costs less energy than the best solution.

If one is used to play 3. Df3 in a certain variation, that might be enough to become chesschampion of Honduras. So that pattern is stored in memory as "best fit" for the given situation. But when our Hondurassic champion tries this pattern for example in the Corustournament he might well be knocked from the board.
So in international play this pattern of 3. Df3 will not survive.

This continuous competition between patterns in the mind plays an important role.
Here is where emotion comes in.
A pattern "has to know" if it is needed any longer after being used.
Emotion "rewards" the pattern with a good feeling if the result is good. The pattern grows stronger by this reward, and the next time it reports itself earlier.
If the use of a pattern has a bad result, it is "punished" by a bad feeling and becomes weaker.
So in a next simular case it will not report itself immediatly, and another pattern might be "the fittest".
This is the process of forgetting.
Emotions are the power that regulate the adaptation of the mind by burning the patterns in our brains or by forgetting patterns.

During our tactical training emotions are not very strong. (however, if I hear about the struggle of some. . .)
That's why it is neccesary to play a lot next to the training. Especially rated OTB games have a high emotional impact. But even internetgames will do.
So being euphoric after a win and feeling the pit in the stomach after a loss is the best thing that can happen to you. . .


  1. No emotion during tactical training? Are you kidding me? I've knocked down entire walls with my bareknuckles after missing a problem in tactical training because I was so incensed.

    Maybe it's just a mix of my American machismo and German ancestral desire for perfection that drives me to such passion. . .

  2. I went to sleep Saturday evening going through my two league losses that day. I went through them in my mind and pondered on how I could have played those games differently. I determined what sort of mind set I needed to adopt to be more consistently successful and to avoid playing like I had Saturday in the future. My rating had dropped from 1734 to 1715 after these two games.

    Sunday, I felt better about how I had to think about the game while playing. I logged onto FICS and played someone with a standard rating over 1800 and beat them in about 19 moves. My rating went up to 1733.

    Sunday evening, I played another person rated about the same as me and proceded to garner an extra pawn in the middle game with my opps pieces very much undeveloped as well. My opp resigned (he could have fought on, but didn't) and my rating shot up to its highest ever - 1747. That's where my FICS rating is today.

    Yes, Tempo, emotion does play a significant part of our chess learning. I think that this is why we learn so much more from our losses. They can be so painful, that we force ourselves to learn how to better avoid that pain in the future. Ergo, our long term memories retain those lessons learned from experiences associated with more emotion-laden mental states.

  3. Patterns in the long term memory behave like animals in the jungle.
    Only the fittest will survive.

    When it comes to the human brain, I think it's more like that which is most rewarded is most reinforced. This is a little different than saying the fittest survives. Blitz is an excellent example. Complex but questionable moves might lead to alot of wins, and those moves become increasingly reinforced with every win. Analyzing games probably helps to modify the negative impact of playing questionable moves, but questionable play that is rewarded is difficult to extinguish.

  4. The thrill of victory and the agony of defeat. Chess is so unforgiving at times. It's because of this that a win over the 64 can be so gratifying. In a test of wills and ideas, you have prevailed. At the same time a single moment of weakness can actually completely undo all that you have gained. This is absolutely ego crushing. I can only imagine what it must be like at the upper most levels of chess, but something tells me it probably isn't much different emotionally than for patzers like myself.

  5. Very true, Pale. Last night, my opp hung a knight early on in the game. He was so demoralized that he quit writing down the moves on his scoresheet. The rules require each player to write down their moves unless the clock shows that they have less than 5 minutes for the rest of their moves. I just let him go and didn't push the issue.

  6. Yeah, last night I was playing someone 100 points lower than me and I was doing ok. All of a sudden I let him start a tactic on my Kingside that I never recovered from. My gf must have thought I was crazy to be swearing at the monitor. "So &$@# stupid! So *&$# stupid!"