Saturday, December 31, 2005

Unclarified facts.

The hypothesis.
The hypothesis I'm working on right now can be summarized as:
After you reach a certain level, improvement in chess can be achieved mainly by pattern recognition.

What does that say, a certain level?
That's the plateau where people are stalling after initial growth.
When you haven't reached that level yet, probably anything will cause you to improve.

A list of facts that need clarification.
There are a lot of facts that need clarification.
A lot of these questions seem to point in the direction of this hypothesis.
That's why this hypothesis has evolved in the first place.
I have tried to geather a list of these facts/questions.
On a lot of these items we have posted before. So sorry for doubles

The former French blitz champion.
I had the honour to play a lot of games with this guy. He had drunk about a whole bottle of red wine.
During the games he was talking to another guy. So he paid hardly any attention to the game.
But he beated me game after game. What is it that makes this guy so good? It is not calculation, because he hardly looked at the board. It's no positional plan, because he hasn't taken time to work something out.

Beaten by kids.
I'm often beaten by "runner up" kids.
I often talk to them afterwards to find out how they are "phsychologically build."
Most of the time it are ordinary kids which you can easely beat on reasoning, logic, planning, knowledge, memory etc.. That always gives me the feeling that these boys perform a simple trick. A simple trick that is mystified by others as a chess prodigy.

The speed of grandmasters.
The 2 seconds per move average of Susan Polgar during her simul is simply beyond imagination.
How is that possible?
The only explanation I can find is described in this old post.

Grandmaster John Nunn describes that he once played 100 blitzgames with a master.
5 minutes on the clock for Nunn and 10 minutes for the master.
He won with 88-12.

Afterwards the master was disappointed:
"I thought that I would see lots of advanced strategic concepts in these games but actually all I have learnt is LPDO."
"LPDO?" Nunn asked.
"Loose Pieces Drop Off"
Most of the games where decided by relatively simple tactics involving undefended pieces.

Brainscans of grandmasters and amateurs showed that grandmasters use mainly their long term memory while amateurs have to invent every move.

Papa Polgar.
Papa Polgar proved that any child can be a prodigy with the right training.
How about adults?

Candidate moves.
Research of Prof. Adriaan de Groot cs. showed that grandmasters investigate 2-3 candidate moves per move while amateurs look at 6-8 candidates per move.
He found that both the capability of calculation (!) and the memory of the grandmasters vs. amateur differed very little.

To me all these facts seem to point at one single item: Ferociously fast pattern recognition.


  1. Yes, I think there is definitely a lot in pattern recognition in chess. However it may not be only this - you probably still have to calculate as well. OK - the pattern recognition kicks in first and tells you what to look at, but then you still have to do a quick calculation to check it is still OK in the specific position you are in (as opposed to the general pattern in your mind - putting a rook on the 7th rank say)

  2. Druss,
    You might be quite right of course.
    But IF the hypothesis proves to be true AND the consequences are taken to the max, it means that a grandmaster has replaced vulnerable error prone calculation (wrong brainlobe)with high quality pattern (be it tactical-, positional- or endgame-) recognition from his long term memory (correct brainlobe). Of course there will be ereas where even the grandmasters starts to calculate. There lies their area for further improvement. As research showed, a grandmaster isn't better in calculation than a trained amateur, so here he can't beat us.

    This is what I intend to find out. It's intriguing, to say the least.
    And if the hypothesis proves to be NOT true, we have to find another that covers the facts. I wonder what that should look like?

  3. I agree with your excellent analysis. The main question is, what is the best way to learn pattern recognition? Via learning a zillion patterns (Tempo), or via learning a relatively small alphabet of patterns (Heisman) around which your skills accrue? I think nobody really knows the answer, which means we need more data. GO TEMPO!!!

  4. Well, it's clear (from ICC members) that playing thousands and thousands of blitz games doesn't improve your chess. So simply seeing many positions doesn't increase your playing ability.

    What does.. is difficult

  5. hello tempo

    Keep it up. Reading from your previous posts, youre rating seems to be rising steadily. So the training works (Well, for you at least). - it is really curious to see how far this will take you. I maybe wrong, but you had been studying tactics for about 3(?) years now. - the conclusions you reach from here can provide great informaton about "effects of long-term study of chess tactics".

    very interesting indeed.

  6. "The speed of grandmasters.
    The 2 seconds per move average of Susan Polgar during her simul is simply beyond imagination.
    How is that possible?"

    Another thing to consider is that Susan, strategically and tactically, knows what is good chess and what is bad chess (as can be deduced from your discussion about the number of patterns a GM keeps in his/her head). Given that, I'm sure an overwhelming majority of the players in the simul played "bad chess" when compared with Susan. The minority of the games, therefore, are the ones that she would have needed to spend time on. Therefore, that 2 seconds per move must really be an average time per board (with the vast majority of the games simply posing no problems for Susan). However, on SOME of the games, she surely must have spent more time per move.