Monday, August 28, 2006

Topsy turvy

Please all give a warm welcome to our newest Knight SamuraiPawn who chops his way thru CT-art! May he be able to find matching socks in the dark!

I've been two days down due to food poisoning. Still a little feverish, but I can hang behind my computer again at least.

It's nice to see how a discussion among the CTS-users is evolving. Sciurus asks if repetition is a neccessity for learning pattern recognition, since grandmasters in the past became grandmaster without computers and without such repetitions.
I like this kind of basic questions which can put everything topsy turvy. I have of course a certain amount of repetitions under the belt, but that's no reason for not asking these kind of questions. On the contrary.

Where does the idea of repetition come from? Cognitive rechearchers asked themselves how many patterns a grandmaster had stored in his LTM. Based on the amount of hours a typical expert needs to spend to become an expert in any area (=grandmaster in chess), which is about 10,000 hours, they made an educated guess that possibly 50,000 to 100,000 patterns are stored.
We concluded from this that repetition was necessary. How else would you store so much patterns in your LTM?
What we didn't realize, is that the technique of spaced repetition is developed for EXPLICIT memory and not for IMPLICIT memory. My experiments on CTS indicated that a much different regimen would be better for implicit memory.

Mousetrapper raised the question how many patterns there are at CTS.
It's funny that I'm doing research along the same lines as he. At first I thought there would be at least a few hundreds or thousands. Now I have evaluated an 200 CTS positions I'm inclined to say just 80:
  1. Trap
  2. Double attack
  3. Discovered attack
  4. Skewer
  5. Pin
  6. Promotion
  7. Invasion
  8. Overworked piece
  9. Eternal check
  10. Exchange/take/take back (lower rated problems)
Sometimes along with a preparational move:
  • Push
  • Deflection
  • Decoy
  • Annihilation of defence
  • Blockade
  • Interception
  • Clearance
  • Intermediate move
10 basic motifs X 8 preparational moves = 80 different patterns.
In every problem at CTS is at least one of these basic tactical motifs present.
So this can shed a different light on what we have to accomplish. If I see a problem at CTS I now have to ask myself the question: which one of the 10 basic motifs do I have in front of me with what kind of preparational move? I have to find the answer on this question within 6+3 seconds. That's the other way around!

So the job is how to recognize just 80 patterns in 23,803 different situations.

Actually Mousetrappers Target Feature Count and my Thoughts About Tactics were in a way unconscious attempts to find a systematic answer to this question. If we can find a systematic answer, it could alter our training efforts dramatically! It can make repetitions possibly superfluous indeed. Now I know what I'm after, I will have a new look at it. I'm curious where this will lead us!


  1. So what do I need to do to become a knight? Some dirty deed or is it enough to just say please? ;)

  2. Tempo said: In every problem at CTS only one of these basic tactical motifs is present. If I see a problem at CTS I now have to ask myself the question: which one of the 10-15 motifs do I have in front of me?

    Tempo, I'm fairly certain that problems at CTS feature multiple motifs at once. Many times the motifs interact and sometimes one motif may just be a decoy to the real answer.

    For example, in a problem you solved recently (19305) there is a trapped
    piece (the king), an overworked peice (the rook defends f4 and the h-file), and the solution falls under your motif called exchange (I think).

    I think you will find multiple patterns in many of the high rated problems.

  3. Samurai, you will find a link in my sidebar "how to join the Knights" with more information.

  4. Loomis,
    that might be the case, but the reason I am NOW performing bad at CTS is that I fail to recognize these SIMPLE patterns in an instance.

    The example you give is one preparational move (deflection, if I translate it correctly) and a trap (of the King, which results in mate). I have to correct the #patterns by 10 x 8 (= #basic motifs x #preparational moves) I will correct it.

  5. Loomis,
    I reformulated matters a little due to your comments.

  6. Tempo,

    It is interesting that you say the reason you do poorly at CTS is missing these simple motifs. We are at roughly the same rating and I feel that I do not miss the single motifs, but rather combinations of motifs. When I get a problem wrong, it is most often due to making the right move out of order or trying to take advantage of the right motif in the wrong way.

    I feel the reason I make these mistakes is that while I recognize the major motif quickly sometimes I overlook a minor motif that changes slightly how to take advantage of the major motif.

    There are some types of problems where even a single motif causes me problems and I am working on that too, but I think seeing the motif combinations will also be a big hurdle for me in the near future. Of course, everyone must work on their own weaknesses.

    As always, I am really enjoying your blog! It is fascinating to see your perspective on getting better and where you focus your hard work.

  7. dear tempo, sorry to hear of your food poisening, and glad to hear that you are on the road to recovery.

    thank you for the heads up on my comments problem. my goodness! how many good notes back did i miss... in eight days...

    i have a long post that i wrote (weeks ago! in draft form) called "an open note to temposchlucker", but as good as i felt about it, never got to finish it, and THAT was one post i did not want to put up without carefull editing on some subtle points, so clarifications, and lastly decide to add more or post a second note, an open note to TSii, since it was so long... you will enjoy it, and it touches some of what youve been discussing and is NOT about percentage success.

    i feel that there are entirely different considerations than you or we have fixated on at our posts, and that is what i discuss, and resonds to your here, Topsy turvy.

    i go on vacation staring in 37.5 hours and two sessions at work or workdays, and will have more time soon.

    ill begin my big push to 20,000, am glad to finally be in the top forty users now (37), and only need to pass a few folks with high RD, so will head to top 30 throught septemeber. but i still must hit the 'show 50' command to see where i am at--and will be a while till i hit 'tacticians' and automatically see myself in the top 20 as you 'big wheels' are in total.

    thanks for following along on my end, and see you again soon. david

    ps, id not heard from chessDog any more, so maybe he will understand what is going to happen if he feels compelled to post immediately following any post of mine with disparagement--that 'little scared boy' man.

  8. loomis, same thing with me. I spot the components/motifs in a position, but screw up the move order. I believe that to be caused by bad calculation. the fact that tempo feels he's pretty much perfected calculation, and fails because of missing motifs instead of move order, seems to back it up also.

  9. Loomis,Wormstar,
    I don't think we really make much different mistakes. I can't believe that. It's probably more a matter of definition and valuation. I value the things by taking them to the extremes. So if I say that all problems at CTS consist of a preparational move and a basic pattern, I ignore a lot of nuances of course. But such formulations help me to build new hypothesisses. Just my habit of thinking.

  10. I don't fail to recognize the simple motifs, I fail to recognize them within 3 seconds.

  11. I miss the mates in your list. Do you just count them as traps (of the King)? As to the pin, you count them as one single pattern, but I have come to the conclusion that a pin is not just a pin. Pattern recognition is much about geometrical features. The eye recognizes easily straight lines but has difficulties with diagonals. Therefore I take straight and diagonal pins as different patterns. I even distinguish file pins from rank pins (after having constantly missed the latter at CTS). Also you must know if the pinnee may or may not capture the pinner. In the first case the pinner must be guarded, in the second case this is not necessary.

  12. >I don't fail to recognize the simple motifs, I fail to recognize them within 3 seconds.

    Simple motifs in hard to see arrangements.

    Interesting... it reminds me of TCT. I just went back to Step 3 and started getting 1-2 wrong in stuff I got 100% in months ago. That's chess for you.

  13. Thank you for the invitation and the warm welcome. I currently have a head filled with cotton and I'm being chased by evil voices screaming things like "Aaaaargh, it's Knight takes on d7 you moron!!!"