Wednesday, September 20, 2006

The method of exclusion

A blog is no book. In a book you represent the end result of your thoughts in a readable way. In a blog the thought processes itself are described. I realize that the rattling of thoughts in my skull are not fun for everyone to follow. I often am confronted with the fact that it looks confusing, but hey, I'm used to it! I like to apologize for that. For me it is a great help to sift my thoughts and to get inspiration. Especially the interaction with other bloggers and readers is very useful!

I have the illusion that my ego isn't bound to any of the theories I advocate here, so feel free to critisize. Just realize that after you have called me crazy for three times in a row, I don't consider it to be news anymore.

For me, believe it or not, my thoughts aren't chaotic at all. I often compare it with a maze, where I go to the left at each crosspoint.

Even if a road looks like a dead end, I have to follow it. Just to make sure I can exclude it. Allthough it is a very labour intensive method, it is a very secure way. After exclusion I don't spill my energy anymore to methods that aren't working. That's where my labour pays off.
Here is a list of methods for improvement I have investigated over the years and their status (from an earlier post).

Study openings
No rating improvement
Basic opening knowledge is needed. In the fridge.
Study positional playNo rating improvementIn the fridge
Study mastergamesNo rating improvement
EndgamesVery importantIn the fridge. Tactics first.
Write a chessprogram
No rating improvement
Fun to do
Play a lot
No rating improvement
Usefull for incorporation of learned skills
Play blitz
No rating improvement
Develop a thoughtprocess
No rating improvement
Periodical habit
Training visualisation
No rating improvementGet lucid dreams of chessboards
Blindfold play
No rating improvementImpress your family
Tactical training
Rating improvement of 230 points
Grinded to a hold. Under investigation

I like to reformulate my findings on a regular base. Everytime from a slightly different angle. That way I discover new things every now and then. So the above list isn't definite.
Take for instance those microdrills. Two times in the past I rejected them based on logical reasoning. Now I have found new facts that shed a different light on it. And thus I have to re-investigate it. It might be a dead end. So what?

I still have the strong believe that tactics is the first area to master and that there is a fast method. The problem is to find that. We allready found a slow non efficient method that works: massive repetition. The method of exclusion gives me the feeling I'm coming closer to a better training method everyday.
Besides that, I really enjoy these theoretical ramblings. I hope you do too.


  1. In chess there is a piece of advice often given on what to think about when selecting candidate moves: "Try to improve your worst piece."

    I believe there is an analogy to chess study (as well the study of many subjects): try to improve the worst aspect of your game. After spending considerable efforts to improve your play through one method, another method, which was not fruitful before, may now prove to be the remedy you need.

  2. "Just realize that after you have called me crazy for three times in a row, I don't consider it to be news anymore."

    I most apologise. It was never my intention to critizise your efforts or you as a person in any way or. Or to be a repetetive bore either for that matter.

    I am the first to admit it, I really know how to kill a joke. Sorry about that.

    Other than that, I have always been inspired by your thoughts and check up on your blog daily to get some food for thought. I think that you are one of those people that never let obstacles stop you from searching for answers, when most people don't even dare to ask another question.

    So keep up the good work!


  3. I definitely enjoy your blog! However, I sometimes get the impression that understanding how the brain gets to learn things is more important to you than chess itself (Nothing bad with that!). I have to admit that I am often thinking the same about myself but because I don't have your tremendous training ethics at CTS, probably spend more time worrying on how to improve than actually working on it.

    Anyway, keep the posts coming, I will definitely continue to read them!

  4. Samurai,
    LOL, you can read my device in my sidebar:
    Life is just a play. Problems arise when people start to take themselves seriously.

    So of course no offence taken and thanks for the cheering!

  5. Sciurus,
    However, I sometimes get the impression that understanding how the brain gets to learn things is more important to you than chess itself

    Yes, that's true. I'm a firm believer that found conclusions have a reach beyond chess. Allthough I play a lot, I see it mainly as a testing ground. Ofcourse such attitude leads often to a lack of fighting spirit during the game. A conclusion that can be extended beyond chess too:)

  6. I agree with most ideas in your post. But I cannot see how you separate tactical training from thought process and from visualization. I think in a good tactical training these are vital elements. IMHO the most important point in training at CTS is that you are aware of what you did wrong and to find out what you must do in order to improve. You must first find out your weaknesses before you can overcome them. I have been quite successful with this approach, after I had identified a poor evaluation of easy and difficult positions (at Chess Tactics Server) as my main weakness. I mean, I moved too fast in difficult positions and too slowly in easy positions. It is much like choosing the appropriate speed in street traffic. After having worked on this weakness, my blunder rate diminished by 50 percent, whereas my rating loss was moderate, only about 30 points.

  7. Mouse,
    But I cannot see how you separate tactical training from thought process and from visualization.

    I noticed our opinions differ on these. For me there are a few circumstancial criteria/facts that must be met by a tactical training. Maybe I should post about this.

    Circumstancial fact. Susan Polgar used 2.6 seconds per move at average at her simul. During this time she had to walk to the next board too!
    No matter what genius she might be, there can be no thought process involved in such fast moving. As she describes it herself: once you made a global plan, you stop thinking and let your hands do the job. This is indicating that we are talking about a complex motor skill.

    Circumstancial fact. Brainscans of grandmasters show activity in the brains where complex motor skills reside. Amateurs had great activity in their medial temporal lobes - an area thought to be crucial for performing new tasks and establishing short-term memory.
    If I had to predict what brain activity a thought process would show, than I would guess heavy activity in the medial temporal lobes.

    These two arguments give me reason to believe that a thought process can impossible play an important role in tactical training. Of course there can be an important role for a thought process, but not here.

    With visualisation it is somewhat more complex. Since there are seemingly contradictory circumstancial facts that have to be met. Maybe it's better to explain that in a post.
    First I

  8. It's worth pointing out that others may experience different results--self examination is useful in determining in which areas you need the most study.

    For example, I found openings study helpful. In August, I analyzed my games and found I scored only 30% as White. The next few days I studied the English opening mainlines. In September, I scored 70% as White.

  9. Tempo, just two remarks on your re-comment. Firstly, the 2.6 secs are on average. I watched her sister Judit at the Chess Champions Day simul in Zurich. Sometimes she stopped to think longer. Secondly, 2.6 secs does not mean that there is no thinking. It may be fast thinking, and surely there is thinking while walking. Anyway, I'll deal with this question in my own post. It's too much for a comment.

  10. wonderfull post.

    do you know the book, mind and nature by gregory bateson? he was married to margaret mead, the anthropologist. he was a true global thinker. i think that what you are trying to do and how you say it, relates to his work in a big way. maybe you can look it up?

    you are appreciated here in amazon, microsoft, starbux (yuk!), boeing country... whose wealthy aggressive driving vehicles i must avoid on the road regularly.