What is the role of understanding in chess?
In the pre-strategical era of my chess development, life was easy. Just do as much tactical problems as possible et voila. After about 80K+ problems from different difficulty, I have reached the end of that road.
Where am I standing on the path to mastery?
If I had to make a guess it would be something like this:
Tactical skills: 70%
Positional skills: 20%
Strategical planning: 10%
So there is a lot of room for improvement.
Once I have analized about 100 sacrifices on f7. Ca. 40% worked via an identical system. Ever since I found out, it's much easier to know when a sac on f7 is going to work and when not.
Understanding is a way to bundle a lot of seemingly different patterns into one system.
Such systems give the memory grip on a vast amount of data.
In the past I have ignored these explicit systems of understanding in the hope that exposing my brain to a vast amount of patterns would generate implicit systems all by itself. It doesn't seem to work this way.
I hoped that even if I had no system of explicit understanding- aqcuired in the study room - I could find it by intelligent calculation OTB. This hope proved to be in vain. A clueless mesmerized state tends to be the result of such positions where a system is desperately needed.
Take for instance rook endgames (chapter 3 of HTRYC treats this, so I work my way thru this again). If I try to memorize the positions without a system of understanding behind it, I forget it very easy. So I have to rework the data until I find a suitable system. I'm pretty confident that I will manage to do so, but life would be easier when the authors of endgame books had done that work for me. After all, that's why I pay money for a chess book.
I guess it doesn't work the same with everybody. I noticed that people approach problems in different ways. If I try to find an answer of a problem in a complex environment, I work step by step. Verifying every step. I exclude coincidence and gambling in the process. After processing all steps, I rebuild the data to an (for me) understandable system. In the end I will have an overview of the whole complex area, and whith that overview I can answer any question related to that area fast, without error and reproducable. And I can explain it to everybody.
This method is certainly not the best fit for complex problems, since it takes an enormous amount of time. Once the system is build, it is unsurpassed though. But often life is too short.
An other approach is what I will call "intuitive". Maybe there is a better word. I can't explain that to you since my step by step approach bans intuition as being too uncertain. An intuitive person is prepared to take the element of uncertainty for granted. An intuitive approach has for me a whiff of magic. If I ask Margriet the answer of a mathematical problem, she often gives me the answer right away. But when I ask how she comes to it, she has no idea and cannot reproduce it.
Such an approach to complex problems is often a better fit in daily life. Since it is seldom necessary that an answer is 100% correct as long as it is good enough to deal with the situation.
In chess the same is true. Even Deep Fritz doesn't come up with 100% correct moves, but the moves are good enough to beat the world champion (which indicates that the word "intuition" isn't right, since Fritz has no intuition). In general I believe that the best chess players are the ones who use the pragmatic intuitive method of problem solving and not the systembuilders.
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