Monday, May 28, 2007

Opposites. The effort of being lazy.

  • Quality vs quantity.
  • Depth vs breadth.
  • Conscious vs unconscious.
  • Will-controlled vs automatic pilot.

The past two years I have focussed on the sheer quantity of patterns that I wanted to learn. More was better. With solving 100k+ problems this idea has been seriously put to the test. It didn't bring me what I hoped for, or expected. The question is now, how can I recognize one pattern in as much disguises as possible? Questions as "why does this combination work?", "what are the chararteristics by which I can recognize it?" need an answer.

It isn't enough just "to expose the brain to the pattern". A conscious effort must be made to understands its whereabouts. To do a lot of problems is a lot of work. A lot of work is associated with a lot of effort. But in a way it is easier to do a lot of work in the breadth on the automatic pilot than to do only a little work but make a conscious effort to go into the depth. So essentially doing loads and loads of problems is an effortful method of being lazy. If you try to go deep and focus consciously, the mind resists. The brain seems to resist the construction of new pathways. Well-trodden paths are much more convenient. Even if a lot more work is involved.

And that is what I feel when I experiment with "the lazy way". In stead of trial and error on the automatic pilot I go directly to the solution and ask myself "why didn't I see the solution immediately?", "how can I make that I will recognize it in the future?", "what are the characteristics by which I can recognize it?".
This conscious effort makes resistance to arise in the brain. It makes me to want to flee from this effort. I want to do other things. More automatically. That is how his post came about to be written, btw:)

I always find it to be a good sign when the mind resists. It indicates that new things are learned and new avenues are paved. This is opposite of the feel of tiredness by doing too much work on the automatic pilot.

This diagram stems from a variant of a problem of Polgars second brick:

Black to move and win.
There are two possible moves. Black has invested a knight in the attack. It took me two hours to find all the finesses of the position, even with the aid of a computer. Two hours before I had the feeling "if I encounter this in practice, I will recognize all the tactical motifs immediately". Or "if I had to play this against Kramnik I would win, no matter what".

Now let me stop with that lazy automatic blogging and let me do an itsybitsy REAL work in stead.


  1. Tak,
    yes, both Re2+ and Rxe1 are winning. It shows very well how basic and wellknown tactical motives COMBINE untill it has become difficult to recognize them.