Thursday, June 28, 2007

Building quadrants.

Conscious effort is unpleasant.
My board visualisation exercises gave me a clear framework consisting of diagonals. The key of the exercises is that you make a conscious effort. The automatic pilot is tabu. Conscious imagining of the details will commit these details to LTM. You can easy test if something is committed to LTM: it shows immediately in the next exercise. Don't let the brain deceive you by its brilliant trick to reconstruct instaneously what you are looking at. The difference is simple: a reconstruction fades away easy while something stored in LTM doesn't. With conscious effort you can make great progress in little time.

But it isn't pleasant to make a conscious effort. It is difficult to keep the focus of attention on the right spot. It is much easier to sit back and let the automatic pilot take over. The brain is very resistant against conscious efforts. Maybe I should say lazy. I hope that things will get easier after more exercise.

Fill in the details.
Now the outlines of the diagonals are clear it is time to fill in more detail. When I imagine the diagonal a4-e8, it is easy to see the squares a4 and e8. But in between it is rather fuzzy. It is not immediate clear how many squares there are in between for example. Or how the diagonal crosses other diagonals.
So today I started with trying to "build" quadrants out of squares, while focussing on the white squares. The quadrants were build quite from memory since I hadn't seen a board for 8 hours. Which means that all the elements are already in your memory, you just put them together in another way. After I had build all quadrants I fitted them together. Just a few days ago I had called this exercise way too complicated. As a rat running around in circles I come back to the same exercise and find it to be relative easy. So the order must be that you work from outside in. First build a framework, then fill in the details. When you work the other way around you tend to lose sight too easy.

Every day I play a few blindfoldgames against the the computer. I let the computer play at a pretty low level, since it is an exercise in visualisation and not in reasoning. I use an empty board since I do already separate exercises for board visualisation.

I don't have the feeling that I made any progress with blindfoldchess last week and I think to know why. When playing blindfoldchess I tend to play on the automatic pilot. So I learn nothing from it. Next week I will try to put in conscious effort, let's see if that makes a difference.

In the mean time I make little progress in my reasoning. I discovered from Polgars book that the middlegame has 77 different classes of positions. So that gives an idea about the amount of work ahead.

Storing patterns in LTM.
Is conscious effort the panacee to commit patterns to LTM?
It sure looks like it.
Can it be the missing element in MDLM's method?
I tend to think so. Since MDLM is the developer of his own system he possibly did his program with a conscious effort. Since we got the method "second hand" we were inclined to do the exercises on the automatic pilot. Hence with less result.

Maybe I see this conscious effort stuff way too rosy. If so, I trust that reality will soon catch up. If not, I might better call it Conscious Effort (TM).


  1. As for your blindfold chess endeavors, I noticed a while ago that the maker of the Chess Visualization Trainer recommends to start playing blindfold chess by blanking out just one quadrant at the beginning, then another, etc. until you play completely blind (I never tried to play blindfold myself, though, so I don't have any idea if this works). This also fits nicely into the title of your post :-)

  2. Sciurus,
    You correctly remark that the word "quadrant" is used by both the maker of CVT and me:)
    We don't mean quite the same with it though. I'm talking about "board visualization" while CVT talks about "piece visualisation". Actually I play allready blindfold with all quadrants blanked out. Which is going pretty well, besides the accidents with forgotten pawns every now and then. I can't handle too complicated situations, so I think my rating drops with 300 points or so. I haven't made an effort yet to actually "see" the pieces. I merely see the vague concept of a piece. But I see no reason why I shouldn't replace that vague concept with a clear virtual image of a handcut wooden piece.

  3. The first circles for MDLM are pretty explicitly for conscious evaluation and calculation in the position (10 minutes for problem). Perhaps helped the problems stick and explains why he did so well: 10 minutes on a problem is a long time (well, for most people: for you, a pittance). The latter circles he went really fast, pattern recognition.

  4. Tempo-
    sorry, but then it is still not clear to me what you mean with "quadrant". Are you talking about visualizing groups of squares?

    BlueDevilKnight: I think you have a point here. I have to rethink the way I am studying tactics. CTS just does not seem to get me improvement anymore.

  5. I'm not a big fan of the CTS. I like to have my own problems on my computer, and like to be able to take my time with them the first few times through to work on calculation. Plus, I want a smaller problem set, around 1000 problems, to literally work through multiple times to really stick them in long term memory.

  6. Sciurus,
    yes, I do separate exercises to learn to visualize the board without the pieces AND I do exercises for visualizing the pieces with an empty real board. The word quadrant is used for the exercises to visualize the board without the pieces.

  7. Blue,
    I have to experiment more with this conscious effort stuff. Don't think too light about a conscious effort, it is not so easy to do. When it isn't somewhat unpleasant, you are probably not making a conscious effort at all but the autopilot is at work. Which looks pretty conscious, but isn't actually.

  8. sounds a lot like what I've been saying for the past year. if the training feels easy and you don't get exhausted, it's not doing anything for you. pain is your friend.

  9. too tired tempo to add much,

    but yours is just about really the only blog i have been to all week,

    outside my preparation for my own posts, and just put the wraps on another one now... exhausting.

    thanks for all that you do, and i can read you better in time ahead when not 'spent'.

    warmest, dk