Saturday, August 11, 2007

Question from a lurker

I got an E-mail with a question today which I will repeat below.

Dear Sir: I enjoy reading your chess posts. Though not a Knight myself, I am one of countless "lurkers." With respect to your post on "Seeing instead of understanding," I would like to share a (somewhat speculative) thought. Let me proceed by analogy. When first trying to play an unfamiliar piece on the piano, one must consciously attend to the mechanics of playing each note; only after much practice does the performance process pass to another region of the brain, and thus appear as a nearly unconscious act. As a former teacher I believe that something similar happens when learning mathematics. It seems to me in chess it is the same way: You must first practice (and practice and practice...) *understanding*, and in time, you will *see*. Does this seem correct to you? Sincerely, RC

It is always nice to hear something from the contingent of "silent voyeurs" since it is always very mysterious what they think and why they are reading my blog.
Clarity doesn't harm so I will try to answer the question and explain again what I'm up to with my experiments.

The process of learning is very precise. There are a few different components in the process and if they all are 100% in line with each other you will learn at lightning speed. If the components are not aligned and in proportion by even the slightest bit, the learning speed will decline dramatically.

The process of learning starts with knowledge. Without knowledge there can't be no learning. Knowledge can come from a lot of different sources.

When you apply consciousness to knowledge it can become understanding.

In order to refine the understanding it must be put into practice. The results from practice must be analyzed. A good way to do this is to construct a narrative about what you have found in practice.

This I repeat from an old post:
There is a saying repetitio mater studiorum est. For the non-latinists among us repetition is the mother of study. The circles are based on this idea. My findings are different though. I would replace the saying with consciousness is the mother of study. Only in the case you have trouble to focus your attention undivided, you need repetition. Since we are used to operate on the automatic pilot most of the day, this is usually the case. But repetition in itself invites us to use the automatic pilot, in which case we pass over our goal. Belief me, I know what repetition is and what it does by now.

Current experiment.
I'm practicing complex tactical problems from Polgars middlegame book. Past week I encountered a problem that took me a lot of time. I made narratives for every single line. I complained that I could not see the fact that the f7-square is weak and ready for invasion, although all my narratives pointed that way. Today I realised what was missing: I had made narratives for all lines, but not for how to recognize a weak square ready for invasion. Today I filled in this hiatus, and now I can indeed see that f7 is ripe for invasion.
So there is an important relation revealed between seeing and understanding: when you don't see it, you don't understand it. Now I can try to put the new understanding into practice by doing different problems.
I hope RC's question is answered.


  1. So, what is your narrative for recognizing the weak f7 square?

  2. In order to prevent you from becoming lazy and to let me do all the dirty work, what would be yours? Please give me a chance to learn something from you:)