Saturday, October 27, 2007

Digging a little deeper

Let me try to dig a little deeper in the findings of my previous post.

To know what to ignore.
I will start at the position where I start to see all kinds of phantoms (diagrams below). According to my thesis a grandmaster sees such position as simple. He just knows that when you add a bishop at b5 the only effect will be that the knight is pinned and that you can safely take the pawn on d4. It is very tempting to say that a grandmaster sees such position much quicker than we do. But that puts us easily on the wrong foot. It is better to say that he perceives the position differently. Simpler. He knows what to ignore. Speed is the result of this way of perceiving, not the cause. If we would see the position in the same way, we would make our moves at the same speed. The cause of the speed is the fact that there is no time needed for what is ignored. And on the other hand, if the grandmaster would haunt the same phantoms as we do, it would take him just as much time as us.
Of course it doesn't matter if the position is tactical or positional in nature.

I guess the same principle applies for all kinds of expertise. Margriet sees a piece of music as a central theme with ornaments, while I'm jui jitsu-ing with every note. As result she learns 4 voices within one hour, while I need 3 weeks for one voice.

How to simplify.
This is terra incognita. Doing the circles with tactical problems is a method to simplify OTB positions but it can hardly be called an efficient method. It's a method. A method that has simplification as an accidental side-effect. It's my bet that if you know what you are doing, know where you are after, a much more efficient method will be found.

This is my first attempt in that direction. To that end I take the following position and I will try to formulate a narrative and to proof its validity in such way that even my mind stops looking for phantom moves. The holy grail is to find narratives that both generalize and simplify. I will start where my mind isn't boggled too much yet:

White to move.

Later on, there will be a white bishop added at b5 and a black bishop on g6. But first I must be sure that every confusion in this position is removed. Let's inventory what elements play a role in the position above.

Since I have rewritten the text that should follow here already 3 times, I deciced to work it out in a seperate post. It proofs that matters are not so simple. However it is possible to work out the diagram position above over the board, it became obvious that such approach is already pretty taxing for the short term memory. So I will look at this position first in depth, before I will add the two bishops to the position. Any non-simplicity in this position will transit to the more difficult position with the pinning bishop. So I must wipe out every possible confusion of this position first.


  1. please retract all that i once said about you not sitting on elemental positions for long periods of time. :)

  2. Cool. I think it helped when I was on the last leg of my circles that I added to FOVEA the 'make the relevant (and only the relevant) pieces pop out.' It was often surprising how much material was irrelevant. But if you find something more efficient that will be great.

    How many slow games do you play, on average, a week? I get the impression that you play a lot. Does that help you build intuition? How much time do you spend in postmortem? (My answers: now that I'm done with the Circles, 3-4 slow games a week (minimum 40 30); I think it helps build intuition but especially it helps if I've studied that opening, looked for miniatures: studying miniatures seems to be one of the best intuition-builders I have found; I spend not enough time on postmortem, about a half hour on a game to go over it lightly on my own, and then Fritz it and post it; I should probably spend as much, if not more, time on the postmortem as the games, but I just end up bored).

  3. Why don't you try to get an interview with a GM to discuss your ideas?

  4. SP,
    I can't imagine that I'm wrong. But if you can, feel free to interview a GM:)
    Sorry, we agreed that I would leave the bad yokes to you, but I couldn't resist this one.

  5. SP: Tempo prefers to reinvent the square wheel, then the oval wheel. then the circular wheel, before talking to a wheelmaker.

  6. Blue,
    that might be the case, but you guys are as much in need for a wheel as I do. So why not stop giving silly advice and start to HELP? If you think that a wheelmaker can be of help, why do YOU not ask him? It's the idea of you guys, not mine. So who would be better suited for asking then you?

  7. Tempo: touchy touchy.

    I wrote a serious comment above.

  8. When sitting at the board, clock ticking, no wheelmaker sits besides us, so what we are forced to do is inventing the wheel time and again. Plus it is a big difference following the thoughts of a GM (you think you have understood but you haven't really) and have thoughts of our own.

  9. So why not stop giving silly advice and start to HELP? If you think that a wheelmaker can be of help, why do YOU not ask him? It's the idea of you guys, not mine. So who would be better suited for asking then you?

    If I would have thought of my own advice as being silly, I wouldn't have offered it in this case. If your opinion of my advice is that it's silly, that's just fine, but you also have to understand that I can't know beforehand what advice you might find useless or not.

    If your goal is to achieve rapid chess improvement, then my best guess of how you could find answers concerning the questions you posed, would be to ask an actual GM how he thinks in the positions you posted. That's why i proposed it. So, I thought YOU might benefit from talking to a GM, since it was YOU that posed the questions.

    As for offering help, I offered a few of my ideas in your earlier post and the one just mentioned. If you don't find my ideas helpful or if I don't have enough experience or knowledge to provide any actual help in your opinion, then there is not much to be done about it. Well, you could always give me a booty call when I reach 1700+. ;)

  10. the problem with asking a GM about these things is that they're likely to answer something like: "because it's the sort of move you do in these situations" or "the right move just popped into my head." or "I only look at one move, but it's always the right one."

    I believe it's because a part of the GM's brain tissue takes the 8x8 grid with pieces as an input, and spits out correct candidates 'automagically', because that's the way this specific part of neural tissue has been trained to work. then the conscious process takes over and a choice is made.

    that's the way I've always approached the problem anyway. and it seems to work for me. the black box approach.

  11. Christian: but tempo is spending days trying to figure this out, not at the board, but in the study. I think that is only commendable, and I envy his energy, but if you are arguing that a coach wouldn't be helpful, I don't buy it.

    Tempo I can't help much because he is just in a different level. I act as cheerleader and periodically gadfly by asking questions about his posts.

    But I'm sorry if my joke offended you tempo. It was meant as fun ribbing, not a stabbing.

  12. We obviously have a delicate situation here.

    It's true. I always get a bit cranky when people give me advice and I have the feeling that they wouldn't follow that advice themselves in a 100 years. Of course it is not done to actually say that. I know that very well.

    That's why I was very happy I could let pass this advice today with a joke (well, sort of). But when Blue made the same suggestion, I couldn't hide my opinion about the advice any longer. Which is both weak and reprehensible. I apologize for that.

  13. which is precisely why i often say just say 'BRAVO!' for it offends few and, when it does, cannot hurt.

    that is to say, sanskrit, तत् त्वं असि = "Tat Tvam Asi" (Thou Art That) ~Adi Shankaraor as the specialists in interpersonal communication call it simply 'allowing'.

  14. I always get a bit cranky when people give me advice and I have the feeling that they wouldn't follow that advice themselves in a 100 years.

    I sometimes ask a local IM about my own predicaments and he has always been very helpful, so I didn't think my advice was too detached from what I've done myself.

    And maybe I'm a complete madman, but I wouldn't have any problem with interviewing a GM. With the internet you're bound to find someone out there who is willing to discuss these issues. And if you don't, so what.

    In the end I can only concur with what Blue said: I don't have a lot of experience and knowledge when it comes to chess, and what I have to offer is mostly to stand next to Blue in a short skirt and wave my pom-poms' around, shouting encouraging stuff like: Goooooooo Tempo! Wooo!

    Keep up the good work!

  15. I had a coach who was very helpful. But after about two months, he told me I didn't need him, that my problems were not subtle: I needed to play more and work on tactics, and once I hit a plateau, to get a coach again.

    Tempo, it seems, does have subtle problems. You are advanced compared to the majority of bloggers especially Knights (you, likeforests, Glenn, loomis, Grandpatzer seem to be in a different league than the rest of us (sorry if I missed anyone else)).

    But we have discussed this before, and it seems you prefer to work without a coach (not to mention coaches are pretty expensive: mine was $45 an hour, and I just couldn't afford that any more).

    I just remember the last line of this post, but an escape from the conclusion here.

    The frustration I feel is you present a new idea. Attack it relentlessly for a few posts (I am the same way). Often end up in a subtle confused state, and then I get frustrated because I have no idea how to help. Like a typical male, I want to offer a solution, so all I can say is "Shit, you need a coach, as we aren't helping you!"

    But you seem to help yourself with this cyclic attack...

    At any rate, my first question about how many games you play, how long you spend on postmortem, was meant to get at what you were asking. First, what is lacking in the 'get the relevant pieces to pop out' approach, and second if the overall goal is to build intuitions for your actual games, what about more time on postmortems of your own games, and the study of miniatures from openings you play? Perhaps you have exhausted the latter. I'm just starting to appreciate it after the suggestion was given long ago by Funky Fantom.

    DK has taken more ribbing than anyone. I can't believe he doesn't get off into more diatribes.

  16. what I have to offer is mostly to stand next to Blue in a short skirt and wave my pom-poms

    OK, now I'm disturbed.

  17. OK, now I'm disturbed.

    Man, the whole cheerleader thing was your idea, and now you start picking on the one guy that took you seriously!