Saturday, January 19, 2008

Becoming a mumbling chessplayer


















In my previous post I concluded (if you read between the lines) that the only training that actually worked made use of the verbal capacities of the brain. In order to check my findings I started to solve problems at Chess Tempo while describing the characteristics of the position and the moves by speaking out loud.

"Ok, here I see that the king can be driven away towards my own pieces. I must prevent that he escapes via d6. I can prevent that by Nc4+. I can safely play that since his knight on b6 is pinned" etc., etc..

I take ample time to describe everything that is going on in the position before I play through the solution. After all what I want to learn is to recognize the elements of a combination in every position. Of course the experiment isn't conclusive yet. But I noticed 3 intrigueing things.

  • In the period I had my greatest ratinggrowth I felt sharp. During the circles I have hardly felt that. But during these new exercises I felt sharp again for the first time again after long.
  • My "chess vision" was empowered again for the first time since long. The last time was during the period of ratinggrowth. With chess vision I mean that I look at the invisable patterns at the board instead of at the pieces. The patterns formed by the covered squares that is.
  • I noticed characteristics of the problemset that didn't appear to me before. The problemset of Chess Tempo contains a lot of traps in the form of driving the king or the queen into a matingnet. Sometimes winning pieces if the opponent tries to defend that. In comparison: I have no idea what kind of problems are the most common on CTS, allthough I have done 70,000+ problems there. So I get important meta-information.
As said, no conclusive evidence. But suggestive indications aplenty.

I got an e-mail of a british player of approximately 2200 who said that he had learned to play chess according to the following method:

"I started playing games against myself. Soon after this, I started to try and create brilliant finishes to my games. These you would call chess problems. Problems which I created myself. So I taught myself tactics, I discovered ideas well before I ever heard their names. I would bet that this is what other boys had been doing throughout history."

That is an interesting idea. It's my take you need the verbal aspect when you create your own problems from your own games. I will first continue my current experiment before I'm going to try the suggested approach. I don't want the results to get intermingled.

14 comments:

  1. I wonder if this is one of the big differences between adult and child chess learners. There are players way better than me who are pure intuition, have been playing since little kids, are awful at explaining things. They really would be awful coaches, for instance.

    I wonder if for adults, because we already have our childhood intuitions in place, it helps us more to develop intuitions to explicitly narrate. I know in my final set of Circles problems, I remembered things much better, and felt like I had developed an intuition for the problems, that I hadn't for the problem sets I circled without narratives.

    My hunch is the more ways we explain something, the more levels of abstraction, the more the understanding will percolate into the interstices of our chess module. E.g., we can think in terms of moves and pieces, in terms of squares, in terms of the types of the strategic factors that made the tactic available (e.g., he has weak dark squares and no dark bishop), in terms of general material count considerations (e.g., I have five pieces aimed at his K-side, and he has 2 defending), etc..

    But, dammit, I wish I had the brain of a 6 year old. Then all this crap would be unecessary.

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  2. Hi,

    I think it's a good idea to divide a position into its parts or at least a thought one has about it. I've also found that looking for something that's the best that might ever be in this position helps, even if it is obviously impossible to reach. Because when you start asking yourself why exactly is it impossible a lot can be found out about the position- even things unrelated to the original idea, this way you get useful answers even when asking the wrong questions. And from these answers there might be a way to the right questions, which might produce a better answer, which might be less abstract. After all, in the end we need a concrete move (in the given time). The whole "narrative approach" is a great idea as long as it's not stressed over the top.

    kind regards,
    svensp

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  3. Nothing really new to note, but I just wanted to echo what you said. I've found that when I take the time to really understand a position, I end up mumbling to myself ... explaining what is going on and why.

    Good post!

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  4. Blue,
    But, dammit, I wish I had the brain of a 6 year old. Then all this crap would be unecessary.

    If everybody tells to your 6 year old brain that you are magnificient then seeds are sown for megalomania. Before you know it you it you think you are an ├╝bermensch or a future president of Russia:)

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  5. Svensp,
    The whole "narrative approach" is a great idea as long as it's not stressed over the top.

    I'm not quite sure I know what you have in mind?

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  6. Looking for tactics in EVERY position is not practical. Balance is needed to understand the quiet positions too. That is where I find my biggest problem and a struggle with impatience.

    Using a narative does help direct teh thought process in these more positional setups. It takes almost a meditative process and helps curb the impatience.

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  7. "I'm not quite sure I know what you have in mind?"

    It can be very helpful to verbalize, but in the end there is no way around concrete calculation and this is where the main work is being done.

    kind regards,
    svensp

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  8. Svensp,
    I consider the verbal method especially suitable for the study room in order to learn to calculate. I suspect your opponents will object anyhow if you start to mumble:)

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  9. Are you skipping Corus this year?
    I miss those reports !

    Jim

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  10. Tak,
    yes, alas, I must content people with a distorted picture of the priorities in life, these days:)

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  11. Temposchlucker,

    Well, I already thought you didnt suggest to keep on mumbling constantly (or even occasionally) during serious play :)

    But in the end this method isn't that different from what might happen during a game (and is part of the "narrative"-idea), only it's inside the mind this time. Although it can't be done to the extreme then for lack of time.

    kind regards,
    svensp

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  12. That cartoon was completely awesome, and I'm afraid it's a fairly good summary of the ability of the US gov't

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