In case you wondered why I blog so much while chess is on the backburner due to the calling of life, I use blogging as a break from the things I have to do (ok, I mean to postpone them). Don't underestimate the amount of free time that is released by no study and no play. Besides that, I blog about topics that fill my mind. This way I get them out of the way (ok, that's just an excuse for postponing).
Polly created a nice metaphor which is worth repeating here:
An interesting picture to use with this article, but without the necessary components and wheels that will simply be a bike frame, and not a bicycle to travel on. We're like the frame, but without the different components of the game we will not be able to move forward in our quest to become better chess players. The coach or mentor is like the guy in the bike shop who helps us decide what we're going to put on that frame to make it go from expensive piece of titanium to a functioning bike. If we're doing it on our own we may look through parts catalogues and pick what we want ourselves, or get recommendations from our peers. We still have another step once we picked what we want to put on that frame. It needs to be built. We may choose to build it ourselves, or may may have the mechanic help us. Chess study is the same way. We may slug it out on our own using books, trainer servers, software, or we may have the coach help us put it all together. Just like the cyclist who decides he wants a lighter set of wheels, or make other changes to improve the ride, we do the same thing as chessplayers. Maybe all the tactics stuff was a good starter kit, but now to improve we need to swap out the tactics server for more intense opening or end game study. Maybe we need junk the 30 games of blitz a night for 1 game played at a traditional time limit. The possibilities are endless.
Sciurus asked the following question:
What makes a good framework? Is it a collection of important concepts and a coach aids with the selection to distinguish important from unimportant stuff? Or merely a bunch of important pattern that guide you to an answer via pattern recognition, which would bring us back to a very old topic? Or something else?
Let me try to explain.
Every conscientious chess author warns us to stay sharp. What often is forgotten that it is necessary to become blunt first. Only when you know the mainstream ideas the appeal to beware of exceptions make sense. The chess author of course knows the mainstream ideas very well already. So his appeal to stay sharp is due to a lack of empathy with amateurs. Amateurs need to learn the mainstream ideas first. They need to become blunt. That is where the framework comes in.
It is easy to become vague at this point. A term like framework invites to that. I will try to avoid that. To get the right picture we must ask ourselves the following question: What exactly is it that makes the endgame position of the previous posts simple for Likesforests while it looks like a mess where everything seems to be possible for Wormwood and me? The answer to this question gives the right idea what a framework is all about.
A framework helps to see a position as simple. It provides the clue to a position. Let's assume a position where the clue is the principle of two weaknesses. Let's assume we are not familiar with this principle. The chance that you find the right move by trial and error of logical looking candidate moves is probably close to zero. If you don't know that you have to induce a second weakness, you have to try the right move by accident, and mere calculation must show you that that is the right move to go. As said, the chance that that happens is close to zero, the fact that such random calculation costs time and energy makes matters even worse.
So the ultimate framework is the system that provides clues that make the positions simple. Maybe you have noticed that when you look at a grandmaster game for the first time, there are lots of mysterious moves. But when someone explains it to you, the moves look really simple. Or maybe you have noticed that if you think you have played a great game, and you come home and show it to somebody, all moves look so trivial? It only happens very seldom that a move remains difficult and non-trivial even after the underlying idea is explained.
As amateur you have one very big disadvantage. Before you study something, you have no means to decide if the study will be profitable. So you must gamble.
The ones who do know what will be profitable and what not, I mean the coaches, the authors of chessbooks and the grandmasters, lack the imagination which is necessary to know what the amateur needs. Despite the fact that they can provide the knowledge, they don't. Since they don't realize what is important for the amateur. While the amateur doesn't know what he is missing. So he can't ask.
So to build your framework from knowledge provided in chessbooks is a daunting task. Even if you have gathered all important parts, there is still something needed to make it work. You have to know which part is important and which is not. Only practice can help here. After working for 6 months on pawnendings with SOPE, PCT endgame module and Polgars endgame brick I was acquainted with all elements of pawnendings. But I had hardly ever used it in practice. I had no idea of the relative priority of the consecutive elements, as Marty pointed out in one of the comments. The study was unbalanced. With way too much focus on exceptions while I had no idea what was common in practice. I had never thought about the cohesy of the knowledge. The post of Polly was the first confrontation after a long time of the acquired knowledge with reality. Nothing came up in my mind. I must admit that firing up Rybka before thinking yourself is a bad habit. But why didn't anything came up? On some place in literature the importance of "an active king" was emphasized. But for me that was rather abstract. Now for the first time in practice I realized that an active king means that it can help a pawn to promote. I realized that in this position that was more important than anything else. The active white king made that the attack was stronger then to defend against the promotion of the black pawns. It was a reality check of theoretical knowledge.
- You have to gather the elements of the framework from books etc..
- The elements need to undergo a reality check. That is not the same as doing exercises of which you don't know if they are actual common in practice.
I noticed that in almost all my cc-games there comes a moment where I have no clue about what to do next. Actually that is a perfect indicator for lacunas in my framework. A pity that it is so difficult to find out what is the indicated way to go in such positions. For that, a coach would come in handy. Or maybe we should start a studygroup via the internet and comment on each others clueless positions?