Polly posted an interesting article about an endgame position. For your convenience I repeat the diagram here.
Black to move
I must make myself perfectly clear: I don't want to talk about this position again. But when I compared the comments of Likesforests and me, I noticed something that is very important. I might misinterpret LF's comments, but that doesn't change the outcome of this story.
I entered the position quite blanco, while LF immediately sensed what the essence of the position was. For me it was not evident at all that white was winning. Why not black?
If I had remembered some rules about pawnstructure I could have thought that black is winning since his structure is better: less pawn islands, les isolated pawns and no double pawn. But in stead of remembering I choose the lazy man's solution: I fired up Rybka with the Nalimov tablebases. Since I had no clue I investigated a lot of different variations. After quite some time it started to dawn what this position was about. Only after finding the right plan in the position I was able to calculate the relevant variations.
I sensed that LF immediately saw the right plan, so the position was simple for him from the beginning.
Let me recapitulate:
- I started the position blanco.
- I did a lot of trial and error to find the right plan of the position.
- The trial and error consisted of calculating all kinds of candidate lines.
- After finding the plan, the previous calculation is more or less down the drain.
- After finding the plan, I have to calculate the relevant lines to execute the plan
- After finishing the position I don't expect that this is going to enhance my endgame skills since I have no referential framework where I can fit in this experience. So future retrieval will be impossible.
- He immediately senses the right plan due to familiarity with this kind of positions, he is an endgame lover.
- He immediately starts to calculate the line that executes the plan. Since he hasn't lost energy with calculating irrelevant lines he hasn't lost calculating energy.
- He senses immediately that a move like h5 for white (which is counter intuitive for mere mortals) deprives black from all counterplay.
- Maybe he even learned something from the position since he has a referential framework to hang on his experiences.
The question is: how can I bridge the gap?
This translates to: how do I get a referential framework?
I must transform the solution of the problem to an element of the framework. After I exhausted myself (Rybka) with solving the position I'm not ready yet. I must add a conscious effort to transform the position. This is done by creating a narrative like the following:
The main trump of white is his king position. His king is ready to clear the road to promotion of the a-pawn. This supersedes all other considerations about the pawn structure. Black can try to stop the a-pawn, but then you have the familiar situation of stopping an outside passer, which will be won by white. So the question is, has black a counterattack? From the position on the right wing alone black could force a passer. But it takes too much time.
The interesting thing is that all elements in the narrative are already familiar! But recognizing the elements consciously in this position is what makes the difference. In practice it is very tempting to put all energy in the solution and stopping short to transform the solution into an element of the referential framework. Especially under time pressure if you intend to do x problems in y time.
Now let me try to extrapolate this example to the difference between a grandmaster and an amateur. The difference between a grandmaster and an amateur like me is based on the fact that he is familiar with more positions than me. Not with all positions, mind you, but relatively more positions. Be it in the opening, the middlegame or the endgame. This familiarity makes that he sees more positions as simple, while he doesn't spill time and energy to calculate irrelevant lines in order to find the plan.