Monday, April 28, 2008

Apprentice with an attitude problem

I called the procedural memory the ultimate apprentice since it works by imitation. In the past weeks I used the word "consciousness" to indicate the decisive factor whether the apprentice would learn something or not. But I now realize that is the wrong term. The difference is made by the attitude of the apprentice. Whether his attitude is "active and inquisitive" or "passive and lazy".

I gave an example of the choir I'm in where the people have problems with singing the vocals. Margriet has corrected us about 50 times, yet we forget it and make the same mistakes over and over again. The first problem is that we don't hear it ourselves. The second problem is that we don't believe Margriet. The third problem is that we think it's our neighbours problem. The fourth problem is that we act passively. "Margriet must make us sing well" while we lay back. You can't say we are unaware or unconscious of the problem. But we treat it as if is is purely theoretical.

The only way to solve this problem is to become active and to take the responsibility of the problem ourselves. Only if we start to work ourselves we can begin to hope to solve the problem.

This example put me on track to identify what goes wrong with our chess study. Why knowledge isn't "transferred" to the board. If the apprentice is passive, the knowledge isn't transferred to the procedural memory, no matter how often it is repeated. There has to be a certain tension, an active attitude which is paramount.

If you have driving lessons you don't lay back and say "the instructor is responsible for the fact whether I get an accident". In stead the sweat drips from your armpits in your attempts to do things right. That's the attitude needed. Otherwise eternal patzership is our fate.


  1. Attentiveness is probably also key, but all these things (attention, consciousness, inquisitiveness toward X are all highly correlated with one another, though not identical).

    I certainly found I learned faster with my active approach to tactical puzzle solution learning, much faster then when using the passive 'stare for 10 minutes at the problem trying to figure it out' method.

    It was also much more mentally taxing, something I had trouble doing when tired. I looked at that as a good thing. It meant I wasn't on auto-pilot.

  2. I very much enjoyed reading your posts and it is interesting to see that you continue to refine your ideas. I absolutely agree with your analysis of the problem but I am not sure that I do see a concrete solution.

    Certainly, attentiveness or conscience is vital for effective training, however, all this is still quite abstract. I would like to know: What kind of training would you suggest? What kind of training does enforce or at least support an attentive / active approach?

  3. Anonymous,
    thank you, you encourage me to continue. So I've started to work on a post how an exercise should look like, given the analysis so far.

  4. Here's another blogger that recently highlighted the importance of scanning

    I doubt the link will correctly show up in your comments, so I'll repeat that it's on the website under Expert Blogs written by Andres Hortillosa entitled Mastering Chess Tactics, Part 1.

    I think he's planning on writing about an orderly scanning method.

  5. Now that I've skimmed Hortillosa's method, I'm a little underwhelmed. In answer to 'How can I see more?' he seems to be saying 'Be more thorough and careful.' The method hinges on steps 1. Initiate broad reconnaissance & 2. Look for specific threats. The method doesn't seem to increase the success of this happening. He does allude to his trick of looking for knight forks by looking for pieces on the same color. I'm not sure I learned how to spot difficult-to-spot moves.

  6. His articles are very good (he basically advocates a seven-step thought process that looks pretty good).

    The original two articles can be found here.

    I have tried to find 'real game' tactics in my database, but it seems to always find game fragments rather than real miniatures.

    Many of his criticisms are solved by Cheng's wonderful book, where you aren't given the type of problem (tactic, strategy), only a position. This is why I like Cheng so much, as it is so good for practicing a thought process that is more like real games than puzzles segregated by topic.

    And I like his idea of looking at tactical problems in the context of real games. Nobody does that anymore, but with software it would be quite economical.

  7. Ooops, link to cheng's book above empty, it can be found here.

  8. Thx for the links guys. I'm busy reading them. Sorry I go a bit fast but I have written a new post already. I have a few days off and I don't want the flow to stagnate.