According to the chess exam I'm a fairly balanced chessplayer. I only suck at calculation. I suspected that a bit, but now I know for sure. All my tactical efforts and all the methods I have used didn't adress that problem. I am not the only one. Blunderprone recognized the same problem after doing the circles of madness. That indicates an essential flaw in our methods.
The strategy I followed the last year was to avoid complex positions with heavy-duty-calculations. For instance I throwed all my gambits out of the window. I was pretty succesful with that strategy and it gained me more than 100 points.
Which is in a certain way an indication of what the influence of bad calculation is. I'm sure that I can make more progress on that path (avoiding complexity), maybe another 100 points or so. But in the end I will inevitably hit the wall: bad calculation. This means that if I want to make some serious progress I must fix this problem.
I have no idea what calculation actually is. What the exact problem with calculation is. Otherwise I wouldn't have deceived myself by thinking that I made progress with calculation. I made certainly progress while doing tactical problems. But I didn't made progress with calculation. So that is the first task, to identify what calculation is about and what it's place is in the total area of chess thinking.
There are two main areas of chess thinking.
The knowledge/insight/conscious/declarative/slow/sequentieel area and the skill/unconscious/procedural/automatic/fast/parallel part. To simplify the text I will identify these areas with the terms knowledge and skill.
If I compare that with a clarinetplayer, a clarinetplayer needs skill to operate his instrument. But skill alone is not enough. Besides skill he needs the knowledge about what he should play. Without that knowledge he simply continues to play his toneladders and arpeggios without a purpose. Knowledge provides the insight in what direction to go. What to play and how. The instrument is played automatically by skill.
What is the relative proportion of knowledge and skill in chess?
With knowledge but without skill you know what to do but you are not able to do it without losing material on the way or other unexpected results.
With skill but without knowledge you can schwindle your way out of difficult situations, but you make serious positional blunders when there is not much to do.
The best games by the best CC players that aren't OTB players are a few hundred points lower rated than the best games by super grandmasters who play OTB.
It is reasonable to assume that CC players are able to equalize the skill of a grandmaster by using 10 days per move in stead of 3 minutes per move. Which means that it is the knowledge of the super grandmaster that makes his games of a higher quality. He evaluates the positions better. Because he has more adequate knowledge.
Calculation operates on the cutting edge of both knowledge and skill.
In itself calculation is a conscious process, but in order to take place it is assisted by a whole bunch of skills which are performed unconscious. Every conscious process has a serial flow and makes heavily use of the Short Term Memory (STM). The STM has about 5-9 placeholders for information and information in it decays within a minute or less, so it has to be repeated constantly to prevent it from fading away.
A serial process seems hardly suited to process Kotov's tree of analysis. A tree can have lots of branches which sprout from various junctions. This means that you have to simulate parallel processing in a serial way.
There are a lot of tasks to perform. I identified the following tasks:
- generating sensible candidate moves
- visualisation of the moves
- keeping stock of which branches you have processed
- evaluation of the position at the end of a branch
- keeping stock of those evaluations
- keeping stock of the pieces that are traded in a line
- try to make incomplete lines work
- get new ideas
- work backwards from ideas to make them work
- keep stock of two simultaneous lines if there is both an attack and a counterattack going on
What are the possibilities to improve calculation or to lessen the effect of bad calculation?:
- Avoidance of complex calculations.
- Improve the performance of my STM.
- Transfer of tasks from conscious processing to unconscious processing. Which can happen parallel and doesn't make use of STM.
About the second option: I can't imagine that that is possible.
That leaves the third option. Given the fact that I already tried a whole load of methods to little avail the question remains: how?