Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Plan B

The past week I have experimented with method A again. I observed that there is no lack of patterns stored in long term memory. The problem lies in the mechanism that decides which pattern to retrieve and which pattern not. The mechanism that controls where your attention over the the board is directed.

If not under the control of guidance, that mechanism works automatically. And automatically means semi-intelligent.

We can guide our attention with a thoughtprocess. This way we add real intelligence. This is a blunderprone, time- and energy consuming conscious process.

During a game under competitive circumstances, there is little time for conscience guidance, so we have to rely heavily on the semi-intelligent automatic move selection process.

Under the quiet circumstances of the study room, we must improve the semi-intelligence of the automatic move selection mechanism. I called this "adding intelligence".

We can influence the mechanical habits of the move selection mechanism only in an indirect way. By guiding it by means of conscious thoughts. Thus transferring conscious real intelligence to automatic semi-intelligence.

Method A is about the storage of new patterns in memory. Method B is about the selection mechanism that retrieves them. In our discussions we didn't make this clear distinction, and that causes a lot of fuzz. As you might have noticed.

I have been busy with the storage of patterns for 5 years. The first 3 years I made considerable progress, the next 2 years I stalled. With hindsight, I have tried to long to make it work again, denying the law of diminishing returns. I did that on purpose to make it absolutely clear that there was nothing to gain along that road anymore.

The past week I noticed that a lot of patterns have faded away from memory during the past 3 years after the excercises. This costed me a 150 ratingpoints the past years. Of course I will work on their refreshment the coming weeks. Once refreshed, I will get those 150 points back, no doubt about that.

Plan A, the storage of patterns, is something different than plan B, the retrieval of patterns. Excessive excercises along the lines of plan A don't have an effect on the retrieval of patterns. Of course, as long as you aren't stalling with the assimilation of patterns, you have to work on plan A. A pattern you haven't stored, you cannot retrieve. But when the law of diminishing returns takes over, further exercises along this line make no sense. Except to replenish the fading away of patterns from memory due to the progression of time. But that is only maintenance, which requires little effort. Maintainance which I am about to do.

The semi-intelligent move selection mechanism.
As said, we can only influence this mechanism in an indirect way by means of conscious guidance of attention. The past months I have been working on a thoughtprocess. Said thoughtprocess is ment to be the framework along which the attention is guided. Somehow I haven't been able to implement this in a systematic way. During the process, the thoughtprocess mutated a few times in an unexpected way, and before I noticed, old habits took over.

I think this is the main difference between juvenile and adult improvement. When you are young there are no habits ingrained in your brain while when you are older the old habits fight back. I don't think there is a physiological reason why the brains couldn't be reprogrammed, but it takes a precise method and more effort.

I will have to rethink this method.


  1. I noticed that some people have problems with the word verification so I set it off.

  2. Re: adult improvement, it's not only bad habits that are hard to break, but sometimes an entire cognitive approach. Chess coaches often complain that their adult students refuse to take guidance or to acknowledge there may be a different (better) way of thinking about their game.

    One of the things that has made a difference in the latest phase of my chess career is a willingness to challenge my previously "automated" thinking processes, which were revealed as faulty or insufficient. I have found analyzing my own games to be a useful method of forcing myself to recognize and confront flaws in my play.

  3. Hmmm, maybe solving and trying to understand all of these puzzles isn't the road to success like it's so popularly portrayed on the web. I know you've been honing in on tactics (which is very important don't get me wrong), but if it's not translating to stronger OTB chess then why not try something else entirely for 6 months? Sounds like it can't hurt and it would give you some time to refresh your mind...

    How much OTB chess do you play?

  4. as long as you fail your puzzles, you will find a piece of information that you missed.
    I believe you get confused because you focus on the piece of information that you did not miss but nevertheless you failed the puzzle. Then you get the conclusion that you did not miss the main idea, and hence there is no need to learn the pattern.
    However you completely seem to overlook, that you failed a puzzle for the reason. You need to learn that reason. It is not about learning the pattern you did not miss in the first place. It is about the piece of information that you didnt consider.

    If that piece of information is a pattern like "this is an exception to a rule you should know about", or a piece of information you may want to call "guidance" - well, it doesnt matter much, does it? Important is, that you learned the little piece of information you overlooked. It might be a pattern, it might be a guidance information. Who cares? Repeat your failed puzzles in order not to forget about this piece of information. Repeat your slow solved puzzles to make sure next time you access this information faster.

  5. @Munich,
    good points. I made a distinction between storage and retrieval for reasons of proper thinking. After some thinking I found the same as you describe here.

    I retrieve what is stored. I cannot retrieve what is not stored. So if there is something wrong with my retrieval, there is something wrong in my process of storage.

    During the storage process, intelligence must be added.
    During the 5 years of tactical training, I failed to do that in a proper way. The past week when experimenting with method A, I made the same mistake due to bad habits.


    A collection of Thinking-pattern with a loooot of exercises. Highly recommended by Jacob Aagaard - Excelling at Chess Calculation