Monday, July 30, 2012

Brains for sale

Yesterday I encountered a problem at CT that I have done once a few days before. I remembered the position and I remembered parts of my analysis. I remembered different lines of investigation. I remembered that I had spent about an hour on it. What I didn't remember though was what the solution was.

White to move.
You can find the solution here.

After about 11 minutes trial&error I opted for 1.g4
Somehow I had envisioned a mate on c4, to deliver by b3. Which fails underway because at least two faults in the line, btw.

The correct answer is 1.Ke3, of course. I didn't even consider the move.

How can that be?
Some of my readers might suggest that I'm not familiar with the pattern. I have done Polgars brick, though and I estimate that somewhere around 1500-2000 problems of the 5333+1 had exactly this theme. Prevent a king who can walk around a pawn or a bishop to escape. There is no pattern I'm more familiar with than this.

Some might suggest, yes, but your braincells didn't release the pattern, so you should solve another 2000 problems with tis theme. But that is nonsense. If I had encountered this problem in Polgars book, 1.Ke3 had been my first move within seconds.

Again it must have been a context problem. I didn't expect a quiet move so I didn't see one.
I always have the idea that chess masters are not especially good in chess. Since the problems at masterlevel tend to be simple, in essence. The problem is that we seem to suffer from some kind of braindamage.

Something has gone wrong in the storage/retrieval process of chess moves and positions. Even studying the position for an hour a few days earlier didn't have a positive effect on that. What are we doing wrong? How can we rewire this?


  1. Move retrieval and configuration of pieces retrieval do not help here. Too many to remember and too many to retrieve. We are a piece down, so we either have to mate or win serious material. Mate looks more likely. The bolt hole on e4 is obviously the problem. 1.Qh7+ Kg4 2.Qg7+ Kh4 3.Qxf7+ Kg4 4.Qg5#, but Black can play 2.Kf4, so that does not work. How else can the bolt hole be closed? 1.Ke3 is the only move. 2.Nd4# is threatened. So is 2.Qxf7+ leading to mate as before. Black has no defence.

    This problem does not have a pattern it has a theme: bolt hole closure.

  2. This means that besides pattern recognition training we need additional theme training as well.

    My findings of the past few months point in the direction that theme recognition is my main problem.

    To be more precise:
    Interference of themes causes a temporary blindness for a certain theme. This blindness is context sensitive.

  3. As someone who has a 50% chance to solve this type of problems:
    At Standard firt thing: count material. Then calculate what you have to win at minimum. At this position you have to mate ( estimatingly ).
    Its an Endgame-type of problem, so its easy to calculatem, you can look easily at EVERY move and its "easy" to calculte till the "end".
    So if you cant calculate till mate then you simply should not make this move.
    Patternrecognition can help. If you are doing an awful lot of mates you will get a mating-feeling, you will know : do i have to, block escapefields, do i have to get more material to the target, do i have to get a defebder away asf.
    The concrete solution pattern is not of that absolute interest, because you have to judge all other possible methods to mate too. So you need to know "all" mating pattern well, that well that you can decide: at this position i have to keep the king at his place, its not about getting more material close to the target, its not .... , its not....
    Its the ability to judge without calculation!!
    The pattern to learn is the pattern of mating >>in general<<.

  4. @Aox,
    If you are looking at a cat but you are thinking about a chess problem, you don't recognize the cat since you don't see it. That doesn't mean that you don't know how to recognize a cat or are only half familiar with the cat-pattern. That's what happening here.

  5. I do not have an idealogical axe to grind here, but common sense tells me that an hour is 10 to 100 times long on one problem that turns out to be simple. It simply is not an efficient use of your time. You need to fail quicker, tackle easier problems or both. Working your way through Polgar once will not make you proficient at all the lessons that it has to teach for the rest of your life.

    Theme training is partly training in using the patterns that you know. It is also something you do when studying endgames and strategy.

  6. @BK,
    Since we haven't found a trainingmethod that adresses the problem I describe here, any time invested will be spilled. So I use my time to find an answer to this cognitive problem

    I'm always very focussed so I don't see what is not in focus.

  7. There is another element to it. I work my way trough thickets of variations by means of trial and error which is a good exercise in itself.

  8. Im starting to like this people here in the chess blogspot!
    How much pasion for chess is here,how much seriously everyone is taking every aspect of the chess as a training science,unfortunatly we,the real chess players i(in my case ukraine)donever mind it,i mean sodeeply as many chessfans worldwide in english speaking countries

  9. @Anon,
    thx for the cheering!
    Being a real chess player, can you enlighten us?

  10. Yeah tempo,i just did it two days ago,to ur gmail adress,butforsure i coulddo ithere too
    Sorryfor treat u as fans ,realy there are no fans,everyone is a fan,does murphy games now look like funny,but then back in 1890 it was very serious

  11. @Alex,
    I found your message in my spambox. I'm going to read it.

  12. I solved it, probably in the average time of 2-3 minutes.

    Most important is the knowledge that a knight is a good defender against a queen. I knew from other puzzles, that I dont need to worry about checks if I have a knight defending my king.
    Or the other way round: If you want to check mate the opponent, get rather rid of his knight than of his rook or bishop.

    This knowledge enabled me to see, that a king move would not be dangerous for me and so I pretty soon so the kings move.

    Still it took me 2-3 minutes, because I needed this time to do the "step back" and stop calculating around with trial and error and do this general thinking.

    I can give you examples where my knight-rule works out, too.
    It is a very difficult rule to learn, because it is not obvious. It is acutally a guidance rule, and not a pattern. Though a guidance rule is somehow a pattern, too.
    The difference between these two is not always easy to tell.

    Anyway, do yourself a favour and learn this by heart:
    "If in doubt and you cant see clear, then a knight is usually the best defender a king can wish for."