Tuesday, December 22, 2015

An example

  • Solve the problem.
  • Decompose the problem
  • Train your vision with the result of the decomposition.
  • Repeat the vision training for the 10% positions you had the most problems with initially
Step 1. Solve the problem.
Diagram 1
 I did solve this problem from CT. I'm not sure if I failed, or if it only took me a terrible lot of time. Anyhow, it ended up in my pile 10% worst performances. After I found the solution, I wasn't able to grasp the whole position. Time to take a better look at it.

Step 2. Decompose the problem.
The goal is to get a better grasp of the position. What are the elements of the combination? What defense is used? Can I make a narrative that tells the story of this combination?

 Diagram 2.
This element shows the tactical motif "double attack" against K and R with 1.Re8+
There are 3 defences against this:
  • Annihilation of the attacker by 1... Rxe8 2.Rxe8+
  • Blocking the line of attack by 1... Rf8
  • Escape by 1... Kh7

Annihilation doesn't get rid of the attacker.
Blocking takes away a defender from another place.
Escape simply gives a rook away.
This is a typical example of a "duplo attack". White creates two threats with one move, and black has to defend against two threats with one move.

Diagram 3.
The next tactical motif: knightfork.
Re8+ clears the square e7 which gives the chance for the knightfork Ne7+
Currently Rf7 prevents the fork.
A fork is another example of a duplo attack: two threats with one move.
Diagram 4.
Tactical motif: overloading.
The black rook on f7 is overloaded. It has two tasks: protect e7 against the knightfork, and block the check with Rf8
Diagram 5.
Tactical motif: mate

After 1.Re8+ Kh7 2.Rxa8 there is still a threat left: 3.Rh8#
Black has two lines of defence:
  • counter attack
  • blocking the line of attack
 The counter attack 2.... Qxc2+ 3.Ka1 soon peters out so blocking the attack with 2.... Rf8 3.Rxf8+ Qxf8 4.Nxf8 is the only miserable option left.
The initial position contains a combination with 4 tactical motifs. A narrative would tell something like this:
1.Re8+ is a double attack on Ra8 and Kg8. There are 3 lines of defence for black to choose from:
  • Escape with 1....Kh7 which gives the rook on a8 away.
  • Blocking the check with 1... Rf8 which gives the queen away due to knight fork 2.Ne7+
  • Annihilation of the attacker with 1... Rxe8 2.Rxe8+ Rf8 3.Rxf8+ Qxf8 and black is lost.
After the decomposition of the position in its constituent components and rebuilding it with a little story, the position that initially looked complex, now has become very clear.

Step 3. Train your vision with the result of the decomposition.
Usually we stop after step 2. Or even worse, after step 1. But we only have had some training so far for our use of trial and error, and a little bit of logical thinking. But the real problem isn't addressed just jet. It took me an hour to transfer a complex position into a simple one. Now I see it as a simple position. But what is necessary to see it as a simple position right away? That's why I introduced step 3. I don't know what exactly, but we have to train our vision here, so the next time it will become easier to see any position with these motifs more simple.

What I do right now, is I look at the initial position, and I try to see all tactical motifs. I try to see all possible defences against each motif. I want the motifs and the important squares yell at me "over here, I'm over here!!". I want to see. Not to think. I want to learn the utmost of my mistakes, and prevent to make them ever again.

This step is still under construction.

Step 4. Repeat the vision training for the 10% positions you had the most problems with initially
There is a high probability that if my vision hasn't improved immediately after step 3, that I have forgotten the details within a month or more. Or less, in a worst case scenario. That's why I put this in ANKI and repeat the positions, until my vision becomes more steady.

90% of my failures are not so complex, which means that step 1 and 2 take 10-15 minutes to fully comprehend them, then I take 5-10 minutes to visualize the motifs before my minds eye, and skip step 4.

I hope the idea is more clear now.


  1. Now I know and understand what you mean! Thanks a million! I will write my comments after I think it over. There are some hidden resources and it will be a good idea to uncover these!

    Hint: try to analyse WHY the whole scenario was possible. The deeper you think, the more invisible (not obvious) ideas you can find ;) :)

  2. The ( theoretical ) tactical weaknesses ( HE's http://www.neoneuro.com/downloads/hetable.pdf ) are

    Ra8 unprotected
    Nd4 unprotected
    Kg8 Kings are always a tactical weakness but here there are squares under controll of the white knight and via xray by the white Queen and Re7 too
    Kg8,Qf5 forkable by the knight ( pieces which can be moved away are to be ignored )
    Black has a weak backrank

    Pc2 underprotected
    Kb1 xray attacked
    Pg2 unprotected
    Qh4 unprotected

    next step is: to see which of these weaknesses are real ( interesting ) and because you are white we look for the usable black weaknesses

    Ra8 unprotected
    --->Nd4 unprotected--->out
    Kg8 Kings are always a tactical weakness but here there are squares under controll of the white knight --->and via xray by the white Queen and Re7 too--->out
    Kg8,Qf5 forkable by the knight
    Black has a weak backrank

    Now you need to find candidates and it should try to attack Ra8 and or Kg8 and or make space for Ne7
    and Re8 is the first move to calculate anyway because of CCT

  3. @Aox, you stop after the prework is done, but after that the actual training just begins.
    There are different approaches for the prework. It doesn't really matter all that much.

  4. Temposchlucker,

    Welcome back to the chess blogosphere! Merry Christmas!

    PART 1:

    I've tried the MDLM idea (NOT the 7 circles of hell as written) of training tactics almost exclusively, without significant improvement at Chess Tactics Server or Chess Tempo. I recently added Chess Academy/Tactics. By changing my focus from tactical themes to combinational motifs, I experienced a fairly recent significant jump in rating. I had been stuck on CTS at about 1450; I now score fairly close to 1550-1600 (currently 1551, 34371 tries @ 78.9%. On Chess Academy/Tactics for a relatively short time, my last rating is 1965! The distinction between CTS and Chess Academy/Tactics is the time limit; CTS has a very strict time limit; Chess Academy/Tactics does not have one (that I can tell).

    I was studying Emanuel Lasker's Lasker's Manual of Chess (again, for the umpteenth time) and observed something that I had not given sufficient attention. In the Third Book - The Combination. - Lasker does not define tactics by the tactical theme, but by the underlying motif (motivation or reason for the existence of a combinative possibility). Before illustrating some of these motifs, I want to include a distinction also made by Peter Romanovsky in Soviet Middlegame Technique, pp224-225, Quality Chess.

    "We have given these examples(to which a good many more could be added) mainly to draw attention to those features of a position which stimulate the mind and imagination to search for a combination.

    "The peculiarities of a position that express a certain potential for combination can most conveniently be called combination motifs. In the combination that never occurred in the Alekhine-Euwe game, the principal motif (or leitmotif) was the undefended state of Black's Queen on e5. Once Euwe defended the Queen with his Bishop, this motif disappeared and the combination became impossible. Of course, by way of supplementary motifs, the position of White's Knight on g5, and also of his Queen, had a role to play. Both these pieces had taken up aggressive posts in the vicinity of Black's somewhat open King position.

    "As the study of numerous tactical processes has shown, the undefended state of a piece is one of the important motifs giving rise to a combination. The rationale of this motif is that it supplies the instigator of the combination with the prospect of a double attack, either on two undefended pieces or on one such piece with a simultaneous check to the King.

    "This is just what could have happened in the position we examined from the Alekhine-Euwe game, after 26.Qh8+ Kxh8 27.Nxf7+.

    "Chess history is familiar with many a combination on the double attack theme. This theme is widely encountered today.

    "Here we come into contact with one other concept that is essential to our study of the combinative process. This concept is what we characterize as the theme of a combination.

    "If a motif can be called the stimulus to a combination, the "theme" is equated with its culmination, that is, the final situation in which the combinative project is realized.

    "The theme, so to speak, sums up the whole combination and draws the conclusion from it."

    I know it seems pedantic to draw a sharp distinction between motif and theme, but it has the benefit of clarifying your point about vision.

  5. PART 2:

    Returning to Dr. Lasker: he distinguishes (at least) 7 motifs, and illustrates the typical tactical themes. I've written those 7 motifs down, separate from any examples. They are:

    Motif #1: Encircling - A piece with little or no mobility, combined with superior force against that piece.

    Motif #2: Geometrical - Simultaneous attacks and defenses predicated upon the geometrical relationship between pieces, based on the movement(s) of the attacking piece(s). In visualizing, look from the piece all the way to the edge of the board, not just to the first obstruction or target.

    Intersection - Disruption of coordination by occupation of a common square required by two or more pieces simultaneously.

    Obstruction - Prevention of movement of a piece that obstructs another piece.

    Removal of obstruction - Self-explanatory.

    Motif #3: Assault - Allow no time for the defense to move a piece into position to defend by using forcing moves.

    Motif #4: Function MOST IMPORTANT! - The power of a piece is decreased whenever it has a function that must be performed (usually, it is a defensive function).

    Motif #5: Desperado - Violent removal of a piece that is aiding the opponent.

    Motif #6: Loose Pieces Drop Off (John Nunn) - A loose piece (inadequately or barely adequately defended) can be utilized as the basis for a combination in conjunction with another weakness. Utilize the principle of two weaknesses.

    The tactical themes and mating attacks are applied after identifying the motif(s). Instead of looking at pieces exclusively, look at the squares needed to realize the idea of the combination.

    I know this is extremely abbreviated and probably not as clear as it could be, but I think it corresponds nicely with your notion of vision - seeing what is possible and then figuring out how to utilize it.

    In any event, something else to think about!

  6. @RC, thanks for the contribution. Good to know to have the blessing of Dr. Lasker :)

  7. Another insight(?) that I had is related to material value and to the "weight" of an attack against a piece/square.

    The material value (I'll use the Reinfeld relative values P=1, N=3, B=3, R=5, Q=9, K=∞) is very strongly correlated with the average (mean) mobility value on a board that is devoid of other pieces. This is not a very realistic assessment except for crude determinations of relative value during an exchange process. This is the basis of "counting" during an exchange, in order to avoid losing material. However, for the purpose of finding tactical shots, this idea of relative material value is useless. I am amused when I see (for example, the Kaufman relative values of P=1, N=3.25, B=3.25, R=5, Q=9.75, K=∞) amassed from an enormous database of chess games. The relevant question is merely this: what value does this piece have in this position? It has everything to do with what function that piece has (if any) and how it contributes to what needs to be done in this given position, and NOTHING whatsoever to do with the relative average value on an uncluttered board.

    Consider: regardless of the relative material value, a given piece (I include Pawns here) has an attack "weight" of 1 on any given square at any given time. It is not some real number with a fractional part, as used by computers. The attacking "weight" of a Pawn and a Queen on a given square is exactly the same. While calculating the interacting relationships of pieces and squares for tactical purposes, ignore the relative material values. The only thing that counts is that the number of attacks must exceed the number of defenses on the ultimate square(s) in question. This is the fundamental basis of double attack in tactics, per Averbakh.

    It seems strange that the Queen is not like a heavy artillery piece, compared to the light rifle weight of the Pawn, but that is the truth. In terms of capture potential on a given square, there is no difference between any of the pieces, including the King. A piece can ether capture on ("attack") a specific square or it cannot; it is a step function, not a sliding scale of relative values based on the material value.

    A second characteristic is that each player gets to move in turn, and on any given turn can only move one piece to one square (excluding the castling move). This simplifies calculating complex relationships over time (looking ahead). As Tal supposedly said, when having three pieces simultaneously en prise, "Yes, but he can only capture one piece at a time." And in-between every one of those captures, Tal got to make another tactical shot.

    Given that we are trained from the beginning to utilize material values to evaluate, it is somewhat disconcerting to find that material values do not play any role in determining tactical relationships. Yes, we have to be mindful of the relative mobility values in a general sense (when the storm passes, so to speak), but not during tactical calculations per se. General considerations (such as relative material values and vague positional considerations) go out the window when the position requires concrete calculation.

    This is a hard mindset to change.

  8. Funny to see how the comments are about step 1 and 2, while the core of the post is actually about step 3.

  9. hmm.. i am afraid you try something like to make np-hard to np-simple ;)

    If you see a number of pattern and you have to find "the right ones".. thats a combinatorial problem. Here we stick in the bottleneck of problemsolving: the size of the STM

    It might be necessary to find something new, maybe? a new type of pattern. Positional Ideas can give a hint for good moves. For example: a weakness of the black squares of the opponent might give you a better idea what to play ( Bangiev-Strategy ).

    Either you learn how to work the existing chunks better/quicker or you need better/bigger/more chunks

    If you create new chunks by learning how, say a queen and a knight can work harmonic together ( by doing special endgame studies training ??? ) then this might help in tactics with knight and queen too?

    I start believing that doing "just tactics" might be a "overfitting".

  10. I will try to solve some puzzles (of mine) and make some conclusions. For now I am thinking about the positional elements that lead to the tactical gain. It is a very good idea to think it over, because if you do not have the NECESSARY (critical?!) prepositions at your disposal... you cannot win any material.

    What do I mean? Just put a Knight from the diagram (g6) into the corner (a1). What is the evaluation of the positon? How does this change influenced the position? Please compare the evaluation (+10 vs 0,40) and make conclusions. THIS WAY I am going to find crucial (key) factors that make tactics work! Of course the field is much more complex, but this way may be the one that makes it easy! :)

  11. PART I:

    I’ll take a stab at your step 3. Please bear with me, because it involves a rather lengthy quote from Dr. Lasker to capture the essence of the idea.

    After solving (or failing to solve) a problem, I try to go back over it, looking for the motifs which I should have observed FIRST. It's not the same as looking for tactical themes (forks, pins, etc.). I generally start with the FUNCTION motif, trying to determine the functions of the various pieces, especially if the "three piece" criteria for attacking the enemy king is available (and it is in this position). In your diagram, there is obviously a back rank issue for Black: there is only one Black Rook protecting the Black King, while there are two White Rooks which can occupy the back rank on e8. A switch of sides tells me that there is a check threat on c2 from the Black Queen, but (crucially) (1) it is White to move and (2) there is no immediate follow-up with forcing checks by Black. So, ignore any counterattack from Black. Without calculating ahead (“I go here, he goes there, I then go here, etc.”), there is an obvious Knight fork of Black King and Queen at e7. There are two things which prevent that from occurring: the White Rook is occupying the forking square e7, and (2) the Black Rook is protecting e7. Getting the White Rook out of the way is easy to accomplish with a forcing check on e8. Now the two critical functions of the Black Rook at f7 become apparent: (1) to prevent loss of the a8 Rook, (2) to prevent a back rank mate on h8, and (3) to prevent the Knight fork on e7. It then becomes fairly simple to figure out that 1. Re8+ is a killer move, utilizing the ASSAULT motif, creating two of what you call a "duplo": (1) an attack against the Black Rook and Black King first, followed by the Knight fork on e7 or a series of forced checks ending in either massive material gain or checkmate. The position has now become simple.

    I know Kotov (Think Like A Grandmaster) advocated establishing a set of candidate moves FIRST, before analyzing any variations. I don't think like that; maybe that's why I never progressed beyond 1810 USCF while playing tournament chess (last tournament in 1975). (I like GM Anatoly Lein's quote: "I don't think like a tree - do you think like a tree?" Tisdall, Improve Your Chess Now.) I don't start trying to establish a set of candidate moves, nor do I subscribe to the idea that you have to examine all variations once for all time, building a tree like a computer. (I don’t think like a computer either.) I think it should be obvious that as you begin to penetrate into the essence of a position, new motifs and ideas will occur, requiring you to revisit what may have previously been analyzed.

  12. PART II:

    In any event, Dr. Lasker (Lasker's Manual of Chess) explains the proper relationship between motifs, tactical themes and combinative ideas as follows:

    It is not enough to know that a combination is a sequence of forcible moves; one must be able to give a reason for the existence of that combination. If in the position, examined by the master, a combination is hidden, there is a reason for its existence; and again, if there is no such combination to be found, a reason for this non-existence can be detected. For instance, you will try in vain to Checkmate a mobile King safeguarded behind Pawns and defended by a few well-placed officers, without employing many moves. If in such a position you insist upon searching for a combination which will Mate in a hurry, you will only lose time and brain-power. Again, simultaneous attacks are possible only under certain restricted conditions, namely such as are geometrical, as, for instance, when King and Queen stand in the same rank or file or diagonal or on points controlled by the same Knight [as in the given diagram]. To execute such simultaneous attacks, not only must these geometrical conditions be satisfied, but also some very mobile pieces are required. Even from these two instances it is sufficiently manifest that the conditions for a combination are circumscribed. And it is these conditions which give rise to the ideas in the mind of the master. Only when the hostile King has little mobility and little protection does the master make the attempt to find a combination which aims at a forced mate, because he knows that only then can the position contain the idea of a mate. And so it is with other ideas. [Emphasis added.]

    . . .

    The motifs of a combination, in themselves simple, are often interwoven with each other. What is it that unites the multiplicity of motifs? We call it the “idea.” Motifs, as, for instance, a simultaneous attack against several pieces or the encircling of the hostile King, are tricks of the trade, technicalities. The idea which links the motifs is artistic, it creates something that had never before been there. Motifs can be taught, ideas must be discovered by original effort. Ideas come from nowhere, they are sudden inspirations; the place of motifs is definite: the memory.

    Even the few simple motifs above discussed {i.e., those spelled out in my previous post] breath art when they are used in a manner to conquer points apparently in the grasp of the opponent.

    There is a lot of food for thought from Dr. Lasker, and I think it directly supports your idea in step 3: Train your vision with the result of the decomposition. I do not think this can be done mindlessly by cranking through thousands of tactics problems without applying this analytical step. It certainly changed my way of approaching a position when I started looking for the motif(s) in a position FIRST, followed by application of various tactical themes, and then (and only then) trying to figure out a sequence of moves that would tie all of it together. Surprisingly, it actually sped up my thinking process; I no longer wasted time looking at all possible (or even probable) moves and trying them out one by one.

    Is it a universal panacea? I am certain it is not! However, it does give a different way of looking at a position, which also gets to the heart of it fairly quickly.

  13. BTW, I think this notion of "motifs" corresponds (at least to some degree) to the notion of Hazardous Elements in the Chuzhakin System referenced by Aox. I had not seen that system documentation previously, thank you for that! From a preliminary overview look, my only comment is that it might be a good system for study, but I think it over-complicates things for OTB play. Just my worthless opinion, which may change after a deeper study of it.

  14. @Aox, where does the abbreviation np stands for?
    @Robert, you give me a lot to think about.
    You both do, actually. Let's see how that culminates into a new post. I'm not familiar with the terms used in the way Laker does, so I might mess up, now and then.

  15. @ tempo, sorry ,
    This remark with np-hard and the madeup "np-simple" was a insider joke, i thought you as a programmer/computer scientist would know this: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/NP-hardness

    To say it simple: NP-hard problems are.. hard ( hehehe ), the amount of work "explodes" with the number of items to be handled. A typical example of np-hard problems ist the Traveling salesmen problem https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Travelling_salesman_problem , where a salesman has to find the shortest route through a number of places, so he has to find the right "combination of the order" of these places.

    I wonder if the term combination might have been introduced by the Mathematician Dr. Lasker?

    A combination is a sequences of moves "in the right combination ( =order )"

    By using tactical motives as primitives/items/atoms of our thinking the amount of "items" reduces drastically.. but therefore the result of such thinking remains fuzzy..

    1. My friend the programmer has a saying . That NP-hard problems may be impossible but a lot of money can be made consulting on them . 8) btw. exceptional post and comments all.

  16. Robert Coble said:
    "my only comment is that it might be a good system for study, but I think it over-complicates things for OTB play"

    I think its the other way around, its a wonderful tool at otb, because the HE's dont change during a game that quick. After recognising all HE's "at some point" they just have to be updated each move wich is typically not much to do.
    The HE's enable a unfied thinking process where you collect ( during the the time where the watch of your opponent is running ) all type of ( potential? ) weaknesses of a position and then! try to apply known methods to make use of them.
    Chuzakin's thinking process is not good in my eyes but using the HE'S + Silmans Imbalances ( or any other method to find positional weaknesses) in combination of a knowledge of the(some) methods how to use them... thats it!

    See what is
    Know what to do / should be done
    Search how to do it / what can be done

  17. When I previously had read through Lasker's book (several times, over the years), the crucial distinction that he makes between motifs, themes and ideas did not become clear to me either. That is the problem with the amorphous terminology used these days regarding tactics. In most literature, themes are often referred to as motifs, which obscures the clear distinction that Lasker provides. It was only after reading Romanovsky's Soviet Middlegame Technique that I realized that Romanovsky was making exactly the same distinction as Lasker. I went back and re-read Lasker's Third Book - The Combination. and found that both of these Grandmasters had very similar definitions and viewpoints on the importance of starting with the motifs, applying the themes, and getting an "idea" of how to combine them into an combination.

    As an example of the change in viewpoint caused by clarifying the distinction, I give an example. In Kotov's Think Like A Grandmaster, diagram 1 (pg 16) provides an example of the change in my thinking. When I had read this book previously, I accepted (almost on "faith") that GM Kotov had penetrated into the very essence of this position. (He IS a Grandmaster, after all, and I am but a lowly amateur.) I simply did not THINK about the position on my own, attempting to penetrate into all of its possibilities. After realizing the subtle (and crucial) distinction between motifs, tactical themes and combinative ideas, I looked at this position again, and immediately was struck that GM Kotov had not considered the first move that seemed critical (to me). After a short time examining the possibilities, 1. Nxf7 seemed to be much more promising than any of the moves that GM Kotov had given as candidate moves. (Remember that GM Kotov stipulates that the list of candidate moves must be made before analyzing.) Just to check how far off base I really was, I put the position into Fritz 11 running the Stockfish DD engine. It immediately put the move 1. Nxf7 at the top of the list, with a score +8.7 (+-) for White. GM Kotov's recommended move was 1. Ng4, which scored +0.0 (=). The third best move 1. Rxg6 also scored +0.0 (=), and was not considered by GM Kotov. I thought that maybe this was an anomaly, so I also tried Komodo and a couple of other engines. All of them considered 1. Nxf7 to be winning, with varying scores. None of the other moves (that GM Kotov considered) got a score above +0.0 (=).

    I realize that Stockfish DD is a much stronger GM than GM Kotov (fairly certain!), but I could not help but wonder why an attacking GM like Kotov could overlook what seemed obvious as the first move to examine in the position. I suspect that it has to do with the sharp increase in tactical shots and counter-shots that spring into existence. It was probably just too messy tactically (too complicated!) for a human to calculate under tournament conditions.

    So, I have been trying to reorient my thinking in how to penetrate into the essence of a position tactically. So far, I have seen a significant improvement in vision. I am more aware of the tactical possibilities, even when I can't calculate them all correctly.

  18. @Aox, the time of polynomials lies 32 year behind me. To be honest, I haven't given them much thought, lately. ;)
    What I want is to see simple problems as simple. No matter whether some people are saying they are complex. :D

  19. PART I:


    I'll reiterate my position vis-a-vis the Chuzhakin System: from a preliminary overview look, my only comment is that it might be a good system for study, but I think it over-complicates things for OTB play. Just my worthless [uninformed] opinion, which may change after a deeper study of it.

    I recall something that IM Silman stated about his system of imbalances. It is not intended for the stronger players, but for the amateurs. It is a short-cut method for gaining a semblance of understanding of what to look at from a positional point of view. Hopefully, after study and application, some of it will enable a deeper understanding of how to play chess.

    IMHO, it is somewhat similar to NM Heisman's advice regarding tactics. He recommends iterating very simple tactics in order to quickly grasp the tactical themes in a position. Simple is as simple does. I think there are several problems with such an approach, but then the old question of authority raises its ugly head: am I a stronger player than NM Heisman? NO! So, what makes me think that I might have some insight into a better (more productive) learning method? (1) I have studied a lot of materials on effective learning methods over the years of my life. (2) I have the benefit of knowing what has helped ME to improve (and what has not done anything positive in that regard). Is it a universally effective method that can be used by anyone? Yes, but I'm not giving away the "secret" to better chess. After all, the Grandmasters have to have some fall-back means for making a living as their playing careers end.

    Dr. Lasker (as always) addresses this problem of chess education specifically in his chapter "Final Reflections on Education in Chess." He describes the tremendous waste of energy by most people attempting to make chess progress, and yet the results are truly abysmal. He proposes that a good method of pedagogy (such as he has given in his book) could produce a good player with an expenditure of approximately 200 hours of study and play. Lots of chess gurus have made fun of his assertion, but no one seems to actually have tried it. I'll let Dr. Lasker speak for himself:

    "Let us assume that a master who follows a good method, say, the method of this book, strives to educate a young man [or woman] ignorant of chess to the level of one who, if conceded any odds, would surely come out a winner. How much time would the teacher need for this achievement? I think I am correct in making the following calculation:

    Rules of Play and Exercises ... ... 5 hrs.
    Elementary Endings ... ... ... ... . 5 hrs.
    Some Openings ... ... ... ... ... .. 10 Hrs.
    Combination ... ... ... ... ... ... 20 Hrs.
    Position Play ... ... ... ... ... .. 40 Hrs.
    Play and Analysis ... ... ... ... .. 120 Hrs.

    "Even if the young man has no talent at all, by following the above course he would advance to the class specified. Compare with this possibility, the reality. In fact, there are a quarter of a million Chess amateurs who devote at least two hundred hours every year and of these only a thousand, after a lifetime of study, attain the end. Without losing myself in calculations, I believe I am safe in voicing the opinion that our efforts in Chess attain only a hundredth of one per cent. of their rightful result.

    1. I always have been surprised how little time it took how to learn to drive a car (50 hours), even for an adult. I always thought that it should not take too much time to become better at chess WITH THE RIGHT METHOD. Since I have searched for the right method for 12 years and have little to show for it, I keep that thought silent.

  20. PART II:

    I note in passing that most of us do not have the major prerequisite given by Dr. Lasker: a master player as a pedagogue who knows how to train ANYONE (perhaps with NO TALENT at all) to a very high level of skill (to play so that no odds from a master can be given). However, we do now have available master chess PLAYING engines, just not master chess TEACHING engines. At least that's a step in the right direction (maybe). Yet here we are, still pursuing the elusive will-o'-wisp of rapid (okay, I'll settle for "slow and steady") progress in chess playing ability - and not attaining it. I know for certain that I've wasted considerably more than 200 hours trying to improve, without significant success. Perhaps it is true that doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result IS the "definition" of insanity.

    BTW, I always love the reference to "secrets" and the gullibility of the buyers of "secrets" (including ME). My Sensei had a small Zen koan about "secrets."

    The "secret" of Isshinryu Karate-Do is that there is NO SECRET!

    My reason for splitting my posts into multiple parts is due to the limitation of Blogger: a given comment can be no more than 4096 characters long. I apologize for the length, but I do try to reduce the posts as much as I can and still retain the thoughts.

    Merry Christmas!

  21. How many of Dr. Lasker's students did reach the level of a master and how long did that take?
    I know that Dr Lasker had an Dr in Philosophy and Math but in Teaching? I think not.

  22. Fascinating. . . but not relevant. No offense; you are entitled to your opinion, and I certainly would not want to deprive you of it! Whether Dr. Lasker (or any other chess master, for that matter) has an Ed.D. provides no guarantee of either subject matter skill and knowledge (chess) nor the capability to impart it to others (pedagogy). Fred Reinfeld, in the Foreword to Dr. Lasker's book, Emanuel Lasker: An Appreciation opines that Dr. Lasker did "found" a school of chess, albeit not one in which Dr. Lasker "lectured." Sadly, Dr. Lasker is no longer with us, so whether HE could or ever did accomplish the stated goal appears to be a moot point.

    Dr. Lasker obtained his first PhD in Mathematics in 1902. The first PhD in the field of education was issued by Teachers College, Columbia University in 1893, the same year that Mr. Lasker was a mathematics lecturer (teacher, perhaps?) at Tulane University in New Orleans. The first Doctor of Education (Ed.D.) degree was granted at Harvard University in 1921, the same year that Dr. Lasker was losing his World Chess Champion title to Jose Raul Capablanca. (Ref. Wikipedia) I think it was commonly accepted at that time that the most qualified to teach a subject were those who possessed expertise in that subject; Dr. Lasker certainly fit the qualification of "possessing expertise." That is contrasted with the almost universal belief today that "those who can do something actually do it, while those who cannot do something teach it." I do not accept that belief, incidentally.

    I note also that Dr. Lasker referenced "a master" (not necessarily himself) as the pedagogue, so presumably he was either very modest (hardly!) about his own pedagogical capabilities or greatly over-estimated the pedagogical capabilities of chess "masters" in general (much more likely). I also note that many different master chess TEACHERS have stressed the importance of having a chess teacher who knows both the subject and how to teach it effectively. IM Dvoretsky comes immediately to mind. There must be some teaching paradigm in addition to the teacher to be effective; one without the other is unimaginable. Bobby Fischer Teaches Chess is still available, if you want one of the highest rated players as a "teacher." Would you ask how many of Bobby's students "reach the level of a master and how long did that take?" I suspect that nothing much has improved statistically since Dr. Lasker gave his opinion on the ineffectiveness of chess education. There are millions more chess players, and yet the number of master level players as a percentage of chess players is probably lower than in Dr. Lasker's time, in spite of having many more titled players playing today.

    Incidentally, the level of "no odds" is NOT a master level; it is more like a USCF expert, which is a much lower bar to reach.

    If you accept the very notion that there is some method of teaching/learning that is more effective than other methods, you have already accepted the argument as valid. The only question is how rapidly the process can unfold. Perhaps Dr. Lasker, the "cheerful pessimist" or "cautious optimist," was off by some factor in his estimate of the time required. It does not invalidate his claim regarding the relative ineffectiveness of chess education generally, nor the possibility of improving chess education by following a good method of instruction.

    If you do not accept that notion concerning the existence of a more effective method, then why waste your time searching for a process which a priori you already believe to NOT EXIST?

    Is not the Knight's Quest the very epitome of searching for the "Holy Grail" of chess education?

    Rather than snipe, perhaps our time would be better spent continuing to search for the most effective method for educating ourselves into significant chess improvement. I think that is the point of these chess blogs.

  23. An interesting anecdote about the "secret" of chess, courtesy of GM Mihai Suba, Dynamic Chess Strategy:

    Once upon a time [you KNOW it has to start this way!], on a sunny day, while I was walking about in my former home town of Timisoara, I met an old chess fan who was an old animator of the Sporting Mind in the town (whose daughter was not indifferent to me). After we had exchanged a few pleasantries, he told me with a conspiratorial air that he had discovered the secret of chess. In mathematical terms I knew how an algorithm for perfect chess would look, and it was unlikely that people would create such a weapon in the near future, if ever, to destroy our game. So I asked him about his secret, without first advising him to copyright it.

    'Moves are given a rating depending on the new lines opened, the number of controlled points, and other factors', he said. The man had just discovered the basic principles on which, a few years later, computer programs would become strong.

    'I suppose you can play moves rated higher than the opponent's and still lose', I objected.

    'No, this is impossible — in all the games I have analyzed, the winning side had a higher score.'

    As I looked skeptical, he invited me to a terrace where I could offer him a beer. As soon as conditions were proper, he produced a pile of game records. They were games played by children and they all ended in checkmate. Every move had a rating beside it and, indeed, the total score was always higher for the winning side. I soon discovered the 'secret': the last move scored around ten times more than an average move. When I asked him about this he answered: 'What can I do? The mating move is the best move in chess, so I should award it a remarkable rating, shouldn't I?'

    So simple and obvious! How could we possibly have overlooked this process?!?

    Almost as good as this 'secret': Always make the best move at every point in the game, and you will never lose!

    (I don't think I'll stop my search for ways to improve just yet.)

    1. I developed this idea a bit further: the position IS NOT lost unless the opponent cannot obtain the winning position. In other words - you can make as many mistakes as you wish - until you break (get out of) "drawing zone". That's why there is NO NEED to play always the best move (let's assume for a while - there are so called moves "best moves" at every position). It is enough to play "good enough" moves NOT to lose.

      If the secret of making best moves in EVERY position would be trivial chess would be solved about at least 30-50 years ago! It is really complex matter and that's WHY we are so obsessed to discover what is behing the surface. What kind of algorithm or patter is hidden behing "best chess move" idea? How one does work to create it? What are the necessary conditions to be found?

      At present I have a TOTAL CHAOS related to the discussion, but this feeling makes me internal happy (even if extrenall I am really confused). The more I think about it, the less I know (or feel) about chess, ideas and how it works.

      If SUCH questions (look below) come to my mind - it is a visible sign "something strange is going on" at my head ;) :)

      1) What is the tactics? What is the combination?

      2) How can we know if the combination (tactics) exists?

      3) What does it mean to show the winning variation?

      4) How far do we have to look to see the proofs about the winning move (the best variation)?

      5) What is an advantage? How can we define it? How to obtain an advantage?

      6) What is a better position? Why better position is called better? How to recognize better position and not to confuse it with worse one?

      BTW. Robert - your fresh ideas and quite broad comments make the discussion much, much lively and inspiring! Keep up good work! Thank you very much! :)

  24. @Tomasz: Thank you for the encouragement!

    PART I:

    I'm going to "go out on a limb" here, and then (maybe) saw it off!

    Please try the idea that I suggested of looking first at the overall position, merely noting the various motif(s) (or Hazardous Elements or imbalances) that might exist in the position. In short, go "broad" before going "deep." Reason about what is going on in the position in general terms before jumping into a concrete move-by-move analysis. To me, this "broad look" drives where to look in the position for the critical idea(s). It really does not take very long to start getting a "feel" for what is going on in the position. Only after noting at least one motif (the motivation) should the tactical theme(s) be discovered, without mentally moving the pieces using the "I go here, he replies there, etc." approach. Only after there seems to be a clear connection between motif(s) and available tactical themes, then try to figure out the "idea" which combines the motif(s) and the tactical theme(s) into a combination. BTW, the motif(s) have corresponding tactical theme(s) that support them. There is NOT a combinatorial explosion.

    I think it is important to note that this same process applies when trying to find the appropriate "idea" based on positional play. The various positional principles (such as Silman's imbalances or the Hazardous Elements of the Chuzhakin System) take the place of the motif(s) used for determining tactical combinations. However, the tactical themes remain the same in both cases. I think (perhaps incorrectly) that this is the basis for the often repeated maxim that tactics support strategy. I think that strategy also enables tactics to "flow" naturally from the position.

    I think that Bobby Fischer's notion of "You have to give SQUARES in order to get SQUARES!" is a very valuable insight in this regard. Note two things that immediately "pop out" from this statement: (1) You have to "trade" with the opponent; you do not get everything you want while denying the opponent everything that he wants; and (2) the emphasis is on SQUARES, not on pieces. I think this reinforces something that Temposchlucker posted previously: looking at the SQUARES, not just at the pieces. I recall something from My System by Aron Nimzovitch:

    "It is characteristic of the less practiced player that he chooses an opposite course; in fact he shilly shallies, that is, he looks now to the right, now to the left, without any fixed plan. No; settle on your objective is the rule. Such an objective, as we have learnt, may be a Pawn or a point [square]; which, matters nothing. But aimlessly to drift from one to another, this will expose you to a strategical disgrace." [Emphasis added.]

  25. PART II:

    It is true that we may (often) miss something vitally important in the given position under investigation. To err is human, of course, especially as we are lower rated players than the masters. The important thing to do is to thoroughly investigate WHY we overlooked what should have been "obvious". In other words, the effort to understand why we did not "see" what is right in front of us is what gives us the foundation upon which to play better in the future. A mind-numbing repetition of the same problems over and over (without this crucial step of understanding why we did not "see" the solution) is IMHO as close to useless as it can get. If we take the time to understand WHY, and also the motif(s) and tactical theme(s) we missed, then the position reinforces the principles and patterns that we can use to understand future positions. In short, the position becomes "simple" as Temposchlucker has described it. Initially, as we learn how to do this process, it will take considerable time to penetrate into the "secrets" of a position. With persistence and hard work, the process becomes easier and faster because we are traveling along well-oiled neural pathways. There will always be some positions that are not encompassed by our stored patterns; in those, we have to go back through the same process and learn WHY we didn't see it.

  26. Robert - your writings are AMAZING and fantastic! :). I am reading these all the time and I am in an awe how you have gathered the core of the knowledge that is crucial (key) to our discussion!

    What's more - it is EXTREMALLY rare case when I cannot refute anyone's comments (not because I have to do to, but because I see some drawbacks). And I am going to test your ideas (interwoven with some of mine) at the puzzles I have promised to solved 'in the near future' (I have not solved them yet).

    I have some ideas and they do not get each other in the way with yours! They are mutually inclusive!

    BTW. My ideas are much more theoretical ones, but imho they may help to explain all the cases when there are some "devious" move/s included.

  27. @ Tomasz:

    I look forward to seeing your ideas. This is how I learn too! Take an idea, carefully examine it, and retain (hopefully!) what is good about it, blending it into what I already know. I have gotten so many good ideas from Temposchlucker and AoxomoxoA and so many others, as well as from reading many, many books. I try to acknowledge the source(s) whenever I can, but sometimes I have blended it together from many sources and so I forget where or who exactly that the ideas came from originally. Very little of what I know is original to me!

    A long time ago, I read the following excerpt by Dr. Lasker, and have tried to incorporate it into everything I do:

    "Education in Chess has to be an education in independent thinking and judging. Chess must not be memorized, simply because it is not important enough. If you load your memory, you should know why. Memory is too valuable to be stocked with trifles. Of my fifty-seven years I have applied at least thirty to forgetting most of what I have learned or read, and since I succeeded in this I have acquired a certain ease and cheer which I should never again like to be without. If need be, I can increase my skill in Chess, if need be I can do that which I have no idea at present. I have stored little in my memory, but I can apply that little, and it is of good use in many and varied emergencies. I keep it in order, but resist every attempt to increase its dead weight.

    You should keep in mind no names, nor numbers, nor isolated incidents, not even results, but only methods. The method is plastic. It is applicable in every situation. The result, the isolated incident, is rigid, because bound to wholly individual conditions. The method produces numerous results; a few of these will remain in our memory, and as long as they remain few, they are useful to illustrate and keep alive the rules which order a thousand results. Such useful results must be renewed from time to time just as fresh food has to be supplied to a living organism to keep it strong and healthy. But results useful in this manner have a living connection with rules, and these again are discovered by applying a live method: the whole of this organisation must have life, more than that — a harmonious life.