Monday, December 28, 2015

Transcending thoughts

In search for the holy grail of tactical skill improvement, I look for ways to circumvent thoughts. Thinking is notoriously slow. Susan Polgar played a simul with 346 people with a success rate of 96%. She used 5 seconds per move at average, while their opponents had 27 minutes per move. This means she has found a way to circumvent thinking. Since you can't think about much in 5 seconds. Given the fact that she had to move to the next table too in those measly 5 seconds. If we want to copy that to some degree, we must abandon thought from the process as well. There's no way around that.

We dabble around with all kinds of thought processes. I think these processes are mutually interchangeable to a certain degree, and you should stick simply with what works for you. We use terms like themes, motifs, function and the like, and we all use our own definition of them. Either fanciful or just simply borrowed from others. We should be flexible here.

While I was investigating the position from the previous post, there were two moments that a picture sprang to mind. I think that these two pictures are a very good summary of the position. A picture says more than a thousand words. And thousand words take an awful lot of time to think. Within seconds, a whole part of the tree of analysis is shown in just one picture. You see immediately what is going on, what is critical. And it is way less error prone than thinking step by step. Since it gives you a direct overview, which is much harder to get by a series of step by step thoughts. See the following diagram:

Diagram 1
Diagram 1 shows the tactical theme skewer. In just one picture it provides the same information from the thought process that is beautifully described by Thomasz:

1. I notice that if black Rook was not present it would be Qg6#
2. After I see that my Queen is attacked (hanging) I tried to improve the position.
3. I wanted to attack "with another piece" - that's why I tried Re2+.
4. After that I noticed that Rf2+ is a bad move because of QxR
5. What else? Ok - let's see what would it be if I play Qf8+ (get out of attack and attacking the King at the same time)
6. Black cannot cover the attack with his Rook because of QxR#.
7. Black has the only move Kxp.
12. Oh, no! Queen can take my Rook for free!
13. No, no again! If QxR I can play Qf8+ and skewer the K, winning the Q!

The picture is way more efficient. The calculation is implicit present in the picture. Diagram 2 represents a picture that sprang to mind a few minutes later:

Diagram 2
It shows the following information from Thomasz' list:

5. What else? Ok - let's see what would it be if I play Qf8+ (get out of attack and attacking the King at the same time)
6. Black cannot cover the attack with his Rook because of QxR#.
7. Black has the only move Kxp.
8. Ok - it was double attack - then I can take the Rook "for free". Is is right?!
9. No! The Rook is protected by the Bishop!
10. How can I deflect the bishop from the defence of the Rook?
11. Yeah, I can see - it is Rf2+!! Great move! now if Black covers the attack with B - I can play Qf7+ and take the Rook for free!
14. What now? Ok, I play Rf2+ Black responds with Bf4.
15. Now I can play Qf8+ and after K moves I take the Rook.
16. Wait a second! If I take his Rook, he takes mine!
17. The last option is to sacrifice my R for his B, and AFTER that take his Rook! This way I will be up a piece (I win R+B losing just R).
18. Ok, I will play 1.Rf2+ Bf4 2.Rxf4+ ef4 3.Qf8+ Kxg6 4.Qxe7 winning

The jumping of the pictures into the mind just takes seconds. This is pattern recognition in action! The patterns are the tactical themes skewer and deflection. Familiar as a kangaroo. Of course you need some logic reasoning to stitch both themes together to a combination, but that is pretty straight forward. In this case.

Step 1. Solve the problem.
Step 2. Decompose the problem.
Step 3. Train your vision with the result of the decomposition.
Step 4. Repeat the vision training for the 10% positions you had the most problems with initially

This gives us a clue about what step 3 should accomplish. It must help us to recognize the essential tactical themes by showing it us as a mental picture when needed. For now I focus on the mentalization of  the essential pictures of a position. Typical there are 2-4 themes that are paramount.


  1. A film about Susan Polgar and her brilliant brain:

  2. As Robert noticed at previous post - one factor should be noticed immediately (maybe even at subconcious level) - Black King has NO LEGAL moves! Now it is full paralyzed! That should be some kind of direction about the main motif!

    What's more - we can compare Black's pieces (all of them are standing at black squares) vs White ones (all of them are standing at black squares) - some of such info is probably processed at subconcious level - without the need to express it with words.

    I am not sure how to learn about the relationship between the pieces (which one is defended), but I am 100% sure about the function motif of the pieces and its value to our general understanding of ANY positions!

  3. To see where the pieces are and what they are doing is called "Board Vision".
    The interaction of pieces is called "contact".

    I did try to make a complete? list of these minimalistic aspects of chess here :

    "A better player" is aware of all of them all the time during a game even without looking at the board, while "a weak player" for example may leave a piece en pris.

  4. The power of the two pictures in the post is that they are not minimalistic. They contain implicit calculation and a glance into the future. That's why they save you brain time.

    1. I think that masters or grandmasters may think with the use of mental pictures - they simply DO NOT waste time to make any specific activities to know what is the best move (variation). Just try to watch most masters and observe how well they play at very short time control (3+0 or even 1+0). If we assume the average game is 60 moves - they think over (or react is a better phrase) - about 3 seconds (or 1 sec) per move. And if we analyse their level of play and move (time) reactions - it is sure they just HAVE TO know a lot of specific positions (configurations, patterns) - otherwise they would not be masters.

      But what about us - mere chess amators (mortals)? Is there any hope for us?

    2. Once we find the right method, there is no limit to its application. Which means that it isn't limited to tactics only. I found at least the goal of the training. Whether we will find a working method to get at that goal still remains to be seen. I don't worry about numbers of specific positions. They play no role which consciously should be strived for.

  5. My comment was meant as a reply to Tomasz comment, i did forget to write @Tomasz at top.

    But reading your reply i did start thinking about your drawings a little.
    Looking at the arrows i see that most of them are some of the HE's. The King at f6 is a HE because a check can be given by Q-f8+ and R-f2+, Re7 is a HE because its attacked once and defended once.
    This are the arrows e2-f2, e8-f8, the implicit arrow f8-f6, f6-e7

    The arrows Q-f2, B-e7 and B-f4 are contacts of course but they dont illustrate HE's.

    But how about the critical line 1.Rf2+ Bf4 2.Rxf4+ exf4 3.Qf8+ Kxg6 4.Qxe7 ?
    I think an arrow f8-e7 is missing? and whats about the pawn at g6 controlling f7? Without Pg6 the tactic dont work, that the Pg6 is protected is important to or the king would simply take g6.

    But a "simplification" dont need to be complete? maybe just has nto initiate the right thinking?

    By the way CT-art has with its 5x5 simplified puzzles a type of simplified visualistation too. Instead of using arrows ct-art is reducing the size of the board ( 5x5 insted 8x8 ) and the number of pieces ( there are "no" pieces which are not needed ). You can find them at ct-art or here : Maxim Blokh - Chess Manual and Maxim Blokh - The Art of Combination. Examples:

    Might be interesting to try to reduce your puzzle this way too.. you reduce the puzzle to its, in your eyes "most important" contacts, a further reduction is at least possible.

    At the end it will be necessary at every new puzzle: to decide which contacts or HE'S are relevant and which not. The task will be to detect them , to combine them and to judge them.

    I guess:
    It will take several months until you will have created enough "chunks" ( thats what you do with your drawings ) to see a positive effect. A few hundred graphs will do not that much.

    But if there is not the slightest improvement after ?6? months ... i would start looking for new ideas

    Hope you have success, then i know what to do ;)

  6. @Aox, still addicted to big numbers, err? The training is not about chunks.