Tuesday, January 05, 2016

How to train your vision?

We have acknowledged that it is a good idea to train your vision. But how do you do that? I have done an enormous load of tactical exercises and chess play, according to hundreds of different regimens, but almost none of this contributed to my vision in a measurable way. Extreme fast, extreme slow, extreme many, extreme many repetitions, without repetition, blindfold, cc, blitz, rapid, OTB, Stoyko exercise, extreme difficult, extreme easy, all kind of scanning techniques, all kinds of thought processes, all kinds of board vision exercises, exercises for specific pieces, themed exercises, random exercises, and I exaggerated each exercise into absurdum in order to be able to draw a definite conclusion. None of these exercises enhanced my vision.

With three exceptions.
Polgars first brick (5333+1) learned me to look at the covered squares in stead of the pieces.
The first time that I did the Steps Method (basic exercises with explanation). With none of these exercises I worked with repetition, btw.
The third exercise was Troyis, what enhanced my ability to move around with the knight. A very specific result, which is handy, but doesn't contribute much to OTB play.

In general it can be said that by far, most exercises don't contribute to your vision, and if they do, it is by accident, and only if the material you work with is relatively new to you. In fact, doing the wrong kind of training, which is, as I showed you, almost any kind of training, proofs that your vision will deteriorate during the training. Probably not due to the training itself, but due to the fact that your vision needs maintenance, and the exercises don't provide that.

So what's the best way to train your vision? It looks like every motif-based-vision requires specific training, dedicated to that exact motif. Although different kinds of motifs can appear in the same problem.

At the moment I try to visualize the motifs that occur in a problem. But is that really the best way to train your vision?


  1. PART I:

    I excerpted the following from Tim Brennan's Tactics Time Newsletter #154:

    Today I would like to talk to you about a part of your brain known as the Reticular Activating System, or "RAS".

    The RAS is the part of your brain which is responsible for filtering out what pieces of stimuli your reality is focused on at any given time.

    All around us at any time there is way too much for us to focus on. For example right now as you read this the stimulus around might include:

    The sound of the hum of the fan in your computer

    The touch of your sock against your left foot

    The sight of the Black Queen in the position above

    The smell of the deodorant under your right armpit

    The taste of the gum that you are chewing right now.

    At any moment our 5 senses (sight, sound, touch, taste, smell) are taking in gigabytes of information.

    The brain cannot possibly handle all of this information at one time. So what it has to do is get rid of 99% of it. It can really only handle about 1% of this information at one time, and the RAS is the part of the brain that handles this.

    The brain is basically creating our reality, based on the 1% that we are focused on. This "reality" is going through all sorts of other filters in the brain as well.

    The RAS can be trained and developed. For example you might know the "cocktail party effect". If you are at a party where 30 people are talking, but someone says your name, you will hear that word through all the noise. For me it would sound like "Blah, blah, blah, blah, TIM, blah, blah, blah."

    This is why training with tactics is so important. You can train your RAS so that it will correctly filter a position in a way that you will see the combination.

    So when a GM is playing a simul against a bunch of weaker players, his brain is seeing "blah, blah, blah, knight fork, blah, blah, blah, back rank mate, blah blah, etc".

    The patterns are jumping out at him, just like your name jumps out at you in a sea of noise.

    With lots of repetition of the basic patterns, your brain will be rewired in such a way that this will happen to you too!

  2. PART II:

    From your post, I think I can safely infer that you do not agree with the idea of doing lots of repetition of basic patterns, expecting the brain to be "rewired" automagically. I know that I don't believe it is possible IF the focus is on mere repetition of basic patterns.

    Tomasz's view that one must operate on the edge of one's "comfort zone" is one that has plenty of support from the self-improvement gurus in psychology. There has to be some repetition, but (to progress) one must seek out ever (slightly?) increasing levels of complexity. To me, merely repeating one movers will make you pretty good at one movers over time, but will not significantly improve your overall skill in more complex situations. Why not? Because after a certain number of repetitions, "familiarity breeds contempt" and the mind just refuses to integrate the "same old, same old" stuff into long-term memory - because the basic patterns are already there. BORING! I think this is where the value of an good trainer comes into play. He can identify the remaining weakness(es) in play, and provide targeted exercises to get rid of those weaknesses. Obviously, that may be a never-ending process (at least for some of us old farts!), but it is what is needed. The problem for most of us adult wannabee chess improvers is that we overly optimistically think we ourselves are capable of identifying our own specific weaknesses and correcting them, but we really don't have any concrete idea of how to do THAT. So, we "hunt and peck" at various suggested solutions, and are sorely disappointed when the time and effort spent on those "solutions" turn out to give less than optimum results in improvement.

    My current focus on the "telltale" signs (motifs, or cues, or whatever you want to call them) is based on the notion that those telltale signs logically MUST precede the application of specific tactical themes/devices to a specific position, and are therefore the cues that shout "NOW!" to trigger the effort to find the right combination of themes and moves to take advantage of the available options. The difficulty is in (a) finding the exercises that will best give me that "AHA!" moment needed to eliminate a specific weakness, with (2) sufficient difficulty to take me to the edge of my "comfort zone." So far, I'm just using standard textbooks (most that I have already been through multiple times without significant improvement overall), trying to "SEE" the cues FIRST, then trying to "solve" the problems by applying my knowledge of tactical and themes to the positions. So far, it seems to be helping. It's (perhaps) not optimal, but I think that each of us has strengths and weaknesses that differ, so there is no universal "solution"; it must be tailored to each individual. Alas, I'm no Mark Dvoretsky! I've seen several of Dvoretsky's books, and I can only wish that I was of sufficient strength to appreciate and gain something from them. Until I reach that level, it's a waste of my time to struggle with them, so they remain "shelfware" for now.

  3. [i]From your post, I think I can safely infer that you do not agree with the idea of doing lots of repetition of basic patterns, expecting the brain to be "rewired" automagically.[/i]

    I belief in precision of a method. There are a zillion ways how to interpret “doing lots of repetition of basic patterns”. If you don't know how to interpret, you will find a zillion ways to waste your time.

    About the comfort zone stuff, I don't know what the rationale is behind that. Is there any scientific evidence? What is a comfort zone? What must be uncomfortable? Must my brain hurt? I notice that every boding is parroting each other. For me it is too vague to be applicable.

    Everybody has different weaknesses. That applies to chess as a whole, but for tactics only, CT exactly points out where your weaknesses lie. No mysteries there. For now I will be content if I can solve problems at CT like a grandmaster.

    The problem of a coach is that he has not the same problems as we have. Our difficulties cover an area what he does automatic and unconscious, so he has no idea what our problem is, nor how he bypassed the issue himself long ago without noticing it. Since we expect from him some good advice, he eventually will, under the pressure of our whining, start to parrot others in despair.
    In chess land, there is no lack of good advice, and if you want to, you can follow it until judgement day.

    I'm not sure that reprogramming our brains has to be a time consuming and daunting task. After all, I learned how to drive a car in only 50 hours or so, and that is a major reprogramming of the brain. I'm sure it will be time consuming and daunting when you try the wrong method.

    Usually chess players are pretty smart guys. If we all solve problems in a sequential way, the difference between us can't be that big. But the difference is, in reality, quite extreme. I can only explain that, if somebody has found a way to solve a problem in a parallel way, in whole or in part. Then I would be no match for him. I think that our discussion about vision points in that direction, and I want to test that idea. I know the goal I'm after, but little is known about the method. It seems silly to revert to sequential methods again before this issue is clarified.

  4. Hi Temposhlucker, and all other blog participants.
    First thank you for the wonderful blog, and all the effort to find a way to really train and improve at Chess and sharing it.
    These days I've been reading a lot about Robert J. Fischer, specially trying to focus on his chess, not in all sad and non-chess related stories about him.
    What made me write in your blog, which I have read from end to end, is that it seems that even though Fischer have a powerful mind, his first steps at chess were not so brilliant, it looks like between 8 to 13 years old he was just a normal player, but at 14 it is like he found some magic or something was connected in his brain and suddenly he become one of top players in the world, at 15 he was able to compete with the best.
    It is known that he was trained by William Lombardy (6 years older than him) who was also a very good player, but maybe without all the ambition Fischer had.

    Was the combination of his own geniality, his determination, his self-teaching capacity and Lombardy training what made Fischer the best player of his time, or he just one night while studying games, looking at he board he discovered a special way to interpretate chess and thenthe rest was just to digest new material and a lot of practice. The other big question would be: he was able to find that because he was very young, and if he himself had learned chess at 15, would have became a great player at 20 for example?
    My point (or no point at all) is: is high level chess basically originated in natural talent and work and training is just for development, or there is not such specific chess talent and it is all about hard work and dedication. Capablanca could be a good example of the first case, and Dr Lasker for the second case?. Where would be Max Euwe in the scale between talent and hard work?
    I am 42 years old and I am not giving up chess for now, but sometimes it looks like if you did not get it when a child, no hope when an adult, even if you have all the time, energy and resources for that.
    I will be looking forward for all your post and discoveries about improving
    Best Regards and my best wishes in your research

    1. Papa Polgar has learned the world, that it is not innate but a matter of the right teaching. Anyone can reach the brink of grandmastership. If you become just an average grandmaster or a super grandmaster might be the result of innate talent. Which might go further than chess alone, like work ethics etcetera.

      The question we are dealing with here is, is that possible if you are an adult at age too (an old fart, as Robert put it)? So far I haven't seen any convincing proof that it is not. But before you can start, you first must figure out what the right training method is. Which is what this blog is about.

    2. Thank you for replaying Temposhlucker.
      You hit the point clearly, is it possible for an adult? I really have no proof whether it is, or if it is not.
      I read that for now you are mainly focused on improvement at tactics, but with all due respect, let me suggest if maybe a more integral approach would be more efective...the reason I mention that is because all tactical oportunities arise from positional errors, so strategic vision is as much important as a tactical vision is and they cannot be learned separately, so risk to grow up with an incomplete "chess sense"
      Please let me know your opinion, I really appreciate your insights
      Best Regards

    3. You are right, of course. When you want to become better at chess, you need a balanced approach. But at the moment, I'm investigating the best training method. Tactics provide a controlled environment, with results that are not subject to debate, plenty of resources when it comes to exercise material etcetera.

      When a method is found that works, and all training parameters are optimized, it should be not too difficult to use it for other area's of the game. After all, there should be not such a big difference when it comes to training method for an overworked rook or a weak square. You want them both to pop up when analysing a position. The limitation to tactics is only a temporary one.

  5. May I use some examples as to what I mean by "simple" positions?

    8/8/8/8/2K5/2P5/2k5/8 w - - 0 1

    Can White win? Can Black draw?

    8/8/8/4p1K1/2k1P3/8/8/8 w - - 0 1

    Can White win? Can Black draw?

    8/5k2/5Pp1/4K3/5P2/8/8/8 w - - 0 1

    Can White win? Can Black draw?

    8/5rk1/5Rp1/4K1P1/5P2/8/8/8 b - - 0 1

    Can White win? Can Black draw?

    This last position is from an OTB game between two USCF Experts in a regular tournament, not blitz or quick chess. Both players had plenty of time left on their clocks. (Unfortunately, I did not get a copy of the game moves.) I observed this position (without having seen the preceding or succeeding moves) and immediately thought that Black could draw it, based on what I SAW (given the background knowledge from the first three "simple" positions. I went out of the room for about 15 minutes, and when I returned, I found that White had won the game! Well, that kills Dr. Tarrasch's maxim: "All rook endings are drawn!?!? Was this one of those innumerable endgame exceptions, or did Black fail to SEE something that should have been (subconsciously) obvious to a USCF Expert? Was it (a) lack of knowledge of those three "simple" positions, (b) a failure to properly calculate the variations, or (c) did the available drawing resource never enter his VISION? I asked that question, and the answer was (c); he KNEW the proper way to play all three of the "simple" positions, and he is quite capable of calculating the appropriate variations! The "problem" is that his knowledge was compartmentalized, and consequently, not applicable to any position (by analogy) to any position other than the specific position; he could not generalize from the first three positions and apply that knowledge in a different setting because he could not "SEE" the contours of the first three positions in the (barely!) more complicated position. So, he lost because he was effectively BLIND.

    1. I'm convinced that any chess knowledge can be boiled down to a vision exercise, which is what your story suggests. But it is way too early to steak out any claims.

      For now I limit myself to tactics. Let's see if we can proof it.

  6. In one of my comments on the post It should start with vision, I quoted GM Rowson about how Graham Lilley, Britain's leading blind player, "SEES" how to play chess. In 2008, Mr. Lilley was rated 2115. (I'm not sure which rating system is used, so I have no way to compare that rating to a given system; in any event, it sounds like he is not your typical club player.) The relevant remark is this:

    ". . .first and foremost he 'sees' an IDEA, usually as a familiar pattern, and only then checks it by means of analysis. He is also guided by his sense of value. Moreover HE CLAIMS TO HAVE NO VISUAL IMAGE WHATSOEVER IN HIS THINKING PROCESSES." (My emphasis added.)

    Because of the nature of language, I think it possible (maybe even highly likely) that we may lose SIGHT of the chess "forest" because of the many "dead trees" embodied in our books and present knowledge.

    The notion of chess VISION is NOT connected directly with physical sight. It is more of an ABSTRACT recognition of interrelationships between pieces and squares. Think of it as "I 'see" the contact relationships (roles and status) between various combinations of pieces and squares." The purpose of the selected exercises must be to elicit the "AHA!" or "NOW!" feeling in the student. If such a feeling does NOT occur, then I maintain that the exercise is wasted (for the intended purpose). Some small residual value may be retained for a short period of time, but there will be no permanent value gained from it. The value of any exercise is in how it changes our VISION, not our sight, and in how it changes future behavior. If nothing is internalized, then the exercise is a worthless waste of time.

    This is where hard work is required, both to find the appropriate exercises AND to learn from them. Incidentally, once the "AHA!" or "NOW!" moment occurs, the exercise loses any future value for producing that same insight. For this reason alone, IMHO, repeating good exercises (those that produce the desired learning effect) is wasted time and effort. If the "lesson" has been learned, it's time for a lesson on something else that needs work in our insufficient VISION of chess. That is the meaning of working at the edge of the "comfort zone." It must present some challenge to our present skills (not be immediately obvious), yet not be so difficult that we could not possibly "see" the point because it is way too complicated for what we already know and have internalized. This is where a coach MAY be helpful. The coach must be capable of analyzing the student's CURRENT deficiencies and knowledgeable enough about chess to KNOW what exercise(s) will be most likely to "trigger" the required "AHA!" thinking to resolve or eliminate the deficiencies. Just one exercise may not do the trick. The coach must be able to "get inside the mind" of the student, so to speak. It is NOT sufficient to either use ones own experience of difficulties or the accumulated "wisdom" in the chess literature as the basis for lessons. In that, I agree with your assessment of far too many "coaches," in chess as well as in all other fields of endeavor. Just because someone is good at PLAYING does NOT mean that they are automagically good at coaching. In my experience, the ones who are really good at DOING something are (usually) not very good at COACHING the same subject. As you stated, they have forgotten what difficulties THEY had, and have no idea why it is so difficult for THEIR (stupid?!) students, so (in the end) they fall back on the worn-out bromides that constitute so much of chess literature because they are NOT competent at coaching.

  7. Referring back to the previous comment and the four positions that I gave: White CAN win in all four positions IFF Black does NOT know how to proceed. On the other hand, if Black does know the process, he can draw in all four positions except for the second one. In the second one, if White is knowledgeable of the process, he can win by establishing a Tr├ębuchet, with Black losing. This is not a matter of calculating variations, but a matter of VISION, based on prior skill and knowledge that has become subconscious. It is not memorization of specific positions and moves; instead, it is a matter of knowing a particular METHOD so thoroughly that it requires little thought. The METHOD is independent of any specific (accidental) configuration of the pieces.

    The "lesson" of those four positions is simple. The first three positions should provide the foundational knowledge that is required to "SEE" the solution in the fourth position. There may be no fantastic "AHA!" moment(s) in any of the first three positions (although there were for ME). But there should be an "AHA!" moment when you realize that the fourth position can be "solved" using the knowledge previously gained from the preceding positions.

    Utilizing these kinds of building block exercises is what provides the basis for VISION in practical chess.

  8. Hello Tempo,

    Sorry if this is a stupid question, but what exactly do you call vision here :

    - the ability to spot a basic pattern on the board
    - the ability to spot the same pattern while calculating
    - the ability to correctly see the scope of your pieces (ie. squares under control, attacks/defences) - here again, either in front of you or while calculating
    - the ability to see the future scope of your pieces - ie. Knight manoeuvers, result of some line opening after a pawn break, etc. ?

    For me, all of this is some kind of chess vision, but I would certainly not train them the same way, and I think you need all of them when playing.

    1. I would call all four examples a form of vision. The problem is, that the terms vision, and visualisation don't cover the meaning. It is actually more a form of "being aware of something with the minds eye". Long ago we coined the term "mentalization" for that, which has the intention to be more neutral about what is exactly happening in the mind.

      The problem is, that our conscious mind wants to tell the unconscious mind what to do, but they don't speak the same language. If you learn how to drive a car, you visualize consciously how to shift gears, sitting at home on a chair. At least, that was what I did. Somehow your unconscious mind understands that, and starts to work its magic. Adding things like the sound of the motor, the speed at which you are driving, the future bend in the road etcetera to the equation.

      You have to measure things in how they meet their purpose. A rook that is overworked, is something different than a rook that is idling around. They look the same physically, and in diagrams, but they are not. What you want, is that the overworked rooks pop into your mind when you study a new position. Without the need of conscious reasoning. The exercise I'm looking for, should accomplish exactly that kinds of things. That is where the gain in speed should be stemming from. "pop up" in stead of thinking towards the conclusion "hey, I think that this rook might be overworked".

  9. This interview with Don Queue, founding father of the Knights Errant, might give you more insight in the value of the "seven circles of death" and its repetitive nature.

  10. I think you have described (in a different way) what the function motif provides. The function is not "seen" as being composed of sub-elements (roles and status of individual pieces in relation to individual squares) but at the level of the interrelationship of the functions as functions. Any particular position can be used as an exercise. I suggest using relative simple positions ("simple" in the sense of a minimal number of motifs, not simple necessarily in terms of the number of pieces on the board) at the beginning. Only when the functions begin to visually "POP" without thought should you look for positions with multiple functions. As you progress with these exercises, you will begin to see more and more of the overall position, not VISUALLY but functionally, and your speed of "recognition will decrease with a consequent increase in skill. I have found that process to already be true for me, and I am still in the early stages of doing this. Hopefully, it will also be true for anyone else.

    I think the function motif is the most important to work on FIRST, followed by the geometrical motif. If you can successfully move just those two motifs from conscious thinking to subconscious "mentalization," I think you will be pleasantly surprised at your new-found abilities to "see" into the heart of a position rapidly.

    It takes conscious effort at first to switch from "seeing" tactical themes/devices to "seeing" functions and geometry, but the mind does seem to (eventually) place it into the subconscious if it is done repeatedly.

    Here is another "VISION" thing: do you have to count up the material on both sides by enumerating the pawns and pieces If so, then I believe that you do not have this process embedded in the subconscious. It takes time to "add up" all the material for both sides, and then compare the results. On the other hand, if you work at glancing at the board and having a "snapshot" of the material situation, then you don't have to total up the relative material; you just "see" the relative material for both sides and KNOW without having any conscious thought of a numerical value. As you progress with "seeing" the various piece functions and geometrical relationships, the same process occurs. It no longer requires conscious (SLOW!) thinking to "see" the functions; you just "SEE" them FAST!

  11. PART I

    Here is an example of a VISUAL approach to understanding distant Opposition:

    How do you determine which player has the distant opposition in an endgame?

    Opposition is a quest for domination (of SQUARES) between the two Kings.

    It is not particularly difficult to determine the close opposition. When there is one square between the two Kings, whoever has to move loses the opposition.

    But what allows one to simply "look" at a position and determine the distant opposition (with more than one square between them, not necessarily on ranks, files or diagonals), regardless of the location of the Kings on the board?

    I know at least two different "shortcuts." I'll describe both, and then you can pick the one that seems to work best for you to "see" the distant opposition. At the end, I'll tell you which one I decided to internalize.

    Silman's Rule

    (Silman's Complete Endgame Course - From Beginner to Master, Part Three, Endgames for [USCF] Class "D" (1200-1399), Beyond Basic Opposition)

    Whoever moves with an odd number of squares [along a rank, file, or diagonal] between the Kings does NOT have the Opposition (it's the same in basic [close] Opposition situations: one odd square separates the Kings, and the person to move doesn't have the Opposition). Conversely, the person to move with an even number of squares between the Kings does have the Opposition.

    Well, that certainly seems "simple":we just count the number of squares and then we know the answer.

    But (there's always a "but" stuck in there!) that takes us away from the notion of just "seeing" the Opposition without the logical counting up of the squares (which takes time). There also is another problem with this counting "solution": what do we do if the two Kings are NOT on a rank, file or diagonal? Do we have to shift to another method? If so, I'm suspicious of this approach as a means to just "see" the Opposition.

    IM Silman to the rescue!

    In situations of distant oppositions, "see" a magic rectangle in which all four corner squares are the same color, with the two Kings positioned at diagonally opposite corners. The King that has to move LOSES the distant Opposition! Hurray! A "visual" solution that requires no counting!

    Silman's Distant Opposition Rule

    In this type of [distant Opposition] situation, the rule is to make a square or rectangle in which each corner is the same color with the other guy to move.

    (I guarantee you that this will work. Silman gives several positions with just the Kings on the board and proves it.)

    Silman's book is a relatively recent acquisition (within the last few years). I had not seen that solution previously in any other chess literature (and I have a lot of chess books!)

  12. PART II:

    Another "solution" to just "seeing" the Opposition is found in Dr. Max Euwe and David Hooper's book A Guide To Chess Endings, pg 5, Diagram 6A.

    This is entirely a visual solution. I'm going to describe it in words, because I cannot embed a diagram in Blogger. (At least, I don't know how to do it in a comment.)

    Remember those groups of 4 squares I described in another comment, about how I learned to visualize the board in order to play blindfold chess? Well, this is a similar solution.

    Place the following letters on the following squares:

    "A" on a2
    "B" on b2
    "C" on a1
    "D" on b1

    Using this group of 4 squares as an example, duplicate the same lettering on all of the rest of the 4-square groups on the board. (There are 16 groups of 4 squares on the board. Yeah, I know: you already know that - but can you "SEE" it?!?)

    Euwe's Rule:

    If you can move to a square that has the same letter as the opposing King, you have the distant Opposition; otherwise, you don't!

    Initially, it will take some "looking" in order to "see" the group around one King and the corresponding group around the other King. There are some "speed ups" available. If the Kings are on the same color (VISUAL!), whoever has to move loses the Opposition.

    My preference (because it IS visual) is the Euwe's Rule approach. It has worked for me for a long time.

    Try BOTH methods and "see" which one works best for YOU!

  13. PART I:

    Another example of how motifs (specifically, the function motif) can help determine how to utilize tactics.

    8/k4ppp/8/5PPP/8/8/K7/8 w - - 0 1

    As given, White is to move. Can White win or draw this position?

    If, instead, Black is to move, can Black win or draw this position?

    I assert that without prior knowledge of the appropriate procedure, you will spend more time than needed to "SEE" the solution to this problem.

    However, does a thorough knowledge of motifs and tactical themes suffice to give some clues to those without that knowledge? I think the answer is "Yes!"

    Assuming White is to move, let's just observe some facts about the position. First and foremost, neither King is close enough to the Pawns to be a significant factor in the next few moves. White's Pawns are closer to the Queening square than Black, a significant advantage.

    First thought: 1. g6!

    Because this is a fork on the two Black Pawns on the outside. This forces Black to take the Pawn, using one of these outside Pawns. Since it does not matter which Black Pawn captures, we will have Black play 1. ... hxg6.

    This is where the function motif comes into play. The Black Pawn on g7 now has two tasks: it must prevent the advance of both of the remaining White Pawns. But, it can only stop one of them!

    White should now "see" that his h Pawn is only prevented from advancing by the Black g6 Pawn. How to get it out of the way? The g6 Pawn has two functions to perform, so we take advantage of that and advance 2. f6!

    Black only has a choice between two evils. if 2. ... gxf6, then 3. h6 and White will promote to a Queen before Black can get a Pawn across the board. Otherwise, 3. fxg7 and White again queens his Pawn before Black can get a Pawn across the board.

  14. PART II:

    What occurs if Black moves first? In this case, Black can draw but not win. Again, this is because of the relative distance of the respective Pawns from the queening square. Black (of course) could follow the same logic and produce a passed Pawn. Unfortunately, he would lose because White is closer to the queening square. So, Black must content himself with drawing (based on Pawn considerations only). The question is: HOW?

    Advancing either the f7 or h7 Pawn allows White to counter by advancing the h5 or f5 Pawn respectively. In either case, White would gain a passed Pawn close to the queening square. So, by process of elimination, Black must play 1. ... g6. White can attempt to bypass by playing either f6 or h6, but this loses! Black will capture that advancing Pawn, producing a potential passed Pawn and winning. So, White will have to capture with 2. fxg6 or 2. hxg6. In order to maintain the mechanical blockage, Black must recapture with 2. ... fxg6 or 2. ... hxg6, respectively.

    With the Pawns now blocked, the remaining question is whether one of the Kings can get to the blocked Pawns. The Black King is in a better position than the White King. The saving point is that White should capture again with 3. hxg6 or 3. fxg6, reducing the material to a single Pawn for each side. If he does not, then Black can capture both White Pawns, and then advance his Pawns for a Queen. With only one Pawn, White can obtain the Opposition, and draw (MAYBE!)

    There is considerable knowledge implicitly required in order to work out the proper lines of play. However, once the process has been studied, it should be a simple matter to "SEE" the solution! This could be subsumed in a “rule” but I think it is easier just to “SEE!”

    What does this imply for our conversation about VISION? That in order to "SEE" (mentalization), considerable prior knowledge must have already been acquired of simpler ideas. Otherwise, a rather long and elaborate logical process must be used to arrive at the correct way to proceed. We must start with SIMPLE exercises that make the motifs and themes crystal clear, preferably in isolation of any other motifs and themes, then work at more complicated positions, always looking for the telltale cues and potential themes. It may not be possible to find or create positions that illustrate a single motif or theme; so often, in practical positions, there are multiple cues and themes. However, there are (usually, BUT N-O-T ALWAYS) only 4-5 motifs and themes available in a specific position. Those may change as the moves are made, allowing new motifs and themes to become available. Skill consists in “SEEING” what is currently available, as well as what is potentially available - in the given position.

    1. As you can see in the next post, I came to the same conclusion: keep it simple. It are very, very basic skills we lack.

  15. I did not see it mentioned (it may be somewhere here). The concentric squares of the De La MazA training I found helpful. I think that regardless of the vision training it needs to be revisited periodically.