Thursday, April 28, 2016

How to speed up logical reasoning

My trial and error is replaced by logical reasoning. I believe that is a necessary step. But logical reasoning is terribly slow. The choice is to loose points due to excessive time usage, or due to erring because of skipping the check for possible refutations. Somehow, the logical reasoning must be sped up.

But how to speed up logical reasoning? The thinking itself cannot be sped up. I have been thinking about this for days, but I didn't found a satisfactory method. The only thing I can think of, is that the logical thinking must be condensed into some kind of knowledge, and that this knowledge must be memorized.

What I'm going to try, is to categorize important positions, based on the characteristics, in the hope to find some knowledge that is worth categorizing. Maybe someone has a better idea?

To err or too late


  1. The thinking itself cannot be speed up.

    If this is true - there must be another way - how the master can find the best move in most (any) positions. It is characteristics of the position - so called key points. The faster you can recognize these points - the faster you can find the best move (or at least good enough one). And if you understand what are the relationships between pieces (what functions they perform), you can spot the key (crucial) points very fast.

    I solved previous position due to recognition of the pattern when Frank Marshall sacrificed his Queen at g3 (brilliant move - it could be captured in a few ways, but even the best move led to the winning position) and "dancing Knights" very close to the King. And after I glanced at the position, I recognized my favourite motif - discovered and doubled attack. Take notice the f5-Bishop - it is attacking the Q through X-ray of the N! If the N dissapears the Q will be attacked! And the Bishop is attacked by the N at the edge - that's why we have to look for a double attack. That's how the solution have been found!

    And if you would like to analyze ALL the position step by step - you could discover the solution, but not within 6-8 seconds, but about at least 3-5 minutes! That's a HUGE difference, don't you think?

  2. I think your general aim to find perhaps thinking "heuristics" is a worthy one. I think part of the answer (and perhaps there is more than one answer), lies in the gradual accumulation of knowledge through practice and study. For example, certain pawn breaks in certain pawn or opening structures, basic checkmate and tactical patterns, strategic themes like minority attack, help to give "hooks" to hang your evaluation and assessments within your calculation. the calculation then becomes more of confirming or rejecting certain hypotheses.

    From reading things such as de Groot's extensive study on chess thought process, I believe this at least has some validity. In any case, it may also have certain individual characteristics (like a "processing speed" attribute) that may be a factor as well.

    In any case, it seems you are seeing a similar theme in your post. So the method to improve is to steadily accumulate these themes/concepts/key positions through study and practice them either through drills (like timed analysis or tactical problems). Nothing super profound, but perhaps something we need to continue to have patience with.


    1. ATM we ( especially Tempo ;) are talking only about tactical puzzles.

  3. Sometimes i suspect O_o that our "thinking" ( the "voice" in our brain ) is just fake and the "real" thinking would be unconcious and independend. When i did start to concentrate on my thinkingprocess..seemingly nothing happend, the performance in tactical puzzles where about the same as before. But slooooowly i did start to improve.. a little..

    I am still convinced that the key to improvement in tactical puzzles is "tactical vision" which is just the "extension" of "board vision". While we calculate we need to "see" whats going on.


    Different puzzles will have different methods to solve them efficient. Soner or later there will be the need for candidate moves and calculation in every puzzle.

    1. The subconscious mind is semi intelligent. It is perfectly suited for driving you from your home to your office. But "someone" has to keep an eye on it. Otherwise you will go on vacation with a fully packed car and at a certain moment your wife will ask "why do you drive to your office?".


  4. ChessNetwork How to Solve Chess Puzzles

    1. @Aox: Thank you for the reference. It appears that the person is the videos (I checked out a couple more of them) uses some sort of logical process to work his way through the problems, even though he doesn't explicitly state what that process is. It does not appear that it is a "checklist" based process. Instead, he uses whatever "clues" that the particular position gives, and then reasons his way to a solution. I think this supports your earlier assertion that "Different puzzles will have different methods to solve them efficiently."

    2. It seems to me that NM ChessNetwork does not have an explecit thinking method as GM Smirnov ( or i TRY to develop ).
      There is more to watch ;)

      IM Daniel Rensch : , .. ,
      here you see high speed calculation

      FM Kingcrusher : ......

      GM Huschenbeth : .......

    3. IM Chessexplained :

    4. @Aox: Thanks for the additional references. I'll check them out as soon as I get more time.

    5. I think it is significant that every one of the references Aox provided above have an "orientation phase" at the beginning.

      I especially could relate to IM Daniel Rensch's remarks about some of the puzzles. He found a mate in one of them; it was just one move longer. He couldn't care less. I've also been frustrated at times when in an overwhelming position, make a move that consolidates the position in my favor, only to find that there was a "clever" mate hidden in the position. It reminds me of the GTS ("Go To Sleep") approach of NM Dan Heisman. If you can consolidate down to a clearly winning endgame with overwhelming material advantage, he referred to the position as GTS. Is it the fastest or cleverest way to win? Not necessarily, but you can "go to sleep" because you have removed every possibility of the opponent winning or drawing. It's more like playing it safe.

      I suspect that there might be a connection between "playing it safe" (rather than playing for the absolute BEST move in every position every time) and a lower rating. In other words, it might be that the more advanced players got to be more advanced players because instead of settling for "good enough" moves or "playing it safe" moves, they continue to study a position (ANY position) until they have found the absolute BEST move in the position. "The good is the enemy of the best."

      At 68 years of age, I'll settle for "good enough" any time I can find a continuation that I KNOW I can win.

  5. Part I:

    My apology in advance: I cannot distill what I want to convey into a smaller space.

    Perhaps the logical reasoning process CAN be sped up. No, I am not referring to speeding up the cycle time of the neurons, which is fixed for each person. I’m also not suggesting that by following a logical “checklist” at a faster speed that the thinking can be sped up. Please bear with me as I try to explain; I think it is something you already know and have experienced and have written about many times.

    The conscious mind can only perform one task at a time; it is inherently a sequential processor. The STM is the working storage for the conscious mind. This is extremely limiting in what can be done using it in a fixed amount of time. It is inherently S-L-O-W.

    The subconscious mind is capable of performing multiple tasks simultaneously; it is inherently a massively parallel processor. The LTM is the working storage of the subconscious mind. It is extremely F-A-S-T. It also is capable of following a very specific logical thinking process, but on “automatic pilot,” if you will. Unfortunately, we don't seem to have any direct control of what it absorbs or what it does.

    As long as the logical reasoning process is done under conscious control, it will remain excruciatingly SLOW. Why? Because it is a step-by-step process, requiring conscious thought about the thinking process itself in order to make sure that each step is done and in the proper order. This is the reason that overly complicated thought processes using some sort of checklist (usually) don't work out very good in practice. The attention becomes focused on the thought process exemplified by the checklist itself, rather than on the subject (supposedly) being thought about (in this case, chess tactics). Since the conscious mind is incapable of multi-tasking, the wrong thing becomes the focus and time is wasted with regards to the actual goal (better chess tactics).

    I am just reading Welcome to Your Child's Brain: How the Mind Grows from Conception to College by Sandra Aamodt and Sam Wang. (Why? Because one of my granddaughter's was recently diagnosed with double cortex syndrome, and I am researching ways to maximize her brain potential.) Here is an excerpt from Chapter 16: Electronic Entertainment and the Multi-Tasking Myth.

    "Many aspects of brain function, such as walking or driving a familiar route, do not require direct conscious control. Planning your actions, though, does require attention, as you’ll notice the next time you get distracted and end up at a familiar destination when you meant to go somewhere else. People who claim to do multiple attention-demanding tasks at once are actually switching between the tasks repeatedly. Every transfer of attention from one task to another requires resources, as your brain must remember or reconstruct where you were on the abandoned task when you come back to it. The first task can also interfere with the representation of the second task in your memory [STM]. For these reasons, switching back and forth between tasks takes more time than completing the same task one by one in sequence. What cognitive psychologists call costs of switching reduce performance on individual tasks. If both tasks are highly practiced, this switching cost can be reduced or perhaps in rare cases eliminated. Under no circumstances, though, is it more efficient to do multiple attention-demanding tasks at once than to do them separately. In short, [CONSCIOUS] multitasking is a myth.

    1. For the decision processes which eat my time away, the check lists will be rather short (<8) probably. The problem is to devise them. There is a vast amount of knowledge required that must be condensed. That takes time, given the complexity of the matter. If it is even possible.

      And maybe it is not the check list itself, which is the remedy, but the very process to devise one.

    2. I suspect that your last assessment is close to the truth. It is the thinking process involved in devising a suitable checklist that grinds the "knowledge" into LTM, not the checklist per se. The acquisition of appropriate knowledge is indirect.

  6. PART II:

    The path to faster speed is to "burn" (so to speak) the logical thinking process into the subconscious. This is not the same as memorizing a checklist. If that can be done (I am not suggesting that it is easy to do this, nor do I guarantee that it will bring instant success even if you succeed in doing it), then the logical process is analyzed (apparently) by the massively parallel processor of the brain. Any massively parallel processing is infinitely faster than a sequential processing system, at the same circuit speed.

    I give two examples.

    The first example is your own: learning to SKILLFULLY drive a car. I will not belabor your previous points. I simply agree with you that it (obviously) CAN be done. It also seems to take a (relatively) short time to do it, compared to learning how to unearth chess tactical sequences.

    I used to teach USAF pilots how to fly by instruments in a flight simulator. For any airplane, there is a checklist of things that should be checked in order to be confident that the plane is operating correctly before flight. There are also checklists containing step-by-step responses to every anticipated abnormal situation. There are dozens of these checklists. Pilots practice those checklists over and over in the simulator until they no longer CONSCIOUSLY think about them. When you activate a particular emergency, they (eventually) respond correctly and automatically. These are not one or two or three step procedures; some of them can run for several pages. Yet, after intensive training over many hours and in many simulated flights, the appropriate response occurs without conscious thinking through the process step-by-step. This is in addition to the various navigation and flight control skills that must be acquired to just fly the plane successfully. Each phase of flight (takeoff, flying, and landing) has its own unique requirements. Yet people successfully learn to fly airplanes, just as they learn to drive cars, until the skills become almost automatic. It just takes time to ingrain the appropriate complex sequences into the subconscious.

    My second example is from martial arts. Some of the forms that are taught are long and involved sequences of specific precise movements. When first learning the gross moves that make up the form, it requires conscious thought just to keep the overall sequence in mind. It does not occur quickly, but, over time with regular focused practice, the individual moves become ingrained and (eventually) you can do the entire form without consciously thinking about all the various little movements that must be done at each step. You practice individual movements, short sequence of movements, and then merge those into longer phases of movements. You do all of this under the tutelage of a master instructor, who observes your performance AND your “inner spirit” and who makes corrections and adjustments as you perform over and over and over and over. . .ad nauseum. I was amazed at how many times my master would walk over, make a small adjustment to my hand or my foot without saying anything, and suddenly a sequence of moves that had been difficult became drop-dead simple to perform. Once the overall sequence is internalized, you then start back over it, perfecting each smaller and smaller movement and position until the entire thing becomes subconscious. Only then can you be said to have “mastered” the form. And then you are given another form, and another form, and another form. . .you get the idea. There is no end to the training. I trained for 17 years and still was two steps away from being considered a “master.”

    1. Good examples. Time and again I wonder why the relevant ideas don't come up automatic. Usually even trivial tasks like defending an attacked piece take an unreasonable amount of time. As I show in my next post.

      Somehow I get easy hypnotized, and belief in complexity that isn't actually there. There is a lack of overview. It is about going to the living room to get your car keys in order to go to the mall, pick the keys up, get distracted by the television, and then go back to the study room and go reading a book, meanwhile wondering why you have your car keys in your pocket.

  7. PART III:


    It requires learning simple stuff until it no longer requires conscious attention or thought. It requires merging the simple stuff into more complicated sequences, until it no longer requires conscious attention. Eventually, the individual steps and smaller merged units should fall into the subconscious, to be processed intuitively rather than explicitly. It is a layering of attention, abstracting each layer until it becomes subconscious and then focusing attention at a higher level, repeating that process over and over.

    I think it also requires some things that we don’t like. It takes considerable time and effort. (Exactly how much time and effort is undetermined for any particular individual.) I am reminded of an old martial arts story. A student came to the master and asked how long it would take to achieve a black belt. “Perhaps a short time, perhaps a long time,” the master replied. “What if I practice 2 times per week?” the student asked. “Then it may take as long as 5 years,” the master replied. “Well, what if I practice and study 4 times a week?” the student asked. “Then it might take 10 years,” the master replied. “Well, what if I practice every day of the week, 4 hours every day?” the student demanded in exasperation. “Oh, in that case, it will take you a lifetime to achieve a black belt!” the master replied.

    It takes focused atttention on doing simple things until those simple things are incorporated into the subconscious. But it is not sufficient to just do simple things repeatedly without focused attention. If it was, then doing 100,000 (or many more) tactics problems on CT would have done the job a long time ago. It also is not sufficient to solely do simple things repeatedly and with focused attention; those simple things must be consciously (at first) merged into higher levels of abstraction (patterns) until those higher level units become subconscious. And the higher levels patterns must be merged into still higher lvels of abstraction (patterns) and so forth. I think this structured “layering” process may be one area that receives insufficient or inappropriate attention. We train simple tactical themes/devices, we try to solve complicated tactical combinations, and everything in-between. But the strucutre of the “layering” process does not seem to get much attention. I think this may be why great masters like Capablanca and Nimzovtich strongly suggested starting with simple endgames with a few pieces and then gradually increasing the complexity by adding pieces. Each “layer” must be thoroughly understood AND ABSORBED into the subconscious prior to increasing the complexity. This is very hard to do, because there is no generally available training programme designed to accomplish the end goal of a chess player with master level skills that will fit all persons. This is where an expert teacher becomes invaluable. The programme must be tailored to fit each individual’s needs by someone who knows how to do it. Generally, we as students who are self-taught don't really know how to successfully tailor the programme to our own specific needs. That's not very surprising, given that there is very little (if any) emphasis in educational circles on how to teach yourself.

    1. Now I take the time to analyse my time usage in detail, I'm surprised how many things there are which are not obvious to me, while they actually should be.

  8. PART IV:

    Finishing up. . .

    Suppose that you do not have a master coach available (for reasons of time or money or lack of local access). That does not mean that there are no coaches available. You and Aox appear to be somewhat similar in strength. In some ways, you already "coach" each other through this blog, and through Aox's blog (before he closed it). You could analyze a particular problem (especially one which cost you significant time) and try to identify the process of thinking that you actually used. (You already do that on the blog.) I know you've stated that it is often T&E, but that is far too vague to be useful in diagnosing not only a "problem" but for making suggestions of how to get beyond that problem." I personally find it very illuminating of my own thought process deficiencies when you describe the sequence of things that you observed while trying to solve a problem. That's why I try to write out what I was thinking while trying to solve the same problem. Hopefully, someone else will recognize what went wrong, and will provide helpful hints as to how they did it successfully. It doesn't require any formal agreement to coach each other.

    One of my periods of rapid SKILL improvement occurred when I had the opportunity to observe a master level (nearly 2300 USCF) player analyze his own games against other masters and grandmasters. Surprisingly, he would often lose against much lower rated players because he would not have the same attention level as when he "played 'up'". (Since I was much lower rated, perhaps that was why he sought my input, so he could figure out the "illogic" involved.) I had a rather large collection of chess books, and have a very good memory for KNOWLEDGE. Please note that KNOWLEDGE does NOT equal SKILL! As he would analyze one of his games, I would occasionally (not often) make a suggestion for an alternative line of play, based on my knowledge of positional play. (I was and still am relatively poor at tactics.) Sometimes it would take him a few minutes to work out why my suggestion would not work - usually for tactical reasons. Fortunately (for ME!), he would always analyze out loud in a sort of "stream of consciousness" mode, verbalizing what he was investigating while he analyzed. I gained considerable insight from that, enabling me to rise from low Class C to almost Class A. I am certain that I posed no playing challenge to him at all, but it was fascinating that he was willing to seriously consider my suggestions. Perhaps something similar would be helpful to you.

    1. I have had a coach for some time. He reassured me that I was on the right track. At the same time it was disappointing to find out that I still had to do all the work myself ;)

      I have followed 100+ youtube videos of GM Henrik Danielsen playing blitz, while commenting out loud. That was insightful indeed.

      Now I'm coached by Stockfish, which is a reasonable coach when it comes to tactics ;)

    2. That is often "gold" when it comes to learning chess. Whenever I'm at a tournament and get to play against someone much better, I try to post-mortem with them as much as possible and usually just ask him to walk me through his thinking. Even better is when like you I get to listen to a post-mortem analysis by two masters. I just shut up and sit there like a fly on the wall.

      I think sometimes masters (in any field whether it be chess or visual arts) often don't understand the "process" by which they "create." They may have an idea of how they got there (practice methods, etc.) but in my observation of the few "masters" of their craft I have had opportunity to converse with or observe their actual "doing" has become automatic - similar I think to when you say "burning" in the process. I guess the question and I believe the answer is yes is whether you can do this deliberately. And of course the next question is how - which is both fascinating to me but at times perplexing.

  9. I am not sure, but maybe the idea of CHUNKS (chunkings) is a starting point here? It is some kind of grouped patterns that you can recognize and check out if they can be used in many similiar positions. What about this? Have you ever though about it?

  10. Wow! I have a lot of reading to catch up from. Great conversation.