Monday, May 16, 2016

Finding a remedy

After 51 days of doing blitz exercises at CT, the diagnosis of what's wrong is pretty clear. Yet I'm not one step closer to a remedy. Let's summarize what we have found so far.

The diagnosis
  • Logical thinking takes too much time and should be minimized. 
  • I wander too long at level 1 and 2 (individual moves and individual tactical motifs)
  • I have oversights at level 3 (combination, how the pieces work together)
  • Guiding my attention to find the oversights at level 3 has proven to be elusive so far.
  • Decision between different choices takes much time
  • Confusion increases time usage in an exponential way
What has been tried so far
  • Creating a formal thought process.
  • Applying a formal thought process.
  • Slow post mortem to ingrain the geometrical patterns into the brain.
  • Slow post mortem to ingrain the logical patterns into the brain.
  • Solving at the highest possible speed. 
  • Guiding the attention at level 3.
  • Categorizing the problems
  • Analyzing the time consumers
  • Focussing on the squares where attackers converge
  • Focussing on the defenders
  • Slow problem solving 
  • I might have forgotten a few experiments
A few facts
  • Random trial and error can be replaced by logical thinking
  • I can prevent almost all oversights by taking more time. The effect is that both the red (error) and the green (correct) colours at the summary of my performance statistics at CT turn into yellow (correct but too slow).
  • The best metaphor found so far is that of the lost keys which lie on your bed. The problem is not that you do not recognize your keys, but that you forget to look in the bedroom.
  • Confusion is highly personal. It is related to complexity. It causes a memory overload due to processing high numbers. The high numbers might be the result of roaming at a too low level. There are more letters than words in a text, so processing letters causes a memory overload.
  • The nett result of  51 days training is close to zero, if I don't reckon with an initial improvement the first days due to adaptation of the exercises.
  • I have got more knowledge and understanding of certain positions. But not more speed.
  • You can't find something at level 3 by looking at level 1 and 2 only. Only by accident will that happen.

Given the amount of remedies that have been tried, finding a remedy is not so easy as it looks. None of the experiments gave me a definite feeling or even a hint to be on the right track. Robert Coble has given a few beautiful examples of training pilots and karateka's which hint to how we can go from serial to parallel processing, but is not clear how that exactly should translate to chess tactics.

Somehow, the solution has probably to be sought in visual patterns. Maybe, the fusiform face area has something to do with it. But some critical knowledge about tactical improvement is still hidden in the dark.

There are a lot of different positions which can be categorized in certain types. Not every type needs the same remedy. But there is one category that stands out: the one where you fail to see the final combination because you look only at the lower levels. Below you find a perfect example of that.

Black to move
 3q1rk1/1p2Rppp/2p5/1bP5/3b1P2/1N4PP/6BK/4Q3 b - - 1 1

 During investigation of this position, I overlooked how the black attackers converge on certain squares where they attack the enemy targets. After 5:34 min I saw the essence of the combination. How to speed that up? How should the attention be guided towards d1, where the black queen executes a duple attack on the white king and knight?


  1. It is strange to me that we have such problems "seeing" the empty squares as targets. I know that is one of my many problems. This is an excellent example!

    My attention was first drawn to the relationship between the White Queen, the White Rook and the Black Queen. There is a "hint" of the geometrical and function motifs. This type of relationship is described by NM Heisman as a "B.A.D." (Barely Adequately Defended) relationship. The Black Queen is "attacking" the White Rook and the White Queen is "defending" it. If Black can "attack" the White Rook again, without White being able to defend it again, then Black can win the White Rook. Unfortunately, the only available Black piece to add to the "attack" is the Black Bishop at d4, and the White Rook can easily escape capture by moving away. Perhaps the White Queen can be diverted away from the defense, allowing the gain of the Exchange. . . The Black Bishop is immediately available for that function. There are two possible squares on which the Black Bishop can "attack" the White Queen: c3 and f2. This is hard to see because the squares are empty. If the White Knight was on f2 instead of b3, I think it would cause an automatic focusing on the f2 square and the concurrent attack on the White Queen. Once this has been "seen" it is fairly easy to see the followup.

    I'll revisit my comment about training pilots and karateka, and see if I can translate those "hints" into something useful for chess tactics training. Patience, please; it may some time to think it through.

  2. About your problem:
    Black is a small exchange ( bishoppair ) and a pawn up. So even small material gain would do.
    The problem is not about mate or pawnpromotion but gain of material.
    White has 3 tactical weaknesses, the rook, the knight and the king. But the knight is not weak enough to win it.

    To see: The Queen is pinned to the rook and the rook is mobile. Now its easy, the stadardmethod is here: attack the queen.

    The problem did take me some seconds because i did calculate lines like Bf2 Qe4/5 Qd1 and so on but i was very quick (10-20 sec) shure that there is only 1...Bf2 ( by logical reasoning 1..Bc3 is not that good because it gives the white queen more squares )

    What ever you try to improve you need to make it a skill. Skills can be performed subconcious and parallel. And such skillifications need weeks. I think we older have bigger difficultys than the "kids" to gain new skills. I suspect we adults need specialised ( simplified...) exercises for that.

    It would be interesting to see your concrete thinkingprocess. I still dont get what you understand under "logical thinking". How did you think at this puzzle?

    1. The first thing I saw is that I should attack the queen in order to get the rook. It took me quite a while to see that that was not possible. I tried all additional attacks of the white queen like 1. .. Bf2 2.Qe4 Bd3 3.Qe5 f6 4.Qe6+ and white escapes. Only when I had calculated these lines, I dismissed the idea to harass the queen and to look a bit further. When I focussed on the convergence squares I saw that I could execute a duple attack and win the knight. The motif Bf2 is used as a clearance move which maintains the initiative. So 1. ...Bf2 2.Qe5 Qd1 threatens mate and wins the knight.

    2. So you did see the right weakness and the right method but you did not see that after the move of the queen to e4 the weaknesses changed their weight and the king-knight fork apeared. You did not see the consequences of 2.Qe4 the new weakness d1

    3. At first I forgot to look in the bedroom since I was looking at something promising in the cellar. But when I zoomed out, and guided my attention towards the bedroom, I saw it immediately.

    4. I use the term "logical thinking" in a rather loose way. If you look at it closer, there are probably a lot of time consuming things that have nothing to with logical thinking, but which I nevertheless reckon under logical thinking since they happen in the same time frame that I think I'm thinking. When logical thinking is optimized, these wastes of time will be squeezed out too.

      Logic is destructive by nature. It can only be used to exclude possibilities. The remaining possibility must be the correct one.

      Since logic is destructive, it must work together with a creative brain process, which creates the proposals to be falsified.

      The if then else condition is the terrain of logic. It might well be that the brain process that creates the proposals for testing is the most time consuming part. But the falsification of the proposal "can I win the white rook by harassing the white queen?" in itself took a lot of time.

      Which I should have spend better, with hindsight.

  3. Helping me to solve this problem was using a concept I learned in Silman's 3rd Edition of "How to Reassess Your Chess" when he talks about typically two weaknesses needed for a tactical combination - one of them usually involving a weakened king. This isn't always the case, but what got me to the solution was the following thoughts (in this order):
    1. White's rook on e7 is guarded by his queen and attacked by mine.
    2. My bishop is attacked by his knight and is hanging.
    3. Is there a way to solve my problem and increase my ability to attack this rook? Look at my opponent's king position.
    4. Can I use my bishop (moving it out of harm's way) and distract the White queen? This brought up Bc3 and Bf2. I realized Bc3 could be ignored and in noticing Be2 also attacked g3. Is there a way to add an attacker to g3 efficiently? Not really...wait, the bishop also attacks g1.
    5. The queen has to stay on the e-file to protect the rook, so where must it go (if it takes the bishop I take the rook).
    6. Then I saw that I could threaten mate with Qd1 (after White moves Q on e-file other than e2 and e3 (which are covered by my rooks).
    7. I then calculated the line 1...Bf2 2.Qe4 (in my mind it didn't matter where it went, but Qe4 keeps it in contact with the bishop on g2), 2...Qd1
    8. I then stopped to see if I actually win material or mate him: 3.h4 (preventing mate) 3...Qg1+ 4.Kh3
    9. Then I had to figure out in my head where to go from here. I realized that the bishop on g2 was in the way so... 4...Bf1 (and the bishop can't be taken) realizing than now the bishop is pinned an in this particular line I win at least the bishop after 5...Qh1+ 6.Kg4 Qxg2 7.Qxg2 Bxg2.

    In any case, this took about 1-2 minutes to figure out, but in a game I would probably take longer to double check everything.

    I love chess tempo's problems. Thanks for sharing it. I enjoy reading your posts.

    1. Thanks for the cheering and sharing your thoughts. It is interesting to see different approaches to the same problem.

  4. I analysed the position in a very similar way (almost exactly the same) like Bryan. It took me about 60-80 seconds.

    If you moved the Knight to f2, I could find the solution withing 5-10 seconds. That gives us the important hint (ideas to test) if we have to find out why "the empty squares" difference is so big one.

    BTW. I was aware something important may be related to the King safety as it is too much closed - it has the only ONE squares left (to escape).

  5. I think we can read this article by GM Jacob Aagard:

    Can a normal person become a titled player, even a GM? - May 17th, 2016.

    Maybe there would be some grain of gold or Holy Grail? Who knows? :)

    1. As Papa Polgar showed : A normal KID can!! become a titled Player
      and as statistic shows (?) A normal adult can not(?) become a titled player

    2. @Aox:

      Statistics show that it is extremely RARE for an adult to become a master-level player, but it is NOT IMPOSSIBLE. I won't argue that the statistics (like The Force) is NOT with you or me. The statistics also show that it is extremely rare for kids to become masters, when compared to the overall pool of players. It reminds me of Gerald Weinberg's Law of Twins.

      In his book Secrets of Consulting, Gerald Weinberg tells the story of a woman who had several pairs of twins. Someone asked her if she and her husband got twins every time. She replied no, most of the time they got nothing at all. Just as intimacy doesn’t usually result in one child, much less two, most efforts in business [or in chess] don’t produce any significant results. Weinberg summarizes this observation in Weinberg’s Law of Twins:

      Most of the time, for most of the world, no matter how hard people work at it, nothing of any significance happens.

      Later he turns this around and states the principle more positively in Weinberg’s Law of Twins, Inverted:

      Some of the time, in some places, significant change happens — especially when people aren’t working hard at it.

      Rolf Wetzell is often cited as a contemporary example, and wrote a book Chess Any Age outlining his training methods. One of these days, I have to buy a copy of it. (I have a bootleg copy in a PDF file, somewhere on my computer. I have no idea where I got it.)

      I also found this comment somewhere (Chess Tempo?):

      Volodyeah... According to chess historian Bill Wall at, under the category Oldest Master, "Oscar Shapiro (1910-2000) became a chess master at the age of 74. In 1991, Bernard Friend became a chess master for the first time at the age of 71." I myself have read (in an old copy of Chess Life) about a fellow who became a master at age 75 but I don't recollect his name or which issue featured that article. I once sent a letter to GM Andy Soltis (Chess Life contributor and noted chess author), with comments and questions identical to yours. Basically, everyone has heard of young prodigies, but what about "late bloomers" in chess? He created an entire article about it in his Chess Life monthly column. Again, I don't remember which issue, but the article is reproduced in its entirety on pages 32-36 of Soltis' 1991 book "Karl Marx Plays Chess." You can probably find a used copy for cheap on Amazon if you wish to read the details. . . . IM Jack Peters of southern California played in his first tournament at 16, while GM Joel Benjamin got into chess at age 8. Both achieved master rating in 5 years and IM rating 3 years after that. 5+3=8. Incidentally, Soltis mentions a few late-bloomers like Amos Byrne, who hardly played chess at all before age 38. Also, there is Chigorin, who started his tournament career at age 27, Then there's George Salwe, number 2 player in Poland in the early 20th century, who didn't start playing in major events until he was 42! English Master Joseph Henry Blake achieved his best result at age 63. So, you see, there is hope! But determination will certainly carry you further up the rating ladder."

      One, two, three... a lot of swallows and you might just end up in summertime! (Or drunk, depending on the type of swallows.)

    3. True: Oscar Shapiro did did get a Master title at the age of 74... buuut
      He was at the age of 29 already chess champion of Massachusetts and won several important tournaments. So Shapiro is more an example of the deflation ( or inflation? ) of titles and the statistical up and downs of the USCF-Elo.
      Chigorin was a chess professional with 26 or earlier (In 1876, he started a chess magazine, Chess Sheet ). The first game of Chigorin in my database!! is with 24, he did learn the game with 16.
      I am to lazy to check all other excamples you gave, but the ones i did check in the past did show that there was no decisiv improvement (several hundred elopoints to master level) in chess at an age ~>30 except maybe?? Rolf Wetzell ( i own a copy of his book ;).

    4. @Aox: Thanks for the additional information. Please note that I did not attempt to check those examples given in that comment.

      Here's Jacob Aagaard's comment on his blog:

      Can a normal person become a titled player, even a GM?

      The cynical side of me (sitting on my shoulder like a little demon) says that his dimplomatic response is designed to avoid "discouraging" book sales at Quality Chess. However, I've read many of his blog posts, and it seems that he would not do that.

      I have fantasies of having sufficient time (Ha! Ha! Ha!) to actually study chess and "improve" to a USCF master level - SOME DAY, after I "retire." Since I have already "retired" from three different careers (with a nice pension) and am still working in order to provide health insurance for my wife (there was nothing "affordable" about the USA Affordable Care Act), it will probably only be a fantasy that I never get around to seriously. I think I have whatever "natural talent" is required, just not the time to pursue the goal. If I could achieve it, I think it would be a definite answer to the question of whether it is POSSIBLE, since I am currently 68 years old and have never been above 1810 USCF. I also haven't played rated tournament chess since 1975.

      I dream. . .

      In any event, we are now chasing a perrenial rabbit through a briar thicket while hunting for the Holy Grail.

  6. These are the wrong type of questions. The question is not if we can become a master, but if we can find the method to become a master. I cannot imagine we can't. The diagnosis in this post shows that we haven't to become rocket scientists. We only must learn to do very simple things well.

  7. I've been looking through my chess books for various checklists - thinking processes, searching for tactics, etc. As a result, I stumbled back through Martin Weteschnik's book "Understanding Chess Tactics", Quality Chess UK, Revised edition 2007, ISBN 91-975244-2-5, USD $24.95. I had read through it (as recommended by the author) and set it aside in pursuit of other things. On re-examination for possible checklists, I "discovered" (for the second time) that he actually discusses using checklists as part of a "status examination". If you have not read this book, then please consider doing so in the context of developing/using checklists. I excerpt some things from Chapter 10, Status examination to give some idea of what is hidden there - in plain sight.

    "This is a good example that understanding all the individual elements of a position does not necessarily mean understanding the whole position."

    "After you have learned about the elements of tactics, you need a method that will enable you to analyze a position as a whole. Otherwise you might arrive at faulty conclusions, as in the analysis of the position above. This method has to be easy to understand and it also has to be easily applicable. Above all, the method should not turn into a tyrant. If it required you to go through every step every time it was your move, you would not use it. If you tried, you would lose on time. On the other hand, it makes sense to have some kind of checklist, in the same way pilots do. [I had forgotten this analogy to pilots and checklists when I wrote my previous comment about pilots and karateka.] You cannot take back moves on the board. Decisions are final in chess. It is a bit like flying a plane where every mistake could be the last. Nevertheless, there must be a safe way for pilots as every day thousands of planes fly around our globe, landing safely at their destinations."

    "The status examination provides you with similar checklists."

    "Advanced players might not need any of these checklists. Nevertheless, they will still benefit from reading through this chpater, as some of the points made will deepen their understanding of tactics."

    "Initially weaker players will benefit from these checklists as they help them to become aware of and avoid blunders and oversights. But they should abandon checklists whenever they feel they have become useless routines."

    "The points dealt with in this chapter will hopefully turn you into a high-flying chess player instead of an accident-prone wood-pusher."

    Skipping. . .

    "A seasoned competitor will automatically become aware of these things in a split second, but for many amateurs it does no harm to gain the same information a few times during the process of calculation."

    "In any case, many of these things will eventually become routine, but first we need to work methodically on what will become automatic later."

    There is a later (2012) version of the book which also includes 300 problems. That title is Chess Tactics from Scratch: Understanding Chess Tactics.

    1. FM Martin Weteschnik (bor 1958) is a nice example of a "late bloomer" in chess.
      While his "German Elo" stayed at a level of ~1900 his Fide-Elo popped up to 2350 within 1 year in Hungary 1996. 1997 he did perform at his comman old level again in germany: "Berliner Sommer 1997"

      Here one of his games against an GM in Hungaria 1996
      Both players blunder a Queen at move 34,35

      [Event "Koszeg GM"]
      [Site "Koszeg"]
      [Date "1996.??.??"]
      [Round "7"]
      [White "Weteschnik, Martin"]
      [Black "Forintos, Gyozo V"]
      [Result "1-0"]
      [ECO "B42"]
      [WhiteElo "2045"]
      [BlackElo "2405"]
      [Annotator "Komodo 9.42 64-bit 7cpu"]
      [PlyCount "113"]
      [EventDate "1996.??.??"]
      [EventType "tourn"]
      [EventRounds "11"]
      [EventCountry "HUN"]
      [EventCategory "7"]
      [Source "ChessBase"]
      [SourceDate "2003.11.25"]

      1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 e6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 a6 5. Bd3 g6 6. c4 Bg7 7. Nb3 Nc6 8. Nc3
      {last book move} d6 9. Be2 Nge7 10. Bf4 e5 11. Be3 f5 12. f3 O-O 13. Qd2 f4 14.
      Bf2 Be6 15. O-O b6 16. Rfd1 Nc8 17. Nd5 g5 18. Nxb6 Nxb6 19. Qxd6 Nd4 20. Rxd4
      exd4 21. Qxe6+ Kh8 22. Rd1 Re8 23. Qg4 Ra7 24. c5 Nd7 25. Bxd4 Qe7 26. c6 Bxd4+
      27. Nxd4 Ne5 28. Qh5 Rg8 29. Qh3 Rc7 30. Qf5 Re8 31. Bxa6 Qc5 32. Qf6+ Kg8 33.
      Kf1 Nxc6 34. Ne6 $2 $18 ({3.22 Komodo 9.42 64-bit 7cpu:} 34. Nf5 h5 35. Qxg5+
      Kf8 36. Qf6+ Kg8 37. Qg6+ Kf8 38. Nh6 Nd8 39. Qg8+ Ke7 40. Qg7+ Ke6 41. Bc8+
      Rxc8 42. Qg6+ Ke7 43. Nf5+ Qxf5 44. exf5 Kf8 45. Qh6+ Kg8 46. Qxh5 Rf8 47. Qg5+
      Kh8 48. Qxf4 Rc2 49. Qh4+ Kg8 50. Rxd8 Rxd8 51. Qxd8+ Kf7 52. Qd7+ Kf8 53. Qd6+
      Kg8 54. Qg6+ Kf8 55. Qf6+ Kg8 $18 {12.83/20}) 34... Ra7 35. Be2 $2 $18 ({2.19
      Komodo 9.42 64-bit 7cpu:} 35. Nxc5 Ne5 36. Bb5 Rf7 37. Qxg5+ Rg7 38. Qh5 Ng6
      39. Bxe8 Nf8 40. Rd8 Rc7 41. Qf5 h6 42. Qxf4 Rg7 43. Qxh6 Rh7 44. Qf6 $18 {25.
      29/15}) 35... Qe5 36. Qxg5+ Qxg5 37. Nxg5 Ne5 38. a3 Rb8 39. Rd2 Rab7 40. b4
      Ra7 41. Ra2 Rxb4 42. Ne6 Rb1+ 43. Kf2 Ng6 44. g3 fxg3+ 45. hxg3 Kf7 46. Nd4 h5
      47. a4 Ne5 48. a5 Rb4 49. Nb5 Ra8 50. a6 Nc6 51. Bc4+ Ke7 52. Nc7 Rxc4 53. Nxa8
      Kd6 54. Nb6 Rb4 55. Nc8+ Kc7 56. a7 Nxa7 57. Nxa7 1-0

  8. Maybe we should share the history of progress by the people we know or at least we heard about them?

    Let's talk about... me! :)

    I am a chess amateur. I started playing chess VERY late. I was 20-21 years old when I find out (heard) about chess for the first time. It was 1997 famous chess match: IBM Deep Blue vs Kasparov.

    At first I was quite OBSESSED with chess. I could read a lot of books, play games and solve puzzles. I was really trying to be better than tournament players... even If I had not had any chess instructor. It turned out I have to work on chess much harder: reading books for kids and children did not give any expected (reasonable) results. And If I played more tournament games, analysed them and read more books (and even solve much harder puzzles) there was some progress. And finally when I reached (achieved) 1800-level (class B player) I could not work more. I was simply fed up and started doing other things. Starting with 2011-2012 I practically stopped working on chess and playing OTB games.

    After 5 years passed by... I am at the point of having fun when playing blitz games at chess server. I like chess very much, and whenever I need some relax and fun... I simply challenge people to play fast games.

    Why I was not able not achieve at least CM (candidate master) title. It is because I was too stubborn (try to imagine a player rated 1800 or better without an opening repertoire!) and I did not have any chess instructors (not to mention - coaches). And I was just reading books at the average (medium) level of complexity. I was simply too lazy to work HARD with LONGER time frame. It was not for me.

    And what is the conclusion? When I was working on chess really hard my progress was not that bad - otherwise I would not be able to achieve 1800-level. Anyway when I achieved this level I did not make any sufficient work to improve my level.

    What I want to pinpoint is the boarder (point) when hard work starts and all the fun simply "dissapear". I know only about 8-10% of players who achieved higher level of playing than me... without any efficient practice or having a trainer (coach). Even some players who were 60-70, and they simply devoted their live to chess... played no stronger than me (or just a little better).

    What is funny is the fact that whenever I play chess in the park (open air) I meed coffehouse players who are astonished and shocked on my "very high level of playing chess". It is hard to stop laughting on them, because I always try to compare my skills to these of the masters. You know what is the final result of such comparison... ;)

    Any comments? What about your work toward chess mastery? Would you like to share with us? :)

    1. I got a very late start. I learned the basic moves and names of the pieces at about age 13 - and never played a chess game! At age 20, my brother-in-law asked me to play him three games at Christmas 1968. He crushed me! Worse, he made fun of me for making "stupid" moves. I started studying books at that point, because I didn't want to embarrass myself agan. At Christmas 1969, we played three games - we each won one game, and tied one. I continued to study and found a local chess club (with the highest rated player at a little over 1800 USCF). At Christmas 1970, my brother-in-law and I played our final three games - I crushed him as badly as he had crushed me originally. (Unfortunately, I made some smart-ass remarks about HIS "stupid" moves and he refused to ever play me again.) In June 1970, I played in my first USCF tournament, scoring 2.5 out of 5, with my initial USCF rating at 1523; it never went down from there. I played 10 rated games in 1970, 13 rated games in 1971, 9 rated games in 1972, 8 rated games in 1973, 15 rated games in 1974, and 2 rated games in 1975, for a total of 57 rated games. My final USCF rating was 1810. I dropped out of playing chess because of working full time, attending college full time and having a family (2 kids). The only way I could continue tournament chess was to give up sleep completely, so I quit. For obvious reasons, it stopped being "fun." I scored 34 wins, 14 losses and 9 draws against an average rating of 1618. Against players over 1800, I scored 2 wins, 3 draws and 5 losses; the highest rated player I ever defeated OTB was rated 1994 USCF.

      I've studied a lot over the years when I have the time, just to keep my mind agile, but haven't played that much OTB. I've gone to the local chess club, which has several players at the 1800-2200 level, but have never engaged in any serious games with them. (I don't consider quick or blitz to be serious chess; my personal opinion only. For example, the last time I was there, I got dragged into a quick chess competition. I beat a FIDE Woman Master in the first round, had a USCF 2100+ on the ropes and fell into a checkmate in the endgame, and completely blew the last game against a 1900+ player. In my defense, I was so stunned by winning against the FIDE Woman Master that my equilibrium was totally blown away. It proves NOTHING regarding our respective strengths.) I'm a very fast reader, and have lots of books on chess, as well as a lot of books on a lot of different subjects. I try to regularly solve tactics puzzles on Chess Tactics Server and at Chess Academy, and occasionally at Chess Tempo. About the only games I play are against Microsoft's Chess Titan on the highest level; hardly tournament level competition.

      My (sporadic) work toward mastery is to engage in study of specific aspects of chess, like tactics. I got a copy of Rapid Chess Improvement by MDLM, and started searching blogs written by the Knights Errant. AoxomoxoA and Temposchlucker (and others, like Empirical Rabbit) had serious study programs ongoing regarding the fabled Seven Circles of Hell approach. I've lurked and sometimes engaged in the conversation, but I don't consider myself a serious chess student at this time. I'm more intrigued by generalized training methods for the mind rather than by specific training toward rapid chess improvement. If (when?) I ever "retire" for good AND if I have sufficient spare time, I'd like to go back to playing regularly at the local club and in rated tournaments. I think the "challenge" would be to prove (to myself, if no one else) that it is POSSIBLE for an adult learner to reach at least Expert level (2000-2200 USCF) through hard work. Again, I dream the impossible dream. . .

      Enough of THAT. Let's go back to searching for effective training methods!

    2. I learned to play chess when I was 3 yo. I played only against my two older brothers and my father. Soon we were of equal strength. At high school I played for the first time against other kids. I was about 1500 rated. After military service I didn't play for two decades. I restarted with chess in 1998 with rating 1528. The rest you can read in my blog, which started in 2005. Highest rating was FIDE 1856.

  9. A blog in the sidebar talks about rapid adult improvement:

    @Robert, what is actually in the status examination you mentioned? Random googling leads me to @Tempo saying (on Empirical Rabbit) he ordered the book, so at least he will be able to compare with his process. - mfardal

    1. well we dont know what was before that, that is "finding a initial rating".

    2. @mfardal - My apology for the tardiness in responding; life intervenes. In the following excerpts, I have included my own comments within […]. I have denoted “skipping” (usually, diagrams and analysis of that diagram) using three periods: . . ..

      PART I:

      Status Examination

      The status examination does exactly what its name says: it takes a close look at the status of each piece on the board. Principally, you have to look at two things with each piece. First, you have to find out its current status: whether it is attacked, defended, hanging, pinned, etc. Then you have to see this piece as an element of a picture, which is related to other elements. Ask yourself how the status of this piece changes the status of other pieces.

      . . .

      The basics of the status examination

      Impartial srocktaking is what the status examination is about. Neither ideas about the original tactical value and dynamic potential of a piece, nor any premature strategic conclusions about a position, should stop you from going through the basic status examination. Assessing the pieces' status dispassionately before you move is necessary. You should do it for the situation before and after the move as a change of position by one piece might alter the whole situation. And here Orwell does not apply: all pieces are equally important. Do not be fooled by jumping to any instant conclusions.

      . . .

      So before you move you should look at the following:

      1. What is the status of each piece? (Is it defended, duties to perform, restricted movement, etc.) What is the new status of the piece if moved to its new square? Does it have a retreating square and, equally important, how has it changed the status of all other pieces connected with it?

      2. Which squares can be occupied? Here you have to check for direct occupation and indirect occupation. Remember, sometimes a square onlly seems to be defended.

      3. Are there further connections of pieces and squares in mre complex positions?

      The status examination is not about restraining intuition. The status examination is a safety device for your intuition.

      Always consider possible checks [mate patterns, captures, and threats].

    3. PART II:

      The status of a piece

      It may sound a little banal but it remains true anyway: start your analysis of a position looking at the status of each piece. . . . You should start your analysis of each piece by looking at its current situation. . . . The diagnosis that a piece has to perform a certain duty [the function motif] will lead us to important conclusions. . . . ...little things are important in real chess, ...

      There is no doubt that the duties certain pieces have to perform are important for the status examination and possible combinations based on it. Here are some useful questions to ask when it comes to this subject:

      Is it possible to place another duty on the shoulders of a piece that is already occupied with other important matters? . . . Consequently one answer to our question is: you can overload the defender of one square by giving it another square to defend.

      Another useful question is: Are there any duties that interfere with each other?

      A question you may always ask in this context is: Can I attack the defender so it is no longer able to perform its task and from which square can the defender do its duty? . . . If you look even more deeply into a defending piece's position you could also analyze the tactical motifs for other pieces if they took the defender on that square. . . . Hence, if you are attacked, examine carefully the flight squares of your defending pieces as well. Consider flight squares as being of the same importance as initial squares.

      If you see a piece performing a duty you should analyze the status of the piece carefully. Every defender is a possible tactical target.

      Another useful consideration is what happens if the defender has to recapture after the piece it was defending is captured? . . . If the status examination revealed a potential motif against the initial target, that motif may also apply to the defender as well.

      Sometimes just looking in the direction your pieces move [the geometrical motif] may give you some ideas about tactics. [Look "through" any and all obstructions until the "aura" reaches the edge of the board.]

      A simple method to find neat tactics is to count how many times a point is attacked and how many times it is defended... [This "counting" method is different from the usual countin method for evaluating exchange(s) on a particular square. When evaluating exchanges, the material values of the pieces involved has implications that must be considered. On the other hand, when simply determining "control" of a particular square, the material value of the pieces involved is unimportant. Each piece can attack a given square ONE and ONLY ONE time, regardless of its position.]

      One important feature of the status examination is to consider the value and method of nmoving of the piece.

    4. PART III:

      [There follows individual questions related to specific types of pieces.]

      In most cases mating attacks run into tough resistance from the defender. AS he is fighting for his life he is determined to find every resource. Hence, your examination of the king’s position also has to take into account every square both your pieces and the defenders control. [This is the idea of “seeing” a “box” around the enemy king’s current square.] An experienced player’s intuition will often tell him about possible mating nets. The less advanced player might pick up this idea by looking at how many squares a king has available. A restricted king surrounded by enemy pieces should trigger the idea of a mating net. [This is the origin of the “three-piece rule”: one piece to sacrifice, one piece to protect the third piece which delivers mate. Absent that local superiority, it is often useless to contemplate a checkmate.]

      You have to analyze every piecce, the whole board, before you embrak on such an important operation as a mating attack. In reduced positions, you have to exploit every resource at your command, otherwise your attack might not succeed.

      Strangely enough, sometimes the inability to move is the only chance of surviving an attack. . . . Consequently, stalemate has to be one of the items on the checklist when you are doing the status examination for the kng, especially during the endgame. So, if your status examination renders the result that the enemy king has no flight squares it could be stalemate time.

      Squares and lines with possible checks have to be analyzed for their tactical implications and simultaneously be seen in possible relation to other parts of the board.

      Whenever you move a piece, you are changing the position and a new position calls for a fresh look. And never forget that leaving a square changes things at home as well.

      Don’t be afraid to start the status examination for every move you make. Usually you will see in a split second whether it is worth putting the effort into more detailed research of a square. Only then will you need to continue with the complete status examination for the move.

    5. PART IV:

      The analysis of complex positions

      Bringing together the results of the status of each piece is the starting point for combinations. Consequently, a combination is always the direct result of elements that can be discivered by a status examination There might be only one result of a status examination for each piece but many different ways to combine these results.

      Another important ability is to envision a position beyond the tangible tactical realitiesIn a dream you can achieve anything. So why not imagine a position you would like to have, even if it looks impossible to reach at the moment. . . . Discovering the weaknesses of your opponent’s pieces and position can still create an image that will give you a target for your plans and calculations. [This is where tactics transition into strategy.] . . . Sometimes it may even be helpful to imagine illegal or impossible moves when you dream of a position, if you can make use of it afterwards back in chess reality.

      A status examination can be the FIRST STEP [emphasis added] on the way to changing the current position to your dream image. Another step is combining the elements you have learned about in this book.

      The relation between the pieces and the motif is the DECISIVE STEP [Emphasis added.].

      In contrast to the endgame very few middlegame positions require a status examination for every single piece on the board.

      A last word

      Please wait before you rush to spring your newly acquired understanding of tactics on that evil player you have always wanted to beat. . . . Tactics will only come about when you activate your pieces! . . . Remember: active piece placement gives birth to tactics. . . . Think how to move your pieces within firing distance, and then apply the tactics you have learned in this book.