Thursday, May 12, 2016

Zooming out

The following diagram is a beautiful example of the problems we are trying to tackle. It is by no means a complicated position, so there is no confusion. This means that confusion is not the first problem we have to fix (!). All geometrical patterns are perfectly well known, so no problem in that department. There is not much visualization required, no problem there. I dabbled around on level 1 and 2. I.e. I looked for moves and for tactical motifs or themes, or whatever we call it. I knew I should look for level 3, the combination. I can't say that any logical reasoning really took off. You can't find a combination by just scanning level 1 and 2. If you are lucky then you get an idea of level 3, but if you are not lucky you are pretty much toast. You can't work your way up. You can't comprehend a sentence by just scanning the letters and the words ad infinitum. Even a checklist that in itself is based on questions that don't expand beyond level 2 is not going to give you an idea of a higher abstraction level.  Somehow you must zoom out and look at the bigger picture.

White to move
r4rk1/pbp4p/2q3pB/2p1p1N1/8/6P1/PPP2QP1/3R2K1 w - - 1 1

After "thinking" for 21 minutes, I decided to have a look at the answer. Although I tried to zoom out mentally, I didn't see the main idea behind the combination.

What is needed to find an idea on level 3? The checklists that reveal intricacies about level 1 and 2 are no longer conscious in use by me, since they don't address the main flaw in my approach, and it is a lot of work for something that doesn't work most of the time. I use a checklist for level 4, the orientation phase, and that works well.

What I need is a checklist for level 3, as a kind of training wheels. Had I for instance asked in this position "how can the white knight and the white queen collaborate together?", then I had seen the main idea behind the combination immediately. Once the idea is found, the accompanying moves are usually found fast. That is not the problem. I'm going to try to develop a level 3 checklist. I'll be back!

For your convenience:
Level 1 = chasing letters = t&e = chasing individual moves
Level 2 = chasing words = recognizing motifs
Level 3 = sentence = combination
Level 4 = text = solution
(maybe someone can formulate it a little bit less informal)


  1. Questions:
    - did you decide at the beginning the problem was about attacking the black King?

    - did you think about Bxf8 as the very first move? If so, did you think about the position after Rxf8?

    - why do you tag the position from Saturday with "confusion" and not this one? I don't understand the distinction.

    - Once upon a time you divided tactics into "trap" and "duplo attack". Rd8 is not a duplo attack. Do you consider it a trap? I wouldn't call it that, but names aren't important. The issue is, did you see it, or is it a kind of move that you're prone to miss? I know it is for me. I'm always reluctant to consider "threat" moves because it seems like there should be time for a countermove. Even though it's not true in this case.


  2. Ad 1 yes.
    Ad 2 yes, yes.
    Ad 3 because Saturday I was confused, and here I was not.
    Ad 4 Rd8 is the duple (I noticed that is a regular English word) attack PIN. The mate is the TRAP.
    I did not notice that the black rook on f8 was overworked.

    It is not so much about being prone to certain oversights. It is about not guiding your attention to the right level of attention.

    If you search for your keys which lie on your bed, and you look in the whole house and the garage, but not in the bedroom, you are not prone to overlooking your keys, but you didn't guide your attention into the bedroom.