Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Shifting gears

My mind can use a little distraction, so I decided to look into a question of Robert:

"I have some thoughts vis-a-vis your observation regarding the 50 hours of driver training but that is not sufficiently on-topic at this point; perhaps at some future point you might address it. The question is this:

There is an assumption that youngsters and adults learn differently. Yet in the case of learning to drive a car, youngsters don't learn this at all; only adults (well, at least much older "children") learn to master driving skills. In this specific case, the adults acquire the requisite (unconscious) skills in approximately 50 hours, not the proverbial 10,000 hours.


Maybe it does. Lasker  said:

"Let us assume that a master who follows a good method, say, the
method of this book, strives to educate a young man ignorant of Chess
to the level of one who, if conceded any odds, would surely come out
the winner. How much time would the teacher need for this achievement?
I think that I am correct in making the following calculation:

[200 hours total]:

  • Rules of Play and Exercises: 5 hrs.
  • Elementary Endings: 5 hrs.
  • Some Openings: 10 hrs.
  • Combination: 20 hrs.
  • Position Play: 40 hrs.
  • Play and Analysis: 120 hrs.
"Even if the young man has no talent at all, by following the above
course he would advance to the class specified. Compare with this
possibility, the reality. In fact, there are a quarter of a million
Chess amateurs who devote to Chess at least two hundred hours every
year and of these only a thousand, after a lifetime of study, attain
the end. Without losing myself in calculations, I believe I am safe in
voicing the opinion that our efforts in Chess attain only a hundredth
of one per cent. of their rightful result...."

I have devoted 19 years to chess improvement. I'm probably way over the proverbial 10.000 hours. The measly result is a mere 250 rating points.

My efforts culminated in a tribute to all well intended advice by wannabee dogooders, who have the hard to escape habit to swamp you in ostensibly wise words that they usually haven't lived through themselves.

In order to be able to learn, you need knowledge of good quality. The problem with chess is, there is hardly any usable knowledge available.

When you have to learn how to drive a car, all important knowledge is readily available from your instructor. When you want to learn to play the piano, all important knowledge is available. So there is a relation between hours of practice and the reward.

But in chess, you must unearth the knowledge yourself first. You have to discover and write all lessons yourself BEFORE you can even think of practicing it.

My blog is in the first place a monument of testing all unusable advise. As a help to others to prevent them from wasting their time. Since December 3, I'm writing my own lessons. I look forward to the moment I can start practicing. . .

Only then we can say something about what you can reach in 200 hours.


  1. Well, I didn't see THAT coming! LOL!

    As an example, I would like to use my own experience in a different field.

    I am NOT a "natural" athlete. Although I played some baseball as a youngster, I stopped after Little League (ages 9-12) because I kept getting hit in the head with the baseball. I didn't know it at that time, but I have "lazy eye" blindness in my right eye, which basically means I can only see with my left eye. Depth perception is minimal unless I turn my head back and forth while trying to judge distance. I began playing basketball at approximately 13 years of age, but never developed very much skill. I played on the high school varsity team for 4 years, playing on the first string squad my last two years. I think my points per game was somewhere around 2 (not a typo). The only reason I got to play was because the school was so small that they needed everyone who went out for the team. I stopped most physical sports after joining the USAF at age 19.

    Slow forward to age 40. I was spending almost all of my time at a desk as a programmer/analyst and as a manager. I realized that I needed to get some form of exercise. I hated running with a passion, so I started martial arts training. I was not the long-lost distant cousin of Bruce Li! One of my instructors stated that I was the least-coordinated student that she had ever taught.

    I never had the ambition to become a black belt. I simply wanted some kind of exercise that would be "interesting." I trained 3-5 days per week for nearly 17 years. Surprisingly, I eventually earned a fourth degree black belt. That required fighting contests as well as performing 8 specific empty-hand forms (kata) to the satisfaction of my instructors, who could be brutal in their assessments. Black belts were rarely awarded by them.

    I had ZERO prior experience with any martial art when I started training. I think it would be quite accurate to state that I was NOT some kind of a child prodigy who finally realized his superior talent. Given the information about my lack of physical coordination, my poor eyesight, and MY AGE at the beginning of training, I think most people would (reasonably) conclude that, statistically, I had close to ZERO chance of ever reaching first degree black belt, much less fourth degree.

    So what enabled me to reach that skill level, starting way past the best age to begin martial arts training?

    1. I was trained by expert INSTRUCTORS who were also skilled martial artists. They had a formal program of training that they had devised and revised over many years based on their own training and teaching experience.

    2. I dedicated myself to learning anything and everything they taught me. I went to the dojo every time that it was open.

    3. I supplemented the training with books and videos on every aspect of a lot of different martial arts, not just the specific one I trained in (Isshinryu Karate-Do).

    As Tempo pointed out above:

    1. In order to be able to learn, you need knowledge of good quality.

    2. All important knowledge is readily available from your instructor.

    I'll add this:

    3. You have to be willing to spend the time practicing the fundamental skills regularly with full attention over a long period of time.

    The question I posed is aimed at a more modest proposal, similar to mister Lasker's assertion regarding 200 hours of instruction to enable the student to reach the stated goal "even if the young man has no talent at all." It is aimed toward the “average” adult chess player, NOT at the elites.

    If I can reach a fairly advanced level of skill in martial arts as an adult student, I see no reason IN PRINCIPLE that a similar kind of process cannot be applicable to chess.

    That, of course, IS THE PROBLEM!

  2. I learned to play chess at age three. Within two years, I could man up against my two older brothers and my father. One brother was 3 years older, the other 6 years. So I became very fast skilled in the wrong knowledge. They were only poor home players.

  3. @Robert Coble
    what we try to do is: to become one of the top maybe 1% ?( 0.1% ? ) of the serious chessplayer.
    Have you been better than all of your teacher at the end of your education? I guess not.
    We are already better than 50% (??) of all organised chessplayer, we are good! And we are very bad car drivers compared to drivers which are doing it as a profession. You compare apples with ipods ;)

    1. Does a chess player have to be BETTER than all of his instructors at the end of his training in order to belong to the elite group of chess players? I don't think so, and neither do you.

      Am I better than all of my martial arts teachers? No, not in MY opinion. Am I as good as some of my teachers? In those things that count, the answer is "Yes!" because I have gone far beyond the skill level of some of my teachers. I am a member of that top group of 1% (0.1%) of serious martial artists. (In fact, the elite group that I belong to is considerably smaller than 0.1%; see the following anecdote.)

      While searching for actual percentages represented by black belts, I found the following anecdote.

      "In the late 1960's Black Belt Magazine did a large survey of all styles of martial arts in the U.S.A. They concluded that less that 3% of all students in the martial arts ever made it to black belt. And of those few less than 50% of them ever reached second degree black belt. [That would be 1.5% at only 2nd degree black belt.] At that time there were basically no children allowed in most martial arts schools. Having started my training in 1967, I remember seeing many so called tough guys coming in and joining. They often bragged about how good they were going to get. Several I remember were crawling out the door during or after their first class. Many lasted only a few classes. Training in many schools was brutal. Classes often were 2 to 3 hours long. Sparring was hard contact, with little or no safety equipment."

      Note that the percentage is down to 1.5% by second degree black belt. I have no idea how much smaller the percentage is at 3rd and 4th degree (no data found), but since we are moving much farther out past the right end of the bell curve, I am certain that the percentage is considerably smaller than 1.5%. Ergo, I am in the elite martial arts group that you and I aspire to in chess.

      That description of the training regimen above accurately describes the training I received. My chief instructor was a former US Navy UDT (precursor of the Navy Seals) team leader. He incorporated a lot of the UDT training into our training. The school was not oriented to the current business model of selling black belts as contracts, which you earn if you show up long enough. You earned it the hard way with sweat equity and pain. When I started training, there was one fellow who had trained for 7 years, and still couldn't advance to black belt. This was a school that would train children only to a provisional junior first degree black belt. When the child reached age 16, he/she had to participate in the adult classes, which had an entirely different self-defense orientation. None of the brutal self-defense applications were taught to the kids as kids. Most of the kids dropped out when required to finally experience the pain and fear of a brutal physical attack.

      So, yes, I am comparing golden delicious apples to delicious golden apples. ;)

    2. @ALL (especially Aox)

      If I break trough into Top20 of the best players (i.e. highest rated) at FICS - would it be a success? Nowadays it requires to achieve rating of 2250 to be rated as 20th. To give you a perspective how impressive it is (it may be) - I can add there are 3000 chess players classified at this type of (standard) rating.

      Being 20 out of 3000 means you are below 1% of the elite.

      What do you think about this performance? Do you see it as a success or just a mediocre achievement? Justify your opinion. Thanks in advance.

  4. PART I:

    I learned the rudiments of chess (mostly the names of the pieces and how they moved) when I was 13-15, but never played a single game. My first actual games were between 19-20 years of age and I had no apparent aptitude for the game. It was way too late (theoretically) to ever develop any advanced skill in chess.

    And yet. . .

    I read the story of GM Mikhail Chigorin. Link: Mikhail Ivanovich Chigorin

    Another inspiring example of starting too late to become a highly skilled player. Born in 1850, he didn't learn the moves until he was 16 (too late!) and he didn't start playing seriously until age 24 (WAY too late!). Two years later(!), he abandoned his government job and became a chess professional, publishing his Chess Sheet magazine. By age 28, he was successfully competing against experienced masters, and was generally considered to be the strongest player in St. Petersburg and possibly all of Russia. He played in his first international tournament in Berlin 1881 at age 31, placing in third place tied with S. Winawer, behind J. Zukertort and J. H. Blackburne, two of the strongest players in the world at that time. He eventually played W. Steinitz twice for the Chess World Championship, losing narrowly in the second match.

    Not too bad for someone who should never have developed any advanced skill in chess!

    The question is:

    How did Chigorin develop his skills so late in life (relatively speaking), without the services of a professional chess instructor and without huge numbers of games, books, videos and especially without a grandmaster-level chess engine and games database system?

    Apparently there IS some process which allows a dedicated student to reach a very high level of skill fairly quickly (within two years) without having all of those apparent advantages.

    Perhaps those "advantages" might also be disadvantages for the modern student: it makes it TOO EASY to acquire a superficial familiarity with the terminology of the formal concepts but removes the incentive for hard personal work struggling with applying the concepts in many and varied circumstances.

  5. PART II:

    Returning to mister Lasker, toward the end of Lasker's Manual of Chess, Third Book: The Combination:

    "These instances [of combinations] will suffice as a beginning. It would be easy enough to increase their number. But IT IS NOT THE MULTITUDE OF EXAMPLES THAT IS INSTRUCTIVE, for the multitude is confusing; IT IS THE METHOD WHICH CARRIES VALUE AS INSTRUCTION, and the method has been sufficiently illustrated above to be thoroughly intelligent. THE READER MUST NOW WORK BY HIMSELF so that he may acquire the ability to apply the method however the circumstances may vary in detail." [The "method" alluded to is the method of "seeing" the motif(s), followed by "seeing" the applicable tactical theme(s)/device(s) that capitalize on the available motif(s) in a specific position.]

    Fourth Book: Position Play:

    [The fundamental principle is that] A PLAN MUST HAVE A REASON. [. . .] THE POSITION ON THE BOARD MUST SHOW A SIGN, A CHARACTERISTIC MOMENT, WHICH TELLS US WHAT PLAN TO FOLLOW and thus relieves us of the necessity of searching through an immense mass of variations. [This does NOT state nor imply that calculation of variations is eliminated as unnecessary by following the method; it simply states that the number of variations required to be examined is reduced by the method to the barest minimum; per Einstein: "Everything should be made as Simple as possible, BUT not simpler."] [. . .] This fundamental and universal principle may be briefly expressed as follows: THE BASIS OF A MASTERLY PLAN IS ALWAYS A VALUATION.

    To value, to valuate, to judge, to estimate a thing does not pretend to exact knowledge. But knowledge by estimate, by judgment, by valuation, though not exact, according to the principle of Steinitz, is still an efficient guide for the master. AND SUCH A MASTER IS NO EXCEPTIONAL PERSON; YOU YOURSELF MIGHT BECOME A MASTER IF YOU CARED TO. BUT EVEN IF A PLAYER IS NOT A MASTER, HE MAY OBTAIN ALMOST EQUAL ADVANTAGE BY OBSERVING THE PRINCIPLE. Thus he may confidently follow HIS OWN ESTIMATES. In a given position you value the Rook as being superior to a Knight and Pawn? BELIEVE IT, ACT ON IT, PLAY TO WIN!

    What now is the reason for my valuation? Valuations again! . . . True, in each instance the reason is simpler, more sure, more trustworthy than its consequence, but THE REASON OF A VALUATION IS ALWAYS ITSELF YET ANOTHER VALUATION. Finally, ALL MY VALUATIONS ORIGINATE FROM MY EXPERIENCES: my first draws that called forth in me a variety of sentiments; MY FIRST ANALYSIS, WHICH WAS CRUDE AND FAULTY. From then on I valued and continued to value; and WITH PRACTICE I BECAME CAPABLE OF MORE EXACT VALUATIONS. And from this rough material is generated, BY CONTINUED TRIAL AND INTELLIGENT CRITICISM, the series of valuations by which the master arrives at his conclusions.

  6. PART III:

    IMHO, this is the “secret” to adult chess improvement. We take too much for granted, we mistake "familiarity" with concepts and terminology for usable skill and knowledge, and we certainly do NOT do the required ongoing hard work of formulating our own evaluations through experience. It is much easier to look up the solution to a position ("that position is just too hard!”) or to let the chess engine figure it all out for us or allow someone else to formulate the method/process to be used. In short, we focus on finding the "easiest" solution rather than applying the skill-building process in our own training. As a result, WE DON”T FORM AND REFINE THE VALUATIONS AND JUDGMENTS FOR OURSELVES THAT ARE ABSOLUTELY NECESSARY IN ORDER TO BUILD GREATER SKILL.

    This is why almost everyone who follows the MdlM Seven Circles of Hell perishes in the inferno. Even if you memorize your chosen set of 1000, 10000 or 100,000 tactical problems, you will still not have the skills of the master because you will not develop the valuations and judgments needed to support master-level skills. "Monkey sees, monkey does."

    The importance of the PLF (or Chuzhakin) system is NOT to find a "magic amulet" that allows us to evade the responsibility for forming valuations and calculating variations, but, instead, it provides a method, a (partial) process that will enable us to examine specific positions in depth, which in turn enables us to form a more detailed and accurate valuation of that position and its accidental details.

    The gain in skill occurs as a result of regularly and repeatedly performing the process of applying the method, NOT from any specific position(s) examined using the method.

    It is an interesting and intellectually satisfying exercise to search for and discover a promising method for "seeing," such as PLF. As important as that discovery is, it is the disciplined application of that method that will result in increased skill. I salute you in your quest to develop your own lessons. It will be really interesting when you apply it in your own improvement training.

    1. the good thing about CT-Art is: its sorted by pattern, this way there is a chance to have some transfer by developing frameworks and a better/universal pattern-recognition.
      Of course MDLMs "method" to learn these 1000++ puzzles cant work and the claimed success is way too phantastic.
      I think chess is about systematic search (thinking process) for learned pattern ( mainly weaknesses like HE's and so on) and testing of also learned "methods of making use of these weaknesses" by precise calculation. During this process we learn more and more about the position until we are able to solve it. So limiting factors of our performance is learning speed, Size of the STM, number and quality of learned chunks, visualisation asf.
      Repetition will help to recognise pattern, but not necessary will help in calculation, thinking-process asf.
      The problem is that its difficult to find a pattern wise related puzzle within the time we forget, and we forget quicker when we get older, so it seems to be logical to repeat at least the same puzzle several times. To improve at chess at a whole das mean that you necessarily improve at a given subset. And if you improve at a subset which is large enough.. you should get better in chess
      Sometimes i think it might be of use to change puzzles by a program to keep the main idea but to change the unimportant other features to teach the eye for the important things

  7. Once I have followed gm Henrik Danielsen commenting his 100+ blitz games. Usually I had little problem to follow his lightning fast tactics. What I could not follow, was his positional play. Since I lacked the knowledge he based his decisions upon.

    This means, that there is nothing wrong with the speed of my unconscious, as long as I have the right knowledge. I can wash my hands as fast as any grandmaster. Once I have found out how the tap works.

    1. at the moment i focus on positional/strategic training because positional play and tactics are related.

    2. Recently I have been watching GM Hansen's (and other IMs and GMs) bullet skills. They are extremally fast thinkers and I could not play so fast as they do. However most of the tactics they execute I can understand pretty quick.

      And I have the same feeling and experience - I have no proper knowledge related to the positional play. I probably posses 5% of their skills at this area. That may be one reason why I suck at tactics that much :(

  8. Well one can learn to drive in 50 hours but as measured by insurance claims long term experience does make a difference.

    Agreed. the MDLM system is somewhat oversold . I did learn a lot when asking myself why did this particular tactic work/not work I learned about weaknesses in a position and telltale signs of when to calculate. So some intuitive improvement and pattern recognition improvement.

    As to thought process, I found this to be interesting. https://www.redhotpawn.com/chess-blog/hikaru-junction/thinking-chess.275

  9. I don't think we need extraordinary mind power or mind speed as an explanation for the faster performance of grandmasters when it comes to solving tactics. The difference between the average Joe and the grandmaster can be perfectly explained by the excess waste of time that Joe shows during solving. If I would manage to squeeze out all waste of time during thinking about the solution, I would end up to be as fast as a master level player.

    Lack of knowledge is the ultimate time waster. When I don't know how the encircling motif works, I will waste time to find out. If I don't know how a certain mate works, it takes minutes to find out. If I don't know how a camera works because I don't know what a camera is, it may take hours to figure it out. If I don't know how a tap works, it may take minutes to wash my hands. Not because I'm slow, but because I need to waste time to figure it out.

  10. I find this conversation fascinating, yet I also want to dismiss an aspect of it as being akin to "the allegory of the cave", particularly the part on departure from the cave. We are describing the experience instead of what it is that we are searching after.

    Combinations (tactics can sound so simple since combinations are often about choosing the superior tactics). I believe the truth is in the combinations themselves, since, as humans, we have this ability to abstract conditions for meeting those tactical requirement, which we indicate under the term 'positional play'. Computers don't have this ability, so a human programmer has to plug in some PLF, etc system, many systems that humans use, for the computer to have a chance to generalize and conceptualize as we do.

    In my experience, the better you can focus on and visualize the position and the tactics, the easier it will be to evaluate the position and do that correctly. If I am waiting for my opponent to move and starting to get a bit bored, I will try to blindfold the position, and material count, to increase my appreciation for the position, to in turn give me a stronger sense of the position, and thereby also improve my chess thinking abilities that way.

  11. Personally, I feel that one could create a blog like this but have it based on openings. Chess truth is very concrete (just like tactics are).

    I was going through a game of Steinitz' where the opponent left out the move ...h6 (bondarevsky-makagonov system in the QGD) Andy Soltis said that that move was later found to prevent a mating attack against the Black king by shooting the h-pawn at it (h4-h5-h6). IOW, this well-timed move ...h6 has a very concrete idea behind it. If you play general, clumsy, lackluster chess as Black you will find yourself on the wrong side of a miniature many times, even against 1300 level players, with the "main culprit" being this weakening ...h6 move.

    So, if you are a coach at a club level, and you can't explain any of the ideas behind the move, and you want your team to beat the cross-city team, you might tell your team not to play it. But, if you want to play at an Expert level or above, and can begin to understand the very concrete ideas behind openings, and can demand yourself to understand and play at a high level, then you can play this move. I feel the h4,h5 moves in the main-line Caro-Kahn are another example of this, where if you don't have a strong understanding of why you are doing it, it's better to avoid altogether as White, as it can very easily become the culprit for many losses after one careless move where you failed to notice some detail in the position because of all the weaknesses that this move/idea creates.

    In one sense, not knowing the ideas is a lack of knowledge. In another sense, lack of knowledge still doesn't absolve one from analyzing/figuring out concrete lines at the chess board. It is better to learn openings knowledge ahead of time, right, even more than other types of chess knowledge because openings, OTB, are the biggest, most ponderous time-wasters. This, in turn affects chess results due to the waste of time and energy just to get a playable position.

  12. I consider John Watson to be the last chess theoretician we have seen. When he wrote his book Secrets of Modern Chess Strategy: Advances since Nimzowitsch, I was rather disappointed. If I would have to summarize his book, I would say something like "every rule in chess has so many exceptions, that it doesn't make sense to continue to speak about rules any longer. In concrete positions, calculation needs to replace the rules"
    I thought that he actually threw in the towel, concerning chess theory.

    But now I think about it again, it might be interpreted differently. The general rules can be thrown out of the window, safely, when they are superseded by concrete calculation. We already found out that general rules don't have the inclination to improve our play. The conclusion though is, that we must unearth the rules that govern calculation. Which is exactly what we are doing now, lately.

  13. PART I:

    IM Watson adopted the viewpoint of GM Richard Rèti, using Nimzowitsch as a foil for his polemics against playing by “general rules.” I think he did a brilliant job of casting Nimzowitsch as being just as dogmatic as Dr. Tarrasch for the same "sin." The problem with the polemics is that Nimzowitsch (in My System) is addressing class players (perhaps beginners) in Part 1 - "The Elements" and more advanced players in Part 2 - "Position Play".

    Link: Modern Ideas in Chess, Chapter V. New Ideas, 20. The Hypermodern Style

    Link: My System: 21 Century Edition

    Perhaps it would be useful to see what GM Rèti actually said.

  14. PART II:

    Quoting GM Rèti:

    "As we younger masters learnt from Capablanca’s method of play, by which each move is to be regarded as an element of a scheme, that no move is to be made for itself alone (contrary sometimes to Morphy’s principle that every move should have its concomitant development), we began to see that moves formerly considered self-understood and made, as it were, automatically by every good player, had to be discarded.

    As a special instance of the general ideas of the moderns I start by stating that a difference in principle exists between scientific rules as we know them in connection with Physics and Mathematics and the so-called chess laws. That difference becomes clear when we consider that Nature’s laws prevail under all conditions, while the universal strategical chess principles are maxims of treatment which may, perhaps, in the majority of instances, find a practical application, yet, in some cases, are better not resorted to. Just as in life no universal rules of conduct can obtain, and just as the man who invariably acts in accordance with the most approved principles will not perforce become great, so it is with chess principles.

    What is really a rule of chess? Surely not a rule arrived at with mathematical precision, but rather an attempt to formulate a method of winning in a given position or of reaching an ultimate object, and to apply that method to similar positions. As, however, no two positions are quite alike, the so called rule, if applied to an apparently similar position, may possibly be wrong, or at least as regards that particular position, there may exist a more suitable or effectual method of play. It is the aim of the modern school not to treat every position according to one general law, but according to the principle inherent in the position. An acquaintance with other positions and the rules applicable to the treatment thereof is of great use for the purpose of analyzing and obtaining a grasp of the particular position under consideration. Chess principles as a whole can be viewed therefore as maxims which it is often, or perhaps mostly, but certainly not always advantageous to follow. Every problem composer, for instance, is able to compose a problem for every rule in which the key move leads to the quickest solution and is the best move and which yet may be opposed to that rule. In every game - indeed in the best of the earlier games - we come across moves that seem self-evident and which the master of routine made without reflexion, because such moves were founded on rules of such long standing as to have become part of that master’s flesh and blood. According to the modern school of players, extreme deliberation is called for when one plays independently of rules and on the lines of one’s own particular plan; and the source of the greatest errors is to be found in those moves that are made merely according to rule and not based on the individual plan or thought of the player. Games of the modern school seem to its critics to have the appearance of quaintness and inconsequence. The players of the modern school move quickly where others stop to think and they instinctively avoid making moves which have hitherto been considered as obvious. It is not my intention to lay down here that principles are superfluous (I have already demonstrated their usefulness), but I do want it to be made sufficiently clear, that chess rules must be subjected to careful consideration in each particular instance of their intended application.

  15. PART III:

    Mister Lasker had a few observations (some positive, some negative) regarding the Hypermodern School in Lasker's Manual of Chess. I won’t give those observations here; read the book.

    The "general maxims" (per GM Rèti) are a distillation of the experience of generations of chess players. Each player must evaluate every specific position to determine the requirement(s) of that position FOR HIMSELF. That generalized experience provides "clues" as to possible lines of play, but must NOT be relied upon without critical evaluation and calculation of the possibilities of a specific position. Mister Lasker utilizes the Latin phrase "ceteris paribus" (everything else being equal) as a caveat against relying SOLELY on general maxims to guide ones play. This is one distinctive difference between class players and the masters, just as another distinctive difference is that the masters shuffle the pieces around on the board when analyzing; class players (as a "general rule") don't shuffle the pieces.

    In the end, we must develop our own valuations over time, and play in accordance with those valuations. When things don't go as anticipated, we must dig deep into WHY things went wrong, improving (HOPEFULLY!) our valuations (AND OUR SKILL) in the process. Unfortunately, most of us seem to think that GM Arnold Denker's "general maxim" ("Shave on someone else's face.") means that we don't have to learn how to shave our own face. Sadly, NOT TRUE!

  16. The rules we learned stay the same, in a sense. What we need to learn is the why behind the rules. We need precision in the application. Take for instance the rule to try to occupy an open file if you can. If you have a closer look at it, you see that a line of attack and an open file have a lot in common. But not every open file is a line of attack. The idea of the LoA is more precise, since it must be in contact with both a target and an attacker. That added precision based on understanding, makes that you will not invest in an open file that leads to nowhere.

  17. The most important reason that we don't learn from our chess games and study, is that we don't have a coatrack to hang our knowledge on. We learn something, but when we can't fixate the knowledge on a framework, we forget it again. That's why opening study is attractive. You can hang everything on the tree of variations.

    The plf-system is a framework I can hang my knowledge on. First knowledge about tactics, but later on, knowledge about positional play. No doubt about that.

  18. Great Thread . Papa Reti always has something interesting to say.
    I have more to say as time allows but a quick comment. Perhaps this might be a good extension to the Steps program.


    Jim Takchess
    Wannabee Dogooder *)

  19. “Perceive that which cannot be seen with the eye.”
    ― Miyamoto Musashi, A Book of Five Rings: The Classic Guide to Strategy

    Mister Lasker's Lasker's Manual of Chess is a philosophical framework for developing processes of thought, utilizing the underlying general philosophy of Struggle with chess as the example. This is the reason that most chess players who attempt to learn from it give up in frustration. They assume it is about chess. It is, but not in the way they think.

    "You learn no art by anxiously restricting yourselves to it; you have to seek its association, and its logical connections and analogies with the rest of things. Otherwise, you will learn no more than the craft, the technique of your art and never attain to a full comprehension or easy mastery of it." - Lasker

    "To know ten thousand things, know one well."
    ― Miyamoto Musashi, A Book of Five Rings: The Classic Guide to Strategy

    You quite accurately described your prior experiences while searching for the Holy Grail of chess improvement:

    "My efforts culminated in a tribute to all well intended advice by wannabee dogooders, who have the hard to escape habit to swamp you in ostensibly wise words that they usually haven't lived through themselves."

    You are not alone in your assessment. My apology if I have contributed in such a way at any time.

    The very essence of Lasker's approach is that YOU must be the one to struggle with understanding the "rules," why they are "rules," and when to apply them (and when to violate them). There is no "easy path" to the top of the mountain, although there may be many separate paths, each unique to a particular person. That is the "secret" hidden in plain "sight" within Lasker's book.

    There are none so blind as those who WILL not "see."

    You are correct that the same framework for tactics will be useful for positional play.

    May I suggest a return to the study and application of your framework? I think I have distracted you sufficiently at this point.

  20. Originally, I thought that to get to 1900, for example, I would have to do something like study endgames to "get my game to the next level". Now, while that is not a bad idea, I don't think that's how a lot of kids make it to the next level. There's this talk about plateauing and what gets one past it, but I think a lot of this notion is B.S.

    If you watch the videos on Youtube of Max Dlugy (great example) or Jan Gustaffson (who even admits he's not that good at mating attacks, but enjoys a 3100 rating on Chess24), what you see is their uber-exceptional ability to recognize threats at blazing speed (they can do it so quickly you have to rewind and watch it again - Gustafson videos good for noticing this). Gustafson says he's good because he can calculate so quickly, but if you watch him or Dlugy it's not only threat/no-threat recognition and blazing fast calculating speed, it's the fact that these things are tightly integrated as well.

    These GMs can look for threats and prune the lines within the lines based on their exceptional threat/no-threat recognition. Also, they calculate more deeply, and believe in their calculations, and act on those calculations and beliefs seemingly without fail.

    Their are a lot of kids closing in on Expert, whereas I dip below 1800, and I can tell you that I have a "better understanding of the game" than nearly all of them. However, their speed of threat recognition and concrete calculation of those threats will trump mine according to their rating. They will calculate deeply and accurately in spots, once they choose something that they think they see and want to go after.

    So what I am saying is that a rating reflects not just performance, but execution. Someone 200 points higher-rated doesn't need to play better than you over long or medium thinks (it's probably only you doing that anyway). They will simply out-execute you, statistically, within the parameters of the time-frame.

    If you go with me on what I have said above, it's easy to see why some might appear to be "born good at chess". Their mental micro-chip is likely outperforming yours in any opening or position, whether they know it or not. So, even if you are both making mistakes it's more likely that they are the ones that are capitalizing on, fixing, and defending against future mistakes during the course of the game.

    I've probably played enough bullet and blitz to know that playing faster doesn't necessarily cut it when it comes to calculating faster or recognizing threats or noticing more ways/moves to deal with problems in a position. There is some sort of discipline that a player needs to have and apply during a game, that probably exceeds the demands of the position.

    All I can think of are calculation excercises, practicing calculating more deeply (one or two plies deeper alone should lead to a jump in your rating that gets you off of your plateau). The best book I've found for this is "Perfect Your Chess" by Volokitin (book is based mainly on his awesome games) and Grabinsky, but I don't even read it because you have to sit there, usually from half an hour to an hour to solve a single problem, and you usually won't get them right even, that's how hard they are.

    1. Sorry, I had intended to comment no more on this thread, hoping that Temposchlucker would resume his exploration of the PLF system, and describing his training regimen. Alas, I cannot escape the desire to "do good."

      I looked at the "Perfect Your Chess" excerpt on Amazon. The target audience is FIDE Master and above, including IM and GM. That's as high a bar as can be set, other than World Champion (or, even higher, computer World Champion). Perhaps there are more appropriate textbooks for those of us lower down on the ratings ladder.

      I found the following wise advice in the Introduction. Doesn't it look familiar?!?

      "Unfortunately, many chess-players completely overlook the need to work regularly on the development of their main 'tool', i.e. their brain. We are not denying the value of studying opening theory or recent games, but we suggest that one must think more carefully about the relative importance of these and other factors, and the correct allocation of one's time to such essential things as developing combinative vision, calculation of variations, and the development of one's imagination.

      Now we shall discuss how one can make self-improvement work in chess both interesting and effective. As many years of experience have shown, even the most intelligent lectures, delivered by the most articulate and talented and teachers, have very little effect, because they are soon forgotten. Therefore, as the second world champion, Emanuel Lasker (incidentally, a highly intelligent and erudite individual) put it, "Memory is too precious a commodity to be stocked with trifles. Out of my 68 years, I have devoted at least 40 to forgetting much of what I had heard or read, and since doing so, have acquired a certain ease, which I should never again wish to be without." [***] Now we can understand that what helped him remain world champion for 27 years was his quick-wittedness and freedom from any dogma. EXCEPTIONS ARE MORE IMPORTANT THAN RULES. Rather than just playing over a collection of games, it is much more effective to try to guess the moves. Rather than listening to a lecture by a well-known player, demonstrating a game, IT IS MUCH BETTER FIRST TO ANALYZE THE GAME ONESELF, AND THEN COMPARE ONE'S CONCLUSION WITH THOSE OF THE MASTER.

      It is simply amazing that so many reference mister Lasker and his insights.

      [***] - The quote in my copy of Lasker's Manual of Chess is as follows:

      The bad state of education in Chess is due entirely to our backwardness. EDUCATION IN CHESS HAS TO BE AN EDUCATION IN INDEPENDENT THINKING AND JUDGMENT. Chess must NOT be memorized, simply because it is not important enough. IF YOU LOAD YOUR MEMORY, YOU SHOULD KNOW W-H-Y. Memory is too valuable to be stocked with trifles. Of my fifty-seven years I have applied at least thirty to forgetting most of what I had learned or read, and since I succeeded in this I have acquired a certain ease and cheer which I should never again like to be without. If need be, I can increase my skill in Chess, if need be I can do that of which I have no idea at present. I have stored little in my memory, but I can apply that little, and it is of good use in many and varied emergencies. I keep it in order, but resist every attempt to increase its dead weight.

      It is vitally important to use exercises that are just slightly above your current level for training increased skill. Too low, and it becomes boring. Too high, and you give up in frustration because you just can't "see" it. You have to find problems in the Goldilocks zone.

  21. Chess has changed a bit since Lasker's time, it's a faster game now (the time-controls are) with more prior knowledge (for the average player). Lasker had strong practical playing ability, very strong calculation, etc, and was good at the "struggle" within those slow-time controls. Capablanca was the one who wanted to speed up the time-controls so that he could put Lasker away more surely, and easily.

    Capablanca's magic, his masterpieces, were often a move-by-move outplaying even within the same over-arching plan. Lasker was stronger in bursts, which is more typical of a slower-player who "struggles". lol. That said, Lasker was one of the greats by me, for sure.

    Talented endgame players can often ply their trade at faster time-controls than talented middle-game players. Lasker was both, but his endgame combos often look like they took much longer to calculate out than Capa's. Lasker relied more on sheer brilliance than even natural ability.

  22. I learned a lot from my recent chess loss, which you can read about on my blog, or you can just read the last comment in this thread on chess analysis that a chess Master gives. I found it very enlightening:

  23. In my case the biggest improvement has been achieved due to gaining knowledge related to the positional factors in practice. After I understood how the things work (and when do not work!) I gained about 120-150 rating points. And I think at the higher level (2000 or higher) the necessary thing is to understand the position not just "shooting tactics everywhere".

    And beside that as David noticed (a fragment from stackexchange discussion - last post): "...More than 50% of chess moves are quiet moves and most tactical errors extend from inferior positions obtained by playing inferior quiet moves". It means we probably have to merge positional factors with tactics as using just CCT (capture, check, threat) is no longer helpful. At least it is my point of view.

    In general - the tactics comes from superior position. If we start from the extreme (#1 tactics) we can see the opposite side has no counterplay at all. However after reaching certain level (circa 2000 as I mentioned before) the tactics and combinations MUST be strictly connected to the positional factors as you cannot execute all tactics without so called "quite moves" (no captures or checks).

    What do you think about this idea? Has anyone checked what is the relationship between the two factors? It could be really interesting I think.

  24. @ Tomasz:

    It is hard to argue with success! If it worked for YOU, then that is all that matters for YOUR improvement.

    PART I:

    A close examination of Lasker's Manual of Chess will uncover the following "principles" regarding three different kinds of positions.

    Type (1): You have an uncompensated advantage (ceteris paribus) and are ATTACKING.

    Search for the combination which brings home your advantage. The target for the attack has to be a weakness in the hostile position. The most successful, the most effective combination as well as the widest-visioned and deepest plan of attack—thus Steinitz' idea—proceed, as if by a miracle, in the direction of the weak points.

    Type (2) Your opponent has an uncompensated advantage (ceteris paribus) and you are DEFENDING.

    He who is at a disadvantage must be willing to defend himself, he must be willing to make a concession. But his guiding star must be the principle of economy. Hence, he must seek to make the least concession that just suffices, not an ounce more, not the dot of an "i" too much. The stability of a position is gauged by its LEAST STABLE [WEAKEST] POINT; attempt to achieve at every point the same degree of stability.

    Type (3) You hold an advantage in some area(s) and your opponent holds an advantage in other area(s) (BALANCED POSITION).

    What plan has the player to follow in a balanced position? He must play—and this is the ESSENTIAL POINT—to maintain the COOPERATION of his pieces.

    Hence there is cooperation and interaction between any two Chess values, and this interaction has a certain typical character which always manifests itself whenever two values comes into cooperation. The result of cooperation in ATTACKING POSITIONS is to strengthen each element of the group; in positions of DEFENSE, to protect each other; in positions of BALANCE, to complement each other. Of course, one may be forced to give up the position of strongest cooperation, for instance, when following a plan of attack requiring the doubling of pressure on certain important points. According to the ideas of Steinitz, one should make concessions in such emergencies; but again according to the same principle, one should be parsimonious with such concessions. The stronger cooperation in the above sense is always a position of greater MOBILITY than the weaker cooperation would allow. Or, to use another term, say flexibility, or adaptability or elasticity. The main idea of this cooperation is to INCREASE THE RANGE OF POSSIBLE PLANS TO FOLLOW, without specifying too early which road you would prefer to travel.

    Which brings us back to Lasker’s comment regarding the distinction between (and harmony of) combination and position play:

    In the Chess master, combination play is COMPLETED by position play. By combination the master aims to show up and defeat the FALSE VALUES, the TRUE VALUES shall guide him in his position play.

  25. PART II:

    Tactics can occur in any of the three types of position (and from either side), if and only if one is playing in accordance with the requirements of the position, as defined by Lasker above.

    Given the preference of most players to “attack” (Type 1), it seems “obvious” that (successful) tactics flow from a superior position (one in which the “attacker” holds an uncompensated advantage of some kind). The attacker MUST attack with the intent to realize that advantage, or he will be deprived of that advantage. On the other hand, if one player "attacks" (throwing out tactical shots) without holding an uncompensated advantage (as in Types 2 and 3), then he is NOT playing in accordance with the requirements of the position and can be forced into an inferior position by tactics used in retaliation. However, we also have to play positions of Types 2 and 3 (the majority of most positions, at least until one player or the other makes an error), and tactics are just as useful in those types of positions.

    A Type 3 position can be sterile (no available tactics for either player) or as dynamic and complicated as any tactical melee. This is where the "false" values are uncovered and shown to be "false" — by tactical means. One player does NOT play in accordance with the requirements of the position, and therefore tactical means are REQUIRED in order to demonstrate those false values. On the other hand, if both players play in accordance with the requirements of the position, the balance may be maintained even though there are tactics galore.

    Dr. Lasker stated that principle this way:

    Balanced positions are not without means of attack and defense, only, in contra—distinction to unbalanced positions, the defense has to make no greater concessions than counterattack can regain. In balanced positions, therefore, defense and counterattack are so adjusted that WITH BEST PLAY ON EITHER SIDE the balance is again established. In such positions attacks may be ferocious, defenses subtle, combinations deep but at the end, when comparative tranquility reigns again, neither side can claim to have achieved an advantage. Balanced positions WITH BEST PLAY ON EITHER SIDE must lead again and again to balanced positions.

    The justification underlying the PLF system is to enable us to “see” the available resources in a specific position, whether for attack, defense or for maintaining the “balance” of a position. That means that we need to “see” the tactical resources that enable us to play “positionally” (in accordance with the requirements of the position).

    Chess is NOT an easy game, and cannot be played on autopilot.