Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Down memory lane into the future

This is my 1000th post. Time to look back and to look forward.

It all began way back in 1998, when I started to play chess again after a hiatus of a few decades. After a few months I witnessed how our club champion got is ass handed by a 14 your old boy. The boy didn't use much time, and he even seemed to have trouble to concentrate on the board. At that moment it dawned upon me that his performance was simply based on some kind of super trick.

I decided that I wanted to know how this trick works, and I wanted to learn the trick myself. And so I started my investigation. Soon I discovered the ideas of prof. Adriaan de Groot, and the experiments of papa Polgar. It soon dawned on me that the trick had something to do with pattern recognition and the subconscious. The question became, can I replicate the results of papa Polgar as an adult, with myself in the role of guinea pig?

I bought Polgars first brick and started to solve mate problems. After the brick I continued with the steps method, followed by the discs of George Renko. I started to become better, and slowly my OTB rating improved from 1532 to 1856 (FIDE).

In 2005 I joined the Knights Errant, who followed the ideas of Michael de la Maza. I was dubbed the knight of international pancakes. Here I heard for the first time about repetition. I decided to make a grand experiment of it, and to log my experiences and mistakes along the journey. I was already busy for 7 years, so it was clear it wouldn't become a simple walk in the park. I decided to exaggerate every experiment, so that others don't need to make the same errors as I did, and to prevent them from entering a dead end. And so I wandered enthusiastically into any pitfall I could find. The power of reaching adult chess improvement would be that there would be for the first time a conscious description of how the results were attained. Thus far only the descriptions of which methods don't work have materialized, and so the story is in dire need of a happy end.

I intend to describe when certain ideas were discussed for the first time.

February 2005 I was introduced to the idea of repetition, and I did all sorts of the seven circles of hell in a grand way.
In 2006 the duplo attack and the trap were discovered as paramount ways to gain wood. The idea for the need to memorize 50,000 to 100,000 patterns was falsified, by discovering the real nature of pattern recognition.
In November 2006 we see the first sitting duck in the arena.
In December 2006 the first vulture makes his appearance. In the same month I discovered the paramount role of piece activity as the nec plus ultra. This was my first attempt to build a thought process, based on understanding.
In may 2007 the Chess Module was invented. In the same month, the importance of feedback was formulated.
In june 2007 backwards thinking was discovered. The first visualization experiments started.
In August 2007 I started to experiment with narratives. In the same month seeing versus understanding makes its debut.
In September 2007 the first picture of a coatrack was published.
In October 2007 the idea “when a piece or pawn is protected multiple times, it probably stands in the way” came about.
November 2007 was hacked by the Russians.
In December 2007 we talked about that it might suffice to only look at the played move. What does the piece do on his new square, and what doesn't the piece do on his old square anymore?
In January 2008 the framework made its entrance. Serious doubts on the MDLM system was casted.
In May 2008 we talked about confirmation bias.
In September 2008 we investigated the stalling mind.
In January 2009 we all left for the first time our comfort zone. Chess was described in terms of the three battles:
  • the battle of the pieces
  • the battle of the pawns
  • the battle of time
February 2009, more about backwards thinking and narratives. And visualization.
March 2009 the miracles of the subconscious.
October 2009 about the importance of outnumbering.
December 2009 the idea of transferring skills or knowledge from one position to another was formulated. And the transfer to OTB play.
December 2010 The two types of times were formulated. One time as the amount of tempo's to reach an ideal situation, after when it is reached, there are no more tempos needed. The difference between falling asleep over your work and after your work. And another time defined as the struggle for the initiative. In the same month we adopted mentalization as a better word for visualization.

Here I discovered that my blog was spiraling in circles over the same subjects over and over again, reaching at a deeper level of understanding with each spiral:
  • Visualization
  • Piece activity
  • Dynamism vs static positional ideas
  • Backwards thinking
  • A coach is best
  • A book is the next best (I ordered Reassess 4th edition)
  • Pawn structure
  • Database with patterns
  • Learning on automatic pilot doesn't work
  • Preconditions for attack of Vukovic
  • coathangers and their racks
  • Transfer
  • Skill
  • Tempos and geometry
  • Dual purpose moves
  • Outnumbering
  • Analysis of games
  • Chaos theory. Identifying the move where the game goes haywire
  • Narratives
  • Avoiding complexity to relieve the short term memory
  • Flexible moves
  • Steerability
Probably I have forgotten to mention quite a few recurring subjects. But you get the idea.

The ideas we are elaborating on today, are for the most part based on earlier discoveries. Brought together in a coherent framework. What will the future bring? It is difficult to say. After 6 months of salt mining, I knew for sure that another 6 months wouldn't change a thing. I'm busy with the PLF (PoPLoAFun) system for over half a year now, and we have made great theoretical progress. But will it transfer to practice? I feel confident it will. But I have felt confident before, so that is no guarantee at all. I'm very pleased that all questions that were raised in the past are addressed, and that all past conclusions have found a place in our current ideas.

So far this blog is a monument of falsified chess improvement theories. What not to do when trying to improve at chess. It might even get a mention in the Guinness book of records for the biggest rearguard struggle in the history of chess. If it will be more than that, we will find out in the next two years. One way or another, we will have found answer on a few big questions. Is adult chess improvement even possible? At least I improved my English as an adult.

1000 post wouldn't have been possible without the7349 contributions of the readers of this blog. It were your contributions, discussions, questions and rantings that kept the juices flowing. I want to thank you for that!


  1. Congrats Fellow Knight ! It has been great fun. For the historians out there here is the first post. . I believe I started doing the circles that month as well. Your blog level of fun ,insights and comments of the crowd that reads it has always been enjoyable. Here's hoping to you playing an Immortal Game that will take GM Stockfish 5 Days of running to appreciate it's beauty. Cheers, Jim

  2. Tempo! Greetings from an old Charter Member of the Knights Errant - J'adoube! I remember those days well. Glad to see one of us had the endurance to continue! Maybe we'll get some of the other Knights to comment - like maybe Blue Devil Knight! Maybe time for a virtual re-union!

  3. Congratulations! That is a magnificent quantity of investigation and writing. I am extremely grateful for your insights and for all of the commenters!

    BTW, your English HAS improved as you have written the blog posts and your comments!

  4. Ha! Well how about that? Thanks for keeping the faith...blunderprone has been sitting on my shelf
    ...lost some steam a few years does that to most of us knight errant alumni. Maybe...soon.

  5. To dream the impossible dream
    To fight the unbeatable foe
    To bear with unbearable sorrow
    To run where the brave dare not go

    To right the unrightable wrong
    To love pure and chaste from afar
    To try when your arms are too weary
    To reach the unreachable star

    This is my quest
    To follow that star
    No matter how hopeless
    No matter how far

    To fight for the right
    Without question or pause
    To be willing to march into Hell
    For a heavenly cause

    And I know if I'll only be true
    To this glorious quest
    That my heart will lie peaceful and calm
    When I'm laid to my rest

    And the world will be better for this
    That one man, scorned and covered with scars
    Still strove with his last ounce of courage
    To reach the unreachable star

  6. Congratulations! Fantastic summary and a great journey! Well done Tempo! :).

    I remember the days when I heard about "Knights Errant" group, but I did not know what are their interest. And what's more funny - I started solving dozens of puzzles in my primary chess education. It may sound ridiculous, but I believed it is the only way to get better at chess. After I reached a C-level (1500-1600 rating) it turned out I cannot make any progress simply because not all of the positions are "white to move and win". And that's the reason I started reading about chess strategy as well as endgame part. And after 2-3 years I broke next level and achieved B-class.

    Anyway I think your blog is the best chess source of tests, hypothesis (verification and refutation) - an amazing MINE of chess ideas and concepts! I love it and I really appreciate how much effort and heart you had to devote to this great project!

    Just to suggest some ideas: maybe you could make some comparison (in a table form) to these ideas you have already testes vs the ideas (and concepts) chess authors recommend (to make a progress) and made some conclusions. For example: "We solved 20 thousands puzzles, but the progress was close to zero - probably due to lack of well chosen (selected) puzzles". I think it could be really awesome (not to mention valuable!).

  7. I've spent the last year in particular mostly studying chess, so I'd like to add to your conclusion as well.

    The tough Chesstempo problems, and visualization training (of course, these are all done in spots over the year, and not all the time by any means - except for hopefully OTB) have helped quite a bit. I would say that it helped tremendously, except that it overlapped the same skill I was already strong at, just made it stronger.

    First, I'd like to preface by saying that there is a lag between training time spent, and when those results kick in consistently OTB.

    Okay, deep breath, here is where all this training and results get separated. The number one thing to understand above all other things, for the moment, is that quick-chess and classical chess are simply not the same thing - perhaps for the elite some (Expert and above), but not for most. Okay, it's already getting annoying having this Grand Chess Tour in Paris right now where it's all rapid. Carlsen's last tournament, Altibox in Norway, he went 8/10 blitz, and with the same GMs he went 4.5/9 in classical chess - it's even a common occurence where a player will flag in an equal position, in blitz.

    The only way to know if these techniques and exercises have worked is to use them in slow, classical chess. I don't know about your online blitz rating, but mine doesn't improve and, if you have been studying the way I have, then yours "shouldn't" improve either. This is not bad, in fact it's mostly a good thing. If I had to play my average blitz opponent who beats me in online chess, I would probably destroy the lot of them in an OTB, classical time-control setting. These opponents are quite talented, and imaginative tactically, and yes their winning continuations do actually work, but it's like a gunfight where you can be accurate but if the other guy gets the gun out of the holster first....and yes Classical chess slows all of this down for the stronger player, it's like letting the slower player get the gun out of the holster first.

    Eventually, my blitz skill may close the gap with my OTB skill, but that probably wouldn't be for many years (and I'm already 50, not a spring-chicken). There is a reason for this gap, but it's like the difference between playing a 100%, full-strength, no clock, blindfold game, and then doing the same thing except at blitz speed. In any case, blitz-chess should mainly be used for training on lines you don't know, or to tone up your game before a tournament.

  8. Anyway, now that that's all out of the way, let's talk classical chess. It is important to arrive at the game in some kind of decent shape. If you just busted your @ss moving furniture for three days, and then try to play a classical game on that day, then your phycisical stamina may collapse at an inopportune time. It's sort of like bad-business, except here it applies to your chess "skill".

    Lastly, and most importantly, the Chesstempo and blindfold training does help with classical OTB chess. 1) When something unexpected happens at the board, you will be far more ready for it. 2) You will look at more lines deeply with more permutations. Depth is often a killer below the Expert level. Experts rarely make mistakes of a depth nature - they usually either do or don't see the right idea. At the Class level, depth is a killer because Class players often do see the right lines, but _don't_ have the ability to see them far enough for it to count. So, the Class player typically makes a weak move instead in order to avoid a wrong calculation. This is where a lot of the training we are doing should help.

    Yes, it is all about patterns in a way, but if you are overly focused on solving tactics at blitz speed, and only concerned about memorizing patterns, well, let me just say that I don't think chess works that way, as I like everyone else has tried that before at some point, in some way, and it didn't work for me. Simple one-move matess could be solved at blitz-speed, and one guy used to do this as his pre-game warmup, but this is not the same thing as "solving" tactics. The biggest difference between blitz and classical chess is when it comes to _solving_ problems. In blitz, it's at most 2 minutes, and then the clock in your head tells you to move. For me, a typical number would be 6 minutes in classical chess (longer than a blitz game) to solve a problem before I start getting antzy and just wanting to move - naturally, if I've spent time on the previous move, where I had mostly solved the same problem, then I would be itching to spend less time on that next move (whether right or wrong to).

    I'll get off the soapbox of my results here, but I really want to stress that the difference between time-controls (and this group generally gets this) is in the quality of _solving_ problems. Quick-chess is more of an I.Q. test than a chess test. Some of us slow-thinkers, I believe, can be talented in a way that we can bring more mental resources to bear on a problem, should we learn to think a more structured way because we naturally have a way our brains work when it comes to solving deeper problems.

    Nevertheless, deep problems are not solved at quick-speeds (although one could speed up their solving of deep problems). It's a little sad that chess, of all endeavors, has been subjected to this information age pressure of pre-digested information (lines, results, etc.). Running these blitz tournaments the night before a regular tournament may be somewhat of a tradition, may appeal to fans and even the ego of the players, an ability unique to them which they can showcase, but in my view, it's not the same thing, it's mostly garbage-chess, or even a chess IQ test where there is no time to think, you simply have to "know", ahead of time.

  9. I don't know for how many of you, your big thing is OTB, or postal, or online blitz, or casual chess etc. My big thing is OTB chess. I've spent a lot of time studying games in books, and my rating went up mostly as a result of calculation ability, before I realized tactical "patterns" were such a big thing - my chess, and even book-collecting, predates the internet, as I used to subscribe to all kinds of chess catalogues back then through the mail. The point I feel I am trying to make is that a site like Chesstempo can improve my strength quite a bit (just got four in a row correct, last one taking 18 minutes!).

    The current generation, however, is different. They are getting their strength mostly from studying tactics (the opposite of how I started), blitz chess, playing a lot of chess in locales where the titled players play and hang out, and playing lots of blitz with Experts and Masters. I'll sneer and say this is a bit of the sleazy approach, dropping off their kids to be "babbysat" by Experts and Masters. Surely, adult chess players don't get quite this level of TLC on average!

    Nevertheless, for me tactics helps, and even formally studying endgames, really, because it's the opposite of where I started from. I never got too much into the formal study of openings, either, but that's sort of a side-point when it comes to ratings because I can play certain lines (not always, the English Opening is a good exception to this for me) where I have quite a bit of experience built up.

  10. Tempo, your persistence is most beseeming, brave Sir. Mayhaps you shall be the one to grasp the Holy Grail!

  11. Wow, the Knights Errant turn out to be lurkers in the dark. I'm quite honoured! Good to hear from you, guys! That gives me the motivation to settle this question once and for all the coming years. May the windmills in our heads be silenced when pondering a tactical shot!

  12. Congratulations and a big THANK YOU FRIEND, Temposchlucker your blog has been a source of inspiration for me, and very helpful to see Chess from different angles, also Thanks all commenters. I hope you keep your great job. Regards

  13. from David Korn, dkTransform, Tacoma-Seattle USA // i love and miss all you folks. too much to tell at this moment. many great memories. no other person exists like temposchlucker, a real galvanic if not querulous and determined force of nature! dick always gave help when needed, never ducked a conversation, and was the common element between a great many of us. we wish him well and congratulate him for his vast corpus of work.

  14. Congratulations you are a true marathon runner where the rest of us are mere sprinters!

  15. Let me add that I think I sucked at chess because I am not very good at visualizing things in my mind. I know this is sacrilege in the Knight Errant circles. I am a very "algebraic" rather than "geometric/visual" thinker: I think in code not images. And when I saw people pass me in chess (and it happened constantly) it was people who were visual thinkers.

    I'm not saying I suffer from aphantasia (the complete inability to engage in internal imagery), but I am on the spectrum. I am hyper-verbal (as you could tell from my blog and this post). I absolutely sucked at visualization exercises, even the most elementary ones destroyed me. I frankly think this is one reason I will never be even an average chess player, in the tournament chess world.

    Now my hobby is writing computer programs. It better matches my talents. I can do it quickly and well and it isn't a constant uphill battle against my intrinsic nature: it is a pleasure. I have to work hard at it, but the payoff is much more clear and fast.

    I now see this as the main explanatory factor in who gets better fast and who doesn't. I actually posted quite a bit about this. In retrospect I now think I was right for the wrong reasons. Artificial visualization training isn't all that important, true, but visualization innate ability is extremely important. Unfortunately you just can't really get much better at it by training:

    I'm curious what you think, and where you believe you fall on the "visualization" spectrum Tempo. :)

    Great to see you still posting and fighting the good fight.

    The big question is: how much has your rating gone up in the last 1000 votes. What is the conversion factor from post to ELO? That is, how many ELO points per post? Maybe just post more, and your rating will go up faster? LOL Good to see you old buddy you were always so very helpful to me!

    1. "I'm curious what you think, and where you believe you fall on the "visualization" spectrum Tempo. :)"

      The role of visualization has been overrated. Visualization is a luxury, and evolution has minimized our ability to do it, in order to spare mental resources. Nobody can see a coffee pot before his minds eye when his physical eyes are shut. You see some outlines and some important features, which make you think you see a coffee pot, but in fact you see no details. And that is a very efficient trick of the mind, and there is no need to work around that.

      One of the discoveries in this blog is that visualization of future positions becomes much better when it is guided by a narrative.

      I'm reasonably good in blindfold chess. I can play two games against 300 points lower rated players at the same time with a reasonable chance of winning both. When the telephone rings, I can continue an hour later and still know the latest position on the board. So I make definitely use of my long term memory when playing blindfold. I conclude that my visualization probably is pretty good.

      The method I'm developing now doesn't need much visualization of future positions, nor much calculation of the same. It is based on seeing the current position in a augmented reality kind of way. The future is seen as geometrical features, not as a sequence in time.

      Chances are you have an idealized picture of visualization. And you see you don't meet your own standards. On the other hand you may be right, and suck indeed in visualization skills in comparison to others. Aox complains he sucks at visualization too, and yet he has a higher rating than me. So I don't think it is a decisive skill. Up to a certain level.

    2. "The big question is: how much has your rating gone up in the last 1000 votes. What is the conversion factor from post to ELO? That is, how many ELO points per post? Maybe just post more, and your rating will go up faster?"

      My rating has gone down about 50 points since I started blogging, so I would rather stop right away.

      You must distinguish between developing a method for adult chess improvement and applying the method. I'm still in the developing phase :D

    3. My ability to play blindfold is typical for my strength, maybe with a rating of 1000 or less. My speed to memorize a position is slow, others of my strength can do that quicker.
      Chess is not that much about visualization and calculation. Even without ( much ) calculation, in Bullet for example, a Master is still a very strong player. Carlsen said, his first idea for a move would be "always" the best. Chess is pattern recognition and only a small fraction of these pattern have a name. There are for example simple board vision pattern like: a bishop at b2 attacks potentially a knight at f6 . A master don't have to look along the diagonal c3,d4,e5 to see that, he knows that because he has it( subconsciously ) memorized, he is aware of such a fact without conscious work
      Here a nice video about the learning of a slightly different form of pattern-recognition :

  16. sorry for perchance, duplication. have struggled to enter a comment, temposchlucker, as the real me, as i am no longer active at blogger. google ruined it. i am at wordpress. much better place, however, those of you already have an 'installed base' of viewers and reader understandably and justly stay on. i am now blogging much more in my new life, as a strong generalist in business, with the idiosyncratic, while not hidden, definitely much recessive. let me try again......... broken tool between blogger and wordpress. hard to imagine that google does not deliberately break the connectivity. i have nine years at blogger and three at wordpress, so im not a beginner and struggle to comment as me......... try again.........

  17. BDK, I want to agree with you somehow (I can think in code, too. :-)), and I will say that what you say can also be a little shortsighted at the same time.

    I can have vivid dreams, have played chess many times while dreaming, and even as I wakeup I can talk with someone and still see the chessboard like that for say ten minutes, until I fully wake and open eyes. I could look at you in person, walk away and draw a picture of your face (I can also do this, right now, of people I haven't seen in 30 years and only casually knew), don't know if everyone can do this but suspect they can't. However, with a chessboard I've found _everybody_ has problems visualizing this simple 8x8 board. How can this seemingly simplest of tasks be in any way difficult(??). That, my friend, is the proverbial $64,000 question.

    I will disagree with something said on one of your old blog posts, in that I do think it is important to know the colors of the squares - GM Spraggett says that people don't give enough attention to learning the board.

    When I solve a problem on Chesstempo, and I hardly think there is a problem I can't solve if I put my mind to it (endgame studies are by far the most difficult for me, or perhaps a Sam Lloyd puzzle), your observation that I can look at the board, and don't need to blindfold is correct. Solving these problems is even more about solving the problems, and calculating variations, than it is about visualizing for me.

    I find blindfolding a better/easier way to think about a past or present position than a future position, and so this takes some explanation. For example, blindfolding a game just played is often not too difficult for some players, myself included. It's like telling a story, and even other possible variations are much easier to see once a game is over.

    Blindfolding a present position is more difficult because you have to remember where the pieces are - e.g., look at a problem position, put the book down, and then set up the position correctly without once looking at the book.

    Blindfolding a future position is much tougher. By blindolding a future position, I do not mean seeing/visualizing lines in your head from a game that has been completed - that's easier. I mean blindfolding a future position from a current game, while you are still playing it. Now all kinds of factors come in to block one's ability such as emotions, expectations, seeing and anticipating threats, evaluating the position, personality issues, etc, you name it. Once a game is over, all that matter are the lines, which makes this blindfolding of lines much more easy, as nothing is on the line now save for the truth.

    To say kids visualize better is not enough. Kids will often use psychology more than adults to "cheat" as well. They will more often hover their hand over a piece, and then look at you to get a reaction, like a poker player waiting for a "tell". Also, there is such a thing as "playing with the hands" You build up experience and intuition in your hands that surpasses one's ability to calculate. Just because you didn't touch a piece, when you hover with your hand your own hand can give you a read on what to do! Even many chessplayers have not yet learned this. Kids are often using more skills, and not just using one skill better than an adult.

    Hope this helps a bit.

  18. I have played kids, boys and girls who later became Masters, and beaten them while they were still kids. I’ve done this while I lived both in California and Colorado. One girl used to look at my shirt, or the wall behind me, and then suddenly make a move. In hindsight, it was obvious that she was playing the entire game in her head blindfold. The strange part to add to this is that I was often understanding what was important that was going on the position; I was finding her wins for her, OTB, as we say. Back then, I had OTB visualization ability, but not so much blindfold ability away from the board. Nevertheless, it was more important to understand what was going on in the position than to visualize it. Visualization is important for move verification, to see tactical side-possibilities, and even now I am still improving at this.

    Getting back to colors, it’s important to remember them without thinking because to learn blindfold, it’s easiest to start with just remembering the moves, and focusing on the moves, and not trying to see the board so much. People struggle because they try to see the board too much in advance.

    Let’s say we are playing King’s Gambit Accepted. 1.e4 e5, 2.f4 exf, 3.Nf3 Nc6, 4.Bc4 (4.Bb5 is easier) Bg4. Here is a natural stopping point. You will find you may spend longer than you thought you would replaying these moves in your mind to get the true visual of what this position currently looks like and how it got there. Now also you will spend time investigating the position. 5.Bxf7+ doesn’t work because of KxBf7, 6.Ng5+ QxNg5 a very common-tactic for anyone who routinely plays 1.e4 positions to know. Now, you pick a move like 5.d3 or 5.d4, and say you like 5.d3 (5.d4 can “hang” in some lines) and so calculate 5.d3 g5, 6.h4 (if 6…gxh, then 7.Bxf4). The g-pawn is not easily defended by the queen or another pawn, so 6…Be7 is likely. You may decide to play this line with 7.Nc3-e2 to help win the f4 pawn by playing h4xg5 first. so, 7…Qf6 could refute, so you choose 7.hxg5 Bxg5, 8.Nc3-d5, and now both your Bc1 and Nd4 are hitting the f4 pawn/square, so you should win this pawn back. I haven’t looked at a board this whole time, this analysis could work, it could be flawed, but I would go with my analysis OTB because that is all you have during a game is your own analysis. They don’t let you use computers or books during a game, you have to analyze and go with it and then react to whatever happens.

  19. We haven’t even gotten into the evaluation aspect of whether or not 6.h4 is positionally a good move! Of course, a KG player will know that it’s the KG, so that a question like that often turns into a minor quibble when it comes to the battle OTB. Theoretical questions like that are best left for pre-game analysis. OTB, if you find something you like that works, with no seemingly serious drawbacks, then you should often simply go with it.

    I checked my analysis with Houdini, and I forgot to play a move in my analysis! I left out Nc3..d6 (else …Bg4 can’t be played). So, after 1.e4 e5, 2.f4 exf4, 3.Nf3 Nc6, 4.Bc4 d6, 5.Nc3 Bg4, 6.d3(try) g5, 7.h4 Nd4 (Houdini’s move). Here, I was now looking at this on the computer. Candidate moves, my mind blurts out 8.hxg and 8.0-0 without even trying to visualize. Usually, OTB I do a really good job of listing the top candidate moves in my head that later Houdini agrees with. This time, I missed the top three! 8.Nb5! requires no visualization, only understanding. 8.Kf2! again where is the visualization besides simply seeing the move(!?), 8.Kf1.

    Okay, so I search much harder for candidate moves OTB, but aside one visualization glitch, and even the eval of 7.h4 was not a bad job, I simply missed the ideas – in this case, the other candidate moves, in the position. This goes to show that chess is mostly hard work! The visualization like this is important because it allowed me to study not the future, but the past! Having done this exercise, I will now remember going forward this opening line, this idea. It is the past that sticks with me, that makes this blindfolding so strong. The future was less about blindfolding, and more about finding and studying, and even comparing ideas (6.d4 was another move I looked at with Houdini). I would put it this way, if you can’t blindfold, you can’t remember the past! People who stay at low-ratings for decades miss patterns often-times because they can’t remember the past (because they can’t visualize the past), not because they can’t see the future!

  20. I just solved my highest-rated problem (rated 2024.9) on Chesstempo, and they gave me a "Mammoth Hunter" badge. hehe. My rating there is now 1861. I think it's funny how they rate these problems. The 1500 level problems on Chesstempo are hard, for instance. Once you realize that all the problems there are hard, then all the problems start to get easy; it's more about solving the problems than how difficult they are.

    The thing that amazes me about super-GM blitz chess is when both players solve these problems with under 15 seconds on their clock, and the audience, myself included, are left scratching their heads "Why did he resign?". It's this reason that I find their blitz games virtually unwatchable. Then you get no answer as to why that happened because it's on to the next game for them. Blitz games are virtually unwatchable, IMHO, although at first they seem more watchable because the moves come in quicker at the start.

  21. I do not want to sound ridiculous, but with the help of this blog's articles I have already won two games (I am playing OTB chess tournament at the moment).

    The first game I started to press my opponent and in a DECISIVE moment I felt "there is something" (tactics), but I simply could not see any simple way to win the material. I analysed a few variations, but none of them promised me to gain an advantage. However I BROKE my weakness of "first shot and I do not shoot anymore" (the problem Aox has mentioned many times) and I analysed the position much more deep. And I found the solution! [FEN: r2q2k1/1p3pp1/2r2n1p/p2b4/P7/3BP2P/1B2QPP1/R2R2K1 w - - 0 20 - white to move wins].

    The second game was much harder for me and I had to work extremally hard not to lose material. However in one moment I noticed there was a variation to exchange most of the material and steer the game into equal endgame (2R+B with 6 pawns for both sides). And after I played the first move... I immediately realized the improved version with much better position to me! My opponent blundered a piece and I won easily. [FEN: r2q1rk1/p3bppp/2p2n2/3p2B1/8/6Q1/PPP1BPPP/R4RK1 b - - 0 14 - black to move wins].

    And in BOTH cases I overcame my big weakness and I simply found the solution - not in an artificial home mode, but in OTB game (!). And I know it is the result of changing my mind with the help of your articles Tempo and very important comments from our readers! :). Thank you for that...

    ... and that's I can call "an improvement" - even if it is not a significant one - it is a beneficial one for me! :)

    1. @tomacz .. So what is the exact string I need to load to find the position and what is a good online Fen view. I appear to have extract characters etc. thanks [FEN: r2q2k1/1p3pp1/2r2n1p/p2b4/P7/3BP2P/1B2QPP1/R2R2K1 w - - 0 20 - white to move wins] . What is the first and last character of the string the [ and ] ?

    2. Hello Takchess!

      The exact string is: r2q2k1/1p3pp1/2r2n1p/p2b4/P7/3BP2P/1B2QPP1/R2R2K1 w - - 0 20

      Copy it into FEN editor and play it on inside your mind (not moving the pieces) and after that moving the pieces.

      Go to --> and PASTE (load the position) the COPIED string. Enjoy! :)

      White to move and wins ;)

  22. @ Tomasz:

    Kudos on your improvement!

    The second position appears to be a "tit for tat" situation. Interesting that White captures first but Black captures last. Could it be because Black's move threatens the White Queen immediately, and the White Bishop has to capture in order to set up an attack on the Black Queen (equal or greater counterattack)? The Zwischenschach "saves" the Black Knight while retaining the option to capture the White Bishop.

    1. @Robert

      I think this position clearly shows what it means to use the "intermezzo" (zwischenzug) motif. Let's have a closer look:

      1... Ne4 Black threatens to capture Bg5 and Qg3. If Queen goes away the WB is lost.

      2.Bxe7 (BxB) and White threatens to capture Q and R. However BOTH Queens are under attack!

      2...Nxg3 (NxQ) and now Black's Knight threatens to take WB with check (stops white's initiative!)

      3.Bxd8 (BxQ) as if White plays any other move - he loses the Queen. And please have a look at this nice position - white is a PIECE AHEAD, both of their pieces are under attack and not defended... and now Black shows the power of intermezzo!

      3... Nxe2+ (NxB+) The BK takes unprotected Bishop with CHECK... and freezes white's army! Now the other bishop cannot escape... as it is FROZEN (!). That's why the checking the King is such a powerful idea (the simultaneous attack on WK and WB!).

      4.Kh1 and 4...RxB wins the frozen piece!

      I am sure Tempo could use this example to show the mystery of intermezzo and frozen pieces motifs... as it is some kind of INITIATIVE. Take notice freezing and trapping pieces can be the same idea as in both cases the pieces cannot escape its fate!

    2. @Robert

      This time a bit more difficult task:

      [FEN: r1b1k2r/pppp1ppp/1bn5/4P1B1/1qBP2n1/1P3N2/P4PPP/RN1Q1RK1 b kq - 0 10]. It is Black's move. What happens after 0-0? Try to find the best solution for white and write down the variation(s) until you reach "quiesence" (Dan Heisman chess term - it means the position does not contain any forcing moves - it is similar to the "the dust settled" after some sharp play).

      I hope you will like it (I had to solve it and my opponent really played 0-0).

  23. LinuxGuy an excellent point: I had trouble even seeing the board in front of me when I wasn't looking. Doing the 'threat exercise' with Fritz I was painfully slow just clicking on pieces that were under direct (one move) threat of being taken.

    In terms of sitting back now from this bird's-eye view, where I haven't played chess in probably 5 years, and asking why did I suck so bad even after trying hard for 3 years, and why did people surpass me? The main difference, intellectually speaking, was that they were visuospatial thinkers and I am not. That, and they played when they were kids so they weren't starting from scratch.

    Or maybe I'm just stupid. :)

    So here's my advice: if you are in your 30s and didn't play chess when you were younger, and you aren't particularly visual in thinking style, don't think you are going to be really good at chess (i.e., ELO 2000). You will improve, you will get really good relative to normal people. Just enjoy it and don't stress.

    Optimistic Knight they should call me! :) I really thought I would get to 2000 ELO within two years, even though when I started I was 900 (i.e., a beginner). :)

    1. @BDK:

      I watched IM George Koltanoski give a 30 board simultaneous exhibition back in the 1970s. He took an intermission about half way through and gave a blindfold exhibition of the Knight`s Tour. He used a chalkboard marked as a chess board (without any colored squares). There was chess-related info on less than 10 squares, spread across the board. He asked for specific info from the spectators to fill the remaining squares. It included things like the serial number from a $1 bill, a birth date, a hometown city name, etc. After filling all 64 squares, he spent about 1 minute looking at the info, without saying anything. He then picked a person from the crowd to pick a starting square and mark it as "visited." He then began calling out the next square in the Knight's Tour AND the info on that square. He went so fast that the person marking the squares had to stop him a couple of times to catch up. He hit every square once and got every bit of info correct. AMAZING!

      He was asked how he "visualized" the board and how to train visualization. His answer was STUNNING: he said that he did not visualize the board! He said Alekhine and most other blindfold players used visualization, but his blindfold playing was based on aural memory. He "heard" move sequences and remembered them as sound sequences.

      My point: maybe you have the potential to reach a higher level of skill without visualization skills. The problem is that most people consider visualization to be an essential chess skill. In essence, you'll have to forge your own road untraveled.

    2. @Robert, I have a little booklet by George K on playing the Max Lange attack. fun stuff sort of like what Jude Acers the New Orleans street chess guy plays. Regarding Koltanowski sounds sequences , I imagine he have a phonetic trick where each square is assigned a number from 1 to 64 and that number is assigned a phonetic key word as in the Harry Lorayne's & George Lucas Memory Book.

      The memory feat that most impresses me is the gm who play many simul games blindfold.

    3. @robert Part 2 : That being said I think the mnemonic skills in a Knight Tour demo are different from those used in playing a simul. I think there is either an algorithm or a known path that is used in a knights tour. There are many more variables in a blindfold game.

    4. @Jim:

      No argument to your points. I point out two things:

      (1) IM Koltanowski held the world blindfold championship record, set in 1934. I consider that strong evidence that he possessed sufficient skill in playing simultaneous blindfold games as well as at the Knight's Tour.

      (2) In the absence of contradictory evidence, I accept IM Koltanowski's explanation of his own thinking process.

      I've given simuls (up to 10 games, with one of the games played blindfold). I know how I trained my visualization (and it is 100% visual, not aural, and not based on standard mnemonic techniques). I also worked on the Knight's Tour, but never trying it blindfold, and definitely not with random information to be recalled as I did it.

    5. @Robert Coble
      Just wondering..
      Your visualisation is "visual"? are your pieces Staunton pieces or Barleycorn ? what type of wood? or plastic? is he grain of one knight the same as the other? is your board white green or white brown or even white black?

      My "visualistaion" is just memory.. i know where the pieces are , partly that i know : the positon of all pieces, partly that i know : all moves of the game and then can "put" the piece at its present place. I know which moves a piece can make , i dont "see" a board and "look" at it to find out that a knight at c2 might jump to a1

      I never "see" anything when i play blindfolded, i just know some facts
      I think my inner board is partly a textfile of the type Kg1,Qd1... and a scoresheet..

    6. @Robert
      My friend I think that his explanation of auditory could be consistent with my methodology regarding phonetics. The key words sounds represent numbers for example the word tire represents 14 , T or d sound =1 and R sound =4 . So maybe.. maybe not. The Amazing Kreskin used to do the knights tour occasionally as a publicity stunt.

      Koltanowski must of been quite the showman. I remember his italian game gambit he referred to as a businessman back in time for dinner opening. An opening one could play with out a lot of study like todays London System. It would be interesting if you had a game move sheet to share if you can find it. Cheers, Jim

    7. @Robert
      I started this but appeared to run out of energy for it.

    8. @ Aox:

      Perhaps it would be more accurate for me to say "visually oriented" in much the same way as you described it. contrasted to an aural approach like IM Koltanowski. I spent a lot of time working on clear mental image of the empty board. (That's one of mister Lasker's recommendations, BTW.) I started with just four squares (based on a1-a2-b1-b2). After I could visualize the four squares sufficiently, I expanded to a group of four 4-square groups (one quarter of the board), which has the same fundamental color relationships as the smaller 4-square group. After that became mentally clear, I then combined those four groups to make up the entire board. I "visualize" by shifting my "view" from one set (group; maybe "chunk") to a different one, similar to a saccade. I remember the relative position of each piece within a given group. When I work out relationships, I start with the piece location and then move along the "lines" from one group to another (if required).

      No, I don't perfectly visualize the physical properties of the pieces at all. It is a "visualization" of abstract relationships and functions, where the piece movement is also one of the "functions." If I forget a piece, I also use the "scoresheet" method to replay until I have located that piece in the current position. I definitely do NOT "see" either Kg1, Qd1 nor notation on the "scoresheet." All of it is abstracted (somehow). I "see" a "kingness" at g1, a "queenness" at d1, etc.

      I didn't try to learn how to play blindfold until I was already rated above 1600 USCF. I think my OTB experience had a lot to do with enabling me to learn how to play blindfold.

  24. BDK, someone in the Chess Book Collector's on Facebook forum just asked if there were a book to blindfold better from, and I was tempted to write "Whatever blindfold abilities I have, they are far exceeded by the immediate moves/threats/ideas that I don't notice which are right there in front of my face and under my nose."

    When I go on a run of solving problems correctly on Chesstempo, I always first do a material count, try to remember positions of pawns and pieces (at least attempt to), and make a very conscientious assessment (more than just a scan) of what the threats are. When I start getting answers wrong, and get frustrated, then I just look at the problem, try to figure out the answer, and miss that the answer is to take a hanging piece, which I didn't even notice was hanging, and I had previously solved this exact problem on Chesstempo once before. doh!!! So, apparently everything is a separate skill, even the "ability"/patience to scan the board for threats completely every time (particularly with those backward-moving/retrograde recaptures).

    If there is one true benefit of blindfolding a position, like in some ultimate way, it would be that you examine a position from your conscience's part of the brain, and then you do notice possibilities which one might assume away, and thereby not see, in the egotistic pleasure of battle.

    One thing about these "kids" that we assume away when they are playing well is that they probably do tactics drills (because that is the rage since delaMaza, it's just that everyone keeps it under the lid now, and wants you to think they have a high-rating now because they are geniuses and knowledgeable strategically, etc, but I can tell the difference). My point is that, unfortunately, and at least for adults, super-human people aside, is that we do need to solve tactics regularly to stay in shape else we begin to miss all kinds of things that are hanging for multiple moves in a row. Some people, Experts and above, really do seem to have this ultimate board-scan like it's just part of their bodies now, but even they have occasionally lost focus and dropped pieces, so I think it helps everyone to stay sharp with tactics (just because it enforces board-discipline, even if it weren't important to keep seeing new patterns).

    Compared to the population of non-tournament players, a 1200 level player will generally beat every normal person until someone says "Hey, I know some guy who plays chess and he's really good, he used to be the blah, blah champion." and then this kung-fu chieftain of chess could be a problem opponent for them, but generally not until then. ;-D

    Kids have a bunch of hyper-frenetic energy and free-time that they can waste on chess. Their brains have to be more open in a way because otherwise they wouldn't learn how to handle authority and adult stuff like that.

    If you think you are just slow or something at threat scans, check out some games from the blitz portion of the Paris Grand Chess tour that finished yesterday. Other 2800 level players dropping things to Magnus like a baby. Players like Magnus and Karjakin keep up with the threat-scan faster than their colleagues. It's a skill, and I'm sure it's a skill where one can improve at.

    1. I think I could have continued to improve, if I had the will. But I lost the will. The amount of time I had to put in to *maintain* (much less improve) tactical vision is not something I'm willing to do with the brief time I have on this mortal coil. I have to do chess about 3 hours a week just to maintain my skills. To actually improve required too much. Now I focus on Python and the gains are faster and more permanent. :) I do think my chess ceiling is very low because I lack intrinsic talent, and I started late in life. I used to get very angry when GMs would tell adults starting out in chess to aim low. Now I have adjusted my expectations. :)


  25. My friend Alex's chess strength has gone up, and he will usually tell you it's "process of elimination" and finding "multi-purpose moves". I think the strength a player should want to improve at is calculating by "process of elimination" as quickly as possible, i.e., work on how quickly you do this when solving tactical problems. Also, a "multi-purpose move" is one that does two or three different things, but look for one that attacks and defends at the same time - this may seem trivial, but it can have a big effect on your practical results.

    Here is a interesting problem to look at:
    I spent a long time on process of elimination (the most reliable, but not the most efficient way to come to the answer). If you think of the multi-purpose move idea above you will come to the answer much more quickly. These two methods will only get you so far, but they sort of ensure that you are playing at a certain strength, OTB.

    1. Calculation is not the key to tactical puzzles, there are too many possibility's to calculate. You need to see the main weaknesses / potential ideas and after that you check your "inspiration" by calculation.

      Material: Black is up a bishop-pair against 2 knights, whit has an advanced free pawn ~ level

      Last move: Re3 ( tactical puzzles are usually based on blunders so we always should think about : whats wrong with the last move of our opponent ) Weakens the back rank ( seemingly no big problem? ) and weakens the rook at the e file ( unprotected but x-ray attacked by the Re6! )

      What is the puzzle about? Checkmate/Promotion/Material? Material!

      Tactical Weaknesses:
      Kh2: attack-able in 2 moves by the Ne4, h3 is x-ray attacked by the Queen ( seemingly not that serious [ but is ] )
      Bg3: can be exchanged with the Knight ( seemingly not serious )
      Re3: not protected, x-ray attacked by the rook, attackable in 2 move by both knights ( serious )
      Footnote : We might recognise the fork here!
      Qd5: no save moblity! attackable by multiple pieces ( serious )
      Pb2: unprotected but not attack-able ( semingly uninteresting)

      Hypothesis: its about winning the Re3 or the Qd5

      And now we start with one idea and try to make "it work"..

      If we did see the fork.. we will be faster
      First time i solved it 2014 in 1:06 so i think i saw it then, this time i did need 3:54, i was too busy to catch the queen

  26. @tomasz thanks for the Fen tips. I got the first one and didnt see the finalpunch in the second. Great to see all the comments from newer and older friends.

    1. The first move is a double attack performed by the Knight. And now the rest should be pretty easy... and do not forget to think about intermezzo (zwischenzug) as without that Black could not win.

      It is a rare case of "discovered attack" and it is the reason such move (and the motif) may be missed. Hope that helps.

  27. When it comes to visualizing, one has to give a position meaning, otherwise it's like Temposhuckler's analogy of not visualizing the coffee-pot (because it has no meaning, unlike a person's face for instance).

    When people try to visualize, there is a good chance they go about it the wrong way. You have to learn the board, think about the squares and diagonals without trying to "visualize" them. The visual part will come when your mind is filling in the gaps subconsciously. The trick is to give, find, explore the meaning of the position rather than try to "visualize" it. People naturally want the empty calories, they want to visualize without giving a position any particular meaning, which is nearly impossible for most people, much like how Temposchlucker says our bodies weren't naturally adapted to do it.

    The saying "You can't have something for nothing" is even more true when it applies to chess. Once you analyze and understand a position blindfolded, then you will see it much more clearly. Unfortunately, I have found it very difficult to compress this process into a short period of time; i.e., blindfold blitz.