Sunday, July 29, 2007

Intermezzo II

Today is a restday, so there is time to dump some thoughts in order to create room for new idea's.

Consciousness vs repetition.
There is a saying repetitio mater studiorum est. For the non latinists among us repetition is the mother of study. The circles are based on this idea. My findings are different though. I would replace the saying with consciousness is the mother of study. Only in the case you have trouble to focus your attention undivided, you need repetition. Since we are used to operate on the automatic pilot most of the day, this is usually the case. But repetition in itself invites us to use the automatic pilot, in which case we pass over our goal. Belief me, I know what repetition is and what it does by now.

Essence, idea's and archetypes.
Some time ago I posted about pattern recognition in clouds. The essence of that post is that we have an archetype of a rabbit in our brains which helps us to recognize rabbits everywhere in clouds, no matter how distorted the picture. Science says that a master chessplayer has an 100.000 or so patterns stored. That's what caused me to do massive problemsets in the first place (on the automatic pilot, hence with little result). What happened yesterday casts doubts on this scientific approach, in favour for the idea that you only have to learn a limit amount of patterns, the archetypes so to speak, and that our natural skill of pattern recognition does the rest.

I have studied two games lately about bishops of opposite colors. The essence (archetype) of those two games was that when there are other pieces around, the initiative is paramount. Because if you attack with a light squared bishop, the dark squared bishop cannot defend the light squares. So basically you are attacking with a piece up. My game yesterday was quite different than the games I studied. Yet I recognized the idea immediately. It was evident that my higher rated opponent didn't know this idea and so he lost. Putting an idea into practice by playing is a way to transform the knowledge, that is incorporated in the idea, into skill.

This example indicates how to study mastergames. It is essential to formulate the winning idea's well, on the highest level as possible. Then you will be able to recognize these idea's in the most various positions without the need to study every position separate. The work is to generalize a specific idea from one position, so that you formulate the underlying essence of it. In that way this essence becomes the pattern that can be recognized in all different kinds of positions. Just by the miracle of subconscious pattern recognition.

The idea of avoiding draws is dismantled as a matter of fashion, based on a wrong idea of courage and fighting spirit. I have a subtle instinct that lets me know when to draw. That is when I have no confidence that I can handle the rest of the game well. The new acquired knowledge made me to decline his draw offer yesterday. Allthough I had never played according this new idea, I was confident since I did know in which direction to go.
When you draw a game that is not gnawed off to the bone, that indicates where you have to work. You are not confident there since you know you lack the knowledge how to play it. So use your draws as an indicator. Don't kill your subtle instincts by overshouting them because of fashion.


  1. I might evaluate the course of your game differently. I haven't looked deeply at it, but it seems that there were about 4 or 5 cases where you had a 2 move tactic that won a pawn. As a result you were able to be 3 pawns ahead and win easily.

    When was the draw offered?

    I think that when you say at move 28 that your newly acquired endgame knowledge is paying off you are still in the middle game. BOOC endgames tend to be drawish, but as you point out BOOC middlegames are not drawish at all. I think you can find this in many books. By move 30 you are looking at a good bishop vs bad bishop.

    Another important strategic element in your game is your opponents bad pawn on b2. Having to move his bishop to c1 to defend it made his position even more difficult to play. Perhaps 18. c3 should get a '?' as it weakens the b2 pawn and gives you the b3 square.

  2. Loomis,
    I'm a (was?) one-trick pony. If I win a game, it is because I overplay my opponent in the opening and mate the king right away, or he has to give material to prevent it. If not, I'm aiming for a draw. Only now I'm starting to learn a second trick: to head for a beneficial ending. If I'm pawns ahead I used to trade that for a draw against a higher rated opponent. Since when I try to play it out, there are big chances I'm going to lose. But now things are changing. That is why I talk at move 28 about the ending, since at that moment it is not likely anymore that I'm going to crush his king anymore anytime soon. At that moment my goal changes from crushing the king to look for a beneficial ending. Since I have a holy respect for the bishoppair I wouldn't have come up with the idea to trade it for a knight myself.

    So I'm leaving the toddlerphase of my chessyouth and start where Capablanca tells me to start: at the endgame. Only now I have a clue how to do that.

    The plusside is that there is vast room for improvement:)

    The move 18. c3 is necessary from a middlegame point of view, he can't allow me to have the dominance over the a6-f1 diagonal.

    At move 45 I had a blackout after 5.5 hours of play and I repeated moves since I didn't see that I could simply take with my queen at b2. My opponent sensed that and offered the draw. If I hadn't know what I was trying to accomplish I would have accepted it. I didn't enter it in the PGN since I thought it would only obscure matters.

  3. I think your insight about recasting particular positions in terms of usable principles that will generalize is very useful. I'll be posting about it soon, as I recently discovered an interesting psychology article that seems to directly support it. I'm using it to change how I do the final set of circles in Phase 5 of CTB.

    Note also that Tisdall in his book also stresses the importance of creating an internal narrative about the position in terms of general principles rather than simply thinking through variations. I think you may have mentioned this in a previous post (or I did on a comment to one of your posts).

  4. as i recall, BDK mentioned Tisdall first. but his name has indeed come up at both your blogs.

    i am indebted to Tisdall for the most basic idea of focusing on fewer key position, such as via Dvoretsky or Gelfer Positional Chess Handbook, and now Alburt Pocket Chess Training (or GM Ram et. al. if you will, etc.).

    i love this idea of dumping a bunch of thoughts to create more room for the new.

    on that basis, i have a crammed basement.

  5. You're right, I did miss the tactical necessity of 18. c3. But it's also clear that the positional weaknesses it leaves are clear and are in fact a large part of how black won the game.

    So, now I have a slightly different take on this game. You sac a pawn in the opening and attack the uncastled king. You aren't able to mate or win material, but you do inflict serious positional weaknesses, 1) Bad bishop and 2) weak queenside pawns. You then enter a BOOC middle game where you have the initiative due to the positional weaknesses of your opponent. During this middle game you clean up enough pawns so that an exchange of pieces leads to an easily won endgame.

    I believe this game was won in the middle game.

  6. Loomis,
    you are right that the game was decided in the middlegame. There are a few important details though. I didn't inflict the weakness on b2 intentionally, but once it was created by accident I recognized it. The trade of the bishop was on purpose. So to me what decided the game was the new acquired endgame knowledge which 1. lets me recognize characteristics that are created unintentionally 2. guides my actions to create characteristics intentionally.

    The endgame knowledge is not the knowledge you find in reference books about theoretical endings, but in books that focus on endgame strategy such as Shereshevsky's book and the on of Lars Bo Hansen.