Sunday, June 19, 2022

Auras and knowledge mining

 My tactical training in the past has gained me about 250 rating points during its heydays. I often wrote that the core of this effort was reached within about 6 weeks. Although it took a year or two before it was reflected into my OTB rating.

I mentioned this fact often in the past, and I have been in search for a way to copy this result ever since. Without any avail, alas. I remember well what I was doing during this period of six weeks of growth in tactical insight. I was working on mates in one and two in papa Polgars brick "chess training in 5333+1 positions". I wasn't even repeating the problems, the repetition came from the similarities between positions. Even during working on Polgars brick, I felt the effect of the training slowly fading away. I thought that the answer lay in doing more problems, hence being exposed to more patterns. Later I met the Knights Errant, and I was introduced to repetition and speed.

Some new areas of chess were entered, for instance the steps method learned me a lot of new things I didn't know before. And a new area means new rating points. But the amount of areas you can improve in is very limited and the amount of rating points you can gain with each area is too. See for instance my latest educated guess on endgames: it will improve you with about 70 rating points. Give or take.

After a long investigation and all sorts of effort to copy the initial result of Polgars brick I finally ended up with the necessity of adding chess logic to your moves and the need for concepts and analogies for the transfer of knowledge from one position to another. The past year at the club I have been looking for ways to transform this theoretical idea into a practical training method. When you have such concrete questions, you learn the most of your games since you are looking at them with vulture eyes. At the same time, there is little to write about as long as matter isn't materializing in a coherent way.

A few weeks ago, I was shoved from the board in 17 moves by the club champion. I didn't see it coming during the game, and I asked myself what exactly had happened. Analysis showed me that I didn't see the auras of the pieces well. And I remembered that the effect of my initial steps with Polgars brick was that my focus shifted from the pieces to the auras of the pieces. I had formulated that fact in that way earlier, but my attempts to mimic that shift in focus had been stuck in the mud in those early days. Mainly due to the attraction of volume, repetition and speed, the mental image of the auras became a mechanical effort which soon blurred out.

So I reasoned that the lack of ability to see the auras is the main area to work on. Even before working on logic and concepts. Without aura visualization, there can be no fast calculation of variations. Meaning that adding new logic and new concepts don't work without the ability to see auras.

The fact that my gained 250 rating points overtime was reduced to 100 rating points nowadays, even with continuous tactical training, tells me that aural focus need to be maintained by the right training. A scattershot tactical training is not sufficient to maintain aural visualization.

Chessable has a few tactical trainings that have gathered exactly the right material for aural training. I limit myself to 434 tactical puzzles and 387 mates to train my aural focus. Spaced repetition slows down the exposure to puzzles overtime, stimulating to take more and more time per puzzle. Discovering new chess logic and new concepts along the way too. Despite doing an excessive amount of puzzles in the past, I never asked myself any questions how the tactical theme came about. Which ways are there to deliver mate with queen and bishop? How to set up an Anastasia's mate? It already delivered me an undeserved point in an endgame where I was two pawns behind. I mated my opponent in the middle of the board, and the only way to prevent it was to exchange his beautiful bishop against my gimpy knight. He hadn't seen the mate at all.

Especially mates invite you to focus on the auras of the pieces. Since you have to imagine the box the king can't escape from. Take for instance the following position. Imagine the auras!

White to move

2Q5/8/p5P1/2pk4/2Np1b2/1P6/P6q/3K4 w - - 10 51


  1. A very useful insight to highlight. Another way to describe "aura" that I've seen is a master's recommendation to visualize "lines of force" radiating from each piece along their potential movement paths (whether currently blocked or not). This is especially helpful in finding latent pins and discovered attacks; when a piece or pawn is removed from a path, it releases the energy of the piece behind it.

  2. One of my favorite (simple) "tricks" (mini-skill?) is to visualize potential relationships between queens and knights as part of the aura visualization. I learned a long time ago that a queen can control all squares on ranks, files and diagonals surrounding a king EXCEPT for the two squares that are a knight's move away from the queen's focal point square. (I think everyone "KNOWS" that fact, if consciously asked about it, but are not aware of the tactical implications for creating and closing the "box.") In the given problem, I "saw" the two squares that the knight controls. It was fairly simple (and fast) to envision where the queen would have to be to control the ranks, files and diagonals. The first move puts the Black king on the appropriate square, and the second move closes the "box" AND delivers the kill shot. As soon as I "saw" that the focal point was covered by the WPg6, I knew the solution. Definitely NOT a result of "seeing" pieces-on-squares as the pattern to be applied!

    The problem with (and solution for) "seeing" the auras (and the implications of those auras) goes back to at least 2016 on this blog. At that time, having read mister Weteschnik's book "Understanding Chess Tactics", I 'borrowed" (from his "status examination") the idea of "seeing" the lines of force of the pieces, with a simple variation on his idea. Specifically:

    [Look "through" any and all obstructions until each "aura" reaches the edge of the board.]

    Visually (and in accordance with the rules of chess), it seems that we should stop looking along the lines of force when an obstacle is encountered; this is a common mistake. For some reason, we can "see" (become aware of) MOTIFS and TACTICAL THEMES/DEVICES (higher levels of abstraction above the individual piece aura level) if we simply allow our ATTENTION to flow along the paths of the auras. Auto-magically, we "see" at least some of the potential tactics. Often, that is all that is required to start us along the correct path of "thinking" (System 1, if not System 2). In order to do this consistently, we have to train our ATTENTION to stay focused on following those auras (quoting Buzz Lightyear, "To infinity and beyond!") until the process becomes subconscious. I (perhaps incorrectly) consider following the auras to the edge of the board to be part of the global vulture's eye view.

    It's very easy to be distracted away from doing this "aura tracing" process each and every time for each and every salient piece. We can't "see" the more abstract levels of concepts if we can't clearly "see" the most elementary level and the implications. At each level of abstraction, what must be "seen" changes form.

    With a clear (undisciplined) mind, you can "see"k forever.

  3. Thinking about this problem a little more:

    The goal was given as mate. Material is irrelevant and there are no pawn promotion possibilities.

    What surface cue(s) help trigger System 1 toward a solution?

    White is limited to a queen and a knight with which to force checkmate. In and of itself, that should be sufficient for the mini-skill ("box" formed by the queen and knight) to be positively triggered. If not, perhaps the idea of the Dovetail Mate might be triggered (with variations of pieces present and pieces-on-squares, of course). The Dovetail Mate requires a protected focal point for the queen AND either obstructions on (or control of) the two squares that are a knight's move away from the focal point. The only square that fits that requirement is f7. Mentally drop the White queen on this square and see if there is a "box" available. Serendipitously, there is a White knight that controls the two squares that are a knight's move away from f7. There IS a possibility of utilizing the queen/knight "box" for a mate. Using variation processing (Tisdall), start down this line looking for FORCING moves.

    If the White queen checks on b2 [1. Qb2+], the Black king is FORCED to move to e6 [1. ... Ke6], which is the center square of a potential queen/knight "box." FORCING moves are always a good sign, simply because it narrows down the possibilities to a manageable number. After visualizing those two moves, ATTENTION should now be focused on what the next available location is from which White can completely close the "box" and kill the Black king AND which is also protected. There is only one square: f7, so [2. Qf7#].

    This demonstrates how surface cue(s) can lead to a promising variation to explore. Those cue(s) can be triggers if (1) the queen/knight "box" pattern has been internalized, AND (2) we focus ATTENTION on what's available to take us toward the goal.

    1. If the White queen checks on b2 [1. Qb2+], I reckon you mean 1.Qb7+

      Calculation layers 1 and 2 are system 1 based, hence they must be fully mastered. Polgars brick contains a lot of both swallows tail and dovetail mate in one with Queen, Knight and pawn. Which is why it worked so well for aural vision even with such simple puzzles.

      The next (3rd) layer is the layer of technique, or standard scenarios, which tends to live in system 2. In layer 3, we must try to transfer as much as we can from system 2 to system 1. In this case, the black king is contained in a leaking box with a skedaddle square to e6, so we must squeeze the king from one box to another. Into the final box from which he can't escape anymore. The 4th layer, adding logic, is systems 2 domain by definition. Logic can be used for both forward and backward thinking. It is slow by its nature.

    2. Yes, I meant 1. Qb7+. Thanks for the correction!

    3. And (obviously), "If the White queen checks on b2" should read "If the White queen checks on b7".