Monday, November 20, 2006

Chess Visualization: Web and Software Tools

Patrick inspired me to think more about board visualization and variation calculation, and to look around for useful tools to build up these ephemeral skills.

First, check out this great site devoted to board visualization. It has lots of cool facts on it that have helped me simplify board visualization and also includes four visualization drills (at the bottom of the page). It starts out very basic but ends up with a bunch of stuff I had never considered before.

This sparked me to look for other visualization software. So far I've found a few programs. While they are generally built for people trying to learn to play blindfolded, when you are calculating variations in your head during a real game you are essentially playing blindfold chess where you are blind to the future board position. If you've used any of them, please let us know what you thought. I'll expand this list as we discover new programs.

  • Chess Eye: Chess Visualization Training is cool: there is a free trial version. There are many different types of exercices. In one they tell you where three pieces are (K vs KR) and you have to say whether the king is mated. You can try it for free online here. An earlier shareware (i.e., free) version is also available at Sourceforge.

  • The Push Up System. Quizzes you on your ability to reconstruct board positions, either of a previously seen board, or a previously seen board after certain indicated moves are made. Seems geared to playing blindfold.

  • Blindfold, a program for visualizing interactions between pieces. I couldn't get the demo version to work. For all I know I just installed a virus on my computer. If not, the program seems interesting and I'll post more once I get the damned thing working.

    Please let me know what I've missed (I think one of the knights has some software they wrote but I can't remember whom). I especially appreciate links to software sites or good discussions for improving at visualization/calculation.

    Needless to say, this is one of my weaker areas and I'd like to work on it. I know many people say training doesn't help, but given that the web site above has already helped me with visualization, they must be wrong (whether it makes a difference for ratings and actual play is a different question).
  • 12 Comments:

    Anonymous Anonymous said...

    I own Chess Eye and believe it or not, I don't think trying to visualize games using these tools helps. I tried several but the one and only thing I have found to work is to play hundreds and hundreds of games.

    What happens is that you become very familiar with certain positions so you don't even have to think about them - for instance, there are 4 variations fof the French I could play blindfolded because I know the lines so well - going off book isn't that hard because I just tag the exceptions and keep track of them.

    This is why GMs can recreate familiar positions after looking at them for just a few seconds - they know the position and just note the exceptions - a pawn here a knight there. . .

    Honestly, I think you would better spend your time playing as many games as you can versus trying to increase your visualization skills. Trying to pluck a position out of the clear blue just doesn't work all that well for our Cro-magnon brains. Positional patterns are associated with a process, not a some random artifact. . .

    IMHO, that is [grin].

    11/20/2006 06:26:00 PM  
    Blogger Blue Devil Knight said...

    Jim: I have heard similar criticisms. I'll probably do it anyway, as it won't hurt and it might help a little bit. Small pluses in chess skill, like small positional advantages, can add up.

    So many blindfold teachers say to learn the main features of the board (colors, diagonal colors, etc) that there is probably something going on. I just want to get to the point where I can read a chess book without a board in front of me. I have found that is a useful way to build up calculation skills, and it is a lot like playing blindfold (except with an initial position there to look at).

    I prefer games, but often I don't have time for a long game, and these exercises look fun and nonharmful.

    11/20/2006 06:48:00 PM  
    Anonymous Anonymous said...

    Learning the diagonals and their colors doesn't hurt, to be sure.

    A short cut is to simpy learn a single quadrant of the board - the square bounded by a1-d1-d4-a4. Once you learn that, the rest of the board is just a repeat.

    11/20/2006 07:21:00 PM  
    Anonymous Anonymous said...

    http://chesstraining.sourceforge.net/

    11/20/2006 07:46:00 PM  
    Blogger Blue Devil Knight said...

    Tempo: that is an early version of Chess Eye.

    Jim: yeah, that and a lot of useful information was in the first page I linked to.

    11/20/2006 07:51:00 PM  
    Blogger Sancho Pawnza said...

    Don't forget Troyis!!

    A fun exercise for knight patterns.
    Just imagine the holes as enemy controlled squares.

    Anyone else still playing it? I manage to squeeze in a few games once or twice a week. Might be fun to try team play.

    11/21/2006 09:06:00 PM  
    Blogger IA said...

    You said, "Please let me know what I've missed... I especially appreciate links to software sites or good discussions for improving at visualization/calculation."

    You can read about a practical new approach to chess visualization based on 800 (!) positions taken from real games that stretch the reader's vision from 4 to 39 half-moves deep while expanding it from 1 to 2 to 3 sectors of the board.

    Check out my blog at
    chess visualization blog.

    9/11/2007 03:39:00 AM  
    Anonymous Anonymous said...

    could you please send me "push-up system" if any of you have? i am unable to purchase it. my_mail:hakansev2000@yahoo.com

    10/30/2007 02:36:00 PM  
    Blogger Sriram said...

    Is there a program that graphically displays, say with color-coded arrow marks, all the pieces and empty squares targeted by every piece in any given board position? Thanks.

    10/25/2008 09:04:00 AM  
    Blogger Blue Devil Knight said...

    Sriram: not exactly, but many will show all the legal squares to which a piece can move when you click that piece. Fritz does that I think. Probably most chess software will do it.

    10/25/2008 12:42:00 PM  
    Blogger Sriram said...

    BlueDevilKnight: Thanks. Obviously I am a novice to chess software. BTW, is there a chess GUI that one could easily modify/enhance to do the above visualization I describe? Preferably for Macintosh? I hear the Macintosh graphics library is easy to use, but haven't tried it; anyone has any experiences to share? Thanks.

    10/26/2008 03:28:00 AM  
    Blogger Dietrich Kappe said...

    Chess Training Tools at Source Forge (chesstraining.sourceforge.net) is neither shareware nor an earlier version of Chess Eye. It is open source and authored by someone completely different. It is still under active development.

    6/01/2009 12:02:00 AM  

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