Friday, October 05, 2007

Eggheads, solution-focus a panacea, and conformity

First, thanks to Liquid Egg Product (LEP) for awarding me the coveted and rare Worthless Blogger Award. The owner of LEP sucks, but his mascot rules! He and chessloser are like the tag team of funny in the world of chess blogging. And that's saying...ummm...well I guess it's not saying much, but it's saying something! I'll be putting the award on my sidebar soon.

OK, on to even more fun. Zweiblumen posted an interesting comment on my previous post:
[A] while back you mentioned that when doing tactics you are spending less time on the problem and more time on the solution....[T]his seems very similar to the constant struggle between looking over your games without a computer vs the temptation to just ask fritz right away. All indications point to the idea that one should wait as long as possible to consult the machine...
Thanks for the comment, Zweiblumen.

First, for those who don't know what Zeiblumen is talking about, the original post on the solution-oriented method I am using is here. I've expanded on, revised, discussed the method further over multiple posts here, here, and here.

I originally developed the technique to help me finish these damned Circles faster. Given that goal, it is undoubtedly working (as discussed in those posts above). I just wish I had started with it earlier: learning this set of 1300 problems would have taken me half as long! My understanding of the positions using solution-focus is uncompromised. I haven't simply acquired the moves, but also learned principles, explanations, key pieces. I am convinced that, if the goal is to understand what to do in a position, this method is great.

Note the solution-focused approach is not passive: you don't just look at the solution and go on. In fact, I found it much more intellectually demanding than the stare-for-ten-minutes method. It forced me to actively generate explanations for every move in the solution, explanations for why certain other moves didn't work, involved visualizing the entire solution from start to finish without moving a piece, etc.. It was tough. The first time through, anyway. After that it got much much easier because I remembered a lot about each problem.

However, the method is not for practicing calculation, practicing a thought process, etc.. It is mainly for enhancing the memory of how to play in a given position. Perhaps that is not what someone is after when going over their own games.

However, why shouldn't that be their goal? I'm not convinced a similar method wouldn't be good for studying my own games. Let Fritz show you the move (after you briefly think about it), and then think very hard about why it is the best move, using the method.

It's like going over the game with a super-GM coach, but he won't explain the moves to you, only show you what you should have played. This reticent and annoying coach makes you explain the move. If you want to learn from your mistakes, this method seems great. This is a postmortem technique that couldn't even exist 20 years ago. Computers have revolutionized chess, and the repercussions for chess training are unclear.

It could also be useful for going over master games: cover and guess, but don't cover too long; guess quickly and then spend tons of time interrogating the solution. Then you will be more likely to really understand and know how to handle similar positions in the future.

It's a panacea!!! :)

I like the following video. It is a psychological study of conformity (a little cheesy, but a classic study):

I'm not sure how it is relevant....Perhaps breaking free from tradition, breaking free from what everyone says is right, might be useful for renegade chess improvers. I'm not a renegade, as after all I'm in the cult de la Maza. :) Perhaps conformity is most prevalent in people's judgments of what openings are good.

Of course, the tendency of humans to conform is the kind of thing that crackpot pseudo-scientists like to point out, too. Evolution, for instance, has been clearly refuted, but everyone is just genuflecting to the scientific priesthood of atheistic evolutionists. So, beware. You can be a nonconformist and still be completely wrong. But be careful of groupthink all the same.

14 Comments:

Blogger SamuraiPawn said...

As always, a great post that gets the brain juice pumping. I have a couple of thoughts on some things you mention.

It forced me to actively generate explanations for every move in the solution, explanations for why certain other moves didn't work, involved visualizing the entire solution from start to finish without moving a piece, etc..

When it comes to learning visualisation and calculating, I'm suspecting that solving tactical problems from a book is superior than a chess program like CT-Art. When solving from a book you are forced to visualise without moving any pieces and you also have to formulate your own narrative to explain why certain variations work and why some don't. Of course it is more time consuming though.

However, why sholdn't that be their goal? I'm not convinced a similar method woldn't be good for studying my own games. Let Fritz show you the move (after you briefly think about it), and then think very hard about why it is the best move, using the method.

Don't you think that since a program like Fritz don't play and "think" like a human might present a problem, and it might also be impossible for you to find a narrative that describes the good qualities of a certain move.

Of course, the tendency of humans to conform is the kind of thing that crackpot pseudo-scientists like to point out, too. Evolution, for instance, has been clearly refuted, but everyone is just genuflecting to the scientific priesthood of atheistic evolutionists. So, beware. You can be a nonconformist and still be completely wrong. But be careful of groupthink all the same.

Amen brother...amen.

10/06/2007 02:19:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thoughtful blog.

10/06/2007 02:51:00 PM  
Blogger Blue Devil Knight said...

Samurai: you make an excellent point. The ability to get comprehensible explanations is the main difference between a good human coach and a computer coach.

I see what you are saying with books, but I prefer computer. There is nothing stopping someone from not moving on the computer to treat it like a book. But then, even better, if you want you can have immediate feedback on why one move might not work, etc.. OTOH, I love books for their portability.

10/06/2007 03:12:00 PM  
Blogger SamuraiPawn said...

There is nothing stopping someone from not moving on the computer to treat it like a book.

I agree. Why I chose to work with a book instead of CT-Art was based mostly on personal preferences and weaknesses, i.e easier to use during my commuting and pathological cheating with CT-Art. So for me it was perfect. :)

10/06/2007 03:26:00 PM  
Blogger Tynicas said...

Thanks for that video clip, BDK, super timely for me in my other life's pursuit.

As always good chess stuff too, although I had to read that evolution bit twice to get it through my thick skull and get Darwin to stop spinning in his grave.

10/06/2007 03:29:00 PM  
Blogger Blue Devil Knight said...

Tynicas: I hope it is clear that I am not saying that about Darwinism. I was speaking in the voice of a crackpot at that point.

10/06/2007 04:19:00 PM  
Blogger Tynicas said...

Yeah, I came to that conclusion, just took me two reads...which is odd considering how often I have to speak in the voice of a crackpot in order to get my students to realize the truth of some things.

10/06/2007 05:16:00 PM  
Blogger Loomis said...

In the end, there is only one real defense of your choice of study method and it goes like this "I used method X for Y months/years and gained Z rating points." I think that's why DLM's book is so compelling.

Of course, if you're being a nonconformist, you have to just put up with people who call you an idiot until after it works. All you can do in the meantime is thank them for their criticism and keep on doing what you feel you need to do.

10/06/2007 06:02:00 PM  
Blogger Blue Devil Knight said...

Loomis: it is nice to have more immediate feedback in terms of percent performance on the Circles too. Of course if learning a bunch of problems didn't help in ratings or game enjoyment, then it'd be insane!!! Nobody, though, does as well as MDLM did.

10/06/2007 08:15:00 PM  
Blogger Blue Devil Knight said...

PS I hope it was obvious that the panacea comment was a joke. Take two groups of kids, have one group use the Fritz method, the other get tutored by a good coach. Who will do better?

But perhaps that isn't the fair comparison. Have two kids do the cover and guess method for a year. One group spend 75% of the time doing the think-and-stare the other 25% thinking about the solution. The other group 25% doing the think-and-stare and 75% of time for each position thinking about the solution. Who would be better? I'm not sure.

I bet there is an optimal ratio for each person. Or, it depends on the position too. In that case it all needs to be done more intelligently. It also depends on how long total is being spent.

The stare method is probably better for getting practice analyzing positions as you would in real games. My attitude is: spend time doing that in real games. Spend time studying differently, spend that time learning how to play the right moves, not how to think. The latter comes with practice OTB.

But what do I know? I'm a patzer, this is all speculation, and I'll just have to test it all out.

But for now I just want to finish these circles (probably 10 days or so to go). Then I'll have time to play a lot, and try to integrate all this crap into my performance more...that will be fun! Maintaining a tactical baseline (10 problems from each set, total of 50 a day, to maintain), plus a slow game a day to work on thought process and analysis. After a couple of months, I think I'll have a sense for how much all this crap has helped. (Though it has already helped in that I've gone up about 400 rating points, but it took me a long time, so who the hell knows what's going on).

Balance will be restored in the force.

10/06/2007 08:44:00 PM  
Blogger Temposchlucker said...

Me saying "1", rest of the world saying "2". Story of my life.

10/07/2007 05:45:00 AM  
Blogger The retired pawn said...

BDK: I am still here! I have not had time to post anything due to my class/term papers. However, when I have some time I plan on updating my blog.

10/07/2007 07:23:00 PM  
Blogger wormwood said...

my personal study philosophy is: "if your head doesn't hurt from the training, if you don't get that unbearable urge to just drop it, then it's not doing much for you." :)

so, does it hurt after a half an hour of 'solution-oriented method'?

I also just realized that I'm quite close to pulling off a 'de la maza'. a little over two years from 0 to 1969 on red hot pawn.

10/07/2007 11:40:00 PM  
Blogger Liquid Egg Product said...

I still can't believe people are putting that thing on their site.

10/09/2007 01:32:00 PM  

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