Monday, January 11, 2010

Reminds me of the good old days

Remember when everyone was doing the Circles? Remember the sometimes crazy heated discussions of them? How many problems per circle? How many circles? What software to use? That was fun.

Loomis provides a good reminder.

I need to think more about the circles, where I stand on the de la Maza methods. I started the juices flowing in a comment at Loomis' blog.

Chesstiger brought up one of the objections Knights heard frequently (that it is bad to do circles because you just memorize specific puzzles). It is far from clear that chesstiger is right. I wrote a detailed response to this objection here). However, it was nice to get thinking about this again, now that I've got quite a bit of perspective on the whole Circles thing. I will have to revisit it and think about it some more.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Just food for thought...I'm a class c player trying to improve, and I think about the best methods of study constantly. Lately I've been thinking about just being more practical with my study time. If I lose to a 1600 rated 11 year old, I don't think it's because I wasted a tempo in the opening, or because I gave up a bishop pair without adequate compensation, etc...a lot of kids that play better than me don't think this way...they just have better practical skills, i.e. they can calculate better and have more developed pattern recognition. My point, I'm back to solving as many puzzles as I can to improve my calculating abilities.

1/11/2010 04:25:00 PM  
Blogger Tommyg said...

I have always wondered at the "controversy" surrounding the circles. Repetition is the foundation for improving most skills.

And as much as there is science and art in chess there is also skill involved.

So on that note alone the circles are pedagogically sound.

However, and I have said this before, the way de le Maza structured them left a little bit to desired. His idea of a penultimate circle showdown with one's self always seemed to miss the forest for the trees. It also left a big wide open gap for burnout.

Another fundamental flaw as I have found out is one must first study and learn the skill before repeating it.

For example: This summer I went through The Art of The Checkmate. I played through every game at the board and then when I came to them I would set up each exercise (or quiz) at a board and figured it out without moving the pieces. I learned each one first.

Then I mini-circled each set of quizzes before going on to the next section of games.

When I was all done I mini-circled the whole lot of quizzes another 4 times.

These have definitely become a part of my pattern recognition and have helped me in many games of late. (of course sometimes I still get over excited and commence my attack WAY too soon!)

Repetition is a part of learning. It is how one implements repetition into their study which makes the difference.

And to show that it wasn't a fluke I did the same thing with the first 100 problems in Alburt's First Pocket Training Book (the one with Boogie Nights cover) and I can say that I really learned those patterns and they have helped me play a bit better!

1/11/2010 09:17:00 PM  
Blogger chesstiger said...

I have nothing against solving chess puzzles. Its fun and educational. That is why i still do CT-ART 3.

My point is that when doing the circles one can solve them quicker and quicker each circle is not because one recognised a patern but one still has the solution in short term memory instead of the placement of some pieces ingrained in the long term memory.

With other words, i have my doubts that doing the circles actually helps you develop your long term (chess) memory by just solving puzzles.

If one each time declares the position of the (needed) pieces for the tactic to work before putting the solution down then the forming of the necessary long term memory (forming of new neuron synapses) will be ok, i guess since one connects one with the other. Which one doesn't by just solving the exercises.

1/12/2010 10:48:00 AM  
Blogger Blue Devil Knight said...

Great thoughts Tommyg. In tennis you do the forehand over and over and over and over and over.....

Chesstiger: it may be, though, that storing it in short term memory is important for better consolidation in long-term memory.

1/12/2010 01:23:00 PM  
Blogger Loomis said...

Tommy, I don't think that chesstiger is suggesting that the repetition of the circles is not resulting in developing a skill. I think he's questioning what skill is developed. Ideally we would develop two skills
1) recognizing tactical patterns in positions that are new to us but contain elements (or chunks) of positions we've seen before.
2) calculating tactical sequences accurately and quickly because we choose the correct candidate moves due to our pattern recognition.

If you show me a difficult tactical problem that I can't solve and then you tell me the solution, I will be able to retell you that solution even if I still can't calculate positions like that and have not internalized any pattern. I'm simply storing the mainlines of this position in my short term memory, which is unlikely to help me in this weekend's tournament. In fact, I probably won't be able to tell you the solution to that problem this weekend. But if I looked at the problem every day the rest of the week and reminded myself of the solution, I could probably give the solution to that puzzle for months to come. But the skill I've developed in this case is recitation of a solution, and not the skills I'd hoped to develop.

I think repetition can be used to develop our target skills. But chesstiger's reminder that it isn't automatic is important.

1/12/2010 01:49:00 PM  
Anonymous Thibault @ FICGS said...

Repetition is everything in the process of learning chess in my opinion, whatever you do, whatever you learn or practice, in a way or another it is repetition.. and of course repetition is the way your brain learns then recognizes patterns... So everything is circles !?

1/13/2010 02:39:00 AM  
Blogger Blue Devil Knight said...

Thibault :)

Playing blitz until the sun is up is a form of circles training that for some reason doesn't help me improve :)

1/13/2010 09:49:00 AM  
Blogger Temposchlucker said...

Circles? Doesn't ring a bell.

1/13/2010 02:41:00 PM  
Anonymous Liquid Egg Product said...

Tempo: Didn't they have Sesame Street when you were growing up? That's where I learned what circles were.

1/14/2010 10:55:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

My husband did the circles.

Mrs Chessloser

1/15/2010 04:20:00 PM  
Blogger Temposchlucker said...

Sesame Street came later. I doubt that it would have interested me. But maybe I'm idealizing my past.

1/15/2010 05:57:00 PM  
Blogger Temposchlucker said...

Never would have guessed that MDLM was at Sesame Street either.

1/15/2010 05:59:00 PM  
Anonymous Liquid Egg Product said...

Tempo: But MDLM was there. Little known fact: MDLM's "Rookie Monster" was one of the original muppets. He loved the number 7 because he liked getting Rooks on the 7th rank.

Unfortunately, this didn't appeal to most kids, so after Sesame Street fired MDLM, they changed him to "Cookie Monster".

1/16/2010 11:15:00 PM  
Blogger Robinson said...

I think one thing that is often overlooked in Michael de la Maza's success is the high number of rated games he played over a relatively short period of time. I've read many, many of the past Knights Errant posts and I don't find a lot of comments about the number of rated, slow games being played as part of their improvement programs. (Nor do I find a lot on people talking about doing the micro-level drills).

MDLM played 193 rated games in 45 events from July 1999-July 2001. He's only ever played 4 games that were quick rated. These quick-rated gamers were in the second-ever rated event that he played in and he received a provisional quick rating of 1649, which remains as his quick rating to this very day. So, 189 slow, rated games played over a 2-year period. This is an average of nearly two serious games per week. He accomplished this by playing a combination of a weekly regular game and a number of weekend Swiss events.

His rating after this period was 2041. During these 193 rated games, he played 143 different opponents for a record of 116-55-22 (W-L-D) (.658). His best upset was vs. Robert Egan (1713), 417 points higher rated (08-22-1999). His best draw was vs. Edwin Burnett (1556), who was 295 points higher rated at the time (08-08-1999). His worst loss was to a player 479 points lower rated, Samuel Atwood (1043) (02-29-2000), who was also the lowest rated player he ever lost to in a rated game.

The highest rated opponent he ever beat? Joel Johnson (2207) (10-31-2000). The highest rated opponent he ever drew was Herbert Carswell Jr. (1991) (7-05-2001).

Against players rated higher than him, he was 33-39-9 (.463). Against those rated 100 or more points above him, he was 17-32-3 (.356).

Against lower rated players, he was 83-16-13 (.799). Against those rated 100 or more points lower, he was 57-10-5 (.826).

MDLM was 41-13-14 (.706) against players who had a rating within 100 points plus or minus of his rating.

If we consider MDLM's lowest rating, which is a rating and not playing strength, as 1163 (his provisional rating after his first 4 games), then we can say his ratings climb was 878 points in about 730 days. However, since his ratings climb happened immediately upon beginning playing rated chess, it is very difficult to make any determination about actual playing strength at any given time. Though he says his rating made him a "Class D player because I played, well, like a Class D player," he is being a little bit disingenuous because his rating immediately went up from there and in four months later he had a 1421 rating and four months after that a 1600 rating.

1/19/2010 10:05:00 AM  

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