Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Thinking Drills: Chess Cross Training

1. Introduction
I believe that one shortcoming of the standard MDLM program is that it delays any work on "chess thinking" to a third stage, to be done after the Microdrills and the Circles. Also, at the third stage he throws you full-bore into an 8-step thinking process and expects you to somehow manage to master it. This goes against the spirit of what makes the Vision Drills and Seven Circles so useful: repetition of problems sorted by difficulty to build up automated skills. Why not apply the same strategy to improving your chess thinking? Why not work out a piecemeal set of chess thinking drills, of increasing difficulty, for use during actual games? This would ideally be carried out in parallel with (i.e., at the same time as) the microdrills and tactical study. This should help avoid the common problem (e.g., see this, this, and this post) that people have with MDLM: applying their newfound skills in actual games! MDLM had the same trouble, and added his Phase 3. My attitude is, why wait?!

So, I have worked out a system of thinking drills to perform in parallel with my Circles. They start out very simple and build up in complexity. The goal is to gradually develop good thinking habits and avoid knee-jerk responses to opponents' moves. Many of the stages below are probably too simple for most of the Knights Errant, but so far even lowly Stage 1 has kept me from committing some awful blunders in real games.

2. Thinking Training
The training consists of four Stages, which I delineate shortly. How do I progress through the stages? From a game in a database, I pick ten contiguous full moves from the middle of the game (typically starting after move 10) for analysis. I can move on to the next stage only when I get ten games in a row in which I make zero analysis errors in those ten moves (as determined by computer analysis afterwards).

Stage 1: Avoid en prise blunders
This is meant to build up en prise vision, getting your pieces under direct attack to 'pop out' on the board in the same way that the Knight sight drills cause the Knight's squares to pop out.
Right after opponent's move: write down which of your pieces are under direct attack (i.e., he could capture them in one move).
Right before your move: visualize the board after you have made the move. Write down which of your pieces will be left open to direct attack after your move.

Stage 2: Find en prise blunders
Right after opponent's move: write down which of your opponent's pieces are under direct attack (i.e., you can capture them now).

Stage 3: Chess vision defense
After opponent's move: Write down which of your pieces can be forked, skewered, or pinned on his following move.

Stage 4: Chess vision offense
Before you move: Write down which of your opponent's pieces can be forked, skewered, or pinned.

3. Comments and Caveats
Note that successful implementation of the task at a given Stage is necessary but not sufficient for successful chess play! For instance, I am at Stage 1 in my Thinking Drills, but my thinking process for chess is not exhausted by the skills required by Stage 1 training. If all my thinking during a game consisted of looking out for direct threats, I would lose every game! On the other hand, to be successful, you clearly cannot leave pieces en prise, so this Stage explicitly addresses one of many necessary elements of good thinking.

I would love to hear people's thoughts on this. Suggestions for modifying or adding to the Stages would be especially interesting.

[Last revised: 7/18/05]


Blogger Nezha said...

Based on my previous failed attempts to implement a thinking process, I have this theory - Trying to develop a thinking process, cause it to remain undeveloped. So I just forget about fretting about it, and just develop my games via tactics. I find that I am less prone to blunder now, BUT, as Ive said, I cant consistently find good moves. Well anyway, to make the long story short - if you become successfull in this training you devised, will it be possible to inform us? this is so I can "change" my mind.

4/27/2005 07:45:00 AM  
Blogger Pawnsensei said...

I like it. I've always been a strong proponent of getting a stable thought process from the beginning.

One suggestion. I find playing less games more frequently to be superior to playing a bunch of games in one day. One reason is if you play a lot of games in the same day it may lead to overconfidence on good days and depression on bad ones. Another reason is playing one long game then letting the lessons sink in before your next game is more beneficial for increasing playing strength then playing a bunch of games with the same mistakes in the same day. Finally, if you know you only get to play one game then psychologically you will put everything you have in that one game and would think thrice before resigning because you only get one chance at it. One of my opponents in the Team 45 45 tourney I am in once made a comment about that.

I only play 30 30 and I would recommend the same.


4/27/2005 07:51:00 AM  
Blogger Temposchlucker said...

Good thinking:)

4/27/2005 11:29:00 AM  
Blogger Blue Devil Knight said...

Nezha, I'd be curious to hear what you have tried, and pitfalls to avoid. So far Stage 1 has been helpful, though with the important caveat mentioned in my post. (It is necessary, not sufficient, for good play!). Like I said, my guess is that these four Stages are already too easy for most of the Knights, and that you are already effectively a graduate (i.e., perpetual stage 5). I still consistently leave pieces en prise, a habit I really want to break! This seems to be helping so far. I'll report any insights or progress :)

Pawn Sensei, you are clearly right. I am going to do everything I can to play games on a daily basis. I am just not sure, in the higher Circles, if this will be possible given my other time committments (oh, for instance my wife and job!). :) I figure one day a week is better than none, hence the sacred seventh day for games only....

4/27/2005 12:42:00 PM  
Blogger knightwiz said...

Good post! I've read some stuff on thought process, but never fit to me. For now I'll do like Nezha, and let the games shape my "thought process" naturally. If you get benefits from this program, tell us.
Like you, I still do some(terrible) blunders here and there.. ;/

4/28/2005 01:35:00 AM  

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