Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Tactical Agnosia: Is there a Cure?

There is a consensus that pattern recognition is a key ingredient of chess mastery. What are the psychological signatures of pattern recognition? There seem to be two: it is effortless and operates very quickly. If it takes you more than a few seconds for you to see a tactic, then it isn't part of your pattern recognition armamentarium.

A good example of pattern recognition is our ability to recognize faces. Do you have to sit and consciously deduce whose face you are looking at? Only if you have prosopagnosia, the neurological disorder in which normal face recognition is impaired. The rest of us recognize faces immediately, expending no conscious effort. More generally, the class of disorders known as the agnosias involve the inability to recognize sometimes very specific types of objects (e.g., animals). I sometimes wonder if I have tactical agnosia.

While everyone agrees that learning tactical patterns is important, there are disagreements, sometimes quite feisty, about the best way to build up such skills. Those of us doing the Circles are trying to burn tactical patterns into our memory by repeating the same problems multiple times. Given this strategy, there are a few variables that can be played with: number of problems total, number of problems to work on before moving on to another subset (i.e., mini-circle size), time per problem, number of times to repeat the same problems, etc..

Based partly on arguments I've read in the other Knights' blogs, I've decided to tweak some of the variables in my training. Here's my modified plan. I will pick small groups of simple tactical problems (under 300 problems) and work through them following a doubling law. The first time through, I will do 5 problems in a study block until I finish all the problems. Then I repeat the same problems, doing 10 per block, then 20, etc, until I am doing the entire set of problems each day, 100% correct, with no thinking. Then I will move on to the next set of (less than) 300 problems.

I am not yet sure how I will finesse repeating sets of problems that I have already learned. Maybe once I've worked through the five problem clusters in Chess Tactics for Beginners, I'll then do a bunch of Ubercircles in which I do them all. I'll figure that out once I get there. Any suggestions on that phase appreciated.

Thanks to Man de la Maza, Sancho, Tempo, J'adoube, Quandoman, and others for stimulating this. I think this will be a better way to remedy my agnosia.


Blogger Temposchlucker said...

A solid plan to get recognosia.

9/06/2006 04:52:00 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

I think you'll find that starting with 5 problems is too little. I'd recommend 20 problems a day and increasing by 20 a day. I did it easily and I'm sure you can too.

9/06/2006 05:11:00 PM  
Blogger Blue Devil Knight said...

Jim: I didn't mention that I usually do more than one block of problems a day when it is 5-to-10 per block...

9/06/2006 05:55:00 PM  
Blogger transformation said...

hello eric, i love your:

5/10/20/40/80/160=315 plan. i have found that when my plan is cogent and clear, i do it.

how you detail it or spec it is your decision. but this idea of a bounded and fixed set is fantastic. chess is so huge that it is so easy to spin off to infinity.

hope all is well in the post doc world down south? dk

9/07/2006 02:37:00 PM  
Blogger King of the Spill said...

Mmmmm... armamentarium. Nice word.

9/07/2006 07:35:00 PM  

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