Sunday, August 05, 2007

From the desk of Howard Goldowsky (and some news)

First, the news. Good news first: we have a new Knight in the clan, I believe the first Knight from Bangladesh. Please welcome Knight Farhad to the increasingly noisy world of tactical monstrosity! Second, Patrick's blog 'Chess for blood' is no longer on line. This is a major loss: his blog was a rewarding cornucopia of useful information. Patrick, please bring it back!

On the topic of classifying tactics, a couple of things in the bag. One, I just noticed a nice post from Takchess that he wrote about a year ago discussing whether classifying tactics is useful or not. As was the case with my posts, the commenters had mixed feelings about the topic.

Along the same vein, I got a very helpful email from Howard Goldowsky, author of Engaging Pieces. Thanks Howard, for your thoughtful response. I include it here, with Howard's permission:
I can't help but follow with intense interest your series of posts regarding the classification of tactical motifs. Your blog doesn't allow anonymous comments, so I'm writing here.

After finishing my book I've decided to head right back to studying chess, and I considered creating a blog like yours to record my progress. I have over 65 pages of notes similar to your posts. What stopped me was the fear that the impetus for study would come from a need to create original and interesting posts rather than from a desire to get better. Hence, in a selfish yet unpretentious act, I now keep all my notes to myself. At some point, success or failure (I'm currently rated low class-A, and my goal is to make at least expert), if the time is right, my journy could be written in a memoir-type book. There's no need to tempt writing to get in the way of serious chess study.

In my view, traditional tactical motifs are the most fundammental 'basis' set of forcing moves. Combinations are just that: combinations of motifs. In my opinion, the interesting thought processes begin to occur when we begin to classify common types of combinaitons, like Lasker's Bishop Sacrifice, Alekhine's Cross, The Windmill, The Center Fork Trick, etc. When this happens our brains are creating a higher level of abstraction. This is what brains are best at: creating abstraction. When good chess players say "just play," what they mean is play until you don't think about tactical patterns, play until they're abstract enough so that they come without thinking. This is similar to what Josh Waitzkin gets at in his book, The Art of Learning. (I haven't read it yet, but I've read enough reviews to get the jist of what's inside.)

Waitzkin writes in his intro: "As I struggled for a more precise grasp of my own learning process, I was forced to retrace my steps and remember what had been internalized and forgotten. In both my chess and martial arts lives, there is a method of study that has been critical to my growth. I sometimes refer to it as the study of numbers to leave numbers, or form to leave form. A basic example of this process, which applies to any discipline, can easily be illustrated through chess: A chess student must initially become immersed in the fundamentals in order to have any potential to reach a high level of skill. He or she will learn the principles of endgame, middlegame, and opening play. Initially one or two critical themes will be considered at once, but over time the intuition learns to integrate more and more principles into a sense of flow. Eventually the foundation is so deeply internalized that it is no longer consciously considered, but is lived. This process continuously cycles along as deeper layers of the art are soaked in."

The whole intro can be found here.

What Waitzkin is saying, basically, is that we need to learn tactics like we learned the multiplication tables: work hard at it so that it's second nature.

Libraries of books on neuro-psychology have been touting this for some time. One book I recently read that provides a layman's scientific explanation of the way we learn is The Wisdom Paradox, by E. Goldberg.

I'm not sure if you should classify different types of combinations, just so you can talk about them in words. The basis set is already classified enough. Isn't it good enough to say something like, "I'm threatening a fork on g5, so he must deflect my knight with his own theat of a pin....etc.etc?" Once the basis motifs are understood, one can just talk away. An interesting site that has this type of verbal walk-through is here. This fellow, apparently, has taken his site and self-published a two volume hard-copy set of books with his site's material. When I go through the verbiage, sometimes it helps, sometimes it doesn't.
Howard's mail has lots of ideas, and is another vote for the fairly common idea that the basic tactical motifs are sufficient. Complicated combinations are just that, combinations of the simpler motifs.


Blogger takchess said...

Although interesting to me, I don't think I got anything out of the attempt to figure out Blokh classification system. Except a better predicition of what type of problem was going to appear next in the problem set.
I have a Middlegame book by Averbach which names all the different types of Sacrifices. There were at least five.
Where classification and study has been most helpful is when it presented in a format simalar to
How to beat your dad at chess. Where it is named and I could think about each as a free standing unit. I think I am in agreement with Blunderprone on this and Howard's Comment to this post.
I do believe it is important to understand why a tactical theme works. In Ct-art in level 10 + 20 there are over 10 Anastasia Mates.
at least the threat of an Anastasia mate comes into play allow for another mating pattern or Winning of material to occur. Some of these feel very different from each other.
I do think that even though most tactics are made up of simpler tactics that there is a benefit to studying complex tactics as well. There is an additional value of being able to understand the interplay between threats which on their own don't hold up but together in the magic move order works. Often there is a deflection or line interference solution to these sort of problems.
Two examples of what I think of as complex combinations found in HTBYDAC are DC50 The Fisher Trap and DC26 Grecos mate. I don't think I would of come up with that move order over the board for either of these.
I really like what Shakhmat said in his last comment and remembering that it is chess study . I still return to the question of: What value is it to Solve a Tactical Problem? Would we benefit as much by deeply studying the answers and looking what are the necessary position conditions that make the tactic possible ?

8/05/2007 05:43:00 PM  
Blogger Blue Devil Knight said...

Takchess: my next post describes my new, solution-oriented, method for solving tactics problems, and it was inspired in some part by an old post of yours.

It seems there is no good classification scheme for complex tactics that is as helpful, in practice, as the basic elements. Rather, we are left with combinations of the basic elements in complex interplay.

8/05/2007 06:49:00 PM  
Blogger Phil Willis said...

Wow - interesting stuff!

I'll have to take the time to chase down all the links in your blog down their respective rabbit holes.

Thanks for the post.

8/05/2007 08:01:00 PM  

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