Thursday, April 24, 2008

Chessplanner: final revision

The loose ends are almost all tied up...

Based on some great comments I got on the penultimate draft of my thought process (discussed here), I have built the final draft that can be found here as a PDF. I added an acknowledgments section to the document for those that helped. Overall, I am very happy with it, consider it the best thing I have written on chess. I spent more time on it than I care to admit, but whenever I read it it makes me want to go kill some Kings.

No huge changes this time. I added a little bit about confirmation bias (try to kill your candidate moves!). Also, one suggestion I got from readers was to add a bit about time management. I added a little squib, which I paste here:
In practice, will applying Chessplanner chew too much time off the clock? Indeed, it does take up a good deal of time and is probably not possible to use in blitz games. However, there are a few reasons not to fret too much about time. First, note I haven't advocated spending a ton of time on every move—recall from §3 that the only positions which demand time-consuming thought are the sharp positions.

Second, while applying Chessplanner is initially quite intellectually demanding, it becomes easier and faster with experience, just like your ability to multiply two numbers. It becomes somewhat unconscious, automatic, and effortless with extended practice.

Third, board evaluations have a good deal of inertia during a real game; there is a big difference between evaluating a novel board position and evaluating the board on move 30 of a game you have been playing with good evaluation the whole time. Typically, features such as pawn structure have changed very little. You do need to be careful, of course: that helpful evaluation inertia can lead to blunders, such as when your opponent unleashes a discovered attack that wasn't present in previous positions.

One thing I should stress: if you don't apply (at least unconsciously) a sound thought process on every move, you will simply play worse. Heisman (1999) rightly points out, "In order to be a good player, you have to at least try to play correctly on every move, not just most of them. Consistency is important: remember that your chain of moves, in many cases, is only as strong as the weakest link.

There is a lot written elsewhere about practical aspects of time management (see, for instance, Heisman (2001b)), so I recommend reading that and the other articles Heisman has written on the topic. Briefly, the most important thing is to use all the time on your clock. Doing anything else short-changes all the hard work you put into the game when you aren't playing. It is a recipe for sloppy chess. Resist the urge to move quickly after making a blunder (to make it seem you meant to give up your rook), and also after going up material (you may get over-excited and make a blunder of your own). In other words, use your thought process on every move. For practical advice on how to avoid taking too much time on moves, see the cited Heisman article.

A final note. To be clear, I don't think everyone needs to follow an explicit, conscious, step-by-step thought process. Some people are beyond that and already have a perfectly good implicit thought process. For discussion of what use a thought process is, check out this post (and the posts directly before and after it), the discussion in the comments here, and especially the first, beginning of the second, and the last sections of the Chessplanner PDF.

At this point, I am happy with the content of the document, and only plan on making minor word-choice and grammatical improvements. That is, there may be a 3.1 and 3.2, but not a 4.0 for a long time. The links on this page will be maintained so they are always to the most up-to-date version of Chessplanner.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

good stuff!!
im reading it right now, your explanations are very clear and direct to the point

4/24/2008 04:05:00 PM  
Blogger Blue Devil Knight said...

Many thanks, anonymous.

4/24/2008 04:10:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

i read the whole thing, its pretty good. I will for sure keep it in mind when i play a tournament game (which i've never done)

4/24/2008 04:23:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

i started playing chess in august.
its interesting to see the methods u used.
i will totally but that de la maza book if i see it around

4/24/2008 04:33:00 PM  
Blogger Blue Devil Knight said...

Anonymous(1): thanks for the kind comments. Be sure to practice using it before a tournament, as when first applying a thought process it is very demanding. It took me a couple of months before it was second nature, and frankly I still screw up sometimes. Probably a third of my losses are due to laziness in my thought process. The others are due to the fact that I suck, that even though I looked for forks, I didn't see them. That can only come with experience.

Anonymous(2): You really don't need his book--the two articles online contain everything he did. The Circles helped me improve a lot at finding and exploiting threats. Just be careful of burnout.

4/24/2008 04:44:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

from anonymous 1 and 2:
the two articles online?
where are they?
i wanna give it a try.
tactics is my weakness in chess :(
even tho I have a 1600 on chesstempo, i still miss blunders and have a hard time in very complex positions :(

4/24/2008 05:06:00 PM  
Blogger Blue Devil Knight said...

Check out Temposchlucker's sidebar for links to the articles.

4/24/2008 09:55:00 PM  
Blogger Blue Devil Knight said...

Or the Knights Errant FAQ page.

4/24/2008 09:56:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Very nice synthesis of a lot of different writings on the topic, and I like your concrete examples of "mini-plans" (e.g.'Move a rook to the half-open file where the opponent has isolated doubled pawns')peppered throughout. I haven't read Soltis, et al, but I've read all of Heisman's Novice Nooks, his "Second Chess Book", his "Elements of Positional Evaluation" and part of his tacics book. I think he would approve of most or all of what you say, and wonder if you have considered sharing your Chess Planner with him, as I could see it being the kind of thing he might link to on his own web site, under resources...?

Just a thought.

-- Hank

4/24/2008 10:35:00 PM  
Blogger Blue Devil Knight said...

Hank: thanks. I look at it as a synthesis of much of what Heisman says, though because his thoughts are scattered about I integrated them together and supplemented with works from Soltis and the others (partly just to make clear that this isn't some weird idiosyncratic thing, but pretty much what everyone that has written on the topic says, Silman notwithstanding as Silman's thought process is geared almost exclusively to strategy--though his 'imbalances' is in Chessplanner buried in the discussion of the goal being to increase strengths, decrease weaknesses, and do the opposite for the opponent).

I'll send it to him, that's a good idea.

4/25/2008 01:05:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I know this post comment doesnt belong here, but who cares.
Watched all your videos on books, good stuff.
I wonder if u have read any chess books about the history of it, more like novels (could u really call them novels?)
I am reading now Bobby Fisher goes to war. Pretty interesting book (first one i read about chess that is not about openings, tactics, etc).

4/25/2008 05:33:00 PM  
Blogger Blue Devil Knight said...

Anon: I haven't read any of those historical books about chess, but I'd really like to. I'm open go suggestions, with Fischer goes to war a definite one on my list.

4/25/2008 09:28:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

its interesting cos they dont actually go through the games at all.
A lot of political stuff in it involving Fischer, Spassky, Tal, all the Soviet political system, Nixon, Larry Evans, Benko, even the FBI and the KGB.
I dont know if it is true or just the writers opinion, but they portrait Fischer as an asshole. His quotes are pretty fucked up.
I wonder if now that he died they will use the opportunity (tempo) to make a movie about it.

4/25/2008 09:54:00 PM  
Blogger transformation said...

chess planner. again, most impressive. anything you seem to attempt you seem to attain. excellent. such talent in so many areas of life.

4/25/2008 09:55:00 PM  
Blogger Blue Devil Knight said...

Anon: I think everyone realizes Fischer was a total dick, though perhaps partially explained by some sort of mental illness.

DK: Many thanks for the comment. Perhaps I will start to actually play slow games again.

4/25/2008 10:57:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I heard that chess players in Durham, NC sometimes hang out in a low-key but tasty Chinese place called Banh's on 9th Street (near Duke's East Campus). See you there!

4/25/2008 11:40:00 PM  
Blogger Chessaholic said...

anon and BDK: I have a few recommendations for historical/anecdotal books about chess. The ones I have read so far are:

Chess Bitch by Jennifer Shahade (main topic is women and stereotypes in chess)

The Chess Kings by Calvin Olson (a little dry but a good book about the beginnings and development of chess)

The Immortal Game by David Shenk (I liked this one a lot - I think any chess afficionado will)

Bobby Fischer Goes to War (you already talked about this - a very entertaining read)

The Chess Artist by J.C. Hallman (very entertaining look into the idiosyncrasies of the chess world)

King's Gambit by Paul Hoffman (very good - just check out his blog for a taste of his writing).

The End Game by Dominic Lawson (about the 1993 world championship match between Nigel Short and Kasparov. If you want a captivating read about how these guys prepare, their psychological warefare etc - this is it)

I can recommend all of these.

4/26/2008 12:35:00 PM  
Blogger Blue Devil Knight said...

That's great, chessaholic--it sounds like fun.

You should make a post out of that on your blog, people would come and make suggestions and such.

4/26/2008 01:22:00 PM  
Blogger Chessaholic said...

I like that idea. I'll probably make a post out of it in the coming days.

4/27/2008 05:29:00 PM  

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