Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Did Kreider independently invent the Circles?

I just discovered an article published in 2002, written by S Evan Kreider, called Practicing Tactics. In it, he advocates a Circles method of tactical training. Note de la Maza's original article was published in 2001. So either Kreider plagiarized, or independently discovered the Circles method.

Here's the money quote, and the program he is referring to is CT-Art (the same program de la Maza recommends):
Start with the level one problems. The first time through, work each problem out very slowly, step by step, making sure you see and understand everything there is to see and understand about it, and visualizing the tactical patterns clearly. It’s especially important to work through the entire problem in your head before moving pieces on the board. Don’t cheat and move the pieces around while you are trying to solve them! You don’t get to do that during a real game!


Once you’ve worked your way through the entire set of level one problems, go back through them again. This time, you should be able to go through them with greater speed and accuracy. You’ll probably remember some of them, and be able to solve them instantly. Some of them may require that you work through them again as described above, but will go more quickly. Others will take a just as long as before, and still others will stump you all over again. Just make sure that you work through them again as thoroughly as you need to solve the ones you can and understand the ones you can’t.

Q: "How many times should I go through the same set?" A: Until you can go through the whole set (preferably in one sitting, or at the very least in as few sessions as possible) and score at least 90%. Then you’ll be ready to move to the next level of problems. Repeat the process until you’ve worked through all ten levels. There’s no set schedule for this – take as much time as it requires, even if it’s a year or two or more, as long as you work through them thoroughly and spend at least a little time on them every day. As you can probably tell, it’s quality rather than speed or quantity that I’m advocating.
Wow, this is exactly what I did (except I did it with CTB, and did each problem set until I got 100% correct).

It is funny that some self-proclaimed experts like to say how stupid the Circles are, how no experienced coach or master would suggest doing them. Maybe it's my confirmation bias speaking, but some sort of Circles method is popular with many top-notch chess coaches.

On a different topic, I found a good article by a fellow named Andres Hortillosa, in which he outlines an eight step procedure for avoiding blunders, titled On Mastering Tactics. It reminds me quite a bit of Chessplanner.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think it's partially on his own experience and partially of the De la Maza circles. Afterall, before the book came out there were two internet articles of De la Maza on his circle ideas if i am not mistaken.

Anyway, it's not such a big thing to come up with to ingrain paterns into your brain. It's the extent and timeframe that makes the De la Maza circle idea standing out to other circle ideas.

9/10/2008 10:17:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am not surprised that someone would have came up with the same basic plan for studying tactics before de la Maza printed his book. To be honest, I have never really understood the controversy surrounding the circles. Repetition and a gradual increase in difficulty level are just common pedagogical sense.

I have often said that I believe tactics are akin to scales in music. A musician learns scales by constant repetition while gradually increasing the tempo. Heck, we learn our multiplication tables in grade school in a very circle like way!

In my opinion people who disagree with the basic tenet of the circles are not really looking at them with any real objectivity. Even though I have not become a Knights Errant I am basically using the circle method with my tactics books and Chessimo.

My only real problem with the circles as described on blogs and in de la Maza'a Chess Cafe articles is that they can sometimes becomes the end as opposed to being the means to an end. A musician doesn't work up all if his or her major and minor scales just to blow them out at one crazy tempo on one penultimate day. A musician knows that to attain and keep mastery he or she must always practice the scales and rudiments of the instrument at hand. Once a certain level of mastery has been attained the musician will shorten the amount of time spent on scales but they will ALWAYS be part of practice.

I think that by setting up a tactics regiment that leads to a climactic do or die day like de la Maza advocates might very well be the major cause of burnout or even worse post circles disappointment that has been seen in the blogosophere. In any undertaking, if we lose the forest for the trees(weak cliche I know!), it makes it difficult to remember why we started in the first place. It is very important to retain the interest or even love for the thing we are pursuing! Especially something as difficult as chess and/or music.

The circles themselves are pedagogically sound and correct, of that there can be no real argument. The only debate about the circles that I can see would center on exactly how much focus is placed on them.

Anyway, have a good one!

9/10/2008 10:32:00 AM  
Blogger Blue Devil Knight said...

A musician doesn't work up all if his or her major and minor scales just to blow them out at one crazy tempo on one penultimate day.

LOL! Excellent.

I largely agree, which is why I didn't do the circles the way MDLM suggested, but the way Kreider suggested.

We've had some discussion of how to avoid burnout with the circles here, where I also discuss who the circles method is best suited for.

9/10/2008 12:34:00 PM  
Blogger Temposchlucker said...

When you don't walk in a straight line you are probably walking around in circles.

9/10/2008 04:24:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey BDK,

I hope that this is not a breech of blog etiquette,(and if it is..I apologize!) but would you at all be into playing a game of correspondence chess at chess.com? I have really grown to prefer that over playing at the ICC. (I wrote a big ponderous post about that at my blog)

Since you have comment moderation on you obviously don't have to treat this as a normal comment. And if you aren't into it I completely understand but if you are and I end up playing with white, I promise to play 1. e4!!

Have a good one!

9/11/2008 01:41:00 AM  
Blogger Blue Devil Knight said...

tommyg: sounds good, but I'm just not patient enough for correspondence chess, unfortunately.

9/11/2008 11:46:00 AM  
Blogger takchess said...

I think the ideas regarding the circles (at least repetitive tactical drilling) had been in play long before DLM and practiced by some players using tactical problem books.

That is not to diminish DLM 's contribution in bundling ideas and promoting the idea. This caused a greater following of repetitive tactical training as well as a put into motion many discussions re: the nature of pattern recognition and results of tactical training(!! or ?!)

take care, Jim

9/12/2008 02:57:00 PM  
Blogger Our Sword said...

2 posts in under a month, not bad! If I had to take a shot in the dark I'd say he probably thought of the circles himself or heard a similar method espoused by others in the chess world for quite some time. It seems like such a logical method would have been thought of prior to MDLM's 2001 article.

Anyway, glad to see some posts!

9/13/2008 01:02:00 PM  
Blogger Polly said...

I think that method applies to so many different types of things that are learned through memorization. I don't think it's necessarily unique to chess and music. De la Maza took the time to work out and organize his plan into a program, but the method draws from many different fields.

I like Tommy's music analogy. A lot of what hes saying reminds me of what I'm dealing with as I learn new forms and teniques in Tae Kwon Do.

PS. Tommy where the heck did you go??? It's too soon to have blogger burnout. I've really enjoyed your posts. Come back!!

9/14/2008 06:56:00 PM  
Blogger Glenn Wilson said...

takchess said: "I think the ideas regarding the circles (at least repetitive tactical drilling) had been in play long before DLM and practiced by some players using tactical problem books."

Absolutely. I've been doing chess tactics circles off and on of one sort or another since I was 11 and got my first copy of Bobby Fischer Teaches Chess. (And I'm not claiming to have invented anything in that regard because I did not).

Winning Chess Tactics for Juniors by Lou Hays published in 1994 has three "boxes" next to each diagram to check each time you go through the book and solve the problem. Obviously the intent is to repeat the book at least three times.

9/20/2008 09:04:00 PM  
Blogger Blue Devil Knight said...

Glenn: interesting, I didn't know that about Bain.

Yes, it is sort of absurd in some sense to suggest that either of these people discovered the importance of repitition of problems!!! But the similarities between these two specifically was a bit strong.

I am also wondering who the first one to actually codify it into a kind of system of chess learning in writing. I haven't seen it before MDLM or this guy. It would be interesting to see the history of the idea.

9/21/2008 11:08:00 AM  

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