Thursday, October 02, 2008

Simple stuff first

Crumpled up in the back of my car I discovered a printout of a comment on tactical thinking during games. I thought it was something I posted here, but actually Google revealed it was just a comment I left at Steve Eddins' blog:
Recently I’ve vastly simplified my thinking during games, making it a priority to look at checks, captures, and threats first. And by threats, I mean simple one-move tactics such as fork, skewer, etc.. I try not to let myself think about more complicated stuff until I’m sure my candidate moves can survive this basic tactical evaluation. It has simplified my thinking in games (no more 10 minutes spent thinking about pawn structure: I allow only quick thinks when it comes to quiet positions), made the games more fun, and resulted in fewer embarassing losses (though I’ll always have embarassing losses I’m sure).

My reasoning when I started this was, “Hey beginners start by learning simple mates and one-move tactics in their books and puzzle software, maybe I should reorient my thinking in real games to look for simple stuff first, and once it becomes second-nature to do that, I will be more disposed to build vision for the higher-level stuff.”
Since I started playing slow games again, I realize I need to start doing this again. Look at checks and captures first. Back to the simple basics. I've missed some subtle but devastating checks I could have made in a couple of games.


Blogger likesforests said...

To play well requires so many pieces to come together! You've got to have a feel for your opening, a healthy thinking process, sharp tactical eyes, strategic understanding, and endgame technique. It's like a juggling act trying to hone and maintain these skills. I often end up focusing on only one or two at a time to the detriment of the others. It sounds like you dropped one. ;)

10/02/2008 10:28:00 PM  
Blogger Blue Devil Knight said...

Luckily I won anyway. :) Those are the best learning experiences, and a good example of why I like to study my wins in addition to my losses.

10/03/2008 12:07:00 AM  
Blogger Temposchlucker said...

It's like a juggling act trying to hone and maintain these skills.

To me it doesn't feel that way. Once knowledge has become a skill, it doesn't need maintaince anymore. Just like how people never forget how to swim or to ride a bike, even after 30 years of not doing it. Chessplayers who take a break for 10 years usually have about the same level when they start again. Sometimes they even have improved while not playing.

10/03/2008 12:53:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Once knowledge has become a skill, it doesn't need maintaince anymore.

Ugh, you are so wrong. Your thoughtproces needs maintaince ever so often or one forgets parts or like me, one becomes so rusty that it's as if one has to invent it all over again, and that was only after a three months break of chess.


Nice to hear you are working on your thoughtproces. It's the first thing one should implement properly.

10/03/2008 01:09:00 AM  
Blogger Blue Devil Knight said...

I know I've played a lot of people after a few years off and killed them. They get rusty. But they typically ramp up to their previous level pretty quickly, just as someone who played the piano when younger will pick it up again as an adult.

Tiger: thought process has been an obsession of mine. My opus is here. Even that gets a bit rusty.

10/03/2008 01:34:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


When i read your 'opus' i wondered many times if i hadn't read something simular in one of the many novice nooks Dan Heisman has written on . So i wonder if you are a Heisman fan when the subject is thought process?

Btw, just asking, when you run thru your thoughtproces while considering all those five steps, do you always visialize the positions in those five steps?

10/03/2008 07:38:00 AM  
Blogger Blue Devil Knight said...

ct: both questions are addressed in the pdf.

10/03/2008 10:48:00 AM  
Blogger likesforests said...

Tempo, believe it or not I had not realized this "never forget" advantage of transferring skills into procedural memory! I thought it made you very fast but required upkeep to stay sharp.

I just did the "knight obstacle course drill" after not touching it or Troyis in over 6 months certain that my skills had degraded. I was shocked to find I completed it in 2 min, 30 sec on my first try. For people who haven't done it before, this is a very, very good time.

This gives me more hope that we adults are not beyond becoming a master someday. :)

10/03/2008 04:34:00 PM  
Blogger likesforests said...

"Your thoughtproces needs maintaince ever so often..."

I agree that after even a few weeks of not playing, or studying tactics or some other area, I begin to feel "rusty". I forget to look for tactics, I forget strategic themes and endgame rules and procedures that I was able to win with before.

But I didn't lose knight vision AT ALL--no deterioration. And Kamsky came back almost where he left off. And some openings, endgames, etc you never forget. Fascinating, our brains are.

10/03/2008 05:03:00 PM  
Blogger Polly said...

The KISS rule works well. I kill myself when I over analyze a position when there was something really simple that I overlooked.

10/03/2008 10:36:00 PM  

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