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  1. 30 Aug '07 03:42
    Many of us are fascinated with buying chess books, even though we wind up reading far fewer than we buy. I think there is a deeper question hiding in our fascination with buying all those great chess books: How does one improve?

    When I play stronger players, I can see that they clearly Understand the game better than I do. So, I think if I can understand the game better, I will play better. So off to get another chess book in the hope that it will enlighten me to the mysteries of chess, and help me to understand the game better, and hence play better.

    So . . . is it playing games or studying chess books that is the Great Teacher that will help us to better understand the immortal game? (I am suspecting the answer is, like the quesion about tactics and strategy, we need Both.)
  2. Standard member Yuga
    Renaissance
    30 Aug '07 05:51 / 1 edit
    Originally posted by basso
    So, I think if I can understand the game better, I will play better. So off to get another chess book in the hope that it will enlighten me to the mysteries of chess, and help me to understand the game better, and hence play better.
    Chess understanding will get you to about a master level rating, but not necessarily further.

    Here's my theory: I believe chess understanding is lacking from about a 2200 level downward. From master strength upward, chess understanding is actually about the same.

    I think many players (myself included of course) limit the scope of their ideas in chess by playing according to dogmatic or simply bad principles thus not considering essential factors of a position. But from about master level and above, such players have about the same understanding of evaluating positions (all masters regardless of strength will generally analyze the same variations/options in a given position), but the better masters have a better intuitive understanding of how variations will turn out; I think that is why many people have great difficulty in ever achieving anything greater than a master rating OTB - however, a master level player playing correspondence chess will be able to calculate the essential variations better with the analysis board feature - and this ability combined with the ability to properly evaluate positions certainly allows OTB master level players to consistently beat the top chess engines in correspondence chess.

    Put it this way: master level players and above have about the same understanding of chess knowledge so they will consider the same lines, but the a higher level master will evaluate the positions that come out of the very same lines the lower level master considered more accurately in different variations and would play accordingly.

    This would be an interesting study: get a bunch of players, from a rating of 1000 to super-GM strength, have them evaluate a set of chess positions, noting what lines they were analyzing (and for what reasons) and then what line each player would proceed with. I'd guess that masters onward would analyze about the same number of lines, for the same reasons, the same lines to about the same depth, and consider the same aspects of a position, but the lesser masters would more often misevaluate the resultant position of the lines analyzed than the higher masters.

    I wonder if such a study has been done? If not, one could take a set of games from lower rated masters, assiduously analyze for the mistakes made and then take sets of progressively higher rated master games, analyze those for what mistakes were made, and try to reason why those mistakes were made - and ask, were those mistakes made because of flawed chess understanding or because of flawed application of the same chess principles; i.e. lower masters considering the same ideas as higher masters but misevaluating the resultant positions -I'm inclined to believe this is the case.
  3. Standard member Yuga
    Renaissance
    30 Aug '07 06:02
    Originally posted by basso
    How does one improve? So . . . is it playing games or studying chess books that is the Great Teacher that will help us to better understand the immortal game? (I am suspecting the answer is, like the quesion about tactics and strategy, we need Both.)
    "Psychological tests have shown that chess masters do not necessarily excel in math, or, for that matter, in general intelligence. What they do possess is almost total recall as regards chess moves, fantastic imagination, and marvelous perception for spatial relations enabling them to glance at the thirty-two pieces and sixty-four squares of a chessboard and fashion a winning pattern of moves from the possible [10^57] variations that the average tournament game of forty-five moves can take."

    http://www.bobby-fischer.net/Bobby_Fischer_Articles4.html

    So how does one come to possess “almost total recall as regards chess moves, fantastic imagination, and marvelous perception for spatial relations?”

    "A strong memory, concentration, imagination, and a strong will." -Fischer

    Sums it up very well, I think. Dedication too, I am quite sure...even for a chess genius like Fischer it took 6 years of obsessively studying and playing chess before he "just got [very] good."

    Whatever helps you learn…
  4. 30 Aug '07 08:06
    "A strong memory, concentration, imagination, and a strong will . . . and marvelous perception." Hmmm. I don't see what these mental abilities have to do with Understanding. Maybe I have it wrong -- maybe it's not Understanding per se so much as having these mental strengths that accounts for chess ability.
  5. 30 Aug '07 08:30
    Originally posted by basso
    "A strong memory, concentration, imagination, and a strong will . . . and marvelous perception." Hmmm. I don't see what these mental abilities have to do with Understanding. Maybe I have it wrong -- maybe it's not Understanding per se so much as having these mental strengths that accounts for chess ability.
    I agree with you. These are important factors to better use the understanding of the game. But you still have to learn it. Fisher is entitled to his own opinion, but by no means would I consider him as a psychological expert (psychopatic perhaps).

    Chess and mathematics are not automatically linked, but have many parallels (mathematics in the broad sense, not just calculus). Chess is often recommended as an aid to mathematics and logic education (cfr. Susan Polgar).
  6. 30 Aug '07 17:30
    That is true however I read somewhere that chessplayers at the IM and GM level have an average IQ of 140.

    It does take some form of intelligence to play chess well, mainly brain power and memory, which are forms are intelligence and how people measure IQ. I mean, having to calculate in your head, not everyone can do it 10 moves deep like masters can. I also read that only 10% of people have the abilitity to become a master, and of course much less do become masters.

    So although you don't have to be a genius to play chess, you have to have some intelligence to play it very well.

    Also, you say chess players aren't neccessarily good at math. Well what is math exactly? It's just memorizing a lot of formulas and different ways to solve problems, isn't it? It's not far away from Science, or any other subject really.

    Lastly, you say masters+ players all have the same chess Understanding. Then you go on to say that GMs can evaluate better than Masters. That's a contridiction. It takes more understanding to be able to evaluate better.

    But, I think I know what you mean. All masters+ players know the basic principles of chess, like backward pawns, better minor pieces, open files and whatnot. But again, that's just basic. GMs are able to bend the rules better. This means they'll play a move that looks totally noobish, like putting their rooks on a closed file or accepting doubled pawns, because they understand the position more deeply. So no, GMs do have a higher understanding than masters.
  7. 30 Aug '07 17:44
    I have a few words to say about chess understanding. It comes through experience and training. Training; ie, doing chess puzzles, learning tactics, the movement of the pieces, piece cooperation and activity, opening principals, endgames and understanding transpositions and how they operate. Finally, all these elements merge together into an understanding of the game as you experience their interrelationships during the course of a game and begin to understand the subtleties of play from opening to endgame. Once this happens, you gain an understanding. Of course, there are different levels of understanding and that is a different story.
  8. Standard member wormwood
    If Theres Hell Below
    30 Aug '07 17:52 / 4 edits
    Originally posted by Yuga
    "A strong memory, concentration, imagination, and a strong will." -Fischer

    Sums it up very well, I think. Dedication too,…
    out of those, memory can be excluded right away, as it has been shown that grandmasters recall random positions just as badly as everybody else. but I'm sure strong will and obsessive dedication will go a long way.

    and about the study you asked about before, de groot has done a very similar study to what you described.

    here's some talk about that and other psychological aspects of chess (which I just randomly googled up):
    http://www.exeterchessclub.org.uk/psych.html
  9. 30 Aug '07 18:00
    Originally posted by Yuga
    Chess understanding will get you to about a master level rating, but not necessarily further.

    Here's my theory: I believe chess understanding is lacking from about a 2200 level downward. From master strength upward, chess understanding is actually about the same.

    I think many players (myself included of course) limit the scope of their ideas in chess by ...[text shortened]... masters but misevaluating the resultant positions -I'm inclined to believe this is the case.
    I have heard of such studies.
    I recall the chess test consists of non-standard chess positions so pattern recognition does not come into play.
  10. 01 Sep '07 08:59 / 2 edits
    this is a very interesting thread. I think what Yuga has said is quite true, all masters (from masters to grandmasters) have approximately the same understanding -by which I mean "mastering chess imbalances". seeing the weaknesses and strengths of pieces and pawns in a chess board).

    but, I think in Yuga's post, one thing is unclear. if so, (if master+ players have a very close understanding of the game), how do GMs play a lot better? this brings some exceptions to the proposition. My proposition is, that the proposition above is just true for the middlegame. in a "plain" middlegame, a master and a grandmaster would probably have very similar ideas and would calculate very similar variations, BUT I think it's obvious that GMs have a deeper opening knowledge, and a greater understanding of the endgame techniques.

    the first means they probably would get a better early middlegame position than masters would do -which makes the first proposition rather insignificant-, and the second means that in the late middlegame, in the transition to an endgame, a grandmaster would evaluate the position better. I think these are the two of the three main reasons why GMs are better than masters.

    the third is, pretty simple I think. GMs simply have a better calculation ability. the calculate more accurately than masters (and below), they can calculate longer variations without "getting lost" and have the final position of their variations much more concrete in their head. their visualization ability is so great. I think this could be proved by getting a master and a grandmaster play a blindfold match. I suppose the master's chance of getting even one win out of -let's say 10- is pretty low.
  11. 01 Sep '07 09:59
    My comment really only covers what has been said here already, but I think the answer can be simplified by looking at conscious aspects of the brain, and subconscious aspects. The understanding aspect is conscious thought. The inuitive aspect does not get 'reasoned' by the brain, it is innate, and a result of much more primative features of the brain like pattern recognition. It is these qualities that allow one to drive and not crash whilst daydreaming, or recall a distant memory triggered by a smell. The brain does this automatically.
    Certain aspects of this intuition have a genetic predisposition. It is well know that some childrens ability to remember faces or apparently random numbers is better than others, as genetically they have an advantage. Couple this with extensive training, be it in chess, memorising numbers, or playing the piano, and you will automatically get some indivduals that stand out amongst the general population. This subconsious thought can be trained. A non-driver would crash if they daydreamed as the skill to drive was never trained and stored by the subconsious parts of the brain
    Chess greats are simply rare combinations of this conscious ability (to calculate, to understand...) and intuitive ability (to instinctively recognise what is good and what is not). So I agree fully with the poster that said understanding is not what separates them from other masters. It is the innate abilities of their brains, coupled with some seriously above-average calcluative abilities, that set them apart.
    This can be easily seen by watching the greats verbally analyse their games. The likes of Kasparov will always start an assessment by saying "This is a bad line" before going to explain why. They don't have to do the calculations (conscious thinking) first to arrive at this conclusion. The innate assessment is simply being confirmed by calculation. Indeed in most cases, they dont even need to do the calculation. That is afterall, why Kasparov could beat a computer (until recently) that could see 200 million positions a second.
  12. 01 Sep '07 16:20
    Originally posted by wormwood
    out of those, memory can be excluded right away, as it has been shown that grandmasters recall random positions just as badly as everybody else. but I'm sure strong will and obsessive dedication will go a long way.

    and about the study you asked about before, de groot has done a very similar study to what you described.

    here's some talk about th ...[text shortened]... cts of chess (which I just randomly googled up):
    http://www.exeterchessclub.org.uk/psych.html
    I think thats a misunderstanding.


    with specific chess memory masters instantaneousally reckonise the important aspects of the position, and thus, play moves accordingly.
  13. 01 Sep '07 16:22 / 1 edit
    Originally posted by MoneyMaker7
    That is true however I read somewhere that chessplayers at the IM and GM level have an average IQ of 140.

    It does take some form of intelligence to play chess well, mainly brain power and memory, which are forms are intelligence and how people measure IQ. I mean, having to calculate in your head, not everyone can do it 10 moves deep like masters can. rstand the position more deeply. So no, GMs do have a higher understanding than masters.
    there is a slight contradiction here.


    10% = 10 in 100.

    an IQ of 140 would easily be in the top 2% (perhaps higher) thus, 2 in 100, at best

    edit: just realised IM/GM = IQ 140, 10% can be masters...
  14. Standard member wormwood
    If Theres Hell Below
    01 Sep '07 16:32
    Originally posted by Shinidoki
    I think thats a misunderstanding.


    with specific chess memory masters instantaneousally reckonise the important aspects of the position, and thus, play moves accordingly.
    yes, but it's all trained. a result of countless hours working on chess positions. their memory is shown to be average.
  15. 01 Sep '07 17:37
    Originally posted by wormwood
    yes, but it's all trained. a result of countless hours working on chess positions. their memory is shown to be average.
    In psychology, its generally thought that the Short-term memory can hold between 7+2 items -- this can be extended however by chunking information:

    EG.

    GNVQGCSEASBANVQBSC

    this is 18 bits of information, and therfore, without transference of LTM, it cannot be remembered.

    however, (for anyone with knowledge of the english education system) we can chunk this, and give 5 bits of info instead of 18

    GNVQ GSCE AS NVQ BSC



    Now -- studies have shown that GMS do not have a better STM however they are able to "chunk" chess legal positions (eg remember "kingside castling" instead of the positioning of 5 peices)
    and thus, GM's have an Amazing chess specific memory, which is often called "intuition"


    it would seem we do not disagree, but both meant different things by the term "memory"