Tuesday, August 25, 2015


I know there’s something Important I need to do!?... but, I can’t remember what.

Oh well how important can it be?

My LONG winning Streak Has come to an end!  After 15 strait wins, I played an online chess tournament against higher rated players and did terribly.   You can see the progressive erosion of my thinking process.

In the first round against a chess player 150 rating points higher, I won a piece and was doing great, until I fell to a sacrifice.  Unbelievably two pieces down- he quickly had unstoppable checkmate.
On the second round, I got to a complex spot where I had a pretty risky discovered attack-  I discover a loose piece but could have hopped to a knight fork.   I missed the simple point of his move; a pivotal piece was attacked twice and guarded once.  He got the piece and eventually won the game.
On the third round, I was clearly rattled and I didn’t get out of the opening before I gave away the exchange.   I had enough of being pummeled for the night.

“There is NO strategy, principle, guideline or concept that is more Important than this- DON’T GIVE AWAY PAWNS AND PIECES”.   This is my simple and earnest advice I gave myself a few months ago.    Its not that revolutionary! (nor is it strictly true. LOL*). But it is good advice.   The Problem is , frankly, how do I beat the idea to not hang pieces or allow easy tactics, and checkmates in my Head?  --important and simple question , no easy answer.

Well, this all relates a pretty long winded word/concept to a simple and common human failing.   “WORKING MEMORY OVERLOAD”   basically for whatever reason- we fail to do remember to do something because we are trying to fit too much into our working memory.

It is this weakness for example that might make you suddenly forget what you want to say when you are bursting to say several things at once.  Trying to say too much, you force your mind RESET! And end up saying nothing.

I THINK this effect (perhaps it should have a fancy psychological name- but it does not), is a big part of several of our problems in chess; and specifically is VERY involved in why we can fail to stop blunders even when we are intensely concentrating in chess and in particular in NOT blundering…


FIRST the STRESS and ANXIETY and reminding yourself how Much you blunder and how much you don’t want to blunder again does you no good.  its well known that working memory decreases when we feel stressed and anxious.  And the ability to hold even less information in your head at one time- directly decreases your playing strength.  This is true of being anxious because you are in a tournament or because you are playing a player you consider much stronger than you. 

BLUNDERS aren’t simple.  The problem with my quote about blunders is that it makes something that could happen for many different reasons; seem like a simple thing.   Instead, we can blunder because we didn’t protect the piece we moved.  We didn’t reinforce something that it suddenly attacked more times than it is defended. Pins. Double attacks…. because the actually material winning attack varies…. We will need to keep in mind several different patterns to avoid blunders.  What Patterns?  Well specifically we should try to understand those patterns that seem LEAST obvious.   When a pattern becomes highly obvious it doesn’t need to be in working memory.  (if this weren’t true chess would be practically impossible to improve in – as our working memory would be full just remembering how our pieces move).  Instead, we work on our weaknesses seeking things we can’t instantly (or “intuitively”) see. 

But this “work” of seeing things in a chess game, has another peril.  We can fall prey to “juggling” errors.  the important thing when seeking to understand a position is how to come to the conclusion of an important thought, and while holding a summary of that calculation – to move on to another view of the position.   I will compare that to Juggling… if we make a big calculation of an important exchange- we must next take the same position and looking at it from the point of whether our selected view Hangs any pieces (or underprotects them).   but it is important that the Earlier information is in your head TOO.  Perhaps the earlier exchange makes the latter calculation unimportant.   The point is that more simplistic calculations about piece (and King) safety must be done in addition to Tactical, Strategic and Positional calculations.  We must strive to juggle each of these calculations carefully and thoroughly to be playing our best chess. We can’t push ourselves to the point at which our working memory is overloaded- either our calculations are inaccurate or our understanding of how everything relates becomes muddled.    This is Just like someone who wants to say So much he struggles to say anything.   The worst failure ,though, is definitely of piece or king safety.  It would be far better to try to say less (to use the analogy) than to say  something that is Obviously and Easily show as absolutely wrong.

The VALUE of discordant thought.  Separate to the issue of understanding and relating several different calculations in our chess position- is the peril of too quickly summarizing positions into variations.   Our analysis can become simplistic.  Too often in my own thinking I race on ahead for ply after ply not realizing that the opponent has creative choices I have not considered.   This is the where the value of Discordant thought comes in.  We need to break into our own variations and ask “what if the Opponent” Does NOT do as expected.  This can be particularly true in the face of difficult play,  complicated tactics, and strong threats.  

I would add that this tendency to allow the mind to run on ply after ply (or perhaps pointlessly plan) is why it is so much easier to see the opponents mistakes than our own-  or opponents moves are less predictable; and prompt us to look for weaknesses.  Our own thinking must (to cover many moves) be much more predictable and and fit within our working memory.   Sometimes the whole calculation starts when you should be more attentively falsifying your candidate move.  Other times, we make unwise assumptions about exchanges or strategic generalizations. 

Its been Long and important blog for me.  Its important I don’t try to say too much as well!

RELAX, and reduce anxiety. Take whatever measures you can to prevent anxiety, stress from diminishing your abilities.  TAKE your time.  don’t be in such a hurry to tough the piece!  Keep an emphasis of the simplest and most important calculations as you try to see more.  Continue to work on practicing getting calculations summarized and understood.  Its more important to understand why the tactic puzzle works, than actually to solve it.  the Other point of tactical puzzles is to make important, strong tactics easy to see/understand so that you aren’t struggling to see them. 

 Don’t say Negative things to yourself during a game (the only thing I’ll highlight in the summary I promise). And don’t generalize about defeat.   Don’t overwhelm yourself with complicated plans.   See far ahead ONLY when the opponents choices are minimized if not forced.  Generally don’t play tricky, risky chess you don’t understand.  Only play tricky uncertain chess, when conservative careful moves would be certain defeat – such as when your badly behind in material. 

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