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There is no Single Correct Thought Process

New in Chess sent me a couple of books to review and I am currently looking at the very interesting Move First, Think Later: Sense and Nonsense in Improving Your Chess by Willy Hendriks. I am only few the first chapter or two but his message is clear: teaching someone to think by telling them "Do A first then do B" is not the way good players play, and by telling someone that you are likely doing more harm than good.

This is very similar to what I wrote at the start of my article A Generic Thought Process http://www.chesscafe.com/text/heisman14.pdf and later with the simplified Making Chess Simple (http://www.chesscafe.com/text/heisman67.pdf).

For example, you certainly don't approach analytical and non-analytical positions the same. A good example of a non-analytical position is:

 
Black should not necessarily be thinking ideas like "If I make move X, what will White do to me on the next move and how will I be able to meet that?" Instead he should be thinking in general terms like "What openings would make sense reversed with a pawn on a4 since I am effectively playing White?" or "White is leaving the first thrust in the center up to me; how can I best take advantage of that?" ---
This is quite different than an analytical problem, like a complex position with many checks, captures, and threats for both sides. Then you have to be more analytical. ---
But this isn't my main point. I agree with Hendriks that no strong player has a strict process they use every move and telling a student that they do can be counterproductive. But I will make a general observation from my experience: ---
The more advanced a player is, the more he can use intuition, judgment, and jump all around searching for what he wants to play; all the ingredients are there. The more a player is toward beginner, the more he needs at least some ingredients that get him off step one and systematically help him find moves that are at least safe. ---
For example, no one would tell an advanced reader to sound out "t", "h" and "e" when reading the word "the", but it is almost impossible to teach somone how to read English without first helping them recognize letters, their sounds, and how to combine those sounds into words before they can read for meaning, as all advanced readers do. ---
So, while it is true that teach inexperienced players rigorous, structured thought processes can not only be unhelpful, but even counter-productive, the opposite extreme of telling them to just "go with the flow" isn't going to provide any basis for going forward if they don't have the board vision and tactical vision to spot meaningful patterns to use in the game. ---
Instead a practical middle-ground is possible where you can teach someone many of the basic precepts of what needs, as a minimum, to be done at some point. For example, you can teach someone to ask about their opponent's move "What are ALL the things that move does?" and "Is that move safe?" and to ask about their own candidate move "Is it safe?". ---
So it's true that if you have to think about the process of what you should be thinking that can detract from what your thinking should be. But the other extreme (which I don't think Hendriks is fully espousing) of giving an inexperienced player no guidance for fear of stifling their creativity or causing them to think too mechanically is probably also not optimum. As usual, the best solution probably lies somewhere in the middle.

Comments


  • 6 months ago

    logis10

    [COMMENT DELETED]
  • 24 months ago

    mobidi

    Of course ,of course-INTUITION,but where is foundamental (basic) instinct of  "chess-intuition". It is deep ,but simple thing -i call it STABILITY (Steinitz).Paradox is that such kind of stability leads to LABILITY (Morphy )-this is complete chess-instinct....

  • 24 months ago

    Bpeas

    Thanks these were a great help!

  • 24 months ago

    Eternal_Patzer

    Interestingly, Dan gave me a position from this book as a puzzle last night in our lesson, and had me analyze it out loud.  At the end I failed to find the best continuation, although I saw a key move and then rejected it due to a quiescence error.

    My own inability to correctly analyze the position corresponds pretty well with my overall level (weak intermediate) and illustrated almost perfectly the points Dan was making in his blog Cool

  • 24 months ago

    VanillaBean

    "For example, no one would tell an advanced reader to sound out "t", "h" and "e" when reading the word "the", but it is almost impossible to teach somone how to read English without first helping them recognize letters, their sounds, and how to combine those sounds into words before they can read for meaning, as all advanced readers do. "

    I love this analogy and also the multiplication table one you've used in your column.  It makes so much sense to me to approach learning chess by getting your basics down well enough that you just know them without having to figure them out.  I've seen my game improve because I spend lots of time going over tactics.  

    I've also come to view learning chess as an onion--you start out with the basic, outter layer and as you continue you learn more.  I think I've gotten different things out of the same videos, etc., depending on my understanding.  That is, a video that I watched 6 months ago still has value to me today because I better understand concepts it discusses and can get something new out of it.  It's made me realize that learning chess isn't linear (first you learn A then B then C).  Rather, you learn A and B and C and your understanding of each one deepens as time progresses, probably at different speeds. As you come to understand A more you gain more insight into B which might help you get something with C.  At least, that's my working theory for how I learn chess.

  • 24 months ago

    shootfilm

    Interesting. I look forward to hearing more about this book.

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