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Seem to have the text color problem fixed for now, by switching to Arial Black. Hope to restore to Arial soon.
These are 4 Short Lists that I've been developing for solving Tactics Trainer (also called TT) chess problems. I'm going to call these Method Solving. Any or all of these four short lists could be used initially, to tackle a problem, but that's not their main intended use. Its more about to promote discussion and consideration of what's involved in Solving. The order and priorities are completely flexible, and as I've been learning from the problems, that's as it should be, and, you might like one list more than another. The second section is much more disorganized, and I mainly use it to draw ideas from, to help with the short lists. But its there too, nonetheless. Why? Because it would be inappropriate to post all this in a TT Comments Forum, so its here instead. This all gets modified/updated frequently. First version Feb 4, 2015, views 7121.
(1) The "Prelist":
Always first compare All Available:
1) Checks. (I have missed, that the check was a mate, especially during Lookahead)
3) Options to Threaten Mate.
4) Options to Attack or Threaten any piece or pawn.
5) Existing Protections/Unprotected Kings, pieces, pawns. "What does the position need?". Then think back to available options.
6) Material Balances. (March 17th, Could this be the True Number 1, to always be looked at first, even next to "It depends"?)
7) For both sides. In other words, pay attention to Defense too. You'll get clobbered if you don't.
8) On all moves. Decisions on this one, as in how much Lookahead to do on it. But if you've moved, (including in analysis!) then 1 through 7 Repeat!! And 8 does too!!
So often, I've gotten Incorrect, and Minus points, where it would have taken about 2 seconds to look at/for whatever on the above list, and maybe 5 more seconds to know that that was the solution idea/move.
(2) Move Common Sense list: Applies very very heavily, throughout all competitive TT problems and chess games.
1) What did my opponent's last move really do? As opposed to why I think he made it. And...
2) What will the move I want to make really do? Not just why I like it or want to make it. And...
3) What about my other options and moves that are available? Have I got a better move or moves? Better look it over, and try to make sure either way. And...
4) Am I Protecting my Pieces? This is even more basic and fundamental for chess games.
Now most players won't look at it that way, consciously, but fact is, failure/neglect on any/all of those four basic points causes zillions of blunders. Especially at under 1000 Blitz, (point number 4) and also up to under 1400 Blitz (points one through 3). By the way, regarding number 3, Lasker had something to say about that.
(3) the "About" list:
Early enough in the problem, one has an option, to decide (or not bother) as to whether the problem is mainly about:
(1) Checkmate, or
(2) Winning material, or
(3) Pawn promotion, or
(4) Defense, or
(5) Drawing to prevent losing, or
(6) A mixture of the above, But.... !!!
(7) One could also decide, Instead, that what the problem is about depends!! On the line, and the reply moves!!, or that that just can't or shouldn't be determined or attempted until at least one reply move comes back, if attempted at all!! Like in list 4 below, this decision is, or can be, ongoing, throughout the problem, and moving. This is where some of the skill is concentrated.
(4) The Pre-Solve versus Solve As You Go list:
(1) Try to solve the whole problem right away, before making any move at all? Or....
(2) Just take it one considered move at a time, play the move, and then regroup and re-evalutate, each move? Or....
(3) Only try to solve through on the faster and more obvious lines of the problem? Or....
(4) Realize that it depends entirely on the particular problem? Of course!! But what's not quite as obvious is:
(5) Realize that these decisions are ongoing, throughout the problem,sometimes obvious, sometimes not. And Realize that...
(6) How much time to invest, in a move, or considering a particular option, or line, is something that stronger players are Much Much Better at, as with this whole list, and list 3 above. And this point is something that often gets away from weaker players Completely!! They blame the timer, the problem, or alternatively, crash and burn emotionally. Don't!!!
(Does that mean I am a "stronger" player?? No! Hahahah. I'm lousy at the #6 just above, among many other chess weaknesses, but I hope to improve at that, Working on these lists, is already beginnng to show me how). Regarding delegation of time, Bottvinnik had something to say about using your opponent's clock time (a good time to look at Positional issues, impossible with TT of course, because the computer moves instantly, but not impossible in real chess games with humans), versus when you're on your own clock (Tactics get priority first)
Now I don't claim these are the best initial lists. Alot of this is from my own experience with TT, and from observations of the Comments there, from other players there doing TT. Each problem has its own Comments Forum! There's like 60,000 problems! I mean that literally! Now regarding the information below, I could have put it in a separate text folder, to be improved later, but I elected to put it here. If you like what you saw above, you may want to stop here, and skip the rest, because it needs alot of work.
Any polite friendly person is welcome to discuss all of this with me, in the Comments Forums that appear under every single Tactics Trainer problem. I comment often there, and when I do, I almost always put the problem on Tracking. So I get a Notify, everytime somebody Comments.
I think some more comment is in order about the purpose of the above lists. Its not about procedure (although temporarily, the way I set them up happens to suggest that). Its more about options to change how to go at the problems, what's involved, what's necessary to solve accurately, and with less loss of time on the clock, and getting out of the habits that cause Incorrects, and loss of clock time and time penalty points.
Medium length lists and notes: These need alot of tidying up and reorganization, especially Typical Mistakes, (so many ways to go wrong ) but it will happen.
(Side note) Tactics Trainer is almost like a new form of chess. Its rated and timed, and involves players from all over the world, like internet chess does, but also uses many thousands of games and puzzles that are modern, and also from over 100 years ago, and from games of great grandmasters and world chess champions of the past. But it does not require you to go over their games. It uses critical points in those games, resulting in great efficiency of study and instruction. To get to Tactics Trainer (TT), a feature of this website, hover on your Home button, a 15-item menu should appear, and TT is the fourth one down on the right. It can also be accessed under the LEARN button.
(5) The Given list. A) There's something that's Always given, and that's the average time that people take to solve the problem. If you're willing to access each problem from the TT Home page, instead of hitting Next Problem, you'll even see this Average Time, in advance!! That can help alot with these problems.
B) But what's not always given is the previous move, before its your move to attempt the problem solution. But I think it will always be given, when en passant is possible. (Often missed by many. I'm one of them). You can see what could happen if you fail to note the previous move. But there are other reasons to note it. Those reasons can be gotten into, including in this Memo.
C) Now another thing that's Given, is the option to Track the problem. You'll see the checkbox for it, just above and to the right of your Comments input box that comes with every problem. You'll get a nice Notify link, on your Home page every time somebody makes a posting in the problem's Comments (or threads/chat forum if you prefer). Tracking these problems gives you opportunities, at random intervals, to try it again, timed, but not rated. You can wait, and prepare, as in a game, then have your opponent "move", by clicking on the Attempt button. Now you're on the clock.
D) Another Given is TT Reset. Apparently it will reset your rating to 1200, but you'll then get mucho points for solving accurately, at first. This will get you points for problems you failed, but have since "mastered". I could do this, but haven't yet. I'm putting that off for quite a while.
E) There's something called Source. But unless you know the trick, you can't bring it up. You click Analysis Board on the TT problem, then you maximize that screen, unless you do, the funny bracket shaped icon at the bottom probably won't appear. Then you click on that Icon, to see if it was from 100 years ago, or Kasparov, or whatever, if you want. Sometimes there's no Source info. There's another Icon to the right of that too. I haven't figured that one out completely yet, just started clicking on it.
6) True Solving versus hindsight and lugging around preconceptions. To solve effectively, and fast enough, useful ideas are an obvious plus, but what's not so obvious is, which are they? Also obvious is that many problems have their own ideas, and their own variety/ creativity/novelty but that doesn't mean that there are not ideas/themes to look for. Lately I've had the idea of looking at protections around the target king, as opposed to protections/non-protections of all pieces generally. And for many reasons, not just checkmating purposes. This is a subject in itself, for example, how can the King Protections be stripped away? What if its a problem requiring a fork with check? Or just a check to pick up a tempo, and then do something in another part of the board? But, slight detail, (those checks not available, not yet anyway). As opposed to what pieces I've got around that target king, or aimed at it, or that can be brought up or brought over. There's an idea called double tempo. But that and a lot of other ideas (like in the problem tags, mentioned later) may only help with describing the solution moves, not solving. To solve, you've got to break through the mysteries of the problem. An analogy might help with this. Can you imagine a plumber/electrician/carpenter buying special parts to fix something, without first assesssing how/what/where there's issues?
(7) Typical Mistakes/Failures:
1) Assigning the wrong idea/ideas to the problem
2) Failing to note significant available options, for either side, on any move.
3) Getting the idea(s) right, but assigning the wrong moves to carry them out.
4) Finding the correct ideas or moves, and then rejecting them in favor of something that's wrong.
5) Failing to find an idea or at least a sufficiently considered move, quickly enough, or to play anything at all, in time. Too slow.
6) Complete failure to find an idea or good enough looking move, or to play anything at all, regardless of the time taken. This also includes just guessing a move (sometimes, this actually gets the right move!) In other words, you're stumped.
7) And, new item (added Feb. 5), continuing with a previous plan, after a reply move or moves come in, without making it a point to reassess, including not taking care to try to prevent some or all of at least mistakes 1 through 4.
8) (Feb. 11th), seeing all the ideas and elements of the solution, but failing to put them together.
9) (Feb 12th). Failing to use Move Common Sense, which is a big theme in chess games, regarding blundering. For my description of MCS, see above.
10) (Feb 16th). Reacting poorly to a reply move, including psychologically, and including because the reply move is unexpected, and including because the reply move seems inferior to other replies, and/or weird or shocking. This mistake is easier to understand if one considers how likely it is you'd do much better at the particular problem, if it had started at that point. (So often, much much better). I could call this one, "the mid-problem Problem".
Now I need to separate the types of failures more, from the mistakes that cause them. That'll be an update eventually. There's also any failure in regard to the initial six lists, which will also earn minus points on these TT problems.
Now I'm sure there's been similiar lists around for many years. But there they are.
The "funny" one on the first list, or prelist, is number 5. Protections. What does it matter if a piece has No Takeback Protection (nothing that can recapture for it, at the square its on) or not, or how much/what Takeback Protection, if its not being attacked in the first place? You might be surprised at how often its critical to the problem. And just because its not being attacked now, doesn't mean it wont be! I was suprised to find out how much it does "matter". Of course, that assumes one is interested in solving. Also, this may lead to something I'm calling "Reverse Solving", which is related to a type of solving that comes up in endgames some of the time. But the Reverse Solving I'm now referring to can be applied to many endgame and middlegame TT problems. If somebody already thought of this phrase to call it by, fine, I just thought of it again.
A player will probably never reach a true 1400 Blitz, or will fail to maintain it, if he keeps neglecting on Move Common Sense (List 2) or any of the four points within it. And all the chess theory in the world isn't going to make up for it. The "reality" is, players who reach 1400 Blitz, and maintain it, or ascend from there, have essentially mastered those four points, whether they're consciously aware of it or not. They are Tremendous Shortcuts, saving enormous time. One could get to 1000 Blitz, and then 1400 Blitz, with little or No booking, instruction,or memorization. But does improvement really matter? How "serious" do we want to be? Everyone decides that him/herself, if at all. My opinion, its a hybrid. Don't be serious on the one hand, be happy. Its a game, and social activity. On the other hand, chess is an intricate and competitive game of skill, with levels, and improvement/discovery/learning are good things. Enjoy both/all aspects.
Regarding list number 3, the main idea of the problem, (there may be more than one) determining this is easier said than done, since so many positions are deceptive, with clutter, and confusion/convolution, and of course there's that issue of the main idea(s) depending on the line or variation. But that's part of what's to be dealt with. Isolating what the real issues are, and accurately determining what is relatively extraneous. Are these words too big? Well, this posting of mine can and will change over time. For now, I'm selecting these terms for convenience.
List number 7 has to do with the types of mistakes one makes, or failures that occur (as in mistakes/failures I make, but also that I see mentioned in the TT chat forums. Every single TT problem has a chat forum, and there's over 60,000 TT problems, with well over 300 million Attempts on the problems.) That mistake/failure list I'm formulating is somewhat messy, still in its early stages, but its a start.
These mistake/failure themes overlap with each other, cause each other, a failed result could have more than one of these mistake/failure themes involved, and so on. Want to keep making the same mistakes? Obviously if we were to just keep getting the problems quickly correct, TT would be useless as a learning tool. But on the other hand, it could be valuable to determine exactly what the repeating pattern of mistakes is, and how they work, so that such mistakes can then be very much reduced. Valuable to those interested in results.
My opinion is that although memorization/recognition/intuition will all develop doing these Tactics Trainer problems they serve us much better when they are secondary. What are you going to do, when the right solution doesn't just "come to you"? And you're going to experience exactly that in Tactics Trainer, alot, if you're making any real attempt at it at all. And in chess to improve.
Now there's another matter, the Tags that come with Tactics Trainer problems. There's alot to say about the tags. (To get their definitions per this site, click the ? icon on each TT problem). But after reviewing what I've got posted on this page about the tags, I had to delete it, because its got to be re-written. Many don't know that the tags are voted on by the players, not the TT staff, or that there's 3 ways to vote. But the issue I'm hoping to describe effectively, regards the usefulness/ non-usefulness of pre-knowledge of the tags, as far as solving these problems, and use in chess games is concerned, versus just describing solution moves, which is a different animal.
Notice that none of the 37 available tags are on that pre-list near the top of this memo. In fairness though, I've got to say that several of them may come in under those headings. For example, if you move to increase your attack on a piece, that may be an X-Ray Attack, which qualifies under Attacks. Some of the ideas expressed by some of the tags so often only figure in the final stages of setting up the solution, but that's later on in the problem. Later is later. To solve, you've got to break through.
I'm beginning to get an idea that material should always be counted up for both sides, very near the beginning of the problem. If that's done, then one will also be aware of where all the pieces and pawns are. This would seem to be wise, before trying to create a plan, or even to evaluate priorities. Just before doing this, should one also do a first Kings glance, first, to know where they are? I'm thinking yes, because there's only two of them, and you need to know if you're in check. Maybe even before that, one has to look at: 1) the average time posted under the problem 2) whether you're white or black (that actually does get missed, especially in the weirder problems), 3) whether its the a file or the h file on your left 4) which way the pawns are going (gotten wrong constantly) and 5) what the previous move was, (including for en passant, but it matters anyway, even without that, and 6) the Kings' positions, first glance, 7) count up the material (different ways to do that).
Now before dismissing this list, is one very aware of all these things, in a game? Yes! (resoundingly.) So why be unaware, and blindsided to these things, in a TT problem? Aren't they difficult enough?
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