Learning by Induction

Learning by Induction

| 18 | For Beginners


What is "Learning by Induction"?  Simply put, it is learning by watching.  You watch what others do, then you do that.  Below is a more formal explanation of inductive vs. deductive logic: 

In logic, we often refer to the two broad methods of reasoning as the deductive and inductive approaches.

Deductive reasoning works from the more general to the more specific. Sometimes this is informally called a "top-down" approach. We might begin with thinking up a theory about our topic of interest. We then narrow that down into more specific hypotheses that we can test. We narrow down even further when we collect observations to address the hypotheses. This ultimately leads us to be able to test the hypotheses with specific data -- a confirmation (or not) of our original theories.

Inductive reasoning works the other way, moving from specific observations to broader generalizations and theories. Informally, we sometimes call this a "bottom up" approach. In inductive reasoning, we begin with specific observations and measures, begin to detect patterns and regularities, formulate some tentative hypotheses that we can explore, and finally end up developing some general conclusions or theories.  (Thanks to William M.K. Trochim for these definitions).

To translate this into an approach to learning a skill, deductive learning is someone TELLING you what to do, while inductive learning is someone SHOWING you what to do.  Remember the saying "a picture is worth a thousand words"?  That means, in a given amount of time, a person can be SHOWN a thousand times more information than they could be TOLD in the same amount of time.  I can access a picture or pattern much more quickly than the equivalent description of that picture or pattern in words.

Athletes often practice "visualization" before they undertake an action.  But in order to visualize something, you need to have a picture in your head to visualize.  How do you get those pictures in your head, by WATCHING.  Who do you watch? Professionals.  This is the key.  Pay attention here.  When you want to learn a skill:


Going out and doing a sport without having seen AND STUDIED professionals doing that sport is THE NUMBER ONE MISTAKE people make.  They force themselves to play, their brain says "what do we do now?", another part of the brain looks for examples (pictures) of what to do, and, finding none, says "just do anything".  So they try to generate behavior to accomplish something within the rules of the sport.  If they "keep score" and try to "win" and avoid "losing", the negative impact is multiplied tenfold.

Yet this is EXACTLY what most people do and what most ARE TOLD to do!  "Interested in tennis?  Grab a racquet, join a league, get out there and have fun!"  Then what happens?  They have no training, they try do what it takes to "win", and to do so, they manufacture awful strokes just TO BE ABLE to play (remember, they joined a league, so they have to keep score and win!), these awful strokes get ingrained by repitition, they produce terrible results, and they are very difficult to unlearn, so progress, despite lessons (mostly in the useless form of words), is slow or nonexistant.  Then they quit.

What they should do is this.  "Interested in tennis?  DO NOT PLAY TENNIS. Go watch professional tennis players play.  Study what they do. Look for common patterns, motions, movements.  Listen to commentary as you watch, then watch for what the commentators talked about.  Keep watching.  Pick a favorite player and try to watch them whenever you can.  While you are watching them, make believe you have a racquet in your hand and try to do what they do.  Do this for as long as you can before you go out and hit A SINGLE BALL. And when you do play, DO NOT KEEP SCORE and DO NOT TRY TO WIN."  Now when you finally pick up a racquet and go out to play, and your brain says "what do we do now?", your head will be filled with pictures of professionals perfectly doing what you are trying to do.  You will not know how to do it incorrectly, because you have never seen it done incorrectly.  You will try to do what they do, and you will almost immediately proceed to an advanced intermediate level.  You will be a beginner for a short period of time, if at all, and improvement will be a matter of adding to and refining what you are doing, not stripping down and unlearning bad patterns.  And since you are not keeping score, you focus purely on technique.  If you hit one into the net, just pull another ball out of your pocket and do it again.  No big deal, no drama, no guilt.  Just hit another.  When you feel you can hit all of your shots somewhat professionally, maybe you can actually play someone and keep score.  You will love the positive feedback of beating players who have been playing much longer than you have.  You will wonder how they could have played for so long and still "play like that".  Don't they know it's done "this way?"  What professional does it "that way?"  Don't they watch tennis on TV?   Who does that?  I just started and I know that's wrong.  All these thoughts will make you feel like a genius.


So how does all of this relate to chess?  Simply put, play over the games of professional players and see how they play before you play anybody.  Try to imitate them instead of trying to reinvent the wheel.  Play over the games of lots of different players and then decide which one or two you like.  The ones you like are the ones where you say after playing over one of their games, "I would love to play a game like that!"  Then just concentrate on those one or two players.  Study and play the openings they play.  Get books where they comment on their own games.  Maybe they will say what they were thinking during the game.  Try to play like them.  During your games, think "What would he do in this position?"  Personally, I like Morphy for his rapid development and attacks, Alekhine for his creativeness in all positions, and Spassky for his ability to play all types of positions and create attacks in calm positions.  Go find your favorites and LEARN BY INDUCTION!  

Visit the Maryland Chess Association website, .

More from spassky
How Do You Win a Chess Tournament?

How Do You Win a Chess Tournament?

What are "weak squares"?

What are "weak squares"?