A Moment of Clarity!

Aug 15, 2011, 11:35 AM |

Have you ever had an epipheny about your own behavior? Not about something really horrific that you do, but just a habit you might have that you know you should break, but you can never seem to?

I had one of those today about one of my worst over the board habits. I, like many patzers, frequently play more quickly than I should. I also have a tendancy to do that in the most tactical and complex positions when I should be taking my time and really thinking through each choice. I think I finally recognized why that is the case.

I woke up early this morning and watched the latest Dan Heisman video on ICC. The show was about a 1600 player who is playing an FM, and has a completely winning position. After several quick, inaccurate moves, the 1600 goes on to lose the game. Dan makes the comment that spending all those hours studying tactics doesn't matter if you're going to play without thinking about the position. I nodded my head in agreement thinking something like "No kidding, boy do I know that feeling."

Like everyone who has that problem, I know the problem is not using my thought process every move. But also like most players my rating, I have no idea why I fail to do what I know I should be doing.

Anyway, a while later I was busy doing some tactical exercises and it dawned on me that tactics trainer encourages and rewards fast play. The first "good" move on the board is almost always the right move, and there's rarely many "second best" moves that are playable. So I am training a Pavlovian response in myself to play the first ok move I see when looking at highly tactical positions.


My tactics training method is entirely counter productive to good over the board chess. I am training myself to reflexively play quickly with little analysis when the board position looks tactical! In otherwords, I am training exactly opposite of how I should be playing!

Can you imagine if a QB spent their time in practice trying to throw the ball perfectly to the defender instead of the receiver? Well, that's what I'm doing to my tactical skill, I'm not honing my ability to recognize and play tactics correctly, I'm honing my instinct to play without sound analysis!


Well, I've diagnosed a problem with my training. Now to figure out a way to reward correct thinking while training tactics the way I want to play over the board. Sadly, tactics trainer doesn't reward thinking about the problem correctly, it only rewards fast play.