Aug 13, 2012, 3:43 PM
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.