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Ok, I just read the first 2 chapters of "Move first, think later". Now I think I grasp what Kingpatzer's point is. I feel a bit shaken in my beliefs and will probably need some days to of contemplation to find a new approach on how to learn chess.
The Dutch heretic basically argues that moves come intuitively and good moves are found due to the memory of similar positions. The characteristics of the position (or "imbalances") do not necessarily play a role in finding a good move and looking at them may cost us valuable time. Following this train of thought, it is probably the best thing to play and study a zillion games.
My counter so far is that it is probably impossible to understand those zillion games if you don't have an understanding of position characteristics and do not have some of the guidelines which Silman seems to be a bit dogmatic about.
Alchemos, I do also hold the opinion that blitz does not help you much - unless you are already very experienced. Anyone up for a game of correspondence?
This sounds right to me :p
Imbalances can be useful though when you're trying to make sense of a position.
I never interpreted authors like Kotov or Silman to be advocating a strict method of thought during a game, I always looked at it as take the useful ideas and leave the rest. I guess if you read it literally Silman is saying to use this structured way of thinking? But obviously that's not the way people play chess. I'm sure Silman doesn't. But there are many useful ideas.
I agree that patterns in long term memory are the most useful thing in chess. Playing games and analysing (your games and others) are probably the two most useful exercises you can do (I guess tactical puzzles fit in there somewhere too ;)
It looks to this woodpusher as though it's not really a matter of "instinct" if you have not laid a foundation. If Hendriks advocates what amounts to "chess sense" in choosing a move, that sense must be based on the type of study, in part, which he criticizes.
It has been said that chess is a game of errors, with perfect moves on both sides resulting in a draw. The winner takes advantage of weak or bad moves. Looking at weak player games, you'll see the argument against instinctive moves made without the background study.
Hendriks doesn't dismiss the importance of studying games. He dismisses the role of rules and dogmatism in providing a means of understanding those games. In this he is not particularly different from Watson who makes the same point in his "Secrets of Modern Chess Strategy" book.
Well, Hendriks would rather emphasize on the importance of the study of games, right?
Thanks @Kingpatzer, understood. I think that is a general rule in a lot of unrelated venues. A great military general once said "You have to know the rules and why they're there before you have the right to break them." Innovation and genuis often lies in the realm of the unexpected.
I'm interested in both books.
Yes and no. Hendriks' main thesis isn't really about how to improve, it's about what's wrong with how we talk about planning in chess, particularly in a pedagogical context. In the few pages of the book, his point comes out loud and clear when he writes: "You cannot have a meaningful characteristic of a position if it isn't connected with a (more or less) effective move" and then: "To questions like: 'How do I create a weakness?' and 'How do I counter my opponent's initiative?' no answers are possible except one: play good moves!"
To the question of how to find good moves, he contends that this comes from recognizing similarities to positions that you already know. His point is that exercises adn examples are not generalizable positions, but are the actual material to be learned. Silman's position above provides no general information about how to play in any and all situations where there is that sort of imbalance in place. Rather, it is itself a concrete excercize of how one might play that specific position. Now, when the student comes across a position that shares many of the same positional characteristics, he might recall Silman's position and use that knowledge to find a move. But he won't do that through some verbal protocol listing imbalances in the position. He'll do that because he recalls the position and is able to apply those patterns from the old position to the new one. It is a function of memory, recall and calculation to validate the result, not of making a list of positional features and reasoning to some plan.
I think many players, myself included, at one time in their chess career had trouble after getting their opening taken care of, in finding what to do. I know I used to stare at the board after an opening and think "ok, now, what?" I give kudos to Silman for his work on Amateur's Mind, and HTRYC, for providing a spark for players who stare blankly at a board wondering what to do. It is a beautiful transitional stage in the development of a player. It's almost like that wonderful brain in your head used to think "I've seen this position before." Afterward, the thought doesn't go through your mind that way, the elecrical charge goes through in a millionth of a second, and you just recognize that you've seen this position, or one very close to it, before. I think that same process is used by Silman to provide the dogma, i.e. some way to calculate by thinking of imbalances, and all the other things he teaches, and get your mind used to seeing and thinking that way. Then, at a point, the player will be able to fire the electrical charges through almost instantly, recognizing without a lot of effort, "I have a superior minor piece." Or, " my pawn structure on Queenside is better," and then have nearly instantly decided where to play. Then, as the player improves, I believe you rise above the dogma, hopefully incorporating other author/ teacher's ideas to make for a strong player indeed. I don't really think any one author has "the right way," but that there are things to be taken from much material out there to create an amazingly strong player. Just my take on it......
Here's a link to Watson's review of Move First, Think Later. I haven't read the book, but from what I can glean from the review, I suspect Watson gets it about right.
My favorite quotes from "Move First, Think Later": page 8: "... the author is of the opinion that you learn chess only by working with concrete positions. Solving exercises is one way to do this. One of the main propositions of this book seems to be that the moves written down on our notation forms are sufficient 'language' to learn chess, and that no further words are needed." page 18: "For the reader of chess books who wants to raise his level, this means that he will have to start working on the material, and shouldn't expect too much from the text part. Not a very pleasant message for the many readers who skip the games, fragments and exercises in their search for that one magic word that is to be the key to a higher level." page 206: "For almost every player, the best advice is to simply study what you like most. Maybe at expert level, the only way to gain a bit of extra territory is to practice the things you like least, as is supposed by the advocates of deliberate practice. But for the great majority it is true that everything that has quality, will bring benefit."
I don't agree with everything what Hendriks has to say, but reading this books was really an eye-opening experience.
Very useful to have these quotes for our most fruitful discussion here, uri!
I have thought about this for a bit now and come to this conclusion so far:
Everybody needs to come up with his/her own chess philosophy and guidelines. This is more important than trying to follow a leader, since you need to be comfortable in your games and need to have confidence in your moves. The following is part of my chess wisdom so far:
Hendriks is right that most decisions come from having seen similar patterns in the past, especially when you are playing fast. ("Chess is a fast game", he emphasises several times.) He is also right that there should be no dogma in chess. Seeing guidelines as dogma certainly does not help, but is a mistake beginners often do because of a certain mental stiffness. (Just consider that pretty much all standard openings break with the opening guidelines, lol.) These principles often stand in conflict with each other, one has to make the best decision inbetween them in the time given. Thinking to save time by clinging to a dogma is often an error. It is also erronous if you try to think of stuff which is beyond your level atm.
However, no one gets to a greater strength without having learned some basics. There are tactics basics (forks, pins, discovered attack, etc.) positional basics (Silmans imbalances) and endgame basics.
I have the feeling that Hendriks silently assumes that players know these basics when he advises people to just play good moves. (which is not of much help, either).
Saying that wasting time on looking at imbalances is a bit nonsensincal. In real games, players a aware of them anyway since they have been built up throughout the game. But you need to be aware of them. You need to know what a weak square is and need to be aware of the strategy of creating one. If you are not aware, then you will just repeat making the same blind moves over and over again and never get anywhere.
Good chess players see tactical opportunities and positional characteristics in an instant. They are aware of the principles, and seen a million positions. They find good moves because they know which principle to prioritise. My question is: How do I get there?
Well, first step is taken: I became aware of tactical, positional and endgame guidelines/principles/ideas by reading the books/online resources that apply to to the level of play that I can ever hope to achieve. That alone obviously does not make me a great chess player. I need to practice, play, analyse. Wisdom comes from repetition. Just like martial arts.
What does this tell me about the Workout book? Should I continue with it? I think I should, or I could study anything else. Because, as Hendriks pointed out, studying pretty much any position is beneficial.
But I think that he is wrong when assuming that just giving the answers in notation without comment is enough. Studying Silman is better in that way, imho. What is the point of learning "Nf5 is crushing!" when you fail to understand why? Just in case somebody does not get it (likely) a chess instructor should give the reasons.
I think that's a good answer, but you need to go one step further. You need to realize that if a move like Nf5 is crushing, that if there is not an immediate tactical win in the position then there are probably 2 or 3 other "crushing" moves as well.Further, you need to be aware that if the position is more or less equal with no tactical sequence available, that not only is any good plan viable; but, and equally important, even the best available plan can be defended against with equally good play. Silman forgets both of these points, and often talks about the positions as if the second isn't true and that only the plan he is writing about might give any hope. As long as you don't get caught up in the sales pitch, and instead are using his positions and explainations as a means of seeing positions then you aren't going wrong. But one of the reasons to look at the positions with a computer is to figure out a couple of points:
1) is Silman's recommended plan really about strategic ideas or is there a tactical point that makes it the only viable idea? If the latter, then the whole 'imbalances' point is a fairy tale.
2) If Silman's move is not the only viable plan, what are the viable plans in the position. Spend time looking at the computer's top couple of choices and figure out what the "idea" behind those equally good moves are. 3) Try to defend the position against the computer. Pay attention to what the computer is doing to you from a positional point of view. 4) Try to attack the position while the computer defends. Use Silman's plans, but then try your (or hte computer's) ideas as well. Watch how the computer responds. Silman does do a good job of presenting quite a number of rich positions that have multiple good plans available within them. But he also has a few that have clearly 1 best move that is best because of deep tactical ideas. Try to differentiate between those two types of positions, and understand the characteristics of both.
hmm, yes. That seems to make a lot of sense. Isn't it a horror how complex an issue a chess position can be? Maybe Silman just wants to spare himself and his pupils the strain of ambiguity.
When we are starting out with positional concepts I think a book like Silman's is OK. We need to see examples of good N versus bad B etc. before we can know when to break the rules. Fine for Hendriks to talk about intuition but we have to build that first. Looking at unannoted games cannot do it for us so we need annotated games. Silman has that as do many other authors.
I was low 1900s when I stopped OTB play. I used Silman previously. May get back into it so I am trying Yusupov's series. If will force me to look at things I may not have wanted to study previously.
You mention complexity. Therein lies the beauty of the game. Players at different levels will be able to take different things from the same game.
Great. I have not continued with Silman's book because I got distracted by analyzing Hendrik's argument. Then I started focussing on my own games and other puzzles, because according to Hendrik, it does not matter what position you study. This way it will truly take me a hundred years to get through the workbook.
Two positional puzzle books that I like a lot are:
Today I've stumbled across this 3-year-old thread: http://www.chess.com/forum/view/chess-mentor/chess-mentor-is-ineffective-at-teaching
What caught my eye was this story from WGM Natalia Pogonina:
"In general, Chess Mentor is a great learning tool. However, yes, there are often situations when I try a move, the program (IM Silman's course on Positional understanding) says "it's a great move, but you need to find another one"...and takes my rating points away! Just an example: not that I cared too much, but once I tried three reasonable moves in a row only to receive comments that they are all wrong. Then I turned on Rybka - they were it's #1,2 and 3 best choice accordingly. So why should I search for a 4-rate move and "enjoy" comments along the lines of "as a student, you must learn that...". That mentor tone from an IM accompanied by dubious solutions (from time to time) can drive one nuts.
Anyway, I'm not telling it to complain or criticize the course. In general, it's great and fun. Just thought you'd enjoy the story."
Various threads here related to chess books have taken me to some odd corners of the Internet chess world recently. This thread is one of them.
Jeremy Silman is one of my favorite authors. If someone said his books are modern classics in the field of chess instruction, I would nod in agreement. I might even say it first, myself. If someone wanted to argue that How to Reassess Your Chess is even better than My System or Chess Fundamentals, I wouldn't argue. I'd probably nod in agreement.
I have also worked through a significant number of the positional training exercises in Chess Mentor. Some of Silman's problems seem to have alternate correct moves where they belong, and others do not. My impression is that these positions--and there are hundreds of them--were converted from from paper or other files into CM format in a somewhat-rushed manner without taking full advantage of the medium, which leads to some users being disappointed.
Natalia Pogonina's words above ring true, and she would obviously know better than I. She even tested some positions against an engine, something I haven't bothered to do. Hopefully the issues will be addressed someday. But I'm not interested in holding my breath over it: a CM rating is interesting, but not indicative of FIDE, USCF, BCF or Chess.com (or any other) strength--not that those ratings always hold up to scrutiny, either.
But I'm not here to talk about Chess Mentor right now. In my recent online chess book searches, I stumbled across something I found very interesting. On amazon.com, the user reviews of How to Reassess Your Chess include mostly glowing reviews, but also a few negative ones. The prominent negative review received a rebuttal from Jeremy Silman himself! The link is here:
Some of you may have already seen this rebuttal, and it may be old news for you. But this entire experience has been an eye-opener for me.
I took a long break from chess. As a younger man, I spent a few years playing bullet games on another website over dial-up. This other website had a very small player base compared to chess.com. It was a tiny corner of the chess world, and very few titled players were members. Even fewer titled players would contribute in the forums, and only on rare days.
The culture of the forums on that site was such that the frequent posters in the forums could speak with reckless abandon about any topic. Politics and religion were big, and there were idiots and geniuses on, well, most sides. But chess book discussions also reigned here and there. Without any well-known titled players to check on the progress of these discussions, people could say any critical thing they wanted without fear of a Silman-style intervention as is seen on the link above.
I was heavily participating in the forums there for a few years, and that private chess club mentality crept into my thinking when I started playing here. Old habits of thought can be hard to eradicate. I have been a little too critical of certain authors in other threads here, I think, without taking into account that this is a bigger stage with a different culture.
Anyway, I have learned a lesson from my own behavior and vicariously through Chungking (at amazon), and I wanted to share it.
Ugh! IMHO You haven't been done any favors being steered to the random position-just-think-about-it school of chess. Hendriks is every bit as dogmatic as Silman it seems to me, perhaps more so.
I agree with both Silman and Hendriks to some degree -- and I disagree with both when they assert their totalitarian view of how chess is or isn't learned. I think both are too all-or-nothing about their methods. And Hendriks isn't even self consistent. He says you need no text only diagrams, and then pontificates on this rather a lot joking that oh well he loves to hear himself talk. Bleh! If you want a very good book that is truly all diagram very little talk, try Pata Gaprindashvili's Imagination in Chess... but don't go to it until you are at least 1600+ (and its ideal reader is probably 2000).
Ok. Silman isn't perfect he has plenty of warts -- My personal sense of his method is this: Do not use it as a practical method designed to help you win games! It is a LEARNING method, a training method. And as such a very good one. Silman might agree, or might punch me out for saying it I don't know -- but I see value in Silman's thought methods FOR TRAINING. As Hendriks makes clear -- think first, then move is unnatural. Move first (in yer head) then think/check etc. is natural, it's how it's done. Yes I think so too. But Hendriks is giving his book away, and Silman charages money because Silman has something much more interesting to teach than Hendriks -- Silman is teaching you to think about chess IDEAS! It's true, chess is played in moves. A good move trumps a good idea every time. But all the same there are ideas in chess, lots of them. Chess is a much more interesting game when you can see the ideas, and you can definitely play better chess by having a better grasp of chess ideas.
In complete agreement with Hendriks, I find, in practice, that I cannot think about a position effectively, not at all, until I toss around some moves and consider some variations... it's the lube that starts my brain... but after that I do use Silman type imbalances (and a lot of other concepts I've picked up) understand the position and to think about what direction I want the game to go. How can I get this thing moving in the direction I want... and what direction is that?!
Promising exchanges and pawn breaks and N v B advantages etc. can be all be productively thought about without going to micro-variation level. My practical thought process is a dialogue between moves and the board and everything I know about chess -- I basically bounce between concrete moves and larger scale ideas -- many of which Silman first introduced me to.
Also, I've often been able to understand these larger kinds of ideas at work in master games when I look at them. Hendriks will not increase your appreciation of chess, IMO. One thing you hear about Silman all the time is that his methods, apart from practical result, can really change the way you look and appreciate chess, for the better. This is certainly something that has been true for me.
My bottom line: You must, you simply must, be willing to examine concrete varations and think about chess in moves if you want to win chess games -- chess is played in moves, not ideas, not strategies, etc. But as long as you accept this -- there is much to be gained from incorporating strategic type ideas into your thinking, and Silman is a good teacher of them.
Interesting stuff has been written rejuvinating this thread of mine. I do agree with JG27. Hendriks just leaves you a bit with the reasons for the moves, where Silman provides. But Silman is a bit dogmatic and sometimes appears artificial. I got the feeling that Hendriks is assuming that the reader is already at a good chess level of around 1600. Which Silman, to his credit, does not.
Yes, I probably should go back to Silman's course. And I do think that it is better than Hendrik's book. But atm, other stuff goes on in my own private chess-world. There is only so much time in the day and not every minute can be dedicated to chess...
Thanks for posting the link to the book review, Fingerly. Interesting. Silman obviously felt the need to defend his book, knowing how powerful such customer reviews can be. As harsh as his comments were, I think they were legitimate. If Silman would not have replied, readers of those comments could likely get the idea that the new edition does not contain all the material of the previous ones.