Wednesday, August 08, 2007

On Application of knowledge and Consistency

It has been my observation ( and a culmination through much discussion with other players) that most of us players “stuck” in the class ratings ( below 2000 USCF) are here because of inconsistencies in our ability to apply our knowledge base. We work feverishly to expand that knowledge and even attempt to apply through practice. Why is it then, some days we can be on top of our game and other days have our “chess period” as CL put it once?

I’m a Class B player. I play in tournaments and against Class A players I can hold my ground often enough. Other times I play class C opponents and I am hanging a piece. These two scenarios are fundamental insights into the problem of consistency. I think my ability to play well consistently takes on many components. I can only speak of my internal observations but I am sure others will identify. I list them as follows, feel free to add to them… in no particular order.

1) The Psychological component takes on several forms. There’s the sizing up one’s opponent that often leaves me with a predisposition on what the outcome should be. This will either make me play timidly or over aggressively in certain circumstances. Learning to play the board versus the rating is a tough transition. Another issue is the psychological state I may be in due to external issues outside the 64 squares ( Life worries etc). I try to set my worries aside once I enter the arena but its hard. Lastly, my psyche can get broken during a game when the position suddenly changes direction either in my favor or against. If it’s a win to a loss transition, I am fighting anxiety over the loss of the point. If it’s a point in the game where it looks like I might win, I have a different kind of anxiety over whether I will blunder it away and not get the point.

2) Physiological needs are the next factor. Did I get enough sleep? What did I eat? Did I eat too much? When is the next break between rounds? There are others, but the bottom line is that these are basic survival needs and if I don’t take care of them, they will get in the way of my consistent application of knowledge.

3) Chessloser was talking about “mindfulness”. Being in the present. My wife insists I have adult ADD because I am driven to distractions.( I love the fact that I have someone to look after my well being). Staying focused means I have to get up and walk about sometimes so I can come back and be one with the board. It’s a tough call for me. I practice meditation to center myself but even with that, I am inconsistent.

4) Finally, the mechanics of gather the knowledge in the first place plays an important role in my consistency. What I study, how much I study, where and when I study…all have bearings on this component. This is the essence of the CIB ( chess improvement blogs) I try to journal my trials and errors in my improvement process. I used to never believe in over preparation until my results suggested otherwise. Learning to learn… not memorize. I liked the notion of self speak brought up by BDK to reinforce concepts because it was something I was not doing regularly while doing a ridiculous amount of tactical problems. Then I’d wonder why I still sucked at it. I was under the “field of dreams” method of training. Cram it and the knowledge will come eventually at the subconscious level. But if I don’t stop and take the time to give the necessary memory tags, retrieval is like looking in the filing cabinet under one folder called “tactics”.

My bottom line is that with these components of inconsistencies, improvement lies in minimizing them as much as possible. I don’t think its ever possible to get rid of these idiosyncrasies. I do feel its important to learn about them on an individual basis and see where you can make the most improvements. Awareness is the first step.

The difference in my ability to be an 1800 player ( or higher) or where I am now, is rooted in how I can resolve this part of the process. The knowledge is there. These are the blocks to the application of that knowledge.

Thinking out loud… hope it makes sense.



Blue Devil Knight said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Blue Devil Knight said...

When I consistently do what I know I should do (e.g., blundercheck), it's like adding 200 points to my rating. Unfortunately, I am still learning to do them consistently.

Sleep is HUGE. For every half-hour of sleep below optimal, that's like a 50 rating point hit :) Unfortunately, I don't like to ingest caffeine, which seems to be a staple at many tournaments.

wang said...

Well I certainly know how you feel. My biggest problem is coming up with a logical thought process that will guide me throughout the game. Right now it is kind of hpahazzard, which would explain why my results are haphazzard.

I agree with BDK at a minimum make sure you get enough sleep before a tournament. As for eating I'll eat a small breakfast and take snacks with me to munch on between rounds. I also have adult ADD as almost anything (small bits of shiny glass or pretty rocks...) will distract me. That I don't know how to combat

phorku said...

You seem to forget that every thing is cyclic. There are days when I am in the groove and days where I play like a patzer. This cycle cannot be interrupted by carefull play. In fact the cycle prevents carefull play on occaision. Too much study can lead to burn out and poor play. New lessons are often given to much weight in a game. Trying new things leads to failure as part of the learning process. Slumps are unavoidable.

Anonymous said...

your outloud thoughts make perfect's nice to see i'm not the only one thinking some things...

Glenn Wilson said...

What I do (or my goal, anyway):

But looking at all possible captures, threats, moves, etc should only take a few seconds. I mean scan them instantly with the radar. Don't "look" at them. Of course, that is one of the keys. How does one consider all of the important moves without considering all of the moves? GMs do it somehow....