Monday, December 22, 2014

Establishing a baseline on retention of skills Post hiatus

Update on the New Imps:

Before I get into the main topic, I want to mention how the New Imps is meant to be a support community for those adult chess players seeking improvement where we can share encouragement, ideas and stories as we journey together on chess improvement. Paladin64 ( and others on messaged me about limited time to attend OTB tournaments. I believe  there are a lot of us are in the same boat. So maximizing that time is what this is all about. Linuxguy mentions that despite having a decent memory he struggles with other OTB experiences around clock and focus.  He also believes increasing visualization is valuable in chess improvement.  The message I am getting from the rest of the blog like AoxomoxoA and The GrandPatzer is something I concluded a while back: a practice diet consisting purely of  Tactics may lead to some gain but in my experience, nothing long lasting.  Continue on with the discussion.

Creating a baseline skills
I ran across this article  written by Dr. David H. Small:
He talks about using neuroscience techniques for training and developing patterns in six specific categories:
  1.      Opening patterns
  2.         Early middlegame patterns ( specific pawn structures)
  3.       Positional Patterns ( Learning to place pieces and pawns on optimal sqaures)
  4.      Tactical patterns
  5.        Strategic Endgames
  6.     Technical Endgames

I was curious about the distinction between 5 and 6 so I managed to contact him and this is how he differentiated the two:
“A technical endgame would be one that is a position that is well known or is similar to a position that is well known.  These endgames are theoretical and it would be clear that it was won, lost or drawn.  These are normally most of the endgames found in elementary endgame books.  Examples are K+P vs K.  K + 2P vs K+P.  Strategic endgames are more complex and the outcome is often unclear.  By definition, they are endgames because the K is safe to come out and be used as an attacking piece.  But they are not middlegames because some of the key strategic elements different from middlegames.  Understanding how to play strategic endgames is one of the key steps to move from the level of strong club player to titled player.” --Dr. D.H. Small
I wanted to get a baseline of what I retained in terms of these six buckets ( sort of).  I also didn't want to spend an enormous amount of time getting OCD about classifications so what I did was a “rough estimate”.  Nothing worthy of big data probability or regression curves.  I used excel, I made a workbook for each “bucket”. 

Under opening patters, I found a comprehensive list of openings on line that I cut and pasted into the spreadsheet.  Across the top, I listed Move 1, Move 2 and so forth up to move 10. For each of the openings I counted a “1” where I knew it and how deep I could recall with out a book. So as not to duplicate, variations I omitted “1”s on earlier moves.  Then I tallied up the 1’s.

For pawn structures, I did a similar thing where I found a list of pawn structures. I included the major pawn structures  like Caro-slav formations, d5 pawn chain etc. I included minor pawn formations  like pawn islands,  3 versus 2, backward pawns. I added my own “early middle game transition” ideas on openings I was able to go more than 5 ply deep.  Across the top, I made columns for  “skeletal” (meaning I know the pattern but that’s it), knowing White and back piece placement, White and Black strengths and weakness, and plans for both sides.  Emphasis is on the “knowing these visually” .

I went on to do things for Positional play with similar columns like the pawn structures. For  Tactics, I listed the common mating patterns and various labels I could find with a quick google search.  The columns were associated with level of difficulty and I only went 4 deep ( thinking CT-ART).  Then came the endgames. I’ll be honest, I was overwhelmed and decided to not complete the spreadsheet. MY ADD overcame my OCD J as I wanted to start spending time practicing.

How much have I retained after a hiatus:
The unofficial results of by 6 buckets of patterns:
  •         Opening Patterns: 489
  •         Pawn Structures : 813
  •         Positional Patterns: 1026
  •         Tactics : 460
  •         Strategical Endgames :?
  •         Technical Endgames : ?

I think I am really weak in Strategic Endgames and could use work on the technical ones as well.  Looking back on my last evaluation in 2013 using Chess Exam with the caveat that this is not an entirely accurate assessment due to the fact that this book was written by an experienced coach’s bias and not based on empirical data collected for a large enough sample size to limit the margin of error to under 5%.  

Chess Exams results back in 2013:
  •         Endame:  1726
  •         Middle : 1200
  •         Opening: 1226
  •         Calculation: 1550
  •         Standard Position: 1828
  •         Strategy: 1375
  •         Tactics: 1169
  •         Threats : 1210
  •         Attack: 1450
  •         Counter attack: 1858
  •         Defense: 1281
  •         Sacrifice: 1500

These results I took about a year ago seem to correlate with the “quick evaluation of pattern retention” I did. Positional patterns , because I tend to play positional games, is a strong plus and retention for me! My next post, I will  attempt to formulate a plan that is focused for biggest retention on the largest gaps. 


Unknown said...

That is a very inpirational and useful link. TY!

I espacially like

"You will probably never feel like you are becoming a stronger player. Instead, as you progress in your chess career, you may find that your opponents seem to become weaker! That is the sign to look for. Do not worry about your chess strength. Forget about your opponents. Instead, make the mastery of chess your aim."

I think that his advice is very solid and practical , though, he outlines a pretty brutal training regimen.

I am currently composing as we speak, but I'll add that as I see it; you need to make a program simple enough to do- but sophisticated enough to help.

BlunderProne said...

Jason, Thanks again for waking me up.

Anonymous said...

"You will probably never feel like you are becoming a stronger player. Instead, as you progress in your chess career, you may find that your opponents seem to become weaker! That is the sign to look for. Do not worry about your chess strength. Forget about your opponents. Instead, make the mastery of chess your aim."

In theory, this is all right, but in practice this can be only part of the picture.

Once the clock starts, your chess skills are a given. You give up your championship belt when you step into that ring. Performance factors will dictate the outcome of any competitive chess game.

A good QB in football knows when to throw the ball away, take the sac, or make the pass. Your opponent will compete with you based on energy level, confidence, move-speed, etc, if not on chess skills, and this can easily win out over chess skills if you let it. In fact, if they win and were within one rating class of you, they probably showed up in better physical shape than you did as well - more rested, etc. Game management can be worth 100-200 rating points, no problem.

Chess improvement and chess performance are two different conversations. You can improve your chess and disimprove your rating at the same time. In fact, your two graphs could go up or down in opposite directions.

Anonymous said...

There is the truth, and then there is the bitter-truth.

Most people will judge you based on the result of the game. You can see this every week in the NFL. The amount of people who can't judge talent, even critics "at the top" is legion, the number of people who can judge results is just about everybody.

Tomasz said...

What about such approach? We should fix the problems that influence (impact) our present games the most and work hard to get rid of them. For example if we played a game and we dropped piece without any serious reason - we should work on better pieces handling and improving our focus, stamina and perseverance. Of course it sounds easy, but in practice it requires quite much work and analysing what went wrong and how to fix it.

I am curious if you have some strange feelings (and observations) that BEFORE the game you can feel much stronger and more knowledgeable, but when the game STARTS it looks like some of your potential simply disapears.

Anonymous said...

Nice to see you are still at it.


Anonymous said...

I went crazy and got all chess-carnival like on one of posts:

I am with you on the positional and endgame stuff, as you can see from my post/rant. Endgames are a great opportunity to see how you can combine both your tactical and strategic abilities into one unified, tailored solution.