Thursday, November 6, 2014


A small summary of the last posts

We know : 

  • improvement in chess is hard for adult players, learning of many facts not 
  • improvement in tactics (measured in a timed rating on non duplicates at a chess server after 4000 attempts) seems to be virtual impossible
  • rating, score and time_used are related, twice as much thinking time produces moves which are ~ 200 (+-100) Elo points better
  • the improvement in "Mate in 1" measured in Mates/Min  is not easy ( maybe impossible for an adult too????? )
  • improvement in board vision exercises, skill trainer and some other special chess related exercises is often easy
It is not easy to implement a rating system for chess puzzles but if they are easy enough so that the score is always close to 100% then we can simply use "the time used to solve these puzzles" as "rating". We know: as quicker as better and a gain in speed is equivalent to a gain of  Elo points ( not in chess in general but on this set ).


So i was wondering why is it so hard to improve in  "Mate in 1"?
Mate in 1 is a microscopic small subset of tactical problems, there are Forks, Skewers, Pins, ... Mate in 7...Hanging Piece.. and there are "uncountable" combinations of such Motives. If it IS hard to improve in "Mate in 1" then its easy to believe that it is virtually impossible to improve in tactics because there are hundred times more motives in tactics as a whole than in "Mate in 1", the tiny small subset.
So if you cant improve ( easily ) in "Mate in 1" by solving 10 000 of Mate in 1 puzzles you will definitely not improve in Tactics by solving 10 000 tactics puzzles

Well is that true? Why do we think so?

Many people think, the performance in chess is based on the knowledge of pattern. This is not exactly correct, if i explain a pattern to a beginner then, even if this beginner understand the pattern, he/she will still apply this knowledge less good than me, much more experienced player. It is important to make such a knowledge to a skill by tons of practice.

What pattern are we talking about?

When we think about tactics we think about tactical pattern like a mate at h7, the bishop sacrifice at h7 in the advanced french and other typical positions.

Now: if the improvement in "Mate in 1" is hard because of the number of pattern, then why don't we improve solving thousands of such problems. We should learn the pattern... weeell..

Seemingly the number of unknown pattern is close to the number of puzzles!! Learning new pattern don't help, the next puzzle will be a new pattern or its a pattern you already know. You don't learn anything new ( or you would improve ;)

But to solve a "Mate in 1" puzzle does not only require the knowledge of mating pattern. We need to check: how can we give a check, does the king has any squares to escape, is there any piece of my opponent which can intersect, is it possible for my opponent to take my piece...

If i start to analyse which of the (improvable) skills are related to "Mate in 1" then the result is astonishing.. almost all. Even the Fork-training has some relationship to "Mate in 1" because if you want to give check with a piece ( say a knight ) then you need to find the (knight-) forking square of the present position of that piece and the king. ( As example: say the opponent King is at e8 and your knight at g8, then you need to put your knight at f6, a knight at f6 forks the squares g8 and e8 ).  This is of course a very weak relationship ;)

An other example of related exercises is "chess minefields" ( see the link at the right side of this page ). Here we are looking for a save square for our pieces which we have to put "in bughouse style" on the board. The skill: "which square is save" is needed at "Mate in 1" to judge if the opposite king can escape ( has a save square ) or not. If the opponent king has a save square to escape than its not mate.
Especially this skill is very important for bullet player. It happens quite often that in Bullet and Blitz games someone drops a piece. Of course this skill is important for OTB players too, they need to know if at the end of their calculation any of their pieces are hanging.
So it might be easy to understand why blitz-players can solve "Mate in 1" puzzles better.

So i think an improvement in "Mate in 1" should result in a higher performance in many , if not in all tactical situations, because it might be necessary to improve in many sub skills of all tactics.

Monday, November 3, 2014


While it seems to be easy to speed up at simple exercises like Board Vision Exercises it seems to be hard to improve at "Checkmate in one" or "Checkmate in two". Hard to believe that the "ability/disability" to improve in tactics might be ( about ) the same as the "ability/disability" to improve in "Checkmate in one" but i start to wonder...
I work now at CT-ART Mating Combinations   but i have doubts that this will have any effects. If Tactics and Checkmate in one are really that close related ( well are they ? ) then the mating pattern cant be the reason.  It might be the flexibility of the memory, how quick we can push the position into our inner board and how quick we can pull valuable information from this inner board. Or is it the ability to make decisions?..
How to improve here? Spaced repetition? Thematic subsets? Specialised exercises like "Find all checks"?

Checkmate in one, that is a step
On which I must fall down, or else o'erleap,
For in my way it lies. Stars, hide your fires;
Let not light see my black and deep desires:
The eye wink at the hand; yet let that be,
Which the eye fears, when it is done, to see.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Adult Chess Improvement - Getting to the core of the problem- Summary of my results so far

Kids ( and young adults ) can seemingly do any type of chess training and they improve their play but adults ( older than 30(?) ) can seemingly do any type of training in chess and they don't improve decisive anymore.
A good performance in chess is based ( like any job ) on Knowledge, Skills and Ability's. While it seems as if Chess related Knowledge and Ability's are still more or less easy to improve even at higher age, the improvement of chess related skills seems to be difficult for older players.

A different categorization of chess can be done by using categories like Opening, Ending, Strategy, Tactics... Most of these category's require lots of knowledge if you want to perform good here. There is one exception though: tactics. Some tactics require some endgame knowledge for example to know which endgame is won or a draw , but most tactical positions can be solved with very view knowledge. To know the values of the pieces and the rules of chess is most of the times enough.

A positive side effect on analysing improvement in tactics is, that the performance in tactics is easy to measure. Its even easier to measure the tactic performance ( in rating at a chess tactic server ) than to measure the chess performance ( as fide rating ).

As longer/harder the tactician think, as less errors he makes, as more puzzles he solve correct,. So its necessary to measure the tactical performance with consideration of the time used to solve the puzzles. That can be easily done at Chesstempo ( Blitz and Mixed rating ) , Chess Tactics Server and the Tactics Trainer at for example. There is a minor problem with duplicates. The number of problems at a chesserver is limited, you will see problems "again". Even if you don't remember such problems consciously, the effect that you have seen it before influence the score. As long as the number of  attempts you made is not high compared to the number of problems the server did serve you, the effect is small.

So whats about the Adult Tactics Improvement?
Well, there is none. Most Tactician reach a plateau in tactics-rating after 1000 - 4000 attempts ( that's the time to get used to the rating system, server handling, type of problems served... ).
So while it seems to be important to improve in tactics for the adult! chess improver, it seems to be a complete waste of time to solve tactic puzzles!

The performance of a tactician on easy vs. hard puzzles is given by the formula of Prof. Elo  . If you are able to improve your performance on easy puzzles than your performance in hard puzzles will raise too. That is easy to understand, a hard problems consist of easy puzzles. A complicated "Mate in 7" is one move + an easier "Mate in 6".,..  ,   is 6 Moves and a simple "Mate in 1". If you cant find a Mate in 1 you will not solve a "Mate in 2". You can simplify a complex tactics puzzle by erasing not needed pieces ... Easy tactics are the building block of complicated puzzles.

So concentration on the performance at easy tactic puzzles make sense.

Getting closer to THE ( or maybe only A ) core of the problem of "Adult Chess Improvement", we look now at the improvement of the performance in easy tactics:

There are 2 main types of tactics: mate and gain of material superiority. Material superiority can be achieved by pawn promotion are winning material. Winning material is based on immobile pieces, hanging pieces or some type of double attack ( direct as fork, or indirect by x-ray attack as skewer, pin ...)
My personal experience in improving at one of such sub disciplines via spaced repetition was negative. I did improve in one category but therefore i did get worse in a different one.As an example:  Looking intensively for the opponents king first,  makes me eatter in "Mate-problems" but worse in fork-problems.
So its not enough to improve in Mate problems "a little", that's just a shift in attention. It is necessary to improve "a lot" in such a subcategory so the related skills are improved. The good thing of skills is: They can be used parallel, you can perform several skills at the same time!  The solving speed should benefit disproportionate.

So whats about the Adult improvement in simple  tactics?
Well here we seem to come close to the core of the problem of Adult Chess Improvement. If the problems are easy enough improvement is easy to achieve. Examples are the board vision exercises. Harder Problems like "Mate in 2" or even "Mate in 1" are giving more resistance to improvement.

To improve skills we need to do many exercises which are almost silly easy. As older we get as more exercises we need and as more silly easy they need to be. But as Temposchlucker said: you cant 
improve on Autopilot. One of my experiences seemingly showed that its possible to bypass the impossibility of learning at autopilot by implementing a thinking process = a conscious method/algorithm to get closer to the solution of the exercise.

Meanwhile i try to improve my performance at "Mate in 1" and "Mate in 2" by a factor 2 or more.  I hope i can detect relevant sub skills of these tasks and develop exercises which are simple enough for me to improve. If i am able to make "Mate in 1" easy enough for me! ( by getting better in sub tasks of this type of problems ), i should be able to improve here too.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Mate in 2 puzzles, 270000 Checkmate in 2 puzzles taken from real games

I did extract these "Mate in two" puzzles from real games. My own initial rating is here ~~6 Mates / min ( Fide-elo ~1900 ).


1) Press the Start-button to start

2 ) Select all destination squares of the first move from every possible Mate in 2

The next puzzle is loaded as soon as you found all squares.


Variations tells you how many squares to select.


You may "Cheat" by pressing the Help-Button

I would guess (??) that for an improvement in skill you need to get 2 times as fast as you have been at the beginning ( beginning = ~ attempt Nr. 1000 ).
If you have problems gaining significant speed improvement then use other exercises to support your progress:

  • Board Vision: Attack of Fritz
  • Board Vision: Attack of Chessgym
  • Board Vision: Check of Fritz
  • Board Vision: Find all Checks 
  • Board Vision: Mate in 1
  • Skill Builder of Maurice Ashley
  • Chess Fork Trainer

See the links at the right side of this page

Friday, October 17, 2014

Chess Skills

Definition Skill

The Performance of a chess player is given by his KSA = Knowledge, Skills and Abilitys.

"According to Lindner and Dooley (2002) knowledge is a body of information, supported by professionally acceptable theory and research that individuals use to perform effectively and successfully in a given task. Skill is present, observable competence to perform a learned psychomotor act. Effective performance of skills requires application of related knowledge. Ability, on the other hand is a present competence to perform an observable behaviour or a behaviour that results in observable outcomes. Collectively, knowledge, skills and abilities are referred to as
competences. Competences are behavioural dimensions that help to identify effective from ineffective performance.
" ( see here )

"Psychomotor skills refer to those types of skills that are developed as a result of constant use of the skills in question. These skill sets are usually utilized for the performance of specified duties. For instance, they may be utilized to perform everyday tasks that the individual may have become so adapted to that it requires little thought or concentration to perform them. Psychomotor skills may also be learned as part of the process of specializing in the performance of a particular task." ( see here )

"E. J. Simpson's 1972 model of psychomotor development begins with perception, which involves understanding simple tasks and perceiving how they should to be done. Next, students must develop the appropriate mindsets to complete the task. In the guided response stage, a teacher or coach walks students through the steps of the process. In the mechanism and complex overt response stages, students perform the task with increasing speed, strength, agility or confidence. Finally, learners must be able to adapt their skills to new situations or to create new products based on their skill set." 
( see here )


Usually motorskills are explained with physical examples like riding a bicycle, here a different one.
Bruce Lee said once: "I fear not the man who has practiced 10,000 kicks once, but I fear the man who has practiced one kick 10,000 times."

Please watch these videos one after the other

"It may be said that a psychomotor skill is cultivated over a length of time through repeated performance, in which a person is so used to doing something that he or she does not need to think too deeply while performing the task." ( see here

Back to Chess

As higher rated the chessplayer as quicker he can solve a tactic puzzle. This effect is not only at complicated puzzles like a complicated mate in 7: "If chess players’ are, for example, asked to detect as fast as possible, whether one of the kings is checked or not, masters are clearly superior in speed as well as in accuracy (Saariluoma, 1984, 1985). The same superiority can be also be found when chess players assess if a mate in one possible " ( see here )
Every ~~200 Elo-Points a chess Player gets twice as fast without loss of quality

A Master only needs 4 seconds to memorise a "typical" chess position. His skills tells him who has more material, who has more space and where, which pieces are pinned, by which pieces ..... ( He did look for these things over and over again ) So even if he dont remember the precise position of a piece he can reconstruct the position using the memorised information about its interactions.

So i think that the performance in chess is based more on skills and not that much on Knowledge and Ability's. The chess knowledge of a professional chess player gets bigger and bigger but his rating after a certain age not.
And i guess: here is the reason why improvement in chess is so hard for adult players, My Hypothesis is that there are too many chess related (sub)skills, to improve for an adult chess player, just by playing chess or solving tactic puzzles or reading chess books. I guess that an older need more and easier exercises to improve these skills than a youngster. A older need to learn a small set of vocabulary and repeat them over and over again to learn a language, a baby can do different. No adult can learn a language the same way as a baby. Examples of such easy chess skill exercises are GM Maurice Ashley's Skill builder and some other exercises at the right side of this page.

I will continue to work on sub skills of the tactical-skill like the "Most Valuable Skills in Chess named by  Maurice Ashley" , Board Vision, Visualisation, Chess memory and Thinking Process. I still hope i can make some progress. But Temposchlucker made a lot of such exercises too. I will have to make it better than him... really no easy task :/

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Now 36330 easy Mate in 1 puzzles

I did increase the number of puzzles by 20000 + new puzzles ( all taken from games ). The Link to the game see at the right side of this page. Some explanations here