Monday, March 26, 2007

Chess VI -- Rapid Chess Improvement part I

There is (or was) a debate on the net regarding a certain book on chess skill development. His ideas on how to develop skill is different from many other books (which he criticises). The book is "Rapid Chess Development" and the author is Michael de la Maza. I haven’t read the book, but I’ve read about it, and I’ve read the two articles on which it is based (sort of), and I have a few comments.

I think he has some good points and some bad. Where do I begin? Actually, I think I have to split it to several posts.

He place a lot of emphasis on tactics. I think that’s good, for non-expert players tactics is THE most important thing to train, vastly more important than opening theory or such. (Not that you should ignore other areas completely.)

He mentions a few insights he reached. One is "chess knowledge isn’t the same as chess skill". That is certainly true, and is exactly why my chess training nowadays (if this relaxed thing I’m doing can be called training at all) consists not of learning chess (except training tactics, but that’s very skill-related training as against acquiring chess knowledge) but how to bring the relevant knowledge to my mind at the right time through a systematic way of thinking, and asking the right questions. A systematic way of thinking is HUGELY important. There is no point in having a lot of knowledge in chess unless you’ve learned how to use it. That’s precisely what "the psycho-epistemology of chess" is, even if Michael de la Maza wouldn’t put it that way. However, I don’t really agree with what he is suggesting on how to think (I think I can come up with something better, at least for me), although it’s clearly better than some other advice I’ve seen.

I’ve seen a slight improvement the last week or so: I’ve found tactical solutions through my system that I otherwise wouldn’t have seen, or would have taken longer. On the other hand, it feels somewhat unnatural thinking in this new way, but that’s because it is new. And I’ve barely begun.

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