Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Chess -- calculation

Another post on chess, much to the dismay of my non-chess playing readers. : )

I found this interesting blog (by Blue Devil Knight) and this post on analysis inspired me to write about analysis.

First a note on language. The general meaning of 'analysis' is to pick apart and examine the parts. For some reason the term has in chess come to mean primarily (or only) examining specific variations. But strictly speaking (assuming the ordinary meaning of the term) it would be analysis even if you analyzed only positional elements ('there's a weak square, there's an inactive piece' etc) and not a single variation. And I like to keep my terminology as close to the ordinary meaning as possible, so I will use the term 'calculation' instead. That may not be the best term either, but it's closer. The relation to analysis is that calculating is a specific form of analysis (the latter being the broader term, then.)

So what's my take on improving the ability to calculate? It's basically that I don't consider it worth doing as a specific activity. One reason is simply that it's boring. I mean, boring to train, not boring to actually do in a game. And that's always a factor. I'm not a chess professional, I'm playing because it's fun and interesting. I do want to improve (of course) and if training calculation (specifically) would be the only way, then I would either do that or quit playing chess. However, it isn't the only way, not even the best one for a player of my strength, I think.

I keep talking about training calculation "specifically". With that I mean that I do actually train my ability to calculate, except that it is an indirect effect of training tactics, which I do. I'm referring mostly to my adventures on CTS. Granted, these are short variations, and the main purpose is not to train calculation, but with most tactical problems there is some calculation going on (if the problems start becoming so easy you 'see' solution almost without any calculation, your rating will go up and you will get more difficult problems which requires more calculation... so there will always be some calculation going on.)

I don't have that much time to devote to chess (I almost spend more time writing these blog posts than actually doing chess... but that's okay, because I like thinking about how to do stuff), so to begin training calculation would mean spending less time on other chess-related activities (tactics, blitz, trying to expand upon my system of though) and I'm pretty sure that wouldn't be a good trade.

Actually, there is another way in which I train calculation, also indirect. The CCT-rule gives guidance as to in which order you should check variations (especially in its expanded version, which I'm working on), which is closely related to calculation.

BKD mentions chess visualization. Now that's something I'd like to learn some time. I would really like to be able to play a game of blindfold chess. Stay tuned for a post on that.



Blue Devil Knight said...

I think those of us who play long games (I typically play 40 30 or longer) are probably going to be more explicitly concerned with calculation (aka analysis, thinking about consequences, visualizing chess futures) than people playing blitz.

I look at blitz as a test of how many patterns each side has memorized, and who can very quickly do a rough-and-ready evaluation of the major threats in the position (CCT) to find a workable move (one friend described blitz chess as a pie-throwing contest).

In long games, probably half of my time is spent calculating, and since I'm not all that good at doing it during those 5-10 minute "deep" thinks during a game (I tend to be very inefficient), I need the help of working on it explicitly.

Also, I really like practicing calculation, which helps. If I didn't like it, I'd probably stop doing it.

It's a good point that you can practice calculation while solving tactical exercises. My tactical training, though, is specifically geared to build up a stockpile of patterns that I can recognize. I don't spend a whole lot of time on each problem (I'm working through 1300 problems, so it would take me too long), but doing each one many times until I can simply see the pattern. But you are right that such problem sets are great opportunities to practice analysis (though in real chess games positions are not labeled 'Find the 2-move tactical shot', and most positions don't have major tactical opportunities, so I like to work on calculation in positions from the middlegame of real games, so I can practice my thought process in conditions where I just don't know what the positions call for ahead of time).

Hence I needed to add calculation training to my regimen. At least until I am fairly good at finding the best candidate moves and looking a couple of moves into the future for all forcing sequences.

transformation said...

nice posts. very well done. thank you. warm regards, david

XY said...


People playing longer games certainly need to calculate a lot more, both in terms of depth and breadth, and I agree that calculating tactics isn't quite the same as calculating in a non-tactical position (for one thing, a non-tactical position usually has fewer forced moves which makes it more difficult).

The topic of blitz (what its value is, what it tests, etc) is interesting and meaty enough to deserve its own blog post, so I'll be back on that.

XY said...


Thank you and I'm glad you enjoy the blog.

IA said...

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