Chess is a complex game. Often there will be positions that look very familiar to you. The familiarity triggers your wishes to play a known thematic move. However, even the slightest of nuances can turn a good move into a bad one.
Perhaps it’s a tempo up or down, perhaps the “other” rook was moved. There can be a myriad of different reasons why you should play a different move than your intuition (or pattern recognition) says. How do you remember those nuances? And why does this happen in the first place?
Let’s first discuss why this happens (or click here to jump to the point, the feature!). You might have heard; there is a lot of pattern recognition going on when we play chess. Some call this intuition. This was first discovered by researchers Chase and Simon all the way back in 1973, who called it the “chunking theory”. Our brain is very quick to associate familiar positions (or chunks) with their corresponding thematic moves when the pattern is fresh and available in the back of our minds. This is why spaced review is such an integral part to learning well.
Pattern recognition is so important, that one particular study found that in chess players, the part of the brain usually responsible for quickly identifying familiar faces, the brain’s fusiform face area (FFA), becomes responsible for recognising familiar chess positions too! Isn’t that neat? Seeing a familiar structure arising out of your favourite opening literally makes your brain react in the same way as recognising a good old friend’s face.
However, there are times where spaced review and pattern recognition can only do so much. Sometimes we need to do a bit more heavy lifting. Enter template theory. Template theory showed that high-level or schematic knowledge can be attached to each chunk. What does this mean? It means that if you analyse a position carefully, you look at the pattern carefully, and draw some conclusions, this extra knowledge will be attached to each chunk, or included in the template.
But how do we achieve this, how do we convert our chunks into templates? Well, on top of spaced review, sometimes we need to slow down, read the authors text and explanations carefully, analyse the position ourselves, ask questions. In this manner, your chunks will become templates, and your knowledge and expertise will be improved.
This is why Chessable offers many extra features on top of spaced review, such as our Q&A section for each position, the ask a master feature, and from today on, accuracy sorting. A picture tells a thousand words, so rather than describe it, please take a look:
Notice how in some of these lines, I am doing pretty well. Pattern recognition working at it’s best. In some of them, I’ve done the work and read the authors comments carefully, they have helped me remember the theory after a 3 month spaced break, and still maintain 92% accuracy. I am happy enough with this, as it means I have pretty high chances of remembering the theory in a real game.
Now, let’s look at the following picture where my accuracy is not all that hot:
What to do? Well, the first step is identifying the problem, which our shiny new “sort by accuracy” function helps you do. Once you know there is a problem, half the battle is already won. Now all you need to do is devote some extra study time to the most problematic variations.
How is it different than the difficult moves that used to be on the site before this week? Well, by sorting by accuracy you can pinpoint your most problematic difficult moves and you can focus on them. You will notice greatest improvement by patching up holes where your accuracy is 70%, rather than those where it is 90%. You couldn’t do this before, now you can.
First, analyse the lines yourself to see if you can figure out why your moves are sub-optimal. If that doesn’t help, have a glance at what the engine says. And remember: you can always just ask. Your fellow students or the course instructor would be glad to chip in with their thoughts. In this manner, you can turn your chunk, into a shiny new template.
Sometimes, you’ll be lucky enough, and someone will have asked the question for you. Simply click on the troublesome variation and check out the comments:
Please note, the difficult moves feature is a PRO feature that requires purchase of a membership. Fortunately, we’ve put on a very special PRO offer lasting a few days only. Check it out!
So where is this shiny new feature? Find it under your “Tools” menu on your top bar.
See you around the site, and please let us know what you think in the forums by following this link.
David is Chessable’s CEO and Chief Scientist. He finished his dissertation on expertise and expert performance as part of a MSc in Psychology of Education (BPS) at the University of Bristol, and also holds a PGCert in Applied Psychology from the University of Liverpool. David’s chess rating is around 1,850 FIDE.