In recent years the game of chess has been attracting
more and more attention, not merely as an interesting
and fascinating kind of contest, but as a readily affordable
and highly effective means for intellectual development.
Extensive experimental research has shown a positive
effect of chess activities on logical and creative thinking,
concentration of attention, memory and reproductive
imagination. Chess helps children learn things easier.
Therefore, as a rule, kids who regularly play chess
do better at school than the rest of their classmates.
Particularly wholesome is the influence of the ancient
game on one's mathematical abilities.
Well, is it really enough just to play chess to grow
"a little wiser"? Definitely yes. Chess in
itself is a good method for the training of one's intelligence.
Moreover, results of a number of recent psychological
studies indicate this method can be made even more efficient
if special chess-related games are employed. One such
study (A.Bartashnikov, 1988) involved two experimental
classes where pupils aged 8 and with approximately equal
levels of erudition were instructed in chess. In both
classes the chess lessons went on for half a year. But
in the first class the youngsters were taught according
to traditional methodology (which is practically the
same in any chess primer) whereas in the second class
special chess-related intellectual games were used.
Those games were aimed at improving the kids' intellectual
faculties rather than their chess playing skills. A
third class was also involved in the study, serving
as a control group. At the beginning of the experiment
the overall intellectual level of children in that class
was similar to that observed in the other two classes.
During the six months period pupils in the control class
were not instructed in chess at all. At the end of the
term the researchers checked children's intellectual
achievements in the three classes. Pupils from the first
experimental class appeared to be well ahead of control
class kids in terms of both intellectual testing results
and learning progress in general; yet their advancement
was inferior to that recorded in the second class where
the teachers had been applying the intellectual games
based methodology. Remarkably, when it came to playing
chess the second experimental group defeated the first
one in a match, thus proving that their playing skill
was also the better.
The outcome of the experiment allows to suggest that
the advantage of using a methodology based on chess-related
games is not limited to the development of human intellectual
abilities as a whole; purely playing skills can also
be purposefully developed that way. Hence such games
may be useful to chessplayers with particular sporting
ambitions. It is games of this kind that you will find
in the Chess Puzzles Series.
A person will not make a fine player unless he/she is
keen on the subtleties of the debut, middle-game, and
endgame theory and familiar with the basics of chess
strategy and tactics. In other words, a good chessplayer
must KNOW a lot. However, erudition alone is not enough;
the human factor, so to speak, is also highly essential.
Indeed, in order to be successful a chessplayer has
got to be able to DO a lot on the chessboard, and you
cannot do much, can you, if you haven't been blessed
with certain ABILITIES. Chess abilities are required
not just to easily take in fundamental chess information;
you need them to play - and to win!
It is not infrequent that a player who possesses encyclopedic
chess knowledge and is virtually always capable of quoting
passages from outstanding chess personalities on how
to act in any standard position starts feeling uneasy
as soon as he finds himself in an unfamiliar situation.
A wrong decision or miscalculation follows and the eventual
result is defeat. Well, what is it that the player misses?
Most likely, he has no pronounced chess abilities after
To go on with the discussion we must outline the specific
faculties that shape a chessplayer's gift (talent).
Chess literature mentions factors such as determination
to win, purposefulness, persistence, readiness to run
risks, and the ability to calculate variations
and correctly estimate the resulting positions. Thus,
two groups of individual abilities can be singled out,
one of which deals with "personal characteristics"
and the other with "intellectual power." Both
are equally important for success in chess and yet neither
of them is directly linked to chess erudition.
In view of the above one cannot help asking this question:
is it altogether possible to train chess faculties?
Beyond any doubt - yes! It should only be borne in mind
that training can improve different abilities to a varying
degree: some skills are more amenable to exercise than
others. The series "Chess and Intelligence"
has been designed in the first place to develop chessplayers'
intellectual power. However, in the process of the specific
training some of the personal characteristics (will-power
for example) can also be positively influenced.
Most of the Chess Puzzles Series
programs are aimed at training and diagnosing a chessplayer's
intellectual faculty called variations culculation.
To understand what exactly we are going to test and
train let us try to determine the essence of the variations
calculation. We would like to draw your attention to
the fact that here we regard calculation primarily as
a technical operation. Therefore questions pertaining
to the evaluation of positions, to the restriction of
the variations tree, or to the process of move selection
in general are deliberately omitted.
To calculate a variation means to perform a number
of consecutive moves in one's mind - and assess the
result. Each such imaginary move results in a new position
which has to be recorded in one's visual memory. Visual
fixation is necessary to "keep" the mentally
shifted piece in the proper place while pondering on
further moves. So, after each mentally performed move
arises the necessity to remember the latest location
of the newly displaced piece and to "forget"
for a while about the square where it came from. Psychological
studies have shown that operative (short-term) memory
plays the principal role in furthering this process.
As the game evolves, the required depth of variations
calculation does not stay the same. The general trend
is as follows: the fewer pieces there are on the board,
the longer the variations that the chessplayer has to
look through. On the average, chess masters are known
to count variations 5 to 6 moves in advance. Longer
variations result in greater load on the operative memory;
it is harder to keep in mind the constantly changing
images of pieces' arrangement. As the chessplayer keeps
distancing him/herself from the perceived real situation,
the images get ever weaker and keeping them solid enough
causes high psychic tension. It should be pointed out
that the perceived real situation has been shown to
be a factor hampering the functioning of the operative
memory during the calculations. This is a consequence
of the need for the image of the altered position in
one's brain to be "more vivid" than the directly
observed chessboard situation itself, or else the latter
can distort or supplant the imaginary situation and
hence lead to calculation errors. By the way, this mechanism
accounts for a majority of gross blunders committed
on the chessboard.
As we already mentioned, the complexity of calculation
also hinges on the number of pieces the chessplayer
has to deal with. The volume of a chessplayer's operative
memory is by no means unlimited, therefore if e.g. 25
- 30 pieces are available on the board, experience shows
that an average of only 3 - 6 of them are actually involved
in one's calculations.
You should read this article only after you have tried
to pass at least one test and familiarized yourself
with the Dynamic Pairs game. When you have tasted some
of the treat offered by Prof. CLEVER (your assistant
in BLINDFOLD), you may start
asking why the tests are so different from ordinary
chess. Here is the explanation of the idea behind that
The test tasks, as you must have already noticed, are
devoid of any standard chess logic related to such typical
goals as mate to the enemy King or offensive against
his position, attack on the opponent's men, or protection
of one's pieces against the other side's threats.
That chess logic is missing is, from out viewpoint,
the main advantage of this program's tests. If ordinary
chess positions had been used to check the calculation
abilities, the real cause of someone's success would
often stay in the shadow. It may have been a "good
eye for combinations," for example, or the skill
to correctly evaluate intermediate positions occurring
in the course of the calculation. And after all, the
chessplayer may have earlier run across the examples
in chess literature and hence knew how to play.
As we developed tests to diagnose chess abilities we
were guided by the following three principles:
1) The organization of the user's intellectual activity
during a test must closely simulate processes taking
place in a chessplayer's mind under tourney or match
2) All through the test the ability being measured
must stay under maximum "load";
3) It is absolutely necessary to minimize the influence
of other abilities, chess erudition, individual experience
and the like on the success of the person being tested.
It should be emphasized that the above methodological
triad is important not only for testing chess abilities
but for their purposeful (discriminating) training as
well. Here is an example to support that thesis.
To train the technique of variations
calculation a chessplayer usually selects a number
of combinations and/or endgame studies and then tries
to find the solution without moving the pieces about
on the board. True, that method generally works, facilitating
the development of calculation abilities to some or
other extent. But normally the solving process does
not involve the counting faculties alone; attendant
factors are sometimes even more essential for the solver's
There are strong as well as weak points in the mentality
of any chessplayer. Psychological studies have revealed
that in the decision-making process the chessplayer
employs primarily the good points - which consequently
have to bear the greatest load. Thus the better side
gets even more developed while the weaker side stays
the same because there is no "payload" for
A chessplayer with the positional type of thinking
often makes decisions that a representative of the calculating
and combinational type would hardly ever resort to.
The former player tends to generalize and arrive at
logical conclusions, and so is inclined to choose moves
on the basis of "general reasoning" - without
going into details, without calculating numerous side
variations. The latter player acts differently: he/she
prefers to analyze the situation in greater detail,
move by move, trying to evaluate the consequences. As
regards traditional chess training, players with such
opposing approaches will behave in the same specific
ways, thus developing their already strong points. In
view of the above, BLINDFOLD's
training games place virtually all of the emphasis upon
the user's calculation abilities.
Indeed, as you participate in the program's games it
is most unlikely that you will be able to use any combinational
or positional skills.
Our interpretation of testing results is based on data
from numerous psychological studies featuring the participation
of more than 200 chessplayers with qualification ranging
from novices to international grandmasters (with an
Elo of about 2,600). The research was conducted under
the guidance of Dr. Bartashnikov. Some of the investigations
were carried out in cooperation with V.Sukhanov and
This article presents a detailed discussion of the
testing results. We would like to explain here what
practical information can be derived from the testing
figures and how to use that information to improve your
Below you will find an interpretation of the following
user testing parameters:
Accuracy - number of correct responses as a percentage
of the total number of moves in the test;
Speed - user's average time per one response;
Memory - average number of pieces restored correctly
following an error;
Hints - number of requests for hints;
Oversteppings - number of failures to respond within
the allotted time interval.
The real essentials are the first two parameters; as
for the others, they only play an auxiliary role. The
estimate of a parameter (high, low, or medium) is determined
by comparison with mean norms set for the qualification
group the user belongs to (judging by the Elo rating
he/she typed in at the first start).
The imagination of chessplayers whose testing accuracy
is high functions rather properly as they penetrate
deeper into game lines. They visualize intermediate
positions quite clearly, and can calculate several variations
at a time (normally with a high degree of precision).
Such players would rather go through the variations
"to the very end." They have a propensity
for standard positions with concrete play, where they
feel best. A likely drawback is a tendency to take stereotyped
To players who have demonstrated high accuracy we can
say this much. The type of position you ought to strive
for is one in which correct decisions hinge primarily
on comprehensive and profound calculation of the variations.
In view of that, you are also advised to select your
debut repertoire from that standpoint. In your training
put more emphasis on developing positional playing skills,
on taking decisions "from general considerations,"
without resorting to in-depth counting.
If a user's accuracy is low, this means that images
of intermediate positions flashing in his/her mind during
the calculation process are usually rather hazy. No
wonder chessplayers in this category are not - shall
we say - quite brilliant at in-depth counting, which
fault they compensate for by reviewing an increased
number of initially available continuations. As compared
to other chessplayers, their readiness to take decisions
on the basis of generalizing the position's strategic
features is more pronounced. Their variations
calculation is "economical" - they do
not try counting lines "to the end" and instead
confine themselves to the evaluation of a variety of
not too distant situations. As a result, players of
this sort are more likely to commit errors in positions
requiring a lot of calculation work.
Our recommendation to players with low counting accuracy
is this: try to avoid situations which demand in-depth
calculation and strive for positional play instead.
For your games you should primarily select debuts leading
to strategic play. Your top training priority should
be the development of calculation abilities.
Well, you were so lucky in this respect, friends, for
Prof. CLEVER is just the right person to help you with
"Speedy" chessplayers calculate variations
rather quickly, their counting being primarily intuitive
in nature: the variations descend upon them sort of
"out of the blue" and can be seen in their
entirety; the mind seems to skip the images of intermediate
positions. An ability like that is of course a valuable
gift; yet there is also a dark side to it, for a fast-counting
player may easily leave out a good possibility available
beyond the realm of the calculated variation.
For chessplayers belonging to this category we have
this piece of advice. Rationalize your thinking. Thus,
once a variation has been calculated and everything
seems to be all right, try looking for new horizons
- and don't neglect checking the already examined lines!
Of course, you shouldn't constrain or twist your natural
mode of thinking in a tourney or match game! It has
been shown that high speed is among the most important
indicators of chess talent - and, for that matter, of
talent in general!
Chessplayers of this type calculate game lines slowly
but rather fundamentally, trying to examine as many
branches of the variation tree as possible. However,
a lot of time may be wasted that way, so for quite a
few of them time trouble is a frequent companion.
If you are a slow-calculating player, it is advisable
to place the emphasis of your training efforts on the
development of intuition. You may also profit by placing
more trust in the first impression! As for Prof. CLEVER,
that gentleman says he is determined to do anything
he can to help you train your calculation speed. His
first recommendation is to play games under limited
Medium accuracy and medium speed
If the testing has revealed that your accuracy and
speed are moderate, this means that your calculating
abilities have been developed to a degree typical of
chessplayers of your qualification. Use the Dinamic
Pairs, AlterWay, Chess
Mazes, and/or other Chess Puzzles
Series games if you strive for greater achievements.
This auxiliary parameter is significant and liable
to interpretation only if your accuracy in the tests
was no less than 70%. It serves to provide additional
information on the efficiency of your operative memory
during the calculation of variations
. Here we would like to draw your attention to a point
which is essential for practical play.
You made an error and the program prompted you to restore
the position of the pieces involved in the test . Did
you face serious difficulties in doing so? If you were
able to correctly "locate" just a small fraction
of the pieces involved in the test, it means that the
mental images of pieces' disposition are not stable
enough in your brain, and can be easily impaired by
various kinds of disturbances, including both external
effects (e.g. a loud-spoken word, sharp electric light)
and internal factors (an emotional reaction to some
event, an extraneous thought, etc.). If you have this
fault, you could try to get rid of it by training your
concentration. Select an object and keep your attention
pinned to it as long as you can (or as long as it makes
sense). During your BLINDFOLD
sessions it is expedient to resort to playing games
more than 30 moves long under minimum, if any, time
Another auxiliary parameter is the ratio between the
number of requests for hints and the total number of
errors (remember that the program regards a hint as
an error). If the proportion of hints in the errors
total is rather high (40 - 50% for example), this most
likely means good self-control on the part of the user.
If, however, you rarely ask for hints and when you do
you usually manage to restore the whole position on
your own, then you must be an impulsive person. In that
case we recommend that in playing with Prof. CLEVER
you lay particular emphasis on accuracy, even if that
should come at the expense of lower speed.
This auxiliary parameter is closely linked to speed.
Cases of time limit overstepping are characteristic
of low-speed players, and may be regarded as an indication
that their typical faults and playing peculiarities
(mentioned in the above interpretation of low speed)
are rather deep-rooted.