It’s been already two weeks since I started studying chess. During this period my rating on Lichess went up and down but stayed pretty much the same (around 2190). I’m playing mostly 3+2 and 5+3 blitz games. I continued learning and studying every day for at least one hour a day. Some days I would go over for an extra 15 or 20 minutes. Also, the day I take lessons I don’t do any formal study. I’m applying the same principle I would when practicing piano and taking lessons (no practice on lesson day).
Even though my rating hovered around 2200, I noticed some slight changes in my game. After focusing hard to find good moves during my daily studies, that thinking mode started to bleed into the blitz sessions. Every day, at the beginning of each study session, I also did a series of tactic exercises arranged by theme: checkmate, discovered attack, discovered attack with check, double attack, absolute pin, skewer, discovered check, double-check, and tornado. I already knew all of these, but drilling them consistently was nice. Also, it was fun learning all the names in Italian: scacco matto, attacco di scoperta, attacco doppio, inchiodatura assoluta, infilata, scacco di scoperta, scacco doppio e tornado. 🤓
The Weekly Practice (01/13/21 to 01/19/21)
Other than practicing tactics by themes, I also worked with more difficult possitions that required a “hidden manouver” (silent moves) and others that asked for simplification moves. I watched videos on rook endings and practiced king activity with other set of positions.
This is an excerpt of one of my daily logs on Google Docs:
Chess Expertise Studies (Ericsson et al)
The Cambridge Handbook of Expertise and Expert Performance (edited by K. Anders Ericsson et al.) includes an interesting chapter on chess expertise. It goes over different aspects of the game, comparing the performance of masters and grand masters. It was interesting to see that A. Ericsson, I enjoyed learning and studying the game, during a period of five or six years (my “formal training”) I only took lessons with a private tutor for a few months. I did most of my learning on my own, reading books, and going over Chessbase annotated games and tutorials. Also, I never played a rated (ELO) tournament. Later on, in my early thirties (as I’m writing this in 2021 I’m 34 years old) I would participate in a handful of semi-rapid chess tournaments that started and finished on the same day.
Chess Vocabulary Acquisition
Here I could write about chess vocabulary in Italian, but that’s not today’s topic 🙂. It turns out that there’s such a thing as “chess vocabulary”. The words are made up of “chunks” (clusters of pieces arranged in certain patterns). According to a study made by Simon and Gilmartin in 1973 (A simulation of memory for chess positions. Cognitive Psychology), one has to acquire from 10,000 to 100,000 chunks to achieve a master level in chess. To reach the recall performance of a grandmaster that number would be at least 300,000.
In any case, the similarities between learning vocabulary in a foreign language and learning chunks in chess was interesting. In languages, it seems to be a vocabulary “threshold” (around 2000 words), which makes up most of the content we will encounter. After we are able to understand the meaning of a couple thousand words, we get most of what we read and listen to. I wonder if the equivalent number in chess would be these 10000 chunks. I don’t know!