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Kevin Bonham
30-09-2006, 08:18 PM
I ask this question because of something that happens to me a lot. I'll play a move, then I suddenly see a possible reply that I had not even analysed consciously at all. I'll panic for a moment, then suddenly, phew, I realise that the move I had not considered is totally unsound and I'm safe.

A trivial example (there would be more complex ones):

r1bq1rk1/1pp2pbp/p1n1p1p1/3pP3/3P3n/2PBNN2/PPQ2PPP/R1B1K2R w KQ - 0 10

From my game last week (full game on HICC tournament news and results thread).

Black had just played 10...Nh4. After much analysis I responded 11.Qe2. Then waiting for my opponent to move I thought "aaaargh, he'll take the g-pawn". I searched the board and noted eventually that he couldn't, because my Ne3 is protecting it. And yet this was the first time I had noticed that one of the things my knight does on e3 is protect the otherwise unprotected square g2. When I put my knight on e3 my intention was solely aggressive" Ng4.

I have had countless other cases like this, some of them several moves deep rather than elementary, where I have played a move like this, panicked about something the other player could do, then realised their threat was unsound but I hadn't analysed it.

Then again, I get the odd case where I play a move, suddenly realise I've overlooked something, and it's real and my move was a blunder.

What is going on here? Do I somehow "recognise" that threats are harmless on a subconscious level? Or does my brain not compute some of these possibilities at all but there is some other reason why most of them happen to be unsound?

Be interested to know if anyone has read any psych stuff on this.

qpawn
30-09-2006, 08:26 PM
I am not sure. But I did read somewhere that psychologists have found that the most common blunders from expert players are pawns left en prise to queens moving backwards.

Basil
30-09-2006, 08:29 PM
chess blindness. i also suffer from similar in the kitchen.

Kevin Bonham
30-09-2006, 08:30 PM
The most common blunder from me (not that I blunder often - probably one per 60-80 games these days) is walking into sequences ending in pawn forks winning a piece somewhere around moves 10-12.

Denis_Jessop
30-09-2006, 09:02 PM
I've no doubt that the answer to Kevin's question is "yes" though not based on chess experience. I do a lot of word puzzles like cryptic crosswords and those "Target" type ones where you need to find at least one 9-letter word. I have found on many occasions that words leap to mind on the basis of, say, one letter only in a crossword answer and the other day I had the extraordinary experience of "finding" the 9-letter word in a target puzzle merely by glancing (literally - not even looking intentionally or in any direct way) at the letters in the puzzle. In none of these cases was any conscious thought given to the matter. Moreover, I suspect that this was just an inkling of the kind of gift that a top GM has in relation to "sight of the board".

DJ

Axiom
01-10-2006, 12:44 AM
What is going on here? Do I somehow "recognise" that threats are harmless on a subconscious level? Or does my brain not compute some of these possibilities at all but there is some other reason why most of them happen to be unsound?

Be interested to know if anyone has read any psych stuff on this.
i know excactly the feeling, i have had the thought several times "wow!that is amazing,my sub conscious must have seen that those lines were not critical,incredible,i must be a genius", it seems to happen after a material sacrifice ,move sequence,when some unconsidered move is interjected,only to find it holds no real threat.

however upon refection, i feel it is the same phenomena as noticing more cars like your car on the road,when you buy a new car! ie we are more apt to notice events that correspond directly to our frame of reference,rather than contrary to it.
so our egos would like to consider that our subconscious 'saw' falibility in certain lines, when it is only on these occassions that we notice it in the first place!......when our 'subconscious' misses a critical line we are not more apt to compare this statistically to the no. of positive cases,but to put it down to some ego protecting reason ,like, "i was tired,drunk,distracted," ......or some employ the self hating flagelation of "god im a moron!,damn idiot! geez,why do i bother?" etc

so in summary,it is flaw in accurate perception,based on an ego protection mechanism,noticing more so the events closer to our frame of reference......eg1."i never noticed yellow mazda rx7's on the road till i owned one!" (new frame of reference being - the yellow mazda rx7,as compared to the old frame of reference,the previous model owned)
eg.2. "i notice how my subconscious seems to automatically filter out inconsequential lines"(frame of reference- ego protection- important for any fighter,chess fighters included ,risking ego loss....
To bear the anxiety of battle ,ego protection is important, so this acts as our frame of reference when examining related data. so we tend to focus on events that correspond to this frame of reference,ignoring the ones that do not,..giving us a skewed perception of reality.


(excuse that garbled response,hope the jist of it is communicated)

Denis_Jessop
01-10-2006, 09:01 PM
I rather much doubt the accuracy of Axiom's analysis of the situation. It's certainly not the case in the instances I spoke of in my post.

There has been a bit written on this subject the most famous being the work of Adrian de Groot who died recently. I have not read it - I haven't even seen it - but there are other works touching on the thinking process in chess players, for example "The Chess Mind" by Gerald Abrahams (Penguin 1964, 2nd ed. - I don't know if it is still in print) and "Chess - The Mechanics of the Mind" by GM Helmut Pfleger & IM Gerd Treppner (Crowood 1988).

A feature of the matter is the ability of the unconscious mind to store information and for this information to be used unknown to the holder. it's a fascinating subject and a bit scary in some ways.

DJ

qpawn
01-10-2006, 09:53 PM
The other "subconscious" thing taht can happen i s when you suddenly "know" that a move is right without needing to do any calculation. You get this feeling of "insight" and "everything comes together". It is hard to describe but it has only happened for me twice. Once I was playing a good player and the only move to exploit his suspect development wAS to push my e pawn to e6 in theopening, give it away for few moves and get it back with my knight with a forced win of teh exchange. But I only saw this for sure after the evnt! IN the game I saw e6 and suddenly "knew" with absolute ceratinty that it would win - WITHOUT CALCULATING AT ALL BEYOND THAT1 MOVE. So that's another thing for psychologists to consider. Maybe it is some sort of "right brain/left brain harmoinsation that sports psychologists talk about when a sportstar "gets into the groove".

Kevin Bonham
01-10-2006, 10:11 PM
I tend to find that certain moves have an almost irresistable intuitive "pulling power" to them. Particularly moves that are strong and provocative and give the opponent a lot of room to go wrong. When I see one of those it goes straight to the top of the candidate-move list and there will come a point where I analyse it more and more, can't see anything wrong with it and think "Right, I am now curious enough that if this is somehow not the right move, I will gain more by seeing its refutation and learning more about chess as a result than I will lose in this particular game as a result of the mistake". Once I get to that point I will reach out and play it.

However sometimes I get that strong intuitive feel about a single move then I will analyse it for ages and discover it is unsound. I will find myself still strongly intuitively wanting to play it but will avoid the temptation.

It's important to be objective and scientific about whether you can "know" things in advance by intuition, I think. It is similar to the issue of coincidence and premonition in everyday life. If you have thought things were right in advance based on intuition, and you do them and they are right, you think "wow, isn't intuition great?" But do these cases stick more in the mind than those where your intuition failed to see something, or worse still, told you a move was good and it turned out to be bad?

Aaron Guthrie
02-10-2006, 12:54 AM
I presume what you are considering here is if your subconscious specifically accounts for possibilities that can occur on the board. So for instance if you had played Ng4 in place of Qe2, and panicked, the question would be had your subconscious analysed nxg2+ kf1 nh4 bg5 (with variations presumably). If you give it credit for this there can be more than one way in which this is realised. The analysis may be somewhat like, say, Kotovs model. Or it may be an interesting abstraction of the relationships on the chessboard. It may even be interestingly modulized, as in the case of the processing of colour and motion, which are processed distinctly from each other.

The credit could also be given to the nature of chess. I can think of two ways in which this can be shown. When playing an attack where both sides have considerable resources, it will be beyond the players ability to examine all the possibilities. So for the attacker, he will probably have missed resources, but if its a good attack, the times when the player has a Kevin moment will be accounted for by the strength of his attack (or defence, if you are that way inclined). Also take for instance the blunders of a weaker player compared to a stronger player. In the strong players case they are just more likely to have a resource because they are more likely to have well placed pieces.

It seems to me that the most likely explanation is a combination of these options.

As regards the literature, I have looked at De Groots book, which is good although this position which he gives as the "stereotypic position par excellence" disturbs me each time I look at it.

r2q1rk1/pp3pbp/4pnp1/8/8/2N3P1/PPPQ1PBP/R3R1K1 w KQ - 0 10

"Chess skill in man and machine" by Peter Frey has a good collection of different authors observations on the subject. There are lots of interesting articles out there, although my own impression was that many authors were operating on an imaginary dichotomy between the options of analysis and pattern recognition as the primary method of strong players. I felt that lots of authors ignored the role the nature of chess has in all this. Give a computer no positional knowledge, and it will be useless. Or match two identical programs (or crafty 19.18 and crafty 19.19 if you cant figure out how to do that), and give one an extra ply and it will beat the other one convincingly (+21 -2 =27).

qpawn
02-10-2006, 02:15 PM
There was that game between Christiansen and Karpov. Karpov lost in 12 moves because he walked into a one move fork of two minor pieces. But the interesting bit was that the fork involved Christiansen moving his queen back to its starting square. There was a lot of commentary like " Karpov dismissed moving the queen back there subconsciously" etc...

Another interesting point is the extent to which subconscious resources are used by different chess experts. A master who calculates just about everything may be missing out on "subconscious filtering" which could be beneficial.

EZBeet
06-10-2006, 09:52 PM
The 'subconcious mind' is incapable of any sort of logical reasoning be it calculation or anything similar, it looks after other things vital to survival.
I put it in inverted commas because what people call the subconcious is really all the other brain functions besides those of the frontal lobe.

What is being written about above is more accurately described as a 'lucky break'. :owned:

Alan Shore
20-10-2006, 12:12 AM
I ask this question because of something that happens to me a lot. I'll play a move, then I suddenly see a possible reply that I had not even analysed consciously at all. I'll panic for a moment, then suddenly, phew, I realise that the move I had not considered is totally unsound and I'm safe.

What is going on here? Do I somehow "recognise" that threats are harmless on a subconscious level? Or does my brain not compute some of these possibilities at all but there is some other reason why most of them happen to be unsound?

Be interested to know if anyone has read any psych stuff on this.

Sometimes, you may have analysed the position without remembering of course! However, more likely, implicit memory has kicked in and a non-conscious acquisition of information occurs.

Basically, this type of memory is long-term and differs from declarative memory (conscious recall) and instead you unconsciously access prior knowledge in long-term memory (i.e. you've seen the position many times where a knight defends a pawn).

However, other times it may be merely chance - you play a move, for a totally different reason, then it happens to work out for you! Yet if instead you play a move because it 'intuitively feels good' and later see you've not consciously analysed a particular variation there is a high probability implicit memory is the underlying force, not requiring you to analyse the position.

One should note for the move itself even pattern recognition may prime you in these instances (yet this would fall under the declarative memory umbrella). I believe this is what may happen in lightning/blitz chess, where the conscious mind has no time to analyse and one relies upon that intuitive feel, but it would still be interesting to analyse the neurophysiology of the chessplayer during these instances.

Hope that answers your question, I've started another thread dedicated to this discussion.

Desmond
20-10-2006, 12:18 AM
Something that may be relevant to this discussion is that your first guess is usually your best guess. For instance, in a multiple-choice exam, if you have a question that kind of rings a bell, but you are not sure of the answer, choose your first instinct. The more you think about it and second guess yourself, the less likely you are to get it correct. I think this comes from the answer being just beyond the reach of your conscious mind, so it's best to let the subconscious have a go.

Aaron Guthrie
20-10-2006, 01:26 AM
Sometimes, you may have analysed the position without remembering of course! However, more likely, implicit memory has kicked in and a non-conscious acquisition of information occurs.

Basically, this type of memory is long-term and differs from declarative memory (conscious recall) and instead you unconsciously access prior knowledge in long-term memory (i.e. you've seen the position many times where a knight defends a pawn).

The importance and nature of pattern recognition (Chunking) is the dominant one in the scientific articles that I have read on the way humans play Chess. I thought the more interesting question in this case is "does subconscious analysis occur", rather than "does subconscious pattern recognition occur".

In any case on a quick look at the articles that I have on my computer on the subject one of the more interesting is
"The role of attack and defence semantics in skilled players' memory for chess positions", McGregor & Howes in the journal Memory & Cognition, 2002.

I also came across another article "The perceptual aspect of skilled performance in chess: Evidence from eye movements", Charness, Memory & Cognition 2001. This one is interesting in relation to your comment


Sometimes, you may have analysed the position without remembering of course!

Which, in the specific instance Kevin presents, may in fact turn out to be a good explanation. In that it is possible that Kevins eyes scanned the relationship of the Knight to the g2 pawn, without him being aware of this fact.

.