After finishing my first “quick read” of “Practical Chess Analysis” by Mark Buckley (meaning I stick strictly to the text portion, mentally following the variations as far as I can clearly, while leaving deeper analysis of the examples for the second read with plans to use those as exercises utilizing the author’s methods).
This was the book recommended to and by Patrick. I highly suggest you read some of Patrick’s reviews of “PCA-1”,"PCA-2", "PCA-3".
One of the first things mentioned (page 4) is that a player must establish a method. Buckley states “For only with a workable technique can a player hope to improve his analysis-the approach must be applicable to any particular position. This book is the result of my wish to share what I have learned about chess analysis: how to see ahead, how to judge a position, how to study. I have tried my best to present the essentials, the heart of the matter, trusting that you may apply these suggestions and develop your own analytic tools.”
Of course Buckley doesn’t disappoint as the rest of the book is dedicated to explaining his particular methods in a manner that is approachable, though clearly I have a lot of work ahead of me if I want to develop what he considers the basics that are necessary to become good at analyzing. Some of those basics are only obtained through experience and a few more will require some exercises created solely to gain “experience”. For example Chapter 2:“Developing your intuition” deals with ways to increase intuition through pattern recognition. He includes items such as isolated pawns, misplaced pieces, and stock combinations in this family. This quote says it all “Pattern recognition is the heart of intuition. The pattern represents something familiar, something already evaluated. Because the experienced player has often already studied a similar position to the one set before him, he largely knows what to do without thinking. His judgment is sound; he refines and confirms, in most cases what the pattern tells him. This experience saves time and effort over the board and lets the player concentrate on the position’s unique features.”
So obviously “Developing my intuition” is not something that will occur overnight!
For me step one is the creation of a “thinking model” or “workable technique” with the help of this book and a few other resources. This need for a ‘thinking model” became painfully obvious as review of one evening’s blitz game losses all shared the same theme. Complete disregard for my opponents move possibilities, which comes mainly from my desire or focus to inflict my will on the position.
As part of my training to correct this problem I have reinstalled CT-Art 3.0 and plan on using it to help test and refine my “thinking model”.
Yes I hated CT-Art while using it as a training tool for the 7-Circles because I felt the material was too haphazard for effective use in developing pattern recognition. But it wasn’t until later that I realized there is a distinct difference between Pattern Recognition and Calculation Muscle. Since my desire is to strengthen my calculation and increase my ability to accurately evaluate positions CT-Art will be the perfect tool given the wide variety of themes.
Buckley is adamant in his belief that a player must have the ability to accurately calculate variations (one of his basics). He precedes this by insisting one must literally memorize the chess board so each square can be named, identified by color, and located on the lines intersecting it.
I have been approaching each exercise position (during practice) or move situation (in game) with the following mini checklist/thinking model.
While this is extremely crude, the list/model will continually be refined as some of the items move from “new concepts” to “intuition”. Plus practice and understanding will allow a shift in the amount of time applied to each section. For now there are times when just remembering to address the items in order can be counted as a success. Ultimately I’d like to be able to refine my calculation and train what Buckley calls “The Mind’s Eye” to the point where I can visualize variations with great accuracy.
But for now I’m going to work on just developing the habit of mentally identifying the following.
Thinking Model Version 1.0
1) Material Count on the board. (Pawns, Major, Minor)
2) I treat the position as if my opponent has the move.
3) I look for checks (Direct, and indirect) Buckley recommends giving the pieces an “aura”. The aura is unaffected by obstructions. Similar to what BDK’s coach told him when it comes to seeing through pawns. This also includes mating patterns.
4) Loose pieces& pawns (Anything that isn’t nailed down so to speak)
5) Weak Squares
6) Pawn Structures
7) Piece Mobility and Placement
My particular model doesn’t even come close to the one used by Buckley and is not a representation of the material provided in his book. This is simply a way for me to correct a flaw in my play and to start establishing the habit of refreshing the board after each move in an attempt to create a baseline evaluation. Organizing my thoughts should make my time spent calculating more effective over the board.
My goal is to work towards the model presented in PCA, but like I said before I can utilize the methods described by Buckley it will take a considerable amount of work on the basics.
If you have the chance to obtain a copy of Practical Chess Analysis by all means do so, you won’t regret it.