Man de la Maza

Thursday, March 03, 2005

Pattern Recognition v. Memorization

The mind is a funny thing. Well, mine is. Even when focused on doing chess problems, it thinks about other things. Last night, I find that my second tier thinking was about the difference between pattern recognition and memorization of a problem. Clearly, I have just plain memorized some of the answers. In fact, in some cases, I have gotten so frustrated with a problem that I have "just memorized it" as a way to not have to deal with it. The more times I go through, the more I feel that my knowledge is more akin to memorization than pattern recognition.

I don't have particularly clear thoughts about the subject (I WAS doing chess problems while thinking about it after all). Both would seem beneficial, but pattern recognition ability is clearly the goal. The funny thing about pattern recognition is that what has been much more striking to me is how the 2nd and 3rd time through the problems, patterns have jumped out. For example, in level 30 and 40, there are a lot of kingside attack patterns with a sacrifice on the defending f-g-h pawn cluster. In Circle 2, I noticed that there was a whole sub-genre of these where f6 square was blocked (usually by a pawn or black bishop) and then because of this mate was unstoppable on the h 7 square by the white queen and bishop. I went through 5-10 of these in Circle One without noticing a pattern. It was all "bishop takes, and then rook check", etc.

Guess what I'm getting at is the fruit of these final circle may not be so much that I get more right because I know the patterns but that in the deluge of chess chaos that flies before my eyes I may discover a new hidden relationship between solutions. It might be interesting to go through the problems and give names for all the major patterns. Several famous mates -- Boden's mate, Anatasia's mate, and Blackburne's mate* -- appear again and again. Having a name for them helps as a sort of intellectual shorthand. "Knight to e7+, if king to h8, then we have Anastasia's mate. If rook takes ..."

150 days down, 5 to go
617 problems down, 422 to go in Circle Five
Level 10: 97%
Level 20: 97%
Level 30: 89% (so close)

* These names come from "How to Beat Your Dad at Chess". Not sure how widespread their use is.


  • Glad you are feeling better. There must be a sense of satisfaction that you are a scant five days from the finish. The time pressure certainly must force you to go for patterns and not calculation. Overall, do you think you have a better "feel" for the game?

    By Blogger Pale Morning Dun - Errant Knight de la Maza, at 8:53 AM  

  • Those mating patern names are universal (maybe a slight difference here and there because of the translation to the native language)

    By Anonymous logis, at 9:13 AM  

  • Here is what Dan Heisman says about that:

    He feels that pattern recognition is the multiplication table of chess. Remember when we had to memorize what 9 times 9 was? He feels it's the same thing. If you can't recognize a Boden's or Legal's Mate in the first couple of seconds then you are at a HUGE disadvantage to someone who can. It's like wasting time and energy working out a theorem to why 9 times 9 is 81. So he says for those basic tactics (think level 10 through 30 or 40 in CTArt), drill them until you see them in your sleep. He doesn't think the higher levels are as useful though. They are more a way of practicing what you have learned because they are usually a combination of the simpler tactics and occur much much less frequently than the simpler ones. Hope this adds to your toolbox.


    By Blogger Pawn Sensei, at 11:41 AM  

  • Very hard to say at this point. I haven't had any time for chess since I played in the club championship. I think I will need to have some time away from study and some time to let it gel before I think I should go trying out the new "tactical muscles". I'm thinking next Wednesday.

    By Blogger Don Q., at 11:43 AM  

  • This is just what I tried to tell to King Ots. Pattern recognition vs memorization. In some way memorization doesn't feel as effective.

    By Blogger Temposchlucker, at 1:06 PM  

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