Five Basic Skills
I have the impression that some of us bloggers, me included, are in danger to get lost in theories, discussions and statistics about details of unknown importance, to say it politely. We, and me, are in danger of missing the real thing.
I mean, chess training is about improving basic tactical skills, and I dare to say that even grandmasters make use just of the same basic skills as we do. Only they are magnitudes more precise and faster than we are. I have tried to put these skills together, and I found five of them:
- Square Vision: Squares controlled by pieces (x-rays included) pop out and are perceived as distinct from other squares.
- Pattern Vision: Geometric patterns formed by pieces and controlled squares (such as basic checkmates, pins, forks, skewers and the like) pop out and are perceived as distinct from the rest of the position.
- Move Vision: Ability to visualize a position after one or more moves have been made (avoiding retained and anticipated images).
- Evaluation: Material counting with unequal trades in move sequences, counting of attack-defense balances, assessment of races (pawn promotion race, capture race), assessment of positional advantage, assessment of urgency, ranking of candidate targets, patterns and moves.
- Discipline: Always looking at the whole board (avoiding tunnel vision), always looking at opponent resources (as well as the own), coolness (not being euphoric in advantage nor frightened in danger), well-organized thinking (avoiding quiescence and overcalculation errors).
I think that it is possible to get the tactical abilities of a grandmaster just by optimizing these five basic skills. Of course, this will not be sufficient to become a GM, because a lot of positional knowledge will be necessary, plus tons of openings, plus more tons of endgames.
Of course I am aware that my square, pattern and move vision never will reach the GM level. Never. But I have already have made some progress. For instance, I have now done hundreds of problems at CTS without leaving my king in check one single time any more.