Scientific Test, Part VI: Discussion
Target Feature Count (TFC) is a simple and stupid patzer method. Firstly, it disregards the position. Secondly, it disregards the relation of the targets other than simple tactics. Thirdly, all features are treated and counted as equal. And in the fourth instance, all positional features such as open files, ranks and diagonals, strong outposts and pawn weaknesses are completely ignored. Therefore, it cannot be expected that TFC always can find the most important target in any position.
In a quiet, equal position there are no targets that are ready to be attacked. In such a position, TFC will be of no use at all. The best moves will be moves that gain positional features, and these are not counted in TFC. Maybe it would be worthwhile do develop a similar method that could be called Positional Feature Count.
For the reason mentioned before, the TFC test was performed only with positions where Deep Shredder saw a remarkable advantage for one side.
Despite of being simple and stupid, the test scored between 85 and 90 percent both in sensitivity and specificity. This is clearly better than I expected, but of course it is far from being sufficient. If it were, chess would be simple and all patzers could become grandmasters.
Even a perfect TFC would not be able to show the best move, because in most cases there is more than one move to attack a given target. In order to find the best move, pattern recognition is strongly required. It will show by which moves in which order the attack must run.
It may be criticized that TFC is a mechanistic approach, neglecting all creativity of chess play. Well, grandmasters may be creative, let them be! But we patzers must first learn to count. That's it. My idea is that counting is just a first step. Stronger players will not just count features in a digital way, but they will integrate the values of differently weighted features to one target value.
Pure pattern recognition without any idea of a target is just trial and error. In a complicated positon, there will always be too many candidate moves, and considering all of them will bring us into time trouble, even in a slow game. The idea behind TFC is to give pattern recognition an idea where the music plays in a position.
TFC may also give a hint whether a position is tactical or not. With a total of six or more target features in a position a tactic is very likely. In the positions that I have tested, there were 7.6 target features on average, and all of these were tactical positions.
This answers the question of when to perform a TFC. It is best to do it all the time. Counting, by the way, is just a method that forces the player to look at all aspects of a position. Therefore, TFC is no wasting of time.