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Visualization is quite an interesting subject. I just wanted to start a discussion on different techniques used by players.
Can you play blindfold chess? If so, then do you really see a clear board in your mind. Do you visualise a 3D board with pieces or a simple 2d board?
Do players split the visualised board into smaller parts (4x4 squares) or do they see the full 64 squares.
I'm lookign forward to the comments.
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If you have the gift....
I'm not a good chess player, but I had to ask "Does it really matter?" I'm not talking about your chess strength, but if you have the gift of visualization. If you have the gift, you know how it happens, if not, you'll be told something that you should just accept whatever it is.
As an intermediate Go player, I can repeat the whole game after playing the game, which is 120-150 moves with just all same black and white stones. I think it is a little harder than repeating a chess game. However, I cannot visualize any part of the board in my head even I was able to 'see' the patterns vaguely overlayed on the board. Actually, I cannot visualize anything in my head.
Just try this, look around your room for a couple of minutes, then close your eyes. Could you visualize it? If you can do that, you're gifted. I can't, but many people have the gift. It is a "gift", (sigh), so it is not a thing that someone can teach others that easily, if ever possible. I really want to know if someone out there who made it possible, without years of fasting and meditation.
Even without this gift, I might be able to play chess with checker pieces, and it would be at least years later from now.
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Cognitive psychologists have studied the memory/visualisation process. Several famous experiments have been carried out on chess experts. They were given memory tests on the position of chess pieces placed on a board. When the pieces were placed at random, the experts performed no better than complete novices at remembering where the pieces were. However when the pieces were placed in plausible game formations, the experts could memorise the layouts with remarkable ease.
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Visualisation vs Tempoisation
There are two distinct skills. Visualisation, as ampersand notes, is the ability to remember a position. Another skill is the ability to remember the moves of a game up to that position, which I call tempoisation. Visualisation can be thought of as a static skill, while tempoisation can be thought of as a dynamic skill.
Master players may not have any special visualisation skills. Instead, they may possess past-game memory skills, in which they remember their past games and those of other masters so well, as to remember the natural constrains and potential consequences of substructures in any given "real" position. This skill comes from deep analysis of one's games, which we can all develop. It is called work.
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visualisation does not have to be a gift, you are born with. their is a way to gain board vision, make a flashcards, lable the front a1 on the back of the card write black . do this with the 64 squares on the chess board. study the flashcards daily and this will help your vision of the board. also take your board out and lable the board, then study the board, after get a blank chess board and visualize a chess piece and place it on the board of the square you would like.(note please visualize your chess piece.) do this until you are familar with the board.also try to play a few blindfold chess games, but first i recommend that you study the chess board. Their is plenty other ways, that you can do it. =) good luck! tell me if this helps you or anyone.
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De Groot, Simon, etc., etc.
The concept of "chunking" in cognitive psychology made itself known in experiments by Simon and others at Carnegie-Mellon (I got to be a guinea pig for several CMU experiments, BTW <grin>). The reason stronger players can visualize and remember meaningful positions better is not an inherently better memory but rather a better organized memory. While most of us can hold 5-7 pieces of data in short-term memory at once, the "skilled" performer "chunks" more into each piece of data. For example, while a weak player remembers 7 single pieces, a master might remember a whole group of pieces (such as a castled K with Ps at h2, g2, f2 and N at f3) and hence can often reproduce the entire board after only seeing it for 5 seconds. Skilled performers in any field have similarly better-organized memories. For example, my father (a plant geneticist) could walk through the lab fields and recite gene lines, yields, etc., for dozens of varieties. I can't do that, but I can play 10 games blindfolded simultaneously (at least I used to be able to <LOL>) or 50 sighted games and remember them afterwards. Consequently, most cognitive psychologists agree that the memory can be trained (for example, studying typical tactics such as Bxh7+ or Bxf7+ sacrifices will improve our ability to recognize those patterns when they occur in our games). However, there may be some degrees of inherent ability which allow some to learn more from the same study of a data set . . . so it's not a simple question of nature vs. nurture, eh?
BTW, when playing blindfold, I alternate between visualizing a game in 3D totality with my favorite set and focusing on (visualizing) just one section of the board, but other masters have told me that the former is rare; most use the second technique almost exclusively.
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Wow, some nice feedbacks
Thanks fmgaijin and others for sharing your experiences.
About visualization, I'm still in doubt if it can be trained to get it. I think it is just natural to believe that it can be trained to be better, if you already have it. Maybe I'm part of a minor group who just cannot do it, like colour-blinds.
I really wanted that I could do some visualization when I was playing Go, another board game much more popular than chess in Japan, Korea and China. If I spent one hour to play through a master's game, I was able to put the pieces in exact same sequence from start to the end. And it is not a simple task for a casual player. However, I could not do that more than 10-15 moves without the pieces, with an empty board in front of me. Without the board, totally lost. And Go masters can play each other without the board for sure.
Anyway, I don't need visualization yet at my chess level (about 1450-1500 for now in GK). Usually, I defeat myself by playing so poorly without seeing the very next 1 or 2 moves.
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"Can you play blindfold chess?"
I've played through twenty moves before, but it becomes much more difficult as you go. Anyone can "play blindfold chess" through a few moves, and completing a game blindfolded (no less winning one) is a progression of the same exercise.
"If so, then do you really see a clear board in your mind. Do you visualise a 3D board with pieces or a simple 2d board?"
Neither. I believe that "seeing in your mind" is a dead metaphor. Drgandalf made the most lucid point in the whole thread when he brought up the distinction between visualizing pieces placed at random versus visualizing a position in a game. It's not that you see a board "in your mind," but you have an understanding of the potential and relationships between the pieces, blindfolded or not. So what we are looking for here is something more like deliberating instead of seeing, and hence a better question: "can you deliberate over a chess game without seeing the pieces in front of you?"
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This is a great (and free!) web site dedicated to chess-visualization training
exercizes. I have found it to be extremely helpful though I am not a particularly
strong player. I have noticed an improvement in my calculational accuracy in
tournament play since studying these exercizes periodically along with lots of
tactical puzzles. I agree with others that the ability to visualize is more
situation-specific and can be improved over time. For example, when I began
playing chess, I often played kind of randomly without a plan and as a result I
couldn't remember much about positions because I wasn't attuned to the salient
features of each position. As I have learned to try to develop an idea and follow a
plan throughout the game I find it easier to visualize because the various factors of
the position actually add up to something in my mind, whether that be a
combinational possibility or simply adding pressure by piling up on a weak pawn.
I have also noticed that it is easier for me to recall positions that are very sharp
where the play is very combinative and the moves are close to forced...but then, I
suppose that makes perfect sense ;-)
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Great site !
Thanx to than77. It's a great suggestion. I highly recommend the site...
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Re: Visualization training site
I forgot to add that the types of exercizes range from relatively simple, i.e. "What
color is the square e4?" To a little more complicated; "Are the squares e4 and and
g6 on the same diagonal?" to the more advanced exercizes where a description of a
position is given and you have to answer whether the position is a mate or not.
Some of those are really challenging but they are extremely helpful.
Glad to hear that others are making use of this wonderful resource,