Sunday, August 7, 2011

Chess960 and Bobby Fischer's observation of "pre-arranged" chess games

Bobby Fischer was a genius and so often he used language in a way that we are not familiar with. We think we understood him but actually we were not listening, we were just operating off our own assumptions of what we think he meant. One of the biggest controversies is what Bobby meant when he talked about "pre-arranged" chess games.....

It sounds like match fixing........I used to get confused about what Bobby was talking about. But Bobby was talking about "pre-arrangement" in the sense that both players have organised what they are going to play on the board before they get there (independently from each other).

The idea of "pre-arrangement" is that as Bobby noted, it should be stated up front (acknowledged rather than blindly accepted). What is the difference between playing from an opening book in your mind, compared to if both players actually used a physical opening book as they were playing through the opening?

If there was a physical book, everybody would be clear about what is happening. As it is now, the book is in human memory. But what is the difference? It is just the quality and the quantity of the recall drops. But actually the quality of recall even in human memory is quite excellent for quite some time in the chess opening. The quality drops away as the limits of the quantity of stored information is reached.

But it does not change the fact that the game up to the point of the breakdown in recall, was proceeding according to pre-arranged knowledge. There is no problem with that except that it should be acknowledged and discussed rather than blindly accepted.

People might say "but we don't know when the recall broke down in the players head and that the player is then thinking at the moment and so how do we know that it is pre-arranged?" That is a good point! However there is a strong possibility that rout memory techniques are increasingly being used in the computer age right through from GM's to amateurs.....

Yes I hear the critics out there saying that even Chess960 is pre-arranged in the sense that we learn concepts and commit them to memory from previous experiences and even from books. But the "pre-arrangement" is one of learning concepts rather than specific moves and there are a variety of different forms of memory being used during the Chess960 opening.

Yes I hear the critics out there saying that even when they are memorizing openings in traditional chess, they are still learning concepts about chess. Now that is true, but the concepts actually are a side line activity to the physical act of memorizing. Even at GM level the GM's are finding new memories to commit, based off specific tactical or positional issues. Yes even they are still learning a concept of some kind but where is the balance in the variety of ways of thinking during the traditional opening?

Chess960 is a cultural revolution that is under way. It encourages on the spur of the moment application of concepts in the way that we think. It contrasts different ways of thinking and allows a variety of ways of thinking. You can purely work of concepts that you have, or even memorize specific lines in some cases.

It is a revolution where we humans discuss the nature of conceptual thought relative to specific memories. In psychology they call it "procedural memory" verses "declarative memory". Procedural means "Concept" and declarative means specific declaration "King pawns opening means e4-e5".

I put it to you that ultimately it is all about memory. It is just that during the Chess960 opening, 960 actually uses the human mind in a variety of ways, reaching into skills and memories from many processes in the brain during the opening phase.

That is my belief.

Here is the real crunch line. Chess960 uses one process in the mind that is hardly ever used in traditional chess any more. Chess960 is so huge in extent, that you simply cannot claim to be "proud" unless you are deluded. The sheer quantity of possibilities in the Chess960 opening encourages a process of humility in the face of situations that are difficult to anticipate even for a genius like Bobby Fischer.


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