Friday, January 28, 2011

Thought Process Revisited

I posted awhile back in my article called "Get out of My Head!" how freaking hard it was to come to some kind of rigid thought process. I have been mired in the same rating for about a year now. This is new territory for me because since I started playing tournament chess, I have had a very nice, rapid rise in rating. I have not been stuck at the same rating since my very first year playing.

It seems painfully obvious that in order to move forward, I'm going to have to correct my very poor thought process. Thinking about my 3rd grade teacher's cankles during the middle of an important game seems hardly beneficial, yet here these thoughts come out of nowhere.

When I should be executing a routine blunder check, I'm wondering what Barack Obama would look like with blue hair. Other thoughts that have occurred during a chess game:

Why are there no Japanese players in the NBA?
You can be overwhelmed and underwhelmed, but is there a such thing as simply being whelmed?
If I to choose between starving to death and eating fruit cake, I wonder which one I would choose.
God my opponent is taking a long time, oh, it's my turn.
I wish I would have put on some underwear today.

I eloquently described in my first article on thought process the reasons it is so difficult, but I've decided I'm going to do it. I also have a plan for achieving said thought process. I could go for some fruit snacks right now. You think I'm joking? I seriously just got up and ate some of my 3-year-old's Curious George fruit snacks. That's how I roll. Where was I? Oh yes, not getting distracted.

Here is my plan for building my thought process. Overhauling it completely and all-at-once is impossible and will just make you angry and want to beat up midgets. You need to approach this thing one building block at a time.

Step 1: Be aware of your opponents pieces
I set up Fritz for a couple of games with a normal 90' time control. I got out a score sheet and wrote "LOOK" in between each of my moves and Fritz' moves. Since you cannot keep notes on your score sheet in a regulation game, your computer opponent will have to do.

The goal was each time my opponent moved, I would actively process in my mind each one of his pieces. Nothing fancy, I would simply look at the pawn starting on h7 for example and say in my head "pawn, pawn, pawn, Rook, knight, bishop, queen..." My idea for calling out the name of the piece in my head ensures that I am looking at it and actively observing it.

Looking at each of my opponents pieces takes only about 5 seconds. A very good time investment to make sure you are observing all of your opponents pieces. My plan is to start from there.

Step 2: Blunder check
I will continue to do step 1 until it is automatic and a part of my routine. I will not start working hard on a blunder check until the first step is second nature. Bollocks you say! A blunder check should be the most important thing?

It's very important, don't get me wrong. The reason I wanted to start with piece placement is because if I can observe all of my opponents pieces (and at least by some measure his threats and the squares he controls, etc) then I will be avoiding a lot of blunders without a blunder check in the first place!

Let me be clear about something, I have no blunder check in my thought process. I have no routine which allows me to actively observe what all my opponents pieces are doing. So even though you may disagree with the order I'm approaching things, the important thing is that you are doing them.

That was a long way of me saying, shut up and don't question my wisdom. I plan on the blunder check being right before I move where I try to actively refute my intended move from my opponent's perspective.

Step 3: I haven't gotten this far yet. But I'm sure it will be awesome when I do.

You get the idea. A thought process overhaul has to come in small increments or it doesn't work. Time and practice will eventually yield the discipline I'm looking for. Thanks for reading.