I’ve been doing lots of tactics training this week, and hope my tactical vision is improving. The same cannot be said for my ocular vision. I’ve got a double organometallic chemistry lecture over lunch this year, and the lecturer is rather unreasonable with his lunch breaks. Today we were released ten minutes late and told to be back in seven, so I rushed to the café to grab something. Unfortunately all the good things were gone, and in severe time trouble I made the dubious choice of a chicken, jalapeño and cheese panini. Upon my return to the lecture I decided that the jalapeños needed to be picked out, before rubbing some sleepy dust from my eye. Chilli in the eye is not a pleasant experience, and my immediate attempt to wash it out with water from my bottle proved unsuccessful as I’d already used all the water to quench the fire in my mouth. Fortunately my friend Nicola was on hand with another bottle, and I spent the remainder of the lecture trying to wash my eye, and pouring most of the water into my lap.
Anyway, on to the chess. I’ve been doing tactics training in two different ways so far: with ICC’s TrainingBot, and with Playchess’s Tactics training. The former consists solely of mate problems, and gives you 20 minutes to solve them (so essentially unlimited time). I’ve been trying an interesting method promoted by Jim Grange, where as soon as you make a single mistake you erase the record of which problems you’ve done and return to the start. The idea as I understand it is to ‘hard-wire’ common tactical motifs into your brain, so that seeing them becomes automatic. His video can be seen here (may not be working at the moment), and an interesting article about a similar technique for the game Go can be read here.
Playchess’s Tactics training is a little different. You are presented with tactical problems – sometimes mates and sometimes just the winning of material – and given a minute to solve them. After solving each you are immediately presented with the next problem. In addition to the minute for each problem another clock is counting down from five minutes, and when this reaches zero the session is over. The aim is to solve thirty problems within the five minutes, but I haven’t come close yet. This approach puts you under pressure and forces you to try to think quickly, but on the other hand I am sometimes obliged to ‘guess’ the right move rather than calculate everything out (generally calculating everything until you are sure is what I hear recommended).
I’d be very interested to hear your thoughts on the pros and cons of each tool, your opinion of ‘hardwiring’, and tips for removing spicy things from eyes in a hurry.