ICS Thinking Like a Strong Player

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ICS Thinking Like a Strong Player

Post by BobbyBlunder on June 9th 2009, 4:23 pm

I am impressed with the notion of getting us to ask ourselves and do the following. They do not explicitly state the full thinking method in one place, as far as I can see -however I think it is this:
1. What is the threat?
2. What are the consequences of the last move?
3. Positional Evaluation
4. To Do List
5. Calculation

I like it, though a little more elaboration might have been helpful. So here are a few thoughts that might be worth considering

As we get stronger we become more aware of the threats are opponents are making.
However one area where there is a marked difference is that the stronger the player the more likely they are to realise that the threat is not a threat. If it is a threat, then strong players often find an active rather than a passive solution in the constant fight for the initiative. More time could have been spent here as it seems important.

On the issue of the consequences, it seems to me that the lesser players like myself are more likely not to take sufficient notice of the space left behind. We are usually well aware of the new points of contact and less aware of those contact points lost. Maybe a bit more in the course emphazing that might have been good. I know it does it to some extent, I just feel there could and should have been more.

When you get to the final set of excercises (months 10-13) it might have good to have been told what the last move was so we could have continued with the a complete check-list when solving the problems. Maybe it is not supposed to be a problem for us by then and the CSQ are second nature.

Between 2 and 3 I might add an initial tactical review in the Silman manner (Exposed King, Undefended pieces, Double Attack)

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Re: ICS Thinking Like a Strong Player

Post by hoopy on June 9th 2009, 4:56 pm

I pretty much agree with what has been said with the following caveat. One chess Teacher on ICC suggested that there are two stages before any of this.

Stage 1 Am I in check? & then evaluate what to do.
Stage 2 If not do I have a check & evaluate if it can lead to a winning combination.

I confess the first is so obvious it is not worth mentioning but the second one I believe does have value. If you can find a winning combination (forced as it leads from check) who cares about the positional aspects of the game? I have seen some really good examples of this where we might pin a piece but if we looked at the checks first there is a win of the piece or even mate. This does work for me but if I don't include it in my routine I would miss it (like I do in blitz)


Last edited by hoopy on June 9th 2009, 4:58 pm; edited 1 time in total (Reason for editing : spelliong)
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Re: ICS Thinking Like a Strong Player

Post by BobbyBlunder on June 9th 2009, 5:27 pm

Yes, that is a good point. Checking for a win does seem the first order of the day! I would have thought that the analysis when we don't find a win is useful as each time we calculate a line we learn something new about the position.

Unlike the Think Like A GrandMaster approach where we are supposed to analyze one line once, actual players do move back and forth between variations as ideas are discovered which affect a previous calculation. I think Tarjan in Improve Your Chess Now explains this well.

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Re: ICS Thinking Like a Strong Player

Post by Blue Devil Knight on June 10th 2009, 1:52 am

As has been suggested, step one, examining threats, should reveal any immediate tactical blows. It's a waste to think of anything else first, because if you can get a queen (or he can get a queen) then worrying about subtle pawn structure is koo-koo.

I have done a lot of research into thought process before this course, and the one thing I didn't incorporate was looking at consequences of previous move. In some ways, it shouldn't matter what the previous move was. You should be able to look at the position, not be told the previous move, and find the major important tactical and strategic contours of the position. On the other hand, in practice it is helpful to think concretely about move consequences (partly because if you have been doing good evaluation up until the previous move, then you can save yourself a lot of evaluation time by focusing on what the previous move changed).

At an extreme, say he misses you have mate in one, but one consequence of his move is that you can fork his bishop and queen. Do you even think about that? No, you just mate.

Even in the consequences problem set in month one, sometimes the consequences would be very concrete (e.g., this square or piece is no longer protected), sometimes fairly abstract (e.g., doesn't deal with the threat of a kingside attack).

Something they don't mention is when examining consequences you should also try to figure out your opponent's to do list. That is, what is he planning?

One of the most important rules of chess from Finegold is 'Never be surprised'. In other words, you never want him to make a move that was completely off your radar. The better I get the more I have predicted my opponent's moves. I think the consequences evaluation, coupled with figuring out his plans, is very useful, and something I don't do enough. Even if technically such heuristics aren't required to evaluate a position (this is proven by the fact that we can find the best move even just shown a position, without being told the previous move), they likely help in practice.

Frankly, I find it very difficult to do in my games consistently. Especially hard is taking the time to really examine the consequences of all of my candidate moves. What squares/pieces will be left unprotected, what will be newly protected, and can he exploit these things?

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Re: ICS Thinking Like a Strong Player

Post by chesstiger on June 10th 2009, 10:30 am

Blue Devil Knight wrote:"Something they don't mention is when examining consequences you should also try to figure out your opponent's to do list. That is, what is he planning?"

Maybe i am wrong but isn't the second step in the ics thoughproces to check out all (tactical) threats? Isn't that the same as looking for what your opponent might be planning?

Also when one goes over the piece value (and seeing where a piece could stand better) isn't that planning for yourself and seeing what your opponent might be planning?
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Re: ICS Thinking Like a Strong Player

Post by Blue Devil Knight on June 10th 2009, 10:42 am

chesstiger wrote:Maybe i am wrong but isn't the second step in the ics thoughproces to check out all (tactical) threats? Isn't that the same as looking for what your opponent might be planning?

Also when one goes over the piece value (and seeing where a piece could stand better) isn't that planning for yourself and seeing what your opponent might be planning?

Interesting points. While tactical threats aren't the same as plans/to do lists, when evaluating the position we do often find what the plans are for both sides. However, that is different from finding what his last move reveals about his likely plan in this situation (this is related to a previous point: even though evaluating a given position doesn't technicallyrequire you to know his previous move, it still helps to know his previous move, so also knowing his previous move may reveal interesting features of which of the many potential plans he is going for).

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Re: ICS Thinking Like a Strong Player

Post by Blue Devil Knight on June 10th 2009, 10:58 am

For the record, my thought process has previously been:
1) Threat scan: look for threats.
2) Planning: evaluate the position to generate plans and candidate moves.
3) Analyze: consider the consequences of each candidate move and select the
candidate with the best consequences.
4) Blundercheck: Quickly check for one-move disasters.
5) Move

With the ICS course, it is very similar (all that think about it agree that doing a threat scan first is absolutely crucial), but I don't have an explicit step to look at how the previous move effects things. In other words, my thought process is almost as if built for looking at a fresh position you have never seen (e.g., you don't know the previous move), while the ICS incorporates how to use information from the previous move into your thinking.

I am still getting used to it, but clearly it is very helpful, especially for avoiding gross blunders as you have to look at which types of interactions between pieces have disappeared and appeared (the five interactions from their tactics white paper in the first month).

You can find a PDF I wrote about this thought process here:
http://kingassassins.50webs.com/CP.3.pdf

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Re: ICS Thinking Like a Strong Player

Post by BobbyBlunder on June 11th 2009, 7:28 pm

I wanted to say something about confidence and self belief.

But before I harp in about results I want to be a bit Zen and encourage us all to enjoy the process of learning, playing and becoming stronger as an end in itself. Forget ELO. Its just a number and will follow improvement of its on accord. Play chess and strive to win every game. Don't play to win rating points.

OK back to our regularly scheduled progamming.

One conclusion from modern education theory is that learning and achievement is heavily influenced by the level of self-belief - and that this self-belief is largely influenced by key figures notably teachers and parents (in the young) and your perception of their expectations of you

As adults we are going to have to pick ourselves up by our own boot straps.

So this must mean part of thinking like a strong player is confidence in oneself to achieve great things.

That being said then, I don't want to hear self-deprecating modest from you people!! Look in the mirror and know that you are looking at a talented player. You have one hundred billion brain cells for god's sake.

Competitive? I should say so! You beat 200 million competing sperms to get to the egg first and grab life. What a guy!

Believe in your self at all times, fear nothing, concentrate fully at the board whether studying or playing and when the clock starts stick at move one, work hard and muster all the fighting strength within you.

Go get'em tiger.

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Re: ICS Thinking Like a Strong Player

Post by Chess? on June 11th 2009, 11:36 pm

well put bobby. thanks I will be looking a things a little differently going forward.
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Re: ICS Thinking Like a Strong Player

Post by hoopy on June 12th 2009, 7:30 am

I guess we should stop the false modesty then & give it hell!!
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Re: ICS Thinking Like a Strong Player

Post by AoxomoxoA on July 9th 2009, 6:20 am

Does anyone knows what to do if it is NOT our move?

I think its waist of time an energie to think about all possible answers of our oponent and do the whole stuff for every answer in advance. To search for tactical and positional pictures might be good, they dont change that quick.

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Re: ICS Thinking Like a Strong Player

Post by hoopy on July 9th 2009, 7:52 am

I read somewhere (not sure if it is ICS) - As a rule of thumb develop your long term thinking - "to do" on opponents move and convert them into tactics and consequences on your own time. Remember I don't necessarily practice what I preach.
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Re: ICS Thinking Like a Strong Player

Post by Blue Devil Knight on July 9th 2009, 10:40 am

AoxomoxoA wrote:Does anyone knows what to do if it is NOT our move?

I think its waist of time an energie to think about all possible answers of our oponent and do the whole stuff for every answer in advance. To search for tactical and positional pictures might be good, they dont change that quick.

I think it depends how sharp the position is. If he has just one or two possible moves, I think about what my response should be, what he will do, etc.. If it is quiet, I do more general planning, and sometimes think about crazy moves I'd like to make (perhaps I can actually make them).

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Re: ICS Thinking Like a Strong Player

Post by BobbyBlunder on July 9th 2009, 11:35 am

AoxomoxoA wrote:Does anyone knows what to do if it is NOT our move?

Great question. I have not previously given that much attention when reconstructing the thinking model. According to the Soviets positions are either 'settled' or 'concrete'. If it is a settled position, then the ICS model suggests positional evaluation. I would have thought that one might anticipate the most likely move and examine the threat and consequences of that. One might examine any impact of all that on the TO DO list. Some might object to the time spent on a move the opponent does not play, however I imagine one might uncover aspects of the position that could provide useful in other variations. That is not uncommon.

If the position is concrete, then it must be about calculation.

Sometimes I suppose it might be a good idea to walk away from the board look at it from the opponents side and return to the table with a fresh perspective.

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