Is blindfold training useful?

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Is blindfold training useful?

Post by Blue Devil Knight on May 24th 2009, 10:07 am

I have always been critical of the 'memorize square color' approach for reasons I spelled out here:
http://chessconfessions.blogspot.com/2009/03/practical-chess-analysis-is-board.html

I think good blindfold visualization comes from chess skill improvements, not vice versa. It seems like a crappy use of time frankly.

Is there actual research, data on this question? No, unfortunately, but they do discuss it in one psychological review article that I summarized at this post.

However, I will likely give it a shot once I start their exercises in Month 2 as I am putting myself in the hands of this course, so screw it.


Last edited by Blue Devil Knight on May 26th 2009, 9:40 am; edited 1 time in total

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Re: Is blindfold training useful?

Post by Chess? on May 24th 2009, 11:20 am

Blue Devil Knight wrote:I have always been critical of the 'memorize square color' approach for reasons I spelled out here:
http://chessconfessions.blogspot.com/2009/03/practical-chess-analysis-is-board.html

I think good blindfold visualization comes from chess skill improvements, not vice versa. It seems like a crappy use of time frankly.

Is there actual research, data on this question? No, unfortunately, but they do discuss it in one psychological review article that I summarized at this post.

However, I will likely give it a shot once I start their exercises in Month 2 as I am putting myself in the hands of this course, so screw it.

I would have to agree with you BDK. I really can’t see the advantage of knowing all the squares the knight will hit to arrive at d4. I understand that the people at ICS are far better at this game than I, but I am struggling with the why?
The board visualization exercise is enough to drive me crazy.
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Re: Is blindfold training useful?

Post by Blue Devil Knight on May 24th 2009, 12:35 pm

My hunch is there is enough in this course to not worry about that. Perhaps use that time to study good tactics problems.

In real games, the board is there in front of you. I like to follow the maxim to 'Train how you play', so why train blindfold when you don't play blindfold? OTOH, they could say it's like training for baseball with an extra heavy bat, or riding your bicycle in a really low gear even up hills. You wouldn't do that in the actual game/race, but it focuses attention on particular skills you need for race day.

Clearly that is the spirit of these exercises.

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Re: Is blindfold training useful?

Post by chesstiger on May 25th 2009, 5:54 am

Did you never see Ivanchuck or Gelfand stare in the audience, distance? While doing that the pieces on their mental board are moving back and forth while they are calculate variations after variations to see which move is best.

So one benefit of visualisation is that you may move the pieces around even when it's not your move so that you can see easier for example the consequences of that move(s) and it becomes easier to calculate variations because you dont lose track of where the pieces stand or which piece is taken.

This all said i must admit i cant visualize a chessboard and the pieces on it but i am certain that if i can do it my calculation of variants and finding the best move will improve.
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Re: Is blindfold training useful?

Post by Blue Devil Knight on May 25th 2009, 10:58 am

I have one other point. It isn't enough just learn the squares and diagonals. From what perspective are you learning them? Black or white? I think it is important to learn to visualize the a1-h8 diagonal both from white's perspective and from black's perspective.

That's why, on my flash cards, on one side I list the algebraic name of the square, and both names from descriptive notation (from black and white's perspective), and on the other side I have an image of the board from white's perspective and from black's perspective with the squares labeled. Yes, the board looks the exact same, but the labels are different. And in the real game, there are differences. Black castles to the left, white castles to the right and their Kings end up on different color squares when they castle.

These details are extremely important, and I have never seen them discussed. Just memorizing d4? Seems not all that useful. This is one shortcoming of the obviously better algebraic system of representation.

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Re: Is blindfold training useful?

Post by cofresi on May 25th 2009, 11:10 am

We might be talking of two different things -- memorizing the color of the square, or even calculating the color of the square is not the goal. But getting comfortable and knowing the board IS the long-term goal. Knowing the board as more than a sum of its squares...

A language analogy: when you STUDY a language (as opposed to being raised in the language) you might have to learn the form of the subjunctive, or the preterite or what have you, and then you practice a free variation of that form. And so you memorize the form, or you can even calculate new word forms according to morphology, etc. The goal is not to memorize the past tenses of each and every word, or even to calculate new forms for the sake of calculating.

The long term goal is to simply internalize the language, and exercises are meant to help us internalizing. If you don't practice the rule, you get stuck when you want to conjugate new words, whereas students who know the rule can come up with the new word they want.

We don't always see the connection between the exercise and the long term goal. Why learn square names or colors? Well, we're actually learning our way around the board, not just the name of the square.

Other possible advantages: exercising chunking - the capacity to hold more information, as we see more pieces on a mental board. And: getting a feel for the geometries under the position.

So -- I can learn Spanish from my friends, and have gaps -- or I can learn and exercise the forms to discover new board geometries I don't yet know.

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Re: Is blindfold training useful?

Post by HangingKing on May 25th 2009, 3:20 pm

The analogy with languages is good, but i must give credit to BDK.

Let assume your goal in a foreign language is to learn a lot of words.
One strategy is to open the dictionnary and start learning all the words, if this seems too weird, let assume the words are not in aplhabetical order but sorted by thematics according to a new revolutionnary method. Whatever, you will effectively learn many words but at a great effort or at least without taking pleasure in it.

On the other side, you can just decide to practice the language normally, and you will progressively start to read books, newspapers or look at movies in this language. As a consequence, your vocabulary will also increase.

In definitive, will you learn more words with method 1 or with method 2 ?

I think the problematic is the same with chess board visualization, as BDK says in his blog, it may also simply come from your deeper experience in chess practicing, so why wonder with visualization exercises (reading the dictionnary) ?

I guess, as usual, that nothing is black or white, so a good balance between all the possible methods is surely worthy, and i will do these exercises, but there is no need to get too hard on them, i believe.

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Re: Is blindfold training useful?

Post by chesstiger on May 26th 2009, 6:11 am

I am wondering why some say that they dont need this visualisation when they have a board in front of them? Since it's actually part of all that we have seen in month one.

If i play move x then what are the consequences of that move? Is the question that we have learned to ask ourself in month one. With board visualization this is easier to answer since we see the position (with the move already played) right in front of our mind's eye. We will not forget a little detail like we do when just looking at the board in front of us with the position on it without the move we are contemplating.

So board visualisation has nothing to do with the board in front of us but with the position in front of us + x move (where x is the total of moves we are seeing ahead at a given time) thus meaning the actual analyse of any given position.
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Re: Is blindfold training useful?

Post by Blue Devil Knight on May 26th 2009, 8:55 am

Chesstiger: Nobody argues that visualization is unimportant. It's whether blindfold training is helpful for such skills or there is a better use of one's time.

Psychological review of chess improvement literature:
"We believe that playing blindfold chess is at best useless, and at worst harmful to one’s development. The ability of playing blindfold comes more as a side effect of having acquired a well organized and easily accessible knowledge base (Ericsson & Staszewski, 1989; Saariluoma, 1995). Practicing blindfold as such may be harmful when it interferes with other types of training."

Quote is from the paper:
http://people.brunel.ac.uk/%7Ehsstffg/preprints/Training_in_chess.PDF

This blindfold training stuff seems like old school Russian dogma.

However, I will do whatever they suggest. Perhaps someone who has done all this and is in month 5 can say they are a success story that blindfold training is really good.

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Re: Is blindfold training useful?

Post by Blue Devil Knight on May 26th 2009, 9:35 am

HangingKing wrote:I think the problematic is the same with chess board visualization, as BDK says in his blog, it may also simply come from your deeper experience in chess practicing, so why wonder with visualization exercises (reading the dictionnary) ?

I guess, as usual, that nothing is black or white, so a good balance between all the possible methods is surely worthy, and i will do these exercises, but there is no need to get too hard on them, i believe.

I think this is right. I think it would be a mistake to spend too much time on blindfold type training, but hopefully a little bit won't hurt Smile (Or make us go insane, as psychoanalysts used to say ). What a Face

PS Chesstiger I like your new avatar.

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Re: Is blindfold training useful?

Post by HangingKing on May 26th 2009, 9:54 am

Me too, this avatar rocks !

Well i made also a mistake, something is black or white : the chessboard. cat

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Re: Is blindfold training useful?

Post by hoopy on May 26th 2009, 12:28 pm

10/10 for avatar. As they say "it rocks".
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Re: Is blindfold training useful?

Post by cofresi on May 26th 2009, 2:14 pm

Blue Devil Knight wrote:

However, I will do whatever they suggest. Perhaps someone who has done all this and is in month 5 can say they are a success story that blindfold training is really good.

We all agree that practicing VCB (Visualizing the Chess Board) is good in moderation. Thanks for the quote BDK, and to be sure, I don't think VCB is the same as playing entire blindfold chess games, which is the extreme form and is not that helpful to me except maybe as a bar trick. For me, the goal is not to PLAY blindfold chess games. But blindfold training - I hope - is worthwhile.

For those of you who still have not hit month 4 or 5 -- I'll tell you the exercises get harder and harder! So the course will ask you to invest more and more time at this, and it will challenge your idea of "moderation". So you'll have to think about your commitment to this exercise. In my case, I have started to spend more time (of the little I have) on this exercise than on other parts of the course. I'm struggling through some sections that take more than a day -- Hopefully that is temporary.

I still feel there is something to gain after this work. There HAS to be a gain, otherwise the program will fail on that promise. So, but what could be the gain? Do we have the correct expectations of what we will gain from VCB? I don't expect to play blindfold, and I'm not interested in that. So then, again, what is the goal?

Let's approach from another angle: There is a problem in OTB games called chess blindness. Maybe it's the opposite of VCB. You have the board in front of you. You're looking at the board, and yet you don't see the blundering move that is right in front of you, in 3-D reality.

Maybe one cause of chess blindness is vision fatigue. I know sometimes I look at the board and I can't even see the lines anymore. You need "fresh eyes" (a concept explained in month 04 or 05). And you also need to be able to get up, stretch, get fresh air, change your view.

I'm hoping that VCB can come in handy at those points. If I can carry a better image of the board with me, I can give myself a break from the physical board and get less fatigued. That's what I'll experiment and track as I work on VCB. Staying less physically fatigued by carrying a better mental image.

I'm also curious about the connection between chess blindness, VCB, and calculation limits...

Thanks for the eye-opening discussion!!
(Sorry, could not resist...)

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Re: Is blindfold training useful?

Post by Blue Devil Knight on May 26th 2009, 2:53 pm

Cofresi, thanks for the great input to this discussion. This topic has always fascinated me.

It seems you are reinforcing the idea of VCB exercises as like training for hitting baseballs by putting weights on the bat. In the real game, you are ready to swing!

Maybe to get my wife to play against me I can play blindfold. Then at least she will win and not hate chess! Smile

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Re: Is blindfold training useful?

Post by hoopy on May 26th 2009, 3:08 pm

Blue Devil Knight wrote:Cofresi, thanks for the great input to this discussion. This topic has always fascinated me.

It seems you are reinforcing the idea of VCB exercises as like training for hitting baseballs by putting weights on the bat. In the real game, you are ready to swing!

Maybe to get my wife to play against me I can play blindfold. Then at least she will win and not hate chess! Smile

I received an email from someone at my local chessclub which may help in your final point. The email goes " If a woman (your wife) talks or complains too much about your chess, a fool would tell her to be quiet or stop talking. A wise man would tell her how beautiful she looks when her lips are together"
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Re: Is blindfold training useful?

Post by Blue Devil Knight on May 26th 2009, 3:22 pm

hoopy wrote:I received an email from someone at my local chessclub which may help in your final point. The email goes " If a woman (your wife) talks or complains too much about your chess, a fool would tell her to be quiet or stop talking. A wise man would tell her how beautiful she looks when her lips are together"

LMAO. That is classic.

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Re: Is blindfold training useful?

Post by chesstiger on May 27th 2009, 4:56 am

"We believe that playing blindfold chess is at best useless, and at worst harmful to one’s development. The ability of playing blindfold comes more as a side effect of having acquired a well organized and easily accessible knowledge base (Ericsson & Staszewski, 1989; Saariluoma, 1995). Practicing blindfold as such may be harmful when it interferes with other types of training."

In the same study is stated: " 1. Learning occurs best from the simple to the complex. This principle may also be described as gradually building up from the known to the unknown. It follows from the theory, because the building blocks of knowlegde must be acquired first, before they can, for example, be used as variables in templates.

2. Learning occurs best by when the elements to be learnt are clearly identified. This helps provide a context for indexing as well as guidance for generalization.

3. Learning occurs best by following an 'improving spiral' where the learner comes back to the same position, or material, and adds increasingly more complex new information to its knowledge-base. This process increasses the change of creating cross-referencing links."

So i guess if you are learning blindfold chess it's best to start with the easy thing namely the chessboard squares. They are very easy to index and are a perfect guidance for how the pieces move (file, rank, diagnal).
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Re: Is blindfold training useful?

Post by chesstiger on May 27th 2009, 5:38 am

cofresi wrote:

We all agree that practicing VCB (Visualizing the Chess Board) is good in moderation.

From the course itself: "The good news is that the training is not hard and takes only some few minutes per week. The process cannot be hurried up too much as your mind has to get used with this".
I guess a few minutes per week is indeed moderation. They even give the warning that doing more can be doing less since the mind has to get used with it.

cofresi wrote:

Let's approach from another angle: There is a problem in OTB games called chess blindness. Maybe it's the opposite of VCB. You have the board in front of you. You're looking at the board, and yet you don't see the blundering move that is right in front of you, in 3-D reality.

Maybe one cause of chess blindness is vision fatigue. I know sometimes I look at the board and I can't even see the lines anymore. You need "fresh eyes" (a concept explained in month 04 or 05). And you also need to be able to get up, stretch, get fresh air, change your view.

I forgot how they called the image (retention image maybe?) but it's an image where one of the pieces isn't put on it's correct square. So in analysis one makes a mistake thanks to this wrongfully placed piece in the image. That's probably one of the reasons why they have written some words about "fresh eyes".

Also, with visualisation (blindfold chess with the correct starting position) is a good thing to not have such retention image(??) since if one can do this properly one will still have the just image of the position even after x-moves deep into your analysis.
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Re: Is blindfold training useful?

Post by Blue Devil Knight on May 27th 2009, 9:24 am

Interesting points CT. I guess we could say if blindfold training is useful, then they are teaching it in a good way (i.e., in moderation).

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Re: Is blindfold training useful?

Post by Chess? on May 27th 2009, 9:06 pm

hoopy wrote:
Blue Devil Knight wrote:Cofresi, thanks for the great input to this discussion. This topic has always fascinated me.

It seems you are reinforcing the idea of VCB exercises as like training for hitting baseballs by putting weights on the bat. In the real game, you are ready to swing!

Maybe to get my wife to play against me I can play blindfold. Then at least she will win and not hate chess! Smile

I received an email from someone at my local chessclub which may help in your final point. The email goes " If a woman (your wife) talks or complains too much about your chess, a fool would tell her to be quiet or stop talking. A wise man would tell her how beautiful she looks when her lips are together"

nicely put. Exclamation
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Re: Is blindfold training useful?

Post by AoxomoxoA on June 28th 2009, 7:17 pm

The ability to play blindfold makes it easier to calculate deep. If you suddenly have a problem on the board where you have to analyse several moves deep ( endgame? difficult tactic?) this ability will help you. If you are able to play blindfold then a 10 moves sequence is no problem for you. Further: to analyse long sequences is very energy consuming. At a turnament you dont burn out that quick because its less work for you to "visualise" even short sequences. And visualise you do with all calculations.

And then "We believe that" !
Is it theology ?

In a summery of the referenced article Article (see google ): "Ericsson, K. A., & Staszewski, J. J. (1989). Skilled memory and expertise: Mechanisms of exceptional performance. " I could not find somthing about blindfold chess. Its about LTM STM and so on.
The article : Saariluoma - Chess and Content-Oriented Psychology of Thinking ( you may find it al www.scribd.com ) i found no negativ word about blindfold chess. but i did not read the whole book.

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Re: Is blindfold training useful?

Post by Blue Devil Knight on June 29th 2009, 9:17 am

Yes, Aoxomoxoa, I gave those reference partly because it isn't clear they are actually relevant. Strange, eh?

I am now convinced that the moderate way they teach it at ICS is very good, and I am working through it slowly every other day or so. I am not sure if I already cited it here, but it inspired a blog post where I make the analogy to wearing ankle weights while practicing before a running competition (or putting weights on a baseball bat before going to the plate).

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Re: Is blindfold training useful?

Post by HangingKing on June 30th 2009, 10:27 pm



I wonder about something regarding blinfold practice.
Can it help to "see" opponent board ?

For example i play black and i'm concentrated on the purpose of breaking these 2 pawns on the edge, if seems to me a bit of zugzwang, so i play a waiting move (h pawn i think).

On the other side below, white sees only one thing that blink on the screen, my hanging queen, and logically plays powerful Qxd5 !.



I was completely blind at this queen sacrifice, which seems so obvious from white point of view when i turn the board (and it was not a hurry move, i took my time). Of course with some more attention i could have detected this threat, but the point is, it is difficult to see for black, and quite immediate for white.

Do you think blindfold practice can help to see the board as your opponent observe it ?
For the moment i do not succeed in this exercise i guess Smile

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Re: Is blindfold training useful?

Post by chesstiger on July 1st 2009, 6:07 am

This has nothing to do with blindfold chess but rather with a thinking error namely step two in ics thoughtproces scanning for tactical threats. You just overlooked this Qxd5+.

I doubt it would be a good thing to see the board from opponents view in blindfold version since this threat one must see from ones own viewpoint. In otb chess one doesn't turn the board around just to look at the game from your opponents perspective, neither should one do so in blindfold chess.
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Re: Is blindfold training useful?

Post by Blue Devil Knight on July 1st 2009, 6:16 am

chesstiger wrote: In otb chess one doesn't turn the board around just to look at the game from your opponents perspective, neither should one do so in blindfold chess.

Actually I find this very helpful. In tournaments I will sometimes walk over to my opponent's side just to see what he is seeing. At ICC this can be done with the 'flip' command. When doing the visualization exercises, I do them from both black and white's perspective.

I think this is an underdiscussed, and perhaps underappreciated aspect of visualization. The board looks quite different from black and white's view, and getting a different perspective on a position can only help your game.

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