Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Voices in My Head

Voices in My Head

In the eighties my family did a great deal of camping in the Maine Woods and I purchased a Filson hat to keep my head dry in the worst of rain and snow. The Filson became most unsightly over the years. My kids called it "The Hat". One very rainy day when I was working in South Boston, commuting via the T, while preparing to slosh to Broadway Station amid a hellatious storm the owner of the company asked me: "Mike why do you wear that hat?" Answer: "To keep the voices away."

[Editor's note: The more traditional way to block the voices is the aluminum foil hat, the efficacy of which has been investigated at MIT (see abstract below):]

But I digress...

When the first English version of "Think Like a GrandMaster" arrived in 1971 Alexander Kotov outlined how one should think during a chess game. Kotov suggests that one should select several "candidate moves" and explore these. Then describes the branching variations analysis analogous to the limbs of a tree. And then when one is about to move Kotov suggested that one should go into another mode, first write the move down (which currently varies from current USCF rules- BTW) and evaluate one last pass checking for blunders, checks, and opponent responses. Then make the move. Also he talked about what you should think about while waiting for your opponent who is "on the move"/WWOM. At that time I was greatly influenced by the book and actually worked hard to unlearn my self learned chess thinking approach and use this more disciplined way.

Returning to OTB from my 19 year sabbatical I didn't think much about how to think. Although Rolf Wetzell and many others have written about how one should approach thinking during a game; to me they are lightweights when compared to Kotov.

In regards to analysis during a game, probably the best not common knowledge advice I ever got (and I can't remember the name of the person): Only analyze down variations once, learn to be as precise as possible in one pass. Don't go back unless you feel the position has changed or some new idea pops into your head. At a maximum only check it once before you move, if you have time. Learn to have confidence in your analysis.

Today I find that if I'm to move I think in a loose Kotovian way, but while in WWOM state many times I hear voices: like Larry Christiansen: "Look for the violent forcing move." Chris Chase: "You've got to check every check. & Mike you've got to work harder." Harry Lyman: "Get your pieces on good squares." Irving Yaffee: "Ask. What is my opponent trying to do?" I have no strategic voice, and that's probably explains why I play the way I play.

And if you notice I never wear my Filson to tournaments no matter how hard it rains.

What are some of your suggestions and ideas on how to think during a chess game?

Please Comment.

Thank You.

Mike Griffin 02/25/2009


On the Effectiveness of Aluminium Foil Helmets: An Empirical Study

Ali Rahimi1, Ben Recht 2, Jason Taylor 2, Noah Vawter 2
17 Feb 2005]


Among a fringe community of paranoids, aluminum helmets serve as the protective measure of choice against invasive radio signals. We investigate the efficacy of three aluminum helmet designs on a sample group of four individuals. Using a $250,000 network analyser, we find that although on average all helmets attenuate invasive radio frequencies in either directions (either emanating from an outside source, or emanating from the cranium of the subject), certain frequencies are in fact greatly amplified. These amplified frequencies coincide with radio bands reserved for government use according to the Federal Communication Commission (FCC). Statistical evidence suggests the use of helmets may in fact enhance the government's invasive abilities. We speculate that the government may in fact have started the helmet craze for this reason.

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