Friday, October 17, 2014


A few years ago I wrote a six part blog series (over 20 pages) on calculation that I  recently decided to take down.  It represented several years of work, but after reflecting on some very basic ideas in attack/defense I decided that I disagreed with my core premise and I only want to put out there my more thoughtful thoughts.

The essence of the blog series covered my experience learning about and practicing calculation.  I spent a year reading everything I could about calculation and doing 100+ Stoyko exercises to practice good calculation.  It was incredibly rewarding to see how my thought process improved with each session.  Here are a few scans of my hand-written notes from those earlier sessions:

I then spent a few months writing down everything that I learned and gave many, many tips on how to calculate better, and what common problems I found.  I got about 90% of my variations correct towards the end, but the most common mistake I found was not considering my opponent's most forcing response when visualizing a line several ply deep (usually 5-6 ply, but sometimes even at 2 ply...ack!).

So my core message was that, in order to calculate more efficiently, you should always calculate the most forcing moves first.  I sort of glossed over the issue of whether you have to calculate every forcing move at every ply...something that really annoyed me.

I gave calculation/Stoyko exercises a break for a while and went back to focusing on endgames, and in the course of not thinking about calculation, I made a personal calculation breakthrough that I am still trying to mold into my old theory.

Basically I realized that, when there is a concrete threat on the board (and you must first train to identiy ALL threats in a position, and then prioritize them) you do not in fact have to calculate all checks, captures and threats.  Instead, your list of candidate moves should be developed by considering the basic defensive ideas relative to the specific threat on the board: capture, block, move, defend, and counterattack.

Since then I've used this new "calculation logic", as I call it, when doing my regular tactical exercises and it has definitely helped me avoid calculating unecessary forcing lines that I would have otherwise written down when doing Stoyko.  I can't say that I have suddenly been able to immediately solve any problem, but this thought process has not/not prevented me from finding the right idea by exclusion.

Instead what I have realized is that my mistakes are now mostly "visual".  What I mean is that I now ask myself if I can, for example, counterattack with an equal or greater threat, but I might not actually "see" the move.  I use the right logic to look for it, but for whatever reason I sometimes don't see it.

In my opinion that is a much, much better problem to have.  I know I can then isolate the specific kinds of moves I'm not seeing, and train those until I always do see them.  That's better than not even thinking about the kind move in the first place, or wasting my time calculating lines that aren't relevant.

My next step is to try to apply this "calculation logic" in Stoyko exercises.


I am close to completing a 20 part series of posts on what I call “the logic of forced variations” that I am confident captures this logic rather comprehensively.  See the "Calculating Forced Variations TOC" in the top right-hand corner to navigate the series.

1 comment:

  1. You have done a fantastic job explaining that, I wish I could get my hands on full 20 pages, that would be even better. Thank you for your hard work, sir!