Beginner chess players often get disheartened by the amount of time they are taking to improve on their play. After knowing the basic things like moves of different pieces, relative values of pieces, the rules of capture, castling and then a little higher tactics like knight fork, pin, discovered check, double check, stalemate etc., they find that they are still not able to make much headway against experienced players.
Some of the common complaints may be like:
- I cannot remember all those sequence of moves in an opening
- I tend to overlook things like opponent’s KB moving to g7 plans to capture my Rook at a1
- I cannot visualize the position that will arise after next two moves and may be something similar to these.
The ability to calculate and work out combinations are of course at a more difficult level and cannot be achieved through this exercise. But if you could at least overcome the basic hurdles, you can see some perceptible improvement. And any mental improvement will take you one or more steps up.
If you think of the mental blocks that I described above, you will realize that the solution to those essentially lies in developing your memory and observation power. Once this process starts, it will help you to absorb more from your studies and games, setting you on your way to be a much better player.
What is the exercise that can help you in these areas?
This exercise is to be done at bed time. But many people have a habit of watching tv or reading books or whatever, when they go to bed. Well, there will ulimately be a point when you are trying to close your eyes and go to sleep. I actually meant this point of time when I said bed time!
When you are trying to fall asleep, you normally experience all kinds of random thoughts passing through your mind and in between you will be in a half-awake half-sleepy kind of phase till sleep finally takes over. In your exercise, you will banish those random thoughts and focus on what all you did in their proper sequence from the moment you woke up in the morning till your moment of sleep (don’t worry, the apparent contradiction will not happen as you will fall asleep before you reach the end point!)
Is that all? Yes, that’s all there is to it. But the stipulation in this exercise is that you should try to see (visualize) and remember each and every activity, conversation, thoughts, people you met and so on. It is like you have made a video recording of your whole day and you are playing the video in your mind. Go to as much detail as you can recall.
When you start, that mind video will be in a fast forward mode. You will find that you are unable to remember what else you did when you were brushing your teeth (looking in the mirror, thinking on things to do, …) and then the scene shifts to possibly mid-afternoon in your workplace and then jumps back to your starting the car or taking the metro, and shift again to some other point. That is why I stressed that you must try to remember in correct sequence!
During initial few days, you will be surprised to find how little you remember even when you thought it was a busy day! Only some big “lumps”, particularly those which had some impact, will come to your mind without many details. But if you continue to do it, you will progressively start remembering more of your day. Your aim should be to go to the extent where you can visualize in a scene the people who were present, the conversations you had, the pictures that were hanging on the walls, the signboards you saw when you were walking on the road, even the thoughts you had … you get the point?
What is your mind achieving in this exercise? A greater power of observation, the ability to see details, and increase in memory power through your effort in remebering, which is but a memory exercise.
An amusing thing also will come to your notice. Once you start doing it, you will feel a challenge and urge to remember more of your day. And as you know that you have to remember your day at bedtime, you will be more aware of what you are doing or thinking at any point of time! See, that becomes an exercise for your power of observation. Another benefit, if you are bit of insomniac, is that you will fall asleep without a need to count sheep. Our subconscious mind is like a monkey jumping from branch to branch. When your conscious mind tries to focus it, you are trying to tie up the monkey. To regain its freedom, the subconscious will try to put you to sleep so that the conscious mind loses its control and the subconscious is free again to jump (i.e., dream) to its liking.
Keep doing this exercise and very soon you will feel the difference it has made to your mental faculty!