A Must Read!!! ---- Part 1

"Pawns: they are the soul of this game, they alone form the attack and defense." - Philidor

Mind Games: Who is Doing the Playing?
Discoveries on consciousness have inspired the Norwegian philosopher Rune Vik-Hansen to forge a new view on development of chess skills. Challenging the current pedagogical climate, which claims that talent is insignificant and exposure to material a magic formula, he clarifies why blunders in chess are caused by a lack of interplay between consciousness and mind. Treatise with summary.


Born out of recent findings from the field of consciousness and mind, the article explains that chess playing is based upon a fine interplay between a mind subconsciously triggering moves, and a well disciplined consciousness knowing what to keep and what to discard. The highly popular opinion that chess playing is done solely by a conscious self is challenged.
Disputing the concept of “conscious memory”, it is shown that that one cannot remember material by acts of volition, and that development of chess skills cannot be explained by concepts revolving around consciousness.
The article takes to task the current pedagogical claims that talent is of no significance and that exposure to chess material will bring the aspiring player equally far, and also the prevalent understanding that passion for, taking an interest in and believing in what you do are important components in improvement, chess or otherwise. On the contrary, the text demonstrates the significance of innate ability, and that passion and interest merely can direct our attention towards certain fields of study, but that acquiring skills involves different mental processes than these.
Avoiding blunders being a major component in development of chess skills, they are here explained as caused by a flawed interplay between consciousness and mind, based upon the distinction between seeing and perceiving. A possible solution to the problem is suggested.
A closer look is taken at the highly popular concept in chess lingua, “pattern recognition”. By pinpointing functional as well as conceptual problems, it is shown that the concept does not meaningfully lend itself to explain chess playing. Specific idiosyncrasies between patterns and structures are scrutinized to show that the conceptual problems run deeper than mere semantics. The fundamental difference is argued by looking at how these two relate to each other, and how they are expressed in chess discourse and chess literature. Since no formal definition of “pattern” in chess exists, it is impossible effectively to meaningfully communicate “pattern recognition” as a workable concept to explain the development of chess skills. To then explain chess playing and support the claim that the idea of “pattern recognition” is highly problematic, “exformation” is introduced as a new concept to chess discourse, thinking and communication.
Upon closure, chess playing is compared with judgment in the field of morality, trying to explain that just as in morality, chess players constantly encounter and have to deal with situations (positions) never before encountered.
Finally, it is offered why many present methods of study will not seriously improve or develop chess skills. In context of the undertaken analysis, Kotov’s method is suggested for chess improvement, and it is explained why it works.

Development of Chess Skills – A New Understanding

In light of recent discoveries on consciousness and mind, a whole new framework regarding development of chess skills and chess playing has to be forged, and the present discussion takes as its point of departure Jonathan Rowson’s well written and thought-provoking article from NIC 2008/05. Rowson addresses the role of talent and also the relationship between opening work and general chess ability, explaining it by “conscious memorizing” and the more familiar “pattern recognition”. Our analysis will revolve around these concepts, revealing a different position than Rowson's as quoted later below.


The premises for challenging Rowson’s point of view are based upon The User Illusion, Tor Nørretranders’ outstanding and still relevant book about consciousness from 1991 and we will first have a look at some basic premises for chess acquisition and learning.
Research (Kornhuber, Deecke, Libet, later reproduced and published in Brain, 1991) has shown that any apparent act of volition normally begins subconsciously. Experiments have shown that, by changes in electrical fields, the brain prepares actions before we become conscious of them. It takes from a half to a second and a half of cerebral activity (evoked response and Bereitschaftspotenzial and other fancy phenomena) to become conscious of what is going on “back there”. It takes time to create consciousness (to become conscious) just at it takes time to organize the millions of sense impressions, separating the relevant ones from the irrelevant to create our unified and coherent perception of the world and the half second is just enough time to do that. The distinction between what we are conscious of and not might be called “the interface of consciousness” which illustrates the lack of transparency of the human mind. Illustrative might be an analogy from the world of computers; what you see on screen is only a fraction of what is going on beneath the surface.
Even though we have no idea how immaterial consciousness may arise from material processes, it certainly does, and remains one of the great mysteries, if not the greatest, along with quantum mechanics. We might feel and experience our decisions as conscious but strictly speaking, in the strong sense, they are not, since consciousness itself never triggers impulses but only can relate to impulses triggered by deciding to “veto” them or not. The usual way to go about it is to “veto”, or abort impulses that will lead to unwanted, awkward, unfortunate, embarrassing or immoral actions, thus saving the “free will” in a negative sense since it does not purposefully or intentionally initiate or trigger impulses/actions as traditionally understood.
The problem with the notion that man consciously can act on will or by volition, is that if one finds oneself in a vacuum, figuratively speaking, it is in principle impossible to stringently give an account of why some actions are to be preferred to others since all possibilities in some sense might be considered equal. This implies that decisions are “conscious” only in a weak sense, meaning that “conscious decisions” exist only in the veto, and not in the triggering.
People, of course, if perceptive, are consciously aware what impulses are triggered (body language or physical movements), but most of what’s going on inside of us, passes without involving consciousness at all. Consciousness might be said to be in the receiving end, so to speak, of cerebral processes, resembling what our German chess playing friend uses to say. “What have we here?” This also solves the problem of choosing among an infinite number of equally held possibilities; it is far easier to choose among possibilities already presented to consciousness, since we would already have a penchant or be more prone to some than to others. These, apparently, quite abstract findings, certainly have some revolutionary, concrete implications regarding human life in general and chess playing specifically. 

To be continued~~~


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