A few fine posts by others have caused me to think more deeply about chess and computers lately--mostly from the point of view of my personal goal of improving my results against humans in tournament play. This goal was an important clarification when I wrote that post last July--it may be entirely coincidental, but since then my standard rating has climbed (if sometimes only slightly) in each tournament I've played. This doesn't necessarily have anything to do with computers, but my point then was that cutting down or eliminating internet blitz, less opening study and more tactical training, and in general more mental focus and application of practical success psychology were the tickets to results, even if I did enjoy the blitz and delving into my favorite openings.
Anyway, the other chess bloggers referred to above have got me thinking about how best to apply computer models to my own stated goal of improving results against humans (and its equivalent, continuing my USCF rating's upward trend [and for that matter my standard FICS rating's]).
It started when Soapstone referred to a Dana Mackenzie post on Bronstein on Computers and Humans, which was followed by More on Computers and Humans. Then Wang advised "Step away from your computer!" and Drunknknite responded by Speaking up for Those Who Can't.
Somewhere along the line (ah yes, thanks Edwin Meyer!) I heard about FM Charles Hertan's Forcing Chess Moves: Using "Computer Eyes" to Improve Your Tactical Vision and read the sample generously provided, and I had a modest flash of insight about what my next steps need to be. (The excellent Phaderus commented on this post where I first mentioned the book, and had a lucid critique of the idea of trying to think like a computer, but wait a moment and we'll connect these dots to something hopefully useful)
I haven't seen the whole of Hertan's book, but the sample has some very thought-provoking ideas that bear directly on the current weaknesses in my game. It triggered a memory of Andy Soltis' book The Inner Game of Chess, and sure enough there is a chapter there entitled "Force"; it even includes one of the same examples (Fischer-Sherwin) given in the Hertan extract. But this is the part that really got me thinking:
"The first goal of any player aspiring to find more winning forcing moves in his/her games should be to CALCULATE TWO MOVES AHEAD WITH ABSOLUTE PRECISION."
Now that hit me pretty hard; do I currently calculate two moves ahead with absolute precision? Hmm...usually, but let's just look at the last game I posted; at least three times (moves 10, 30 and 35) I did not accurately calculate 2 moves (4 "ply") ahead, and this in a game I won! Hell's damn bells, two of them were advantageous captures that led directly to material gain and I didn't play them. I, you, we've all been told over and over, "Checks and captures, checks and captures..." meaning that we need to try and look at all checks and captures as a starting point for our calculations--if one of them wins, there's no need to search any further! I'm still not doing this with the consistency that will allow me to take on and defeat stronger players with any regularity.
In the Soltis book mentioned above he quotes World Champion M. Botvinnik saying after a loss to that he needed to perfect his calculation of three-move variations. Trying to think like a computer isn't exactly the answer, but modeling the computer's perfection in the calculation of two-move variations is already a step in the right direction. Instead of just "studying tactics" or doing exercises, I'm going to think about and research the best ways to do this and put them into practice. Maybe going over my own and other's game with only this in mind, all other considerations being ignored; maybe some of the mate-in-two problems that Hertan says he enjoys (and that can be surprisingly difficult to calculate with absolute precision).
Thinking and writing about this has in itself been good exercise, and I invite your ideas and comments on the subject.