Chess is a complex game. One grandmaster said that it is too complicated for any single mind to comprehend completely, which is true, but the human race has made a reasonable stab at it. Thousands of books have been written about the game, and an inexhaustible list of strategies has been developed.
I have been thinking about chess skill. I wonder if anyone has tried to study all the components of chess skill? On personal reflection, I think that chess skill can be broken into four parts:
1. Vision. This is something I developed at the age of 14 when I realized I could see all the moves available on the board at the same time. Chess vision is the ability to see things instantly that others would have to think about.
2. Pattern recognition. This is similar to vision, except that chess can create many complex patterns. Through experience and study, skilled players have developed the ability to recognize these patterns in their games, sometimes almost instantly.
3. Knowledge. Many complicated strategies have been worked out about chess, and players have to memorize some of them to compete seriously. I have spent a great deal of time committing chess strategies to memory.
4. Understanding. This is by far the most important. There are areas of the game that I understand so well that they require almost no thought or effort on my part. I can play these positions with ease. There are other areas of the game where I feel completely ignorant. For example, sometimes I get into positions that make me uncomfortable because I don't understand them very well.
The reason why understanding is so important is that the more we understand something, the easier it is to learn. This worked really well for me on my computer studies, because the concepts came easy for me, so it didn't take much effort to learn them.
I think many players try to learn things in chess without fully understanding them. At times I have been guilty of this. It can be difficult because chess is a hard-to-comprehend game. There are many different areas in chess, each of which can be a separate field of knowledge.
So to be a good student at chess, one needs either good coaches or good books that explain the concepts well, and the student needs to make sure that he really understands what it is that he is learning. The same thing could probably be said about any field of study.
BTW, at the Columbus Chess Club last night I helped a guy named Paul Chestnut use his new chess computer. This thing is pretty interesting. It typically sells for about $450. The board can sense where you move the pieces. Want to start a new game? Just set the pieces back to the beginning. Want to take back one or more moves? Just move in reverse. You can take back the computer's move and play a different move for the computer, which might be useful if you want to play against a specific opening, or if you want to analyze.
There are circular lights under each square that highlight where the computer wants to move.
The pieces are the same size as my nice $35 chess pieces, although my pieces aren't as tall as some brands. The board is just barely smaller than a standard tournament board, which makes for a pleasant playing experience. The pieces and the board seem like they are made of lightweight plastic. The pieces don't have much weight to them except that I think that they have a magnet on the bottom. Underneath the board, there is no covering over the electronics that sense the movement of the pieces, so overall this device feels cheaply made.
There is a small screen that shows what position the computer thinks is on the board, which is helpful in case something got mixed up. It can also display a chess clock.
All the brains seem to be on the narrow right side panel. I suspect that it is using something equivalent to a phone processor, or maybe something cheaper. It is running Stockfish, which potentially makes it a very strong chess computer.
Unfortunately, it only has 3 modes of difficulty. There is "Friendly" that tries to automatically adjust to your level, however, Paul and I playing together lost to this mode. There is "Challenge" that tries to be tougher, and then there is "Expert". Given that it is running Stockfish, this "Expert" mode probably plays like a strong Grandmaster or better. The Stockfish program running on a desktop computer is far better than any human player.
An ideal chess program would allow you to set the playing ability by ELO rating, which for computers can go up to about 3600. My rating is around 2000. Magnus Carlsen is rated 2847. Ideally, it could also go down to zero.