Tag Archives: chess cognition

My Chess Project Is Finally Over…

My Chess Project Is Finally Over…

This semester has flown by, and so has this learning project! As part of ECMP 355, a class about using technology in the classroom, I was required to use online sources to learn a skill of my choice and to blog about it weekly to share my progress.

I chose to learn how to play chess because it was a skill I had very limited experience with and I thought it would be nice to have something completely different to work on that still counted as homework. I also felt chess was a solid choice because it is one of my fiancé’s passions, so I knew he would be able to direct me to useful online sources and support me in the process.

So I bet you’re wondering how my epic chess quest turned out.  Was it a nice break from homework? Not at all. Was my fiancé helpful and supportive? Absolutely. Does that mean I enjoyed the process? Not a chance. This project really challenged me, and although I definitely feel I’ve grown in my chess abilities, I can’t say I enjoyed the whole process.

Now my negativity has you hooked!  Check out this recap of my learning project posts to find out more about the ups and downs of my journey:

Learning Project Recap

So I’m learning to chess…

  • Introduction, inspiration, and rationale for my learning project

The Opening (of my epic chess quest)

Valiant Knight Crushed in Grueling Battle (My First Chess Tournament)

Dropped Pieces + Shattered Dreams = Fresh Determination

  • Describing challenges:  finding motivation to play chess games when busy/tired, dropping pieces in my games
  • Video where I analyze one of my online games
  • New action plan:  play and analyze 4 games/week, continue doing tactics puzzles every day, watching instructional videos and live streams more often
  • Tools to share learning:  Screencastify

Chess Cognition (AKA Thought Process Boot Camp)

  • Description and key learnings from Chess Cognition video series by John Bartholomew
  • What I liked and didn’t like about this video series
  • Identifying specific chess skills to work on

Chess Games: The Ultimate Relationship Test

  • Picture and cheesy fast-motion video of me playing chess against my fiancé, Kelly, to show my progress
  • Video of our joint game analysis (with highlights provided) to show my progress and teach others about chess skills
  • Tools used to share learning:  Samsung video editor app (recommended by Curtis), phone tripod (borrowed from Curtis)

Curtis Reply on LP

S’more Chess Updates (not the graham cracker kind)

Tried-and-True Resources to Help You Learn Chess

  • Annotated collection of resources I have used to improve my chess game
  • Tool used to share learning:  Padlet

One Assessment of My Learning

It’s kind of tricky to show my level of mastery now vs. when I started this project. My Chess.com started me with a provisional rating of 1200, so I had to keep losing games until my rating became more accurate. My rating is now 980, and I’m still not sure how accurate that is.

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One aspect I saw definite progress in was my tactics! My goal was to reach a rating of 700 on my tactics, and I achieved that on April 4th! Here is a chart that shows my tactics ratings over the past three months:

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Reflections on the Process of Learning Online

What does learning online make possible?

  1. The ability to express frustrated and/or angry reactions without fear of being judged.

This was a huge difference I found between playing chess online and playing chess in person at the chess tournament. When playing online, I could moan, groan, pout, or yell at my computer screen without worrying about what my opponent would think of these (over)reactions. When I played in the chess tournament, I had to keep my emotions in check and be polite and courteous at all times.

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My face after every chess game…

Photo Credit: Scott SM via Compfight cc

  2.  The ability to play a chess game with little to no social interaction with your opponent.

This might sound like a negative thing, but I appreciated having no social interaction with my online opponents. At the tournament, I was annoyed at receiving a comment about my appearance, distracted by my opponents’ facial expressions during the game, and embarrassed to be seen losing to an 8-year-old. When I played online, I didn’t have to worry about any of those kinds of things.

   3. The ability to receive feedback and encouragement from others on your learning.

I received encouragement from classmates and people outside the class on my learning project:

Zach on Chess Cognition

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I also received feedback on the ways I chose to share my learning project:

Screen Shot 2016-04-14 at 12.51.35 AMScreen Shot 2016-04-14 at 12.51.41 AMT on Smore

   4.  The ability to learn from and feel connected to experts who are far away from you.

Had I not used YouTube as one of the main sources for my learning, I would not have been able to learn from International Master Daniel Rensch or International Master John Bartholomew, who are both professional players and coaches. I also found that after I watched several of their videos, I started to feel like I knew them personally.

What might the process of learning online make impossible?

  1. Private one-on-one learning sessions with another person.

Choosing to learn a skill online usually means that you learn from a variety of sources, which might reduce the possibilities for intimate learning sessions and one-on-one relationship-building with a teacher. For example, if I had learned piano from online sources rather than through private lessons growing up, I wouldn’t have developed such a close relationship with my auntie/piano teacher.

   2. Using all the free time you have to focus on learning the skill.

The process of sharing about your learning can be time consuming. Throughout this project, I sometimes felt like I was spending just as much time writing blog posts about learning to play chess as I was actually learning to play chess.

I can’t think of anything else that learning online makes impossible. Feel free to drop me a comment if you have any ideas!

Final Thoughts

My biggest challenge throughout this learning project was getting frustrated when I lost games. I took my losses really personally, especially at the beginning of my project. As I began to learn more about chess, I discovered how technical it is and found that even really talented players can learn sometime from each game they play. After my losses, I had to constantly remind myself to say “I made this mistake” instead of “I suck at chess,” which was something I really struggled with.

I think the negative self-talk I fell into often happens to students in the classroom when they make mistakes. When I have my own classroom, I really want to emphasize that it’s okay to make mistakes and that mistakes are a necessary part of the learning process. This is definitely easier to say than to put into practice, but I think I could share the story of this learning project with my students to show them how negative self-talk detracts from learning and how adults also struggle with it.

I definitely see the benefits of learning a skill online and sharing that process with the world. Through this project, I was able to: learn from and critically evaluate a variety of online resources; share my progress openly through my blog and Twitter using the hashtag #learningproject; receive encouragement and feedback from my PLN; and explore new tech tools to document my learning. Although attempting to learn chess was challenging, I’m glad I took it on and I think I learned a lot more than chess skills from this project.

Chess Cognition (AKA Thought Process Boot Camp)

I’ve been working through a video series by John Bartholomew called Chess Cognition. This series consists of short clips where John goes through parts of games he has played against national and international masters. He analyzes the games, talks through his thought processes, and emphasizes important learning points from each game.

I’ve been trying to train my thought processes by watching/learning from John. I call this learning “thought process boot camp” because it’s hard work! Even though I’ve learned some of the basic principles of chess, every game is unique and there are so many options/possibilities in every position. It’s boot camp because chess makes my brain sweat.

How I imagine I look when I play chess: confused and concerned but overall majestic.

Hardcore brain sweat happening here. Stefan Barna via Compfight cc

Learning from Chess Cognition Videos

There were 9 videos in this series. I’ll just embed the ones I found the most helpful here.

The main thing I learned from this video was that undefended pieces (pieces that can be captured by your opponent without any opportunity for you to recapture) are magnets for tactics (short sequences of moves that involve an attack/capture). This was helpful for me as I am working on always keeping my pieces defended; however, I often slip up and leaving pieces hanging and then my opponent is able to use tactics against me.

This video shows John’s opponent missing the best move because he assumed he should immediately recapture. The takeaway here is that moves that may seem good can actually backfire if you calculate further on. This one is important for me because I really struggle with calculating more than 3-4 moves ahead. There are just so many options! I find it difficult to predict how my opponent will respond to my moves, so lines I calculate in my head often work out differently when I go to play them out.

This video was full of new lessons for me! The first was that the number one rule of rook endings is to activate your rook (makes sense). John emphasized the need to play aggressively by finding counterattacks rather than trying to defend in positions like this. He also showed that when advancing pawns it’s best to keep them connected and move them in unison. Promoting passed pawns is definitely a skill I need to work on.

What I liked about these videos:

  • The videos are short and interactive.

I’m still working on building my chess attention span, so I like that these videos are only 5-15 minutes long. I also like that he asks the viewer to pause the video and try to find the best move. It’s helpful to compare my thought process to his as he talks through positions.

  • Watching is easier than reading.

I find it much easier to follow “chess talk” when I can watch the pieces move. He uses arrows and moves the pieces through multiple lines while he explains, which is super helpful. I sometimes struggle to follow the written portions of the mini chess lessons I do because I have to think really hard about notation in order to understand what they are talking about.

  • He talks through his thought processes.

He’ll say things like “I looked at this line first but rejected it because it was too simple and white had a defense against it.” Hearing these thoughts helps me figure out what I should be thinking as I play my own games.

  • The videos are based on real games he played.

He usually starts off by identifying when, where, and against whom he played each game. He also doesn’t win all the games, which is encouraging for me to see that even IMs make mistakes.

  • The videos are connected.

I watched the videos in order from 1-9, which was beneficial because they started a bit easier and got more challenging. Also, he makes connections between the videos and pulls ideas together to reinforce important concepts.

What I didn’t like about these videos:

  • These videos were above my level.

When John gives time to pause the video and find the best move, I would try to calculate but my ideas were often far off or I just wasn’t able to calculate far enough to come to the ideas that he was looking for. Although this was a bit frustrating, I think it was still good for me to hear the tips and to figure out what I should be thinking.

  • He does a lot of recapping.

Sometimes his recaps are helpful in reinforcing concepts but at times, I found them repetitive.

Some things I need to work on:

  1. Thinking about the purpose behind each of my moves
  2. Keeping my pieces protected
  3. Promoting passed pawns
Taking this journey one step at a time...

Taking this journey one step at a time…

 

I’m excited because I found a new video from John that I think is more at my level! It’s called Climbing the Rating Ladder (up to 1000). It’s an hour long video of John playing a bunch of games against lower-rated players and discussing his thought processes as he plays. I only watched about 5 minutes so far, but the positions already look very similar to what I see in the games I play, so I’m hoping this video will be more applicable and helpful!

 

 

p2-r2 via Compfight cc