Anand at Accenture: How memory works in chess

by ChessBase
6/28/2012 – Accenture plc, the largest management consulting company in the world, recently staged a conference in Madrid, Spain and invited World Champion Viswanathan Anand to speak. Anand dealt with subjects like pattern recognition, decision-making, computers and the strategies used in World Championship matches. The lecture is three quarters of an hour long, but well worth watching.

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Accenture plc is a multinational management consulting, technology services and outsourcing company, the largest in the world. As of September 2011 it had more than 244,000 employees across 120 countries. Accenture's current clients include 96 of the Fortune Global 100 and more than three-quarters of the Fortune Global 500. The international company was first incorporated in Bermuda in 2001. Since September 1, 2009 the company has been incorporated in Ireland.

On June 12th Accenture organized a conference entitled Return on Analytics in Madrid, with more than 200 invited guests filling in the auditorium. A highlight was the lecture by World Chess Champion Viswanathan Anand, who spoke about "Analysis to anticipate the future and make the best decisions". In it Anand dealt with subjects like pattern recognition, decision making, the role of computers and the strategies used in World Championship matches. The lecture was recorded in high quality and posted on YouTube. It is 44 minutes long, but well worth watching.

The lecture begins with a lovely little anecdote, one that sets the tone: Chess players easily remember ideas and patterns taken from millions of games. This is normally a skill that is transferable, but with some training. I remember once I was in Switzerland and my wife told me, 'I put some of your stuff in the safe – the code is very easy to remember, it’s 2706, so you can take whatever you need.' And I told her, 'Well, 2706 is not really a good Elo rating. Normally it’s rounded off to the nearest 5 or 10'. So I told her I couldn’t see how I could remember that. She looked a bit shocked and then she explained to me that the 27th June is our anniversary.

So you can see that we’re very good in patterns in chess but we can be challenged in other areas. How do we develop the skills to find patterns in chess? The first thing is certain memory hooks. When you start playing chess you get some chess books, to learn some strategies, because you want to beat your opponent the very next day. They teach you a few mates, a few tricks. Then you slowly progress, seeing the games of the great players, classic examples that everyone must know. It's like mythology, like a story: the great player explains his game, explains the key moments, often with some emotional context. A lot of chess games are accompanied with diagrams of key positions where something interesting happened. And thanks to all these hooks it is very easy to remember these games years later. Many chess players have the experience that games they learnt when they were very young they can remember effortlessly all their lives. You take a position from any one of these games and show them randomly to a chess player and he will tell you 'this was played by Lasker and Steinitz in 1896 in this town', because of these hooks that help us remember key patterns and positions...

You can listen to the rest of the lecture – which, we remind you, is very interesting if you are keen on improving your skills in general and your chess memory in particular – in the video window above.

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