Remembering Adriaan de Groot

11/4/2014 – Adriaan de Groot never became a grandmaster but his influence on chess is enormous. In 1965 his book "Thought and Choice in Chess" appeared in English and showed how chessplayers think. It changed our views on chess, talent, learning and knowledge. On the occasion of de Groot's 100th birthday the Dutch institute Cito now paid a fitting tribute.

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Cito pays a tribute to psychologist A. D. de Groot

By Willy Hendriks

Adriaan de Groot (1914-2006)

On 26th of October 1914 Dutch psychologist Adriaan de Groot was born. De Groot was a strong chess player who played for the Dutch team at two Olympiads. He also was an influential scientist and founder of the Dutch test institute Cito. To pay a tribute to De Groot, Cito organised a chess event on the occasion of the 100th birthday of its founder, with a simultaneous display by Jan Timman and a lecture on De Groot by Willy Hendriks.

In 1946 De Groot's dissertation Het denken van de schaker was published. In 1965 it was translated as Thought and Choice in Chess. This is without doubt the most influential book about (cognitive) psychology in chess but it had a great impact as well on cognitive psychology in general.

Cover of a ground-breaking book on chess thinking (Foto: New in Chess)

De Groot also did a lot of research on education. In 1968 he was one of the founders of Cito (Centraal Instituut voor Toetsontwikkeling), the Central Institute for the development of tests and exams. In the Netherlands the great majority of the children finish their primary school with the so called 'Citotoets', a test that is designed to advise children about type and level of their next school.

In the simultaneous event, sixteen Cito workers and relatives battled with Jan Timman.

Jan Timman, testing de Groot's theories in practice.

Despite the chess tradition at Cito, the Dutch grandmaster was rather merciless and in less than two hours, he finished with 15,5-0,5. Roelof Stienstra was the only player able to hold the balance.

Grandmaster Jan Timman in Wijk aan Zee (Foto: Joachim Schulze)

In his lecture before the simultaneous, Willy Hendriks elaborated on the chances of the participants and tried to explain, referring to the work of De Groot, why a grandmaster facing sixteen opponents, still can reach a very decent level.

Chess author and IM Willy Hendriks pays tribute to de Groot

One of the main themes in Thought and Choice in Chess is the difference between the expert (grandmaster) and the amateur. De Groot demonstrated that this difference does not consist of more and deeper calculation, or of a different method of thinking. It depends on the enormous amount of finely tuned experience and knowledge that the grandmaster activates as soon as he looks at a position, which enables him to, almost in a glance, get to the essence of the position and to see the most promising moves.

Hendriks' modern book on chess thinking

In his book on chess and cognitive science Move First, Think Later Hendriks has dedicated a chapter to the role of De Groot in chess psychology: "In search for the master's understanding - back to De Groot". Courtesy of New in Chess here's a pdf-version of this chapter for download.

See also: Adriaan de Groot, chess psychologist (1914-2006)

 



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