Why Chess Players Blunder

by Rune Vik-Hansen
4/16/2024 – We have seen them, haven’t we? The howlers? Amateurs and professionals alike in the aftermath of a game, trying to explain their blunder, shaking their heads in disbelief, scratching their brows, sighing while trying to come up with a rational explanation. Blunders happen because humans are fallible and ill-founded impulses prove stronger than the ability to abort them – as is explained in this scientific paper.

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Born out of recent findings from the field of consciousness and mind, the article seeks to explain is rooted in a delicate interplay between a mind that subconsciously generates or produces chess moves and a disciplined consciousness that knows what to keep and what to discard. Unlike other play-by-play articles, this one looks behind the moves to unravel the conundrum behind blunders.

Who is doing the thinking?

Chess is often associated with thinking, but what is thinking and who, or which body, performs the thinking? To Rene Descartes (1596-1650) and Immanuel Kant (1724-1804), the matter was clear, as coined in the former's famous quote: Cogito ergo sum, ‘I think, therefore I am.

The American philosopher and psychologist, William James (1890/2007, pp. 284-289), gives an impression of the notion of the role of consciousness where he imagines the human mind as a block of marble with an infinite number of possible statues and that which one is carved out depends on the sculptor, or in other words, different sculptor different statue: ‘It is always interested more in one part of its object than in another; and welcomes and rejects, or chooses, all the while it thinks’ (James, 1890/2007, p. 284).

Figuratively speaking, the position on the board is the chess player's marble block from which the mind chisels out moves and presents them to consciousness. Positions with several equal moves? Different sculptor—that is, player—different moves.

At the beginning of the twentieth century, contrary to James, it was discovered that thinking is completely subconscious (Marbe, 1901/2012; Watt, 1906). That is, one is thinking before knowing what to think about, and does not know what one is thinking until it is thought. Psychologist Julian Jaynes' (1976/2000, pp. 39-41) conclusion that the actual thought process (decisions, deliberations, problem solving, etc.), normally perceived as the hallmark of consciousness, is not conscious at all, and supported by recent research:

Arpaly & Schroeder, 2012; Berlyne et al., 2024; Breyer & Gutland, 2015; Dijksterhuis & Nordgren, 2006; Garrison & Handley, 2017; Katsafanas, 2015; Margolis & Laurence, 2022; Mole, 2021; Nida-Rümelin, 2010; Robert, 2022; Rojszczak & Smith, 2003; ‘Think’, n.d.

In other words, when players come up with a move, it is not their consciousness that, out of the blue, comes up with the move but their brain, and because the brain still works in mysterious ways, impossible is to say if the move is due to the brain alone, external factors alone (inspiration or interaction with other players, something seen or heard), or perhaps a combination of external and internal factors.

In line with James, albeit less poetically, neurophysiologist Hans Kornhuber (1988) shows that most of the information flow in the brain and the processing in the central nervous system is unconscious but with the possibility ‘… to direct the focus of attention’ (Kornhuber 1988). One objection to Kornhuber is that of little use is to be able to direct the focus of attention if we do not realise that our rook is en prise or we are about to get mated.

According to Aristotle (2019, Book III), actions are ‘up to us’ but what does it mean that actions are up to us? Easy is to think of concepts such as control and free will, which hardly can be thought independently of a concept of consciousness and a conscious Self (Libet, 1999, p. 52).

Assuming consciousness (more on the concept in a moment) initiates the action, blunders appear something of a mystery, since no one blunders ‘on purpose’, i.e., consciously, if they just as easily could refrain. Where might the rub be?

Two problems with the assumption of consciousness as the cause of action:

  1. The concept of consciousness is too ambiguous scientifically to explain behaviour. Today, 40 different meanings of the term are known (Natsoulas, 1978; Vimal, 2009), such as being awake, attention, qualitative consciousness (experience of smells, colours, tastes, pain). We consciously sit down at the board in the sense of being awake, consciously play the king’s pawn two squares forward in the sense of being attentive, we consciously castle in the sense of experiencing the position on the board or the tournament situation? We press the clock in the sense of ...?

  2. The principle of causation (Hume, 1739/1978, pp. 174-175): Same cause produces the same effect but can be extended: Same (type of) cause → same (type of) effect, or in other words: physical cause → physical effect. Differently put: Non-physical causes cannot make ‘arms & legs’ move. Instead of inserting g the key in the ignition and turning the key, one could try to start the car with the conscious experience of the scent of the orchids in the garden.

How to solve the problem? In short, the American neurophysiologist Benjamin Libet cut the Gordian knot and proposed, in the light of his experiments, that consciousness cannot initiate action (physical movement) but veto it (‘catch oneself’) (Libet, 1985; Libet et al., 1983; Nørretranders, 1999, pp. 211-250).

In other words, the brain makes a suggestion but we decide if the suggestion should be realised. If one succeeds in becoming conscious before blundering, one does not blunder, since no one can be expected to blunder ‘on purpose’, because a willed blunder is by definition not a blunder. The point can be formulated as an aphorism: The brain plays chess when by initiating/suggesting moves while we play chess when proposals are vetoed.

A remarkable illustration of the veto was provided by the Carlsen-Aronian blitz game in round 8 at Norway Chess, 2018:

Carlsen's brain initiated a ‘blunder impulse’ (diagram 3) and White, that is, the consciousness, not the brain, was not in time to catch itself. He played the disastrous  52.hxg4?? Aronian, about to make the autopilot move 42...hxg4, caught himself and played 52...h4, after which White immediately resigned. 

Watch it transpire in the Altibox Norway Chess 2018 broadcast – from 2:54:42.

The brain does not need to justify or explain why it initiates this or that impulse, and if it sees no purpose, the impulse is not initiated and there is no other way to act. Briefly: If consciousness initiated the impulse, there would be no ‘slip-ups’, blunders, errors or mistakes.

Because thinking is subconscious, the brain initiates moves and consciousness works by the veto, is chess left to a finely tuned interplay between conscious and unconscious processes; knowing what should be kept and what should be discarded from all the suggestions the mind serves us.

Consciousness, in the sense of attention, functions more or less as a ‘blunder check, lightly monitoring our play and making sure, or seeing to, that no pieces are hanging or put en prise. Most of the game, consciousness is not involved at all and the fact that a capacity such as Romanovsky (2013, p. 201) writes that ‘a manoeuvring game can also sometimes arise from the conscious [emphasis added] efforts of one of the opponents’, testifies to how entrenched is the conviction of the role of consciousness in chess.

If moves were chosen consciously, blunders and mistakes remain a mystery. If chess playing were conscious, blunders would be a thing of the past, since nobody would ever blunder ‘on purpose’ or at will. By the same will, one would simply decide to play the best moves as the board in front of the player provides all the information: Because consciousness would be transparent, players would have a full view of what is going on and the position on the board would be there for everyone to see.

Traditionally, chess games are explained and moves attempted justified in the analyses after the game and this is usually the order of the day; first play—then explanation. If chess playing were conscious, logically, it should be the other way around; first we explain why certain moves are to be played and then the brain initiates the requested moves, right? If valid and reasonable explanations could be given for each and every move, the question is why the brain initiates a blunder or fails to come up with the move that best fits the explanation and thus makes chess the rational game it is perceived to be.

The Russian proverb—‘We are all satisfied with our reason but not with our position’—nicely captures this paradox. Blitz and rapid games, with consciousness almost absent, are merely perception and intuition, this being even more apparent since there is no time to ponder possible explanations before a move is to be initiated.

Who is Blundering?

Blunders might be perceived as some sort of spontaneously ill-conceived move-suggestions, i.e., impulses to moves which would be detrimental to one’s position if not aborted. However, strategically weak moves on a general level, like misplacing a piece due to lack of general chess proficiency or chess understanding is not the issue at hand but moves literally occurring out of nowhere, moves there apparently are no sensible reasons to play. The key question is: If consciousness does not do the playing, then, who does the blundering? Someone or something must be responsible (the cause) for players blundering, and who or what part of us might that be?

As mentioned, consciousness lightly monitors play, while full consciousness, attention and focus, arise at the moment of blundering, and as unquestionably witnessed by body language. Note the sequence: We never see players in advance announce the blunder; we only hear about those who blundered first and then became conscious or aware.

In the present context can only be touched upon the ‘hows’ and ‘whys’ of the blunders but as a general pointer, major mistakes are due to a lack of interplay between brain and consciousness and with only three possible explanations:

  1. Parts of the positions are perceived due to a limited gaze and focus on specific sectors or areas of the board.

  2. The entire board is perceived but something happens when processing the material and results in seemingly spontaneous and inexplicable blunders.

  3. Even though we see the whole board, the brain does not take it all in.

The first explanation is perhaps the most straightforward, and suggests insufficient focus resulting in insufficient information and, thus, absence of, or impaired, interplay between brain and mind (consciousness?), making consciousness (in the sense of ‘attentive’) unable to abort the impulse. Such mistakes may be due to both fatigue as well as lack of chess skills and experience. Alternatively: Grandmasters may fall victim to this type of blunder but then due to fatigue rather than lack of skills, while amateurs may blunder due to fatigue as well as lack of skills.

Regarding the second explanation, one tries not to blunder, so if blunders have anything to do with perception and what is perceived, why would the brain process the information in such a way that it leads to blunders? This seems to happen only if there was a problem with ‘the wiring’, as it were, or the neural network, which is conceivable, if not too prevalent. Consciousness misprocessing information ‘on purpose’, or intentionally, seems to lead to a conflict of interest: Since mate is the goal of the game, why will (not ‘want’, which is physical and, therefore, not volitional) to mess up?

The plot thickens at the third explanation, for amateurs and professionals alike, which raises a timely dilemma: Blunders appear impossible when both eyes see the whole board but this type of blunder is deeply related to the order in which chess is played and explained: Because only a fraction of all the information flowing through the senses results in a conscious experience or perception, a case can be made that one may see the whole board but still not perceive it. In other words, the brain can miss information even with both eyes focussing on the board.

Solving tactical puzzles or ‘guessing’ the grandmaster's move may illustrate the difference between sight and perception. The whole board is in front of us... we see (eyes directly towards) the position clearly... all the information to solve the task is right in front of us, and yet many a time we end up face-palming ourselves. How was it possible to miss that!? When the solution is presented, however, it stands out as the most obvious thing in the world and illustrates the difference between what we are conscious of and what not.

The mere presence of a combination or a tactical stroke suggests that chess playing is subconscious and the player nowhere near the control hitherto, and perhaps, assumed, since, if chess playing were conscious, why allow the possibility of a (brilliant) tactical stroke in the first place?

Despite purists considering tactics the sophism of chess, how fast tactical solutions are found indicates how quickly the brain processes the information, i.e., the position. Perception being subconscious, there is no point in beating ourselves (or others) up for not seeing this tactical shot or missing that beautiful combination (mate in 18).

Amateurs and professionals literally perceive different positions even when seeing the same position, and the reason, or cause, is that the professional mind, more so than the mind of the amateur, is better trained to perceive more information. Because perception is not volitional and the brain works independently of what we think it ought to interpret, perceive, think, understand, etc., the amateur cannot simply, by acts of volition, decide to perceive as much as the professional.

Blunders happen because humans are fallible and ill-founded impulses prove stronger than the ability to abort them.

Bibliography

Altibox Norway Chess 2018 – Blitz. (2018, 27 May). You Tube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jwcSMnfNnqI&t=10486s

Aristotle. (2019). Nicomachean ethics (3d ed.) (T. Irwin, Trans.). Hackett Publishing.

Arpaly, N. & Schroeder, T. (2012). Deliberation and acting for reasons. The Philosophical Review, 121(2), 209-239. https://doi.org/10.1215/00318108-1539089

Berlyne, D. E., Vinacke, W. E. & Sternberg, R. J. (17 March 2024). Thought. In Encyclopedia Britannica. Retrieved 24 March 2024 from https://www.britannica.com/topic/thought

Breyer, T. & Gutland, C. (2015). Introduction. I T. Breyer & C. Gutland (Red.), Phenomenology of Thinking: Philosophical Investigations into the Character of Cognitive Experiences, 1-24.

Dijksterhuis, A. & Nordgren, L. F. (2006). A theory of unconscious thought. Perspectives on Psychological Science, 1(2), 95-109. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1745-6916.2006.00007.x

Garrison, K. E. & Handley, I. M. (2017) Not merely experiential: Unconscious thought can be rational. Frontiers in Psychology, 8. https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2017.01096

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Libet, B., Gleason, C. A., Wright, E. W. & Pearl, D. K. (1983). Time of conscious intention to act in relation to onset of cerebral activity (readiness potential): The unconscious initiation of a freely voluntary act. Brain, 106(3), 623-642. https://doi.org/10.1093/brain/106.3.623

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Natsoulas, T. (1978). Consciousness. American Psychologist, 33, 906-914.

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Nørretranders, T. (1999). The user illusion: Cutting consciousness down to size (J. Sydenham, Trans.). Penguin Books.

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Rojszczak, A. & Smith, B. (2003). Theories of judgement. In T. Baldwin (Ed.), The Cambridge History of Philosophy 1870–1945 (pp. 157-173). Cambridge University Press. https://doi.org/10.1017/CHOL9780521591041.013[

Romanovsky, P. (2013). Soviet middlegame technique. Quality Chess.

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Vimal, R. L.P. (2009). Meanings attributed to the term 'consciousness': An overview. Journal of Consciousness Studies, 16(5), 9-27. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/233499902_Meanings_Attributed_to_the_Term_'Consciousness'_An_Overview

Watt. H. J. (1906). Experimental contribution to a theory of thinking. Journal of Anatomy and Physiology, 40(3), 257-266.

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Born in 1968, Rune graduated from the University of Tromsø in 1999 with a thesis on Heidegger's concept of Dasein. Other fields of interests are metaphysics, ontology, theory of science, philosophy of mind, free will and morality.
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Vik-Hansen Vik-Hansen 5/26/2024 11:48
Edited 26 May 2024, 11: 49 am:

Dear Mr Toad (what a great avatar),

My pleasure, and should new questions arise, don't hesitate to ask.

Errata:

Sloppy work by the philosopher and here are the corrections:

Bibliography:

Breyer, T., & Gutland, C. (2015). Introduction. In T. Breyer & C. Gutland (Eds.), Phenomenology of thinking: Philosophical investigations into the character of cognitive experiences (pp. 1-24). Routledge. https://doi.org/10.4324/9781315697734

(Publisher and link missing, and Norwegian format at that)

Garrison, K. E. & Handley, I. M. (2017). Not merely experiential: Unconscious thought can be rational. Frontiers in Psychology, 8. https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2017.01096

(A period after the date missing)

Natsoulas, T. (1978). Consciousness. American Psychologist, 33, 906-914. https://psycnet.apa.org/doi/10.1037/0003-066X.33.10.906

(Link missing)

In the following paragraph, a 'g' inadvertently sneaked in after '... inserting ... ' and 'physical' in 'physical cause' is to be italicized:

'The principle of causation (Hume, 1739/1978, pp. 174-175): Same cause produces the same effect but can be extended: Same (type of) cause → same (type of) effect, or in other words: physical cause → physical effect. Differently put: Non-physical causes cannot make ‘arms & legs’ move. Instead of inserting g the key in the ignition and turning the key, one could try to start the car with the conscious experience of the scent of the orchids in the garden.'

Our apologies for any inconvenience and, hopefully, the article is now 'scientifically acceptable.'


Best regards,
Mr Toad Mr Toad 4/22/2024 11:49
Dear Rune Vik-Hansen

Thanks for your reply - it's very good of you to have taken the time to give me such detailed answers. Food for thought indeed!

Regards,
Mr Toad.
arzi arzi 4/22/2024 01:29
There are theories about the origin of the universe that explain the event quite well. The theory may differ only slightly from the measured data. However, researchers cannot assume that the small difference between theory and reality is insignificant. They have to find the reason for the difference. If data and theory do not meet, then changes have to be made to the theory. Researchers may have to admit to themselves that their theory was flawed, that forces and particles could be missing. Even the theory of relativity may end up on the correction list, even though the predictions it gives are incredible. If it doesn't explain enough, it needs to be changed. This is science.
arzi arzi 4/22/2024 01:15
In physics, theories are created and the aim is to compare theories with the surrounding world, i.e. to understand the world. However, theories are only theories until physical tests can be made based on the assumptions and prove the assumptions. A theory has no value if it cannot be verified in any way. Superstring theory may be the theory of everything, but it has no value if it cannot be tested. The same applies to consciousness and subconsciousness. Who has one (if there is one) and does this kind of activity apply to all living things or just humans? Are the Earth and the Sun the centers of our Universe?
arzi arzi 4/22/2024 12:58
Once again I have to point out certain aspects. If the validity of the arguments depends on the existence of consciousness, and thus also of the subconscious, then these discussions are valid in that form. The only problem is that consciousness, including the subconscious, is not verified in any way, like natural laws in science. You just assume they exist without solid proofs. For example, this discussion assumes that they exist, but there is no evidence for them.

Could either of you explain to me that there are people who remember every day's events from childhood second by second? However, with these memory masters, superior memory can only be related to their personal matters. They are average students despite their brilliant but different kind of memory. Are they just average students because their conscious and subconscious mind is lacking or just bad?

There are also memory masters who are able to use their memory for problem solving as well. Do they have consciousness and subconsciousness that the previous people lacked. Does a savant person who has special abilities but does not understand the world around him have a conscious and subconscious mind?
Vik-Hansen Vik-Hansen 4/22/2024 08:20
Dear Mr Toad,

1.) This is of no relevance.

2.) No, humans don't have a say in this at all. The brain ('mind') does the reduction as well as the organising.

Familar with 'the binding problem'? Rubin's vase? Face/background? A non-physical consciousness cannot process physical sense information without invoking metaphysical exceptionalism, and, again, making us hard pressed to explain why blunders happen.

The brain does not choose in the strict sense of the word as 'choice' would seem to imply a consciousness. As Libet himself stated; how to think a concept of free will independenly of a concept of consciousness and a conscious I?

No, amateur players are not more likely to choose the wrong 40 bit, just as little as professionals are; amateurs are just not as well trained.

3) Yes, it is possible to train, it is called impulse control (one of the senses of consciousness) but no matter the training, the result is not guaranteed.

Cheers,
Mr Toad Mr Toad 4/22/2024 04:38
Dear Rune Vik-Hansen

So I receive 11 million units of info/per sec and my conscious experience comprises up to 40 units/sec.

1) What's the point of humans grabbing 11 million units if they can only process 40? Why did we evolve in such a way?

2) Do I get to choose which particular cluster of 40 units out of 11 million? Is it our conscious or our subconscious mind which chooses (if indeed it is possible to make such a choice at all)? You seem to be saying that amateur chess players are more likely to choose 40 wrong ones than professional players.

2) Does any of this have any impact on how we might train ourselves to reduce the number of blunders we make? Once again I would invoke my conjecture that this is all part of the unalterable physiological make up of our brains.

Regards,
Mr Toad.
Vik-Hansen Vik-Hansen 4/21/2024 11:29
Dear Mr Toad,

Indeed, because blunders are characterised by their 'suddenness' or spontaneity, the article focuses only on blunders, as blunders as moves there are no objectively good reasons to play, irrespective of possible justifications, which would turn what is 'normally' construed as a blunder into something else.
If every move, regardless of quality, could be justified (post-rationalisation), blunders as a concept in chess would seem to cease to exist. Irrespective of possible reasons to play, say, Bd3-b1, objectively, it still is a blunder if you are mated on g2:)

'... but I fail to see that this '"illustrates the difference between what we are conscious of and what not..."'

The point is the difference between the units of information received every second through our senses (roughly 11 million units per second) and what goes to make up a conscious experience, which is only between 1-40 units. The amount of information taken in by our senses exceeds the bandwidth ('information processing capacity') of our conscousness, which is a meagre 1-40 units per second. Receiving 11 million units of information per second is of little help if the 'wrong' units makes up a conscious experience (we do not perceive that our rook is en prise etc.)

On a funny note: The time and effort invested into writing this article are no importance if the article is just nonsense:) (the distinction between the context of discovery and the context of justification).

Errata: Note that Katsafanas, 2013 in-text is supposed to be Katsafanas, 2015. Chessbase is notified.

Cheers,
Mr Toad Mr Toad 4/21/2024 01:23
Dear Rune Vik-Hansen

Your article made me think, for which I thank you. Apologies if my wording was too strong about the article in which a lot of time and effort was obviously invested.

I felt that. some of the time, you were not just talking about blunders, but various other aspects of chess as well.

It's certainly possible to check all possible lines in many situations e.g. in a forced mate situation we can check to see if it is possible to escape (assuming there is enough time so to do).

You suggest that blunders are "moves there apparently are no sensible reasons to play". But there are! I can justify everyone of my blunders for a variety of reasons. For example, I might not notice a Bishop concealed in a corner, or a line relying on a defending piece which, after a couple of moves, has been moved and so is no longer defending. So, at the time of making a move, there are indeed "sensible reasons" to play blunders.

You write that "even though we see the whole board, the brain does not take it all in". OK, but I fail to see that this "illustrates the difference between what we are conscious of and what not".

Consider the swivelling eyes of a chameleon which can move independently of each other. A chameleon could very well PERCEIVE all of the pieces on a chess board because it is physiologically 'superior' to humans in that regard - nothing to do with the subconscious.

I shall acquire a chameleon and teach it to play chess to prove my point!

Regards,
Mr Toad.
arzi arzi 4/18/2024 12:29
Well, if there is no consciousness, then surely there is no subconsciousness. Everything is just illusion (except blunder check chess) and we are living in the memory of the simulation named Chessbase Universe.
Vik-Hansen Vik-Hansen 4/18/2024 11:04
@Mr Toad:

The article does not '... attempt to shoehorn all the complexities in chess' but tries to explain why players blunder, since, reportedly, blunders are not volitional.

How to account for those cases when we do not analyse 'enough move in all possible lines', if that is even possible (to humans and programs as well), and yet do not blunder?

Why not avoid blundering altogether simply by making a conscious decision to analyse 'enough moves in all possible lines'?

What would have us not will [not the subconscious 'want'] to analyse 'enough [of] the moves in all possible lines' if at all possible?

If analysing 'enough moves in all possible lines' boiled down to a matter of will and volition, we would not seem to have any reason not to will analysing all required to avoid blunders, would we?
Re: aphantasia; Even if not by name, the article indeed addresses the phenomenon; lack of visualisation, and as the article states: 'In the present context can only be touched upon the ‘hows’ and ‘whys’ of the blunders...'

Pattern recognition, you say?

You may be familiar with our work on the subject, in which we question, if not flat out reject, the concept of pattern in chess as well, as overly simplistic: https://en.chessbase.com/post/pattern-recognition-fact-or-fiction

@ WildKid:

James, apparently using 'mind' and 'consciousness' interchangeably, is neither the first nor the only one to reject the concept of consciousness; Daniel Dennett is another. Denying the existence of consciousness would seem to be a green card to inflict pain on others.

'I caught Myself in ...', as one possible definition, might be the key to avoid blunders.

Thanks for the feedback and kind words.

Cheers,
arzi arzi 4/18/2024 07:41
Consciousness? First we have to define consciousness before we can say it exists. Even if we define consciousness correctly, it still does not prove its existence. Do flowers and ants or dogs and killer whales have consciousness? Why not? Is being alive enough for consciousness or does consciousness have to be human? Is the Earth the whole universe or part of the whole? Is consciousness an order in chaos, a decrease in entropy? Questions, too many questions and relatively so little time.
arzi arzi 4/18/2024 06:44
Frederic: Perfectum.
WildKid WildKid 4/18/2024 05:46
This otherwise excellent article misrepresents William James' views on consciousness. He essentially denied that is exists (as an entity, at least):
{Consciousness) is the name of a nonentity, and has no right to a place among first principles. Those who still cling to it are clinging to a mere echo, the faint rumor left behind by the disappearing ‘soul’ upon the air of philosophy. ... For twenty years past I have mistrusted ‘consciousness’ as an entity; for seven or eight years past I have suggested its non-existence to my students, and tried to give them its pragmatic equivalent in realities of experience. It seems to me that the hour is ripe for it to be openly and universally discarded.
(Does 'Consciousness' Exist, William James, 1904, Journal of Philosophy, Psychology, and Scientific Methods, 1, 477-491.)
WildKid WildKid 4/18/2024 04:58
Very interesting indeed from a philosophical point of view. Shows a deeper understanding of the ambiguities of the terms 'thinking' and 'consciousness' than even most philosophers have.
genem genem 4/18/2024 12:27
There is a reason the preconscious brain too often provides only weak analysis to the conscious mind: the overwhelming number of Atomic tactical elements which must be detected and then analyzed is more than mid-level class players can reliably process.
.
Shot puzzle chess books skip or gloss over the atomic level of tactics, which is like building a tall building on a shoddy foundation.
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To directly illuminate and address this atomic-level tactics oversight, I wrote a chess book that explains my theory of Kinetic Atomics, including the 56 Kinetic Patterns that constantly arise, at the atomic level, from moves.
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Once Kinetic Atomics is understood, helpful concepts like Asequential Calculation (a seeming oxymoron) can be seen as a surprisingly potent alternative or addition to the - "if I go there, he goes there" - mode of calculation.
Gene Milener
Frits Fritschy Frits Fritschy 4/17/2024 10:11
Just to show things can get above my head, a story from one of Willy Hendriks' books, two chess players after way too much blitz and way too much beer:
- whose move is it?
- well, I think, so I am...
michael bacon michael bacon 4/17/2024 08:11
Since I have aphantasia (https://xpertchesslessons.wordpress.com/2023/05/26/aphantasia/) this article, and the comments, were extremely interesting.

Earlier today the following was read from the excellent book, SPINOZA: Freedom's Messiah, by Ian Buruma:

"Descartes famously had one unshakable conviction, however. He was a thinking being: "I think, therefore I am." Even if his thoughts were wrong, he was the one who was thinking them, so he had to exist. Another thing he believed was that God had a free will to do anything he liked, even change the laws of nature, if he wished, and that God had given humans a free will too, which was distinct from the human capacity to think. Since people have a free will, they are responsible for what they do, for better or worse. Spinoza disagreed. First, the laws of nature were not created on a divine whim. As Einstein would say: "God doesn't play dice with the universe." And "will" does not exist as an abstraction. Spinoza does not separate will from the intellect. There are individual acts of will, which are part of thinking. And thinking is a mode of that force called God or nature. Our thoughts are determined by an infinite number of causes, but they are not subject to some autonomous entity called free will. This doesn't make Spinoza's lifelong insistence on his freedom to think any less important. To "know God"-that is, to understand nature and our place in it-was the closest Spinoza came to offering a recipe for happiness." Pg 90


Kudos to the author and to Chessbase for putting it into print.
Frederic Frederic 4/17/2024 03:12
@arzi: commento ergo sum?!
arzi arzi 4/17/2024 01:32
Sometimes we blunder because we haven't thought about the moves far enough, that is, we make our moves according to instinct, intuitively. Sometimes we screw up just because we're too tired to look at all the important variations in our games. People blunder because they are human, fallible packages of biological cells that are not efficient enough for the task at hand i.e. humans are not computers. Usually, the one with better software or faster hardware (or both) wins out of two chess programs. Humans are no different to computers in this context.
Mr Toad Mr Toad 4/16/2024 11:39
This article tries, but fails, in its attempt to shoehorn all the complexities of chess into a single theory about the conscious and the subconscious mind.

The article asks "why would the brain process the information in such a way that it leads to blunders?" and suggests that this is because "one may see the whole board but still not perceive it". I beg to differ! We blunder when we haven't analysed enough the moves in all of the possible lines i.e. it's about analysis not perception.

There is nothing in the article about creativity, pattern recognition or aphantasia etc. Thus "aphantasia is the inability to create mental imagery. People with aphantasia cannot visualize images, whether it’s imagining a scene, a face, or an object" ... or a chess position".

In other words, when the article ascribes blunders to seeing the whole board but still not perceiving it, those with aphantasia don't have this possibility anyway. And they cannot see sequences of moves in their mind's eye either. So an article which purely focusses on the differences between amateurs and professionals, between sight and perception, between conscious mind and subconscious mind is not even close to the truth.

Of course chess playing is conscious - but the article goes at great lengths to deny this. It provides three possible explanations but apparently sees no reason to decide which one is considered to be the 'truth'.

I will continue to rely on my "disciplined consciousness that knows what to keep and what to discard" and ignore any outside interference from my subconscious, thank you very much!
Mamack1 Mamack1 4/16/2024 05:55
Seeing something but then getting the move order wrong is one of the most depressing types of blunder going!
PhishMaster PhishMaster 4/16/2024 03:24
I played one recently, and thankfully, I was not punished. I was in an endgame, which was totally winning, and I saw the win to the very end...BUT, after calculating it, I played the second move first! That is the second time I have done that over 44 years of tournament play.
arzi arzi 4/16/2024 01:28
Instead of "Cogito ergo sum" - "Erravi, ergo sum" or "Ego messed, ergo sum." or "Errarim, sic homo sum"
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