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Player: Australia  Zahnarzt Subject: Cognitive Skills in Chess

2008-04-21 23:49:10
Sorry for the snooty title, but I hope it will attract the attention of someone knowledgeable who can push this along a bit.

In an interview in New In Chess with GM Miguel Najdorf a few years back, Nadjorf was asked, “What makes a good player?”

His response was, “Chess is a combination of ten games. I’ll tell you which. Attack, defence, endgames, openings, few pieces, more pieces. A combination of ten games. Who is the champion of the world? The man who excels at all these ten games? Look at Tal. A wonderful chess player on the attack, but not in defence. Not in the ending. Look at Petrosian. A genius of defence. Not of attack. Look at Smyslov. One of the best players in the world in the endgame. There are ten games together and nobody is the champion of the ten games together.” Then they discussed something else.

My queries are these:
Does anybody (especially psychologists or someone trained in this field) know if ten actual chess cognitive skills have been elaborated in studies by the experts?
If so, what are these skills? Najdorf mentions only six items. I suppose memory is also an important function, especially in the openings. But there is also something creative about opening theory input as well. Najdorf’s own contribution to the Sicilian is a wonderful example of this. Also speed of calculation. I remember reading a long time ago about Botvinnik commenting that Capablanca had a phenomenal “move calculating algorithm”. What of the role of emotion and its proper place amongst these skills?

Understanding these features of our chess thinking might suggest means and methods of improving our play and would be interesting in relation to our decision making in other areas of our lives too.

It also has some bearing on the previous topic of “Genius, Made or Born?”
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