Wills Chess Blog
Adventures in chess in Cambridgeshire

To memorise or not to memorise that is the question

By Will
Sometime ago I read a fascinating post on DK's blog about GM ram, a book that told readers to analyse deeply a number of positions and to memorise 57 key games. I have been trying to lightly anonotate and memorise these games for sometime adding a new one every two weeks. At first it was very difficult to memorise the games and indeed I doubted I could manage 10, now I have memorised 18 and am adding the 19th as we speak.

But what good is this doing? I had thought that it is a way of filling the LTM with patterns that may be useful during games or ideas of how to punish bad play since the games were mostly pre 1930. This view has evolved since I have indeed used some of the ideas and some of the openings have appeared in my games (especially Szabo - Andersson London 1851).

After so many hours work I wondered what the point was about game 5, then a strange thing started to happen. Slowly it took less repetitions to memorise the games, sometimes shorter games could be remember >75% correct after one viewing. More recently I have found that I can go through the games without moving the pieces and blindfold.

During the last round of the club championship I was drawn against the highest rated player in the pool. His FIDE equivalent rating was >400 higher than mine and he certainly hasn't been playing for just two years so I decided to prepare as best I could to give myself a decent chance against him. I found out his prefered openings against 1 e4 and then culled several key games in these variations from various books I have. These had to be trimmed alittle since there were >30 to around 8 key games which I proceeded to play through once a day. By the end of the week I could play these 8 pretty much from memory.

When I sat down and he played straight into the openings I had looked at I felt confident that I would give a decent account of myself. And, as it transpired, I played a number of very strong moves consistent with the opening even after he deviated fairly early on. The key idea I had missed in the sample games was my downfall since my maneuvering became alittle uncoordinated as I lost the thread in the quickplay finish.

Overall I think I understand what GM ram is about. The "300 by hand" is not so you can just play these positions or games from memory, it is to add information to the LTM to allow further information to be stored easier like hooks. Additionally, this has lead me to continue with my quest to have a define repertoire mapped out by key games including where one side has played poorly and to spend time defining the plans for both sides.

You could call it an epiphany but I prefer to define it as a turning point when aimless wood pushing is not enough now I feel the urge to know the plans for both sides in the openings.

2 comments so far.

  1. Phaedrus 6 December 2009 at 10:52
    This is the first time I heard anyone (besides the author) say that GM RAM, did make a significant contribution to his chess skills. I must say that I had a similar experience in my youth when I worked through two dutch Euwe books. I remembered the games very well, even without focusing on memorizing. And in this period I made a lot of progress. But after two years this method did not gain me much anymore. I did books from cover to cover in the same way as the Euwe books, but I got stuck and hardly made any progress.

    So for me the debate is still open if this method will help you after you have left the zone. But as long as it works I would recommend you to stick with it. Nothing succeeds like success.
  2. Temposchlucker 20 December 2009 at 09:58
    An interesting idea to use memorized games as coathanger. I suppose it works better when you know what to try to accomplish.

Something to say?