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 Post subject: Tactical reading, techniques, strategies
Post #1 Posted: Sat Dec 17, 2016 5:20 am 

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A tactical problem with a given aim can be solved by means of tactical reading, tactical simplification, tactical techniques, tactical strategies etc. A distinction of means of simplification, techniques and strategies is ambiguous to some extent. So far, more often than not, tactical strategy has been used in a meaning hardly different from tactical techniques. Strategy sounds more powerful than technique; calling some book titles Tactical Strategy (Thomas Redecker) is an advertising trick more than substance. Means of simplification can also be considered techniques but can be much more powerful and frequently applicable than ordinary techniques; this justifies distinguishing (great) 'simplifications' from other 'techniques'. There are different kinds of reading, such as strategic reading (reading on a strategic level without exploring terminal positions) and dynamic reading (with dynamically changing aims), which are off-topic for tactical reading. Methods of tactical reading include 'regular reading' (described in detail in the book Tactical Reading / Robert Jasiek and briefly mentioned in Tesuji / Davies) and 'test reading' (see Tactical Reading). See also viewtopic.php?p=214631#p214631 for a short summary of regular reading. In fact, most players have a rough understanding of what regular reading should be. That I have given the method a name is a bad excuse for pretending not to know what it is. If you do not know what the regular method of tactical reading is, your greatest chance to improve is learning it now. The same applies for knowing the major details of the method. Nothing wastes more thinking time than not knowing a frequently applicable simplification to regular reading or performing tactical reading inefficiently because of being unsure about how it works well.

Tactical Reading, p. 108 states this principle: "Reading must include a) all the necessary variations, b) all non-essential variations the reader reads before the related necessary variations and c) the decision-making." IOW, solving a problem does not only mean to answer yes / no to the question whether the given aim can be fulfilled but also means to justify the answer by verification. If reading is the used means, verification relies on identifying the decision-making at the branches (and starting position) and the states detected at the visited terminal positions.

Exceptionally, sophisticated other means can be used to verify an answer retrieved from techniques but not (or only insufficiently) from means of reading. E.g., "there is only one interesting variation consisting of only one move creating a terminal position with obvious clarification of the answer immediately", such as playing on the only vital point of a nakade. Usually, sophisticated means of verification other than reading are hard to describe faster than verifying by performing regular reading. I.e., even if techniques have been used to suggest an answer to clarify the aim, regular reading is still the usual way of verification; the hope would be that the used techniques accelerate move selection during regular reading so much that the combined process of first using techniques and then regular reading would be faster than only using regular reading.

In another thread, I have written that [roughly] 50% of tactical problems should be solved by tactical reading without techniques. John Fairbairn doubts this in viewtopic.php?p=214630#p214630 . I understand where his thinking comes from: The problem classics are heavily prejudiced towards showing problems with applicable techniques (it is much easier to invent problems around techniques than to invent useful, arbitrary problems) and his Gateway to All Marvels (AFA I can judge from the sample) shows applied techniques but lacks explanation a) how to find move 1, b) how to find out the applicable techniques to a problem and c) verification of the given "correct" variations by means of decision-making of regular reading. A failure of explaining and demonstrating regular reading becomes excuse for suggesting a low relevance.

The 50% relies on a) my experience in my own games, b) my experience from seeing my pupils' difficulties in solving tactical problems and c) my findings in Tactical Reading, for which invented problems looking interesting in their start positions without bothering whether or not their solution would rely on reading or techniques. Here are the statistics for the key means of the problems in Tactical Reading:

39 regular reading only
7 regular reading + simplifications
12 regular reading + simplifications + techniques
32 regular reading + techniques
2 regular reading + special
2 test reading only
1 test reading + techniques
0 simplification only
0 techniques only
0 special only
96 (without whole board problems)

Means of simplifications: reversion, likelihood of success, symmetrically equivalent move, obvious first move, finding the best first move, equivalent liberties, modest aim, setting suitable aim.
Special: territory counting, sente / playing elsewhere.

Regular reading only occurs mainly in very simple problems (reading is finished before suitable techniques could be identified and used for verification, if at all) or difficult problems (decision-making of regular reading is the key). The most frequent simplification (other than the simplifications inherent in the method of regular reading) is reversion. Techniques can be useful is intermediate or difficult problems, can be harmful distraction or useless / waste of time in others. In particular, very many techniques are applicable with very little scope of application; this is a great danger of trapping oneself in dead ends of attempted solutions.

The roughly 50% of "with" versus "without" techniques applies to finding the most efficient way of solving at the start position. Subproblems become easy at some time, and then regular reading is the fastest means anyway. Terminal positions can be known positions, such as nakade. Pruning reading at such early terminal positions I call simplification inherent in regular reading. OC, if you wanted to call identification of life status at terminal positions / known positions such as nakades 'techniques', you would get different percentages. IMO, such would not be meaningful help for advice of how to proceed analysing problems early on.

John writes: "many problems involve techniques that are applied deeper in the tree".
1) This is historical prejudice of problem book writers. 2) The very largest fraction of techniques applied deeper in the tree would slow down solution by plain regular reading. Only a small fraction, if any, of techniques actually accelerates regular reading. This is often clearer in retrospect than when starting solving a problem.

John writes: "In fact they can't be done in practical terms without a technique."
Regular reading is much more frequently successful than one might expect. Really complex problems can demand hundreds of variations, but even so, regular reading is applicable. (The most complicated problems invented by me so far have 60 ~ 100 variations. I have self-imposed this limit because I have not written problem books for high dans yet. However, there is principle problem to do with hundreds of variations what can be done with 100. If helpful techniques can be identified in time, fine. Otherwise regular reading does it. OC, whole board fights in open middle game positions cannot always be solved by whichever combination of means.)

When starting solving a problem, OC, one can think for some seconds which means to apply. What I am advising against is thinking about possibly applying techniques for minutes. The time is better spent on already doing regular reading.

(Note to admins: This is a study thread. Since references to books might be perceived as advertisements, I need to post in the go books forum rather than the study group forum.)

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