Traditionally, logic and memorization of information has provided the foundation for thought and learning. But it looks like we are unaware of our own latent visual powers that we do not use to our full advantage. Consequently, our potential for better thinking, greater understanding and better results in whatever we do (chess including) is generally underused.

When we act in the world, we rely on recognition of familiar patterns and on ability to organize what we do into those patterns and dependable cues. But it seems that, against modern evidence of basic brain function, we are still not quite clear how to use brain more effectively on our perception and actions.

Through faulty teaching methods we get caught with destructive mental habits that afflict us throughout life. For example, in chess, we start teaching with showing “the moves first.” Nimzovich claimed this approach was “fundamentally false.” [1] It develops defective thinking patterns that cause too many mistakes when we play. The key question here is, what we could do to increase the efficiency of our thought process and reduce number of mistakes?

Chess art by Marko Celebonovic from Pavle Beljanski Collection, Novi Sad

Marko Celebonovic, [2] Chess, 1933. Pavle Beljanski Collection, Novi Sad

Cognition traps

All our actions basically come down to judgment calls and decision-making. And that is where we make mistakes. When we are approaching and solving problems, we basically get caught in so called cognition traps. That is how we wind up defeating ourselves. Cognition traps are rigid mind-sets formed from faulty thinking based on preconceived notions and preset patterns of thought.

The poor judgments resulting from cognition traps affect us every day. Not only our chess, it can hurt our relationships, or make our “best conceived” plans fail.

If we can spot those self-destructive thought patterns, then we will have a real opportunity to break them. We need to understand why we make mistakes before we can do anything to prevent them.

In psychology these errors are known as biases. The cognitive biases are holes in our thinking impairing our learning, problem solving and decision making. They are not only misleading but dangerous in its perpetuation of falsehoods and stereotypes. By being aware of these holes we can devise methods to patch them up. And conceive the training quite differently to have the right habits promoted from the start.

Chess mistakes

Why we are making them and what the underlying causes may be?

Sometimes it is a tendency to infer what we see rather than actually look more closely. Other times, we tend to see what we want to see.

In trying to avoid mistakes, we have to struggle constantly to be alert to what is actually before our eyes as well as what we are tempted to believe.

Look, don’t think!


1. For more details, see November/December 2011 issue of Georgia Chess Magazine.

2. Marko Čelebonović (Belgrade, 1902 – Saint Tropez, 1986). A lawyer by profession (studied law and economics in England and France) he started his education in art by studying sculpture in the studio of Antoine Bourdelle, but he soon chose painting. He had the first exhibition in Paris in 1925. Until the Second World war he lived in Paris and Saint Tropez. During the war years he was a member of French Resistance. After the war he returned to Yugoslavia and from 1948 to 1960, except for brief intervals, he was a professor at the Academy of Fine Arts in Belgrade.

Čelebonović, as he said about himself, “invented forms, color relationships, resembling a dream or a vision which has nothing to do with nature, but nature only serves as an inspiration for a symbolic sign. I should say that a painter during his life first lives on the ground floor, near the ground, and later he moves to the first or second floors, which separate him from the material reality and introduces him to an unencumbered, spiritual world.”

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