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Chess and the Military

Updated: Jun 18

The memory for chess positions for experts and novices was tested by showing them a particular chess setup and then asking them to recreate it on an empty board. The masters could recall far more than the beginners. The new players needed to put down pieces one by one and were often unable to fully remember all the details of the position. The masters in contrast, remembered the board in larger "chunks" with several pieces corresponding to a recognizable pattern put down at the same time. Psychologists theorize that the difference between grand masters and novices is not that grand masters can compute many more moves ahead, but that they have built up huge libraries of mental representations that come from playing thousands of games. Researches have estimated that having around 50,000 of these mental chunks stored in long-term memory is necessary to reach expert status. These representations allow them to take a complex chess setup and reduce it to a few key patterns that can be worked with intuitively. Beginners, who lack this ability, have to resort to representing each piece as a single unit and are therefore much slower.


Expertise is only gained through extensive context specific practice which provides pattern recognition to the larger problem.


A regimental OpsO can look at the MWX map, and immediately pick out the canalizing terrain, the most dangerous threat to forces, and possible opportunities. The regimental S3 clerk sees a bunch of individual pieces on the map.


A Lt towards the end of his training at TBS hears gunfire to the flank and understands it's an enemy SBF. Not distracted, he immediately focuses on the fire support plan and the main engagement area from where he expects the ME attack. A Lt towards the beginning of TBS immediately gets drawn into the sounds of gunfire.

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