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Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Want a Super Chess Memory?

     Piotr Wozniak is supposedly the inventor of a technique to turn people into geniuses. A portion of this technique, embodied in a software program called SuperMemo ($60 US), helps people mainly in learning languages. 
     SuperMemo is based on the idea that there is an ideal moment to practice what you've learned. Practice too soon and you waste your time. Practice too late and you've forgotten the material and have to relearn it. The right time to practice is just at the moment you're about to forget. Unfortunately, this moment is different for every person and each bit of information.
     Supposedly forgetting follows a pattern. We forget exponentially. A graph of our likelihood of getting the correct answer on a quiz sweeps quickly downward over time and then levels off. This pattern has long been known to cognitive psychology, but it has been difficult to put to practical use. Wozniak realized that computers could calculate the moment of forgetting if he could discover the right algorithm.
     SuperMemo is the result of his research. It predicts the future state of a person's memory and schedules information reviews at the optimal time. SuperMemo keeps track of bits of information you've learned and want to retain. For example, say you're studying Spanish. Your chance of recalling a given word when you need it declines over time according to a predictable pattern. SuperMemo tracks this so-called forgetting curve and reminds you to rehearse your knowledge when your chance of recalling it has dropped to, say, 90 percent. After SuperMemo reminds you of the word, the rate of forgetting levels out. The program tracks this new decline and waits longer to quiz you the next time.
     Can you use the program to improve your chess memory?  I don't know, but if anybody is interested and has $60 to spend, it could be worth a try.  I know...$60 is a lot of money, but how many of us have $60 worth of chess books that never did us any good?  Another option is to read one of the below books.  Do they work?  Again, I don't know.  I'm at that place in life where I can start forgetting stuff.  When it comes to chess, sometimes I think I have forgotten more than I ever knew.

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