In my last post I made it clear that I believe that I am relatively good for a player of my strength in pattern recognition, and that I am relatively weak in visualization and calculation. This is something I see confirmed in the post mortems with players with ratings comparable to mine, or sometimes even significantly lower rated players. They have seen more variations, calculated deeper and I more often than not think that I can see that they calculate a lot faster.
I once was fortunate enough to witness a post mortem between Timman (at that moment ranked third in the world) and Kasparov. Kasparov won that game in which the following unusual ending ocurred:
In this position it was White (Timman) to move. Kasparov (with the black pieces) won this game even though almost everbody thought it was a draw. During the post mortem it was stunning to see the difference between kasparov and Timman. Kasparov gave one variation after another in an amazing speed. Immediately rebuffing almost every suggestion Timman made to improve upon the game.
Witnessing this I strongly felt that Kasparov brains just worked much faster than Timmans, and that the only thing that could compensate Timman for this disadvantage was maybe experience and knowledge (read patterns). Unfortunately for his Dutch fans however, Timman never could prove that his experience and knowledge were superior to Kasparovs, and after this match he never again was able to seriously challenge Kasparov again.
Nevertheless, Timman of course was a world class player. So it is possible to be good at chess, even if your main strength is not calculation and/or visualization. And I think that this explains my progress from a steady 1900 player to a steady 2000+ player. The period in which I accomplished this, is the period in which I mainly concentrated on improving my pattern recognition. I started to calculate less, but the variations I calculated were much more relevant than before.
And up to this day I still think that the road for improvement for me is to work on my pattern recognition. I do step 6 of the stepsmethod now for almost a year. I have nearly completed the workbook. My succes rate is about 75%. There is hardly a solution in the book that is deeper than 11 ply, and neither will you find solutions with more than 3 to 4 variations. As long as I keep missing 25% of the patterns within this horizon, there seems to be little reason for me to try to improve my abbility to look deeper.
And besides, before I started to concentrate on pattern recognition, I have tried a lot to improve my visualization and calculation skills. It did not improve my rating, and neither did I have any other indication that it brought me significant gains. But maybe this is caused by the fact that I did not use an effective method. So for now I focus on patterns. The question remains however what to do when I have finished step 6.