Friday, 17 July 2009

The Six Hats of Chess Thinking

"Six Thinking Hats" by Edward De Bono is considered as one of the most innovative books on thinking and the decision making process. I've often wondered whether the various 'hats', and the thinking process, could be applied to chess. I'm not sure it is the most efficient way to choose a move during the game, but here is my attempt at matching hats to chess concepts.
For those unfamiliar with 'Six Thinking Hats', each hat stands for a different part of the thought process. And while making a decision (or coming to a conclusion), each hat is worn as a way of applying the different thinking techniques. Here is a list of hats (by colour), and the related chess concepts.
Blue Hat - Controlling the thinking process. In chess this firstly concerns how much thinking you need to do. You may only have one reply (eg a recapture) or you may be short of time. At the end of the thinking process you also use this to decide on your move (or to decide you've done enough thinking).
White Hat - Facts and Figures. In chess this would be material balance, plus position factors (open files, outposts, doubles pawns etc). Knowing what problem you are solving often puts you half way to the answer.
Red Hat - Emotions and Feelings. I would see this as 'How do I feel about my position?'. Also recognising whether you are nervous or over-confidant might help you in your approach to the rest of the game. And of course 'Am I playing for a win or am I playing for a draw?'
Black Hat - Caution and Care. In chess this would be looking for immediate threats from your opponent, and at a higher level, prophylactic thinking. 'What is my opponent threatening to do?' would be a good question to ask while wearing this hat.
Green Hat - Creative thinking. Probably best used when obvious moves don't seem to help. The 'Where do I want my pieces to be?' question falls under this category.
Yellow Hat - Constructive thinking. Ultimately you need to analyse your alternatives, and here is where you do it. This is the 'I move, then they move, then I move' part of the process.

Now while this may seem to be an impractical way of choosing a move (as I feel that chess thinking involves a lot of overlapping concepts) there is some good news. This approach to choosing your move has already been described, in a sense, and certainly predates the publication of De Bono's book. I am referring to CJS Purdy's 'System for choosing a move' which he laid out in the pages of "Chess World", and which he himself used to win the first World Correspondence Championship.
So it is possible to bring a formal thinking process into your game, but whether it is practical is a question I have yet to answer.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

No matter what colour, I would have thought that hats are now banned while playing chess as electronic devices can be hidden inside them! :)