Memorizing Chess: Methods and Material

I have read probably all debates about memorizing chess with mnemonics in the forum.

Using some of the ideas that I read and some ideas of mine, I made a method that worked well so far.

It’s an alternative for the method that “Bangalos” presented here https://artofmemory.com/forums/what-methods-exist-for-chess-1492.html#comment-3220 and developed here https://artofmemory.com/forums/my-system-for-random-chess-pieces-848.html#comment-1618 that, in my opinion, is, by far, the best method presented so far.

I will talk to you about my method and would appreciate critics(specially the bad ones).

Besides it, I bring up a question about material. Which specialized chess materials do you use in your memorizations of chess? I use the ECO-code (encyclopaedia of chess openings), the encyclopaedia of chess endings and the encyclopaedia of chess combinations/middlegames.

So, my method consists of a A-O (action-object) system with 64 combinations

The 64 A-O represent all squares. (both, the action and the object, are related to the same square)

So, I associate 2 pieces to each of these series.

Ex: horse (first piece in movement), cutting(action that represents e5 for me ), with an axe(object that represents e5 for me) square), the queen(piece that develops the second move).
This image means: white horse going to “cutting” square and then black queen going to axe square. In the case, the queen won the horse. but if i used another object, the image would just say that the queen went to that other square after horse going to e5.

If i’m memorising positions, and not movements, then the idea is the same: this image would means: horse in the the cutting square + queen in the axe square. The only difference is that i add a modification if both pieces are white or black. ( if were talking of positions, maybe there are more pieces of one color).

This way, I memorise 2 movements per locus, easy and clean.

Since I use the same images of my P-A-O system in this A-O system, they are easy to remember.

This system can be used to 2 kinds of chess memorization, as I already said: to movements or to positions. In the first case, que A-O represents the square where the pieces “move”. In the second case, A-O represents the square where the pieces “are”.

This is the “basis”. But not the end of the method. Since chess has MANY patterns (tips of openings, middlegames and variations, I use specific images for them. For example, the queen’s gambit accepted is just 1 image for me, queen’s gambit neglected with e6 another, and so on. The use of “special images for long patterns” is a way of advancing with the method, when you advance in the knowledge of the game. And it’s really easy to remember those new images. (for languages, in which I used many sillabycal images, there were many more…)

Bangalos system is good. I used this one because I never learned major system.

So that’s the idea. If you have suggestions of material I would really appreciate it, and if you have critics, it would be a honor to hear them.

That’s a good system but honestly, you don’t need mnemonics for chess.

If you want to play better, you have to study, memorizing positions won’t help.

BUT, if your goal is to memorize chess positions, then this can be a good system for this.

Hi chiguin. I see your point.

In fact, memorising positions isn’t all. You have to think about it, understand the possibilities that it presents, reflect, practice and practice. In point of view, you are totally correct in this point.

Besides it, I have the thesis (and I can be wrong, of course), that the acummulation of “vocabulary” can really increase the speed of the process.

In synthesis, i see your point and just think that the memorization and the studies can be complementary to one another, and not exclusive.

It is my understanding that top chess players have great memories. One chess master I know has said to me that he used to remember his games! I am sure that he didn’t use any mnemonics.

Digressing on a side topic of memorizing your own chess games, I think that the effort involved in memorizing a game of chess may draw cognitive energy away from the mental resources you use to evaluate the current position, which may not be a good thing. And the memorization of the game as you play it is also made more difficult by the fact that you have to think about the position along the way and not just remember it. It’s like you have to use working memory to find your current move and long term memory to memorize the game as a whole. This is quite a memory exercise for sure.

Given that I have many memory castles to fill, I sometimes used to take memorable chess positions to remind me of a number. EPHeMeR game for instance, is my number 4834 and it is the position of the shortest game possible with the Queen mating from the sideline. Under CheePO 7679, I have a coordinated attack on F7 for an early check mate.

If I were to want to improve my chess game, which I do not, I would certainly organize meaningful positions in memory castles. I might put all RooK endings for instance near a new locus around my 47th memory castle. But finding all these meaningful positions and knowing why they are meaningful and why you should know them and naming them so that it’s neatly ordered and easy to remember is quite a challenge.

Simon, it’s not just top chess players that know their games. It’s pretty common among average players. Mostly it’s longer games, 30 min-2 hours for each player, you spend 2-10 minutes on a move, you remember it. Plus, it’s very pattern intensive, after playing a couple hundred/thousand games you draw upon all of them in remembering the game(subconsciously) ie: It’s queens gambit opening, with him doing g6 and fianchettoing his bishop, which I later attack with my queen and bishop, weakening his kingside… etc etc. Patterns, patterns…

Edit: Additionally, a lot of chess players review their games afterward, consider alternative moves, etc. This is especially for major games.

I have contacted several mnemonists – Dominic O’Brien, Anthony Metivier & Chess GM Raymond Keene - and none could give me a comprehensible answer,
but saying it could be easy to apply standard techniques to it but nothing precise beyond that…

Here’s an email exchange I had with Anthony Metivier discussing him wanting to eventually develop one such technique:

I was thinking that if we can embed small micro element like a deck of card on a desk somewhere along a journey, or a library with shelves or …
to have additional memory palaces – a comment you’ve made about memory palaces connecting on another level in “renovating MPs”.

Why couldn’t we put a MP (or several) imbedded in a “main” memory palace: a bit like the pack of cards or shelves are separe micro-journey along the main MP…?

I was thinking of something like a computer (or several) with virtual googled somewhere in my MP journey, that I could envision putting google on and been taken on a virtual reality tour of another MP and then when that MP is completed, I could take glasses of and resume my journey along my loci in my main MP…

This would be particularly useful for opening learning in chess due to the many many variations that branches out, but then you have to go back to root of moves choices to go to opening mainline… You could even have colored sets of googles and have 1-2-3 google on same computer and you choose to go through MPs or not according to move you play, since if you have 3 moves choice on move 9 and play one of them, you don’t need to know the other possibilities that would have taken place if you digressed in another move. Such sub-MP could have sub-MPs of their own to include further variations…

The concern is that – I am building an opening repertoire at the moment – and when I look at the amount of variations visually, it would take a ton of MPs to encompass all…

So I was thinking of having major system and SEM3 or peg system (alpha and numeric) – a bit like Chessbase software classify variations - like systems for sub-lines and variations from main line which would be on main MP…

I came across something on Ben Pridmore’s website that is called Mechtnon System:
http://www.memoryconsulting.com/mechtnon.htm
http://www.likanas.de/doc/The%20MikeMechtnon%20Method.pdf

I think that using the ECO theory tables in that kind of house system (one house per opening) could do; or something like Buzan’s SEM3.

These are easily multipliable to have lots of stuff into them, particularly the Mechtnon System.

They are not memory palaces, but I think that is what makes them perfect to memorise so intricate variations as chess opening ones…