How To Win At Chess? Here’s What Goes Inside The Head Of Chess Champion Magnus Carlsen

[ Source: TechTimes ] - December 30, 2016

The popular board game chess is challenging and the winner usually draws a lot of admiration. There is a curiosity to understand the mental and intellectual dynamics of the players when they are playing chess.

Probing that enigmatic plank is CITEC of Bielefeld University with a project called "Ceege." The cognitive scientists from Cluster of Excellence Cognitive Interaction Technology pursued a research method that tracked eye movements and facial expressions of players.

Ceege stands for "Chess Expertise from Eye Gaze and Emotion."

The early results explained how Norwegian grandmaster Magnus Carlsen earned the world chess champion title this year.

"There are numerous theories on how the brain controls attention and solves problems in both everyday situations and game situations," says Professor Thomas Schack.

As a sports scientist, Schack heads the CITEC research group's "Neurocognition and Action — Biomechanics."

In Ceege, Schack's group has a partner in French team, Inria Grenoble Rhône-Aples.
Innovative Methodology

The Bielefeld researchers applied many techniques to glean information on players' activity, using special eye-tracking glasses to measure their gaze. The facial expressions and body language were recorded in video cameras.

One of the scientists, Kai Essig, said the findings can predict the relative strength of an individual chess player and his scope of winning a match.

Essig observed that amateurs jump rapidly from one figure to another and look at all the pieces as if they all have a big role in a particular situation.

Micro expressions, including facial expressions and gestures along with changes in respiratory rate, perspiration, and heart beat were tracked by James Crowley's team from the Institute Inria.

Overall, the project studied 120 participants, in which one-third were chess experts and novices constituted the rest. Essig said the study clearly showed chess experts differed in significant eye movements.

The new knowledge was verified by the researchers in analyzing the chess world championship of November and determined that Magnus Carlsen would be the winner as he showed more initiative in the first six matches.
Carlsen's Strategy

In an interview, prior to the November world championship, Carlsen himself threw hints about his sources of inspiration and strategy.

Carlsen is known as a player who shows great capacity in putting people at ease. He has been the defending champion since 2013 and in the 2016 match, the champion played against Russia's Sergey Karjakin who was 26-year-old.

Karjakin was a Ukrainian and became a Russian citizen in 2009 under a special decree by Russian president Dmitry Medvedev.

Carlsen said he is an admirer of Karjakin "as a person and a chess player." He likes Karjakin's tenacious moves and the ability to find positions.

Carlsen says he hoped to break Russian player's defenses from tips found in military history. While reading war heroes, he read a book on Hitler to get an idea of the German leader's military successes and lapses. He also read Napoleon as a childhood hero and admired the French conqueror as a great strategist.

Carlsen said reading achievements of historical figures inspired him while he was shy of publicizing his own achievements.
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