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Adriaan D.

de Groot

Thought and Choice in Chess


with a preface by sijbolt noorda

3 a

Amsterdam Academic Archive

thought and choice in chess

The Amsterdam Academic Archive is an initiative of Amsterdam University Press. The series consists of scholarly titles which were no longer available, but which are still in demand in the Netherlands and abroad. Relevant sections of these publications can also be found in the repository of Amsterdam University Press: www.aup.nl/repository. At the back of this book there is a list of all AAA titles published so far.

Adriaan D. de Groot

Thought and Choice in Chess


with a preface by sijbolt noorda

3 a
Amsterdam Academic Archive

For this edition of Thought and Choice in Chess the second print run of 1978 has been used, published by Mouton Publishers, The Hague, the Netherlands (isbn 90-279-7914-6). Cover design: Ren Staelenberg, Amsterdam isbn 978 90 5356 998 6 e-isbn 978 90 4850 191 5 nur 776 Heirs A.D. de Groot / Amsterdam University Press Amsterdam Academic Archive, 2008 All rights reserved. Without limiting the rights under copyright reserved above, no part of this book may be reproduced, stored in or introduced into a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means (electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise) without the written permission of both the copyright owner and the author of the book.

preface Doctoral theses are usually only read by a handful of professional colleagues. It is quite uncommon that they get a second life by reprint or translation. A dissertation that becomes the lifelong trademark of a researcher is a unique phenomenon. The present book is one such rarity. Its author, A.D. de Groot (1914-2006), was a very prominent Dutch psychologist and for three decades a professor at the University of Amsterdam. His research contributed substantially to the development of psychology as an empirical discipline. His classic Methodology (1961; English translation 1969) had a great impact on the teaching and practice of social science research in the Netherlands. And until this very day the Dutch school system relies on aptitude tests proposed by De Groot in his book on selection processes in education. His most original book, however, was his very first, a doctoral dissertation on chess thinking. Himself an able chess player (as a young man he made it to the Dutch national team) Adriaan Dingeman de Groot chose the process of thought and choice in chess to test and develop conceptions and theories on thinking. He invited some of the best chess players of the time to be his guinea-pigs. They were to study a selection of positions and try to find the best possible move in each of them. Meanwhile they were asked to think aloud, verbalizing their thought processes as accurately as possible. By this experimental set up the author sought to describe the process of reasoning on an empirical basis, by making use of the earlier theory of productive thinking proposed by Otto Selz (1913, 1922). As far as specific chess reasoning was concerned, De Groots study led to a number of surprising results. Although master level players as one would expect more often selected winning moves than lesser players, their thinking and decision making followed similar procedural lines. No substantial structural variety could be observed. The main difference between grandmasters and players of average strength is the speed of recognizing the central issue in each position. Where lesser players tend to spend considerable time on unimportant options, the best players almost immediately see what the real problem is. Thats their talent, or rather their competence, acquired during long years of training and competition. All along chess players took great interest in De Groots work, as an exercise in empirical psychology, but above all as an endeavour to explaining chess genius. His analysis was acknowledged by most and led to a new approach to the teaching and training of young chess players. A later study by Riekent Jongman (1968) (a thesis under supervision of De Groot and presented in his Perception and Memory in Chess, with Fernand Gobet (1996)) corroborated De Groots findings and underlined the attribution of chess mastery to knowledge and experience rather than to a strong computational competence or an exceptional memory. An expert chess player sees the defin-

ing characteristics of a chess position in the blink of an eye because he recognizes its functional properties and possibilities. That explains the quality and the speed of his judgment. When asked to reconstruct positions they only had had a few seconds to observe, they showed remarkable skills in doing so, as long as these positions where realistic, regular chess positions. Confronted with unlikely random arrangements of pieces on the chessboard their superiority was gone. De Groots original doctors thesis (in Dutch: Het denken van de schaker, 1946) was published in a limited edition and has been hard to find. The English translation of 1965 showed that the topic and the study remained of great interest to a wide audience of psychologists, chess players and computer programmers. This version is now reprinted, as a tribute to Professor A.D. de Groots originality of experimentation and strong powers of methodological research. At the same time the book is a milestone marking the transition of the psychological study of genius to the early beginnings of empirical cognitive science. In fact, de Groots thesis inspired a major breakthrough in the development of AI models of thinking, in part by his systematic analysis of the thinking-aloud protocols of how chess thinking proceeded, and in part by his application of Selzs theory of productive thought as a sequence of distinct methods. Both influenced the development of AI models of thinking, and notably the work of Herbert Simon and Alan Newell and their epoch-making Human Problem Solving from 1972. Sijbolt Noorda

titles published in the AAA series Andriessen, L. and Schnberger, E. The Apollonian Clockwork, 2006 (isbn 90 5356 856 5) Appel, R. and Muysken, P. Language Contact and Bilingualism, 2006 (isbn 90 5356 857 3) Bal, M. Reading Rembrandt, 2005 (isbn 90 5356 858 1) Belinfante, A.D. In plaats van bijltjesdag, 2006 (isbn 90 5356 890 5) Bennis, H. Gaps and Dummies, 2005 (isbn 90 5356 859 x) Blom, H. De muiterij op De Zeven Provincin, 2005 (isbn 90 5356 844 1) Boutellier, H. Solidariteit en slachtofferschap, 2008 (isbn 978 90 5356 409 7) Bruggen, C. van Hedendaags fetisjisme, 2006 (isbn 90 5356 891 3) Crombag, H.F.M. Een manier van overleven, 2006 (isbn 90 5356 940 5) Dehue, T. De regels van het vak, 2005 (isbn 90 5356 845 x) Dijksterhuis, E.J. De mechanisering van het wereldbeeld, 2006 (isbn 90 5356 892 1) Engbersen, G. Publieke bijstandsgeheimen, 2006 (isbn 90 5356 852 2) Engbersen, G.; Schuyt, K.; Timmer, J. and Waarden, F. van Cultures of Unemployment, 2006 (isbn 90 5356 846 8) Geyl, P.C.A. Napoleon, 2006 (isbn 90 5356 893 x) Goedegebuure, J. De schrift herschreven, 2005 (isbn 90 5356 847 6) Goedegebuure, J. De veelvervige rok, 2005 (isbn 90 5356 848 4) Groot, Adriaan D. de Thought and Choice in Ches, 2008 (isbn 978 90 5356 998 6) Hugenholtz, B. Auteursrecht op informatie, 2005 (isbn 90 5356 849 2) Idema, H. and Haft, L. Chinese letterkunde, 2005 (isbn 90 5356 842 5) Janssens, J. De middeleeuwen zijn anders, 2005 (isbn 90 5356 850 6) Kohnstamm, D. Ik ben ik, 2006 (isbn 90 5356 853 0) Komter, A. Omstreden gelijkheid, 2006 (isbn 90 5356 854 9) Meijer, M. In tekst gevat, 2006 (isbn 90 5356 855 7) Oostindie, G. Ethnicity in the Caribbean, 2005 (isbn 90 5356 851 4) Pinkster, H. On Latin Adverbs, 2005 (isbn 90 5356 843 3) Righart, H. De eindeloze jaren zestig, 2006 (isbn 90 5356 941 3) Schffer, I. Het nationaal-socialistische beeld van de geschiedenis der Nederlanden, 2006 (isbn 90 5356 895 6) Schulte Nordholt, H. Het beeld der Renaissance, 2006 (isbn 90 5356 939 1) Tilburg, M. van and Vingerhoets, A. Psychological Aspects of Geographical Moves, 2006 (isbn 90 5356 860 3) Vries, J. de Barges and Capitalism, 2006 (isbn 90 5356 897 2)

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