The Black Grimoire – Chapter 02 – Remember, remember

What is necessary to learn chess, and to become good at it, is to take on a kind of chess apprenticeship. Of course finding a chess coach is one way to do this, however; the problem with a chess coach is that he monetarily benefits the slower you learn. In the old days of an apprenticeship, the faster you mastered your trade, the more valuable you were to the master.

This system[apprenticeships] arose as a solution to a problem: As business expanded in the Middle Ages, Masters of various crafts could no longer depend on family members to work in the shop. They needed more hands. But it was not worth it for them to bring in people who could come and go – they needed stability and time to build up skills in their workers. And so they developed the apprenticeship system, in which young people from approximately the ages of twelve to seventeen would enter work in a shop, signing a contract that would commit them for the term of seven years. At the end of this term, apprentices would have to pass a master test, or produce a master work, to prove their level of skill. Once passed, they were now elevated to the rank of journeymen and could travel wherever there was work, practicing the craft.

Because few books or drawings existed at the time, apprentices would learn the trade by watching Masters and imitating them as closely as possible. They learned through endless repetition and hands-on work, with very little verbal instruction…

Mastery – Robert Greene(p59)


Apprenticeship is an inherently social learning method with a long history of helping novices become experts in fields as diverse as midwifery, construction, and law. At the center of apprenticeship is the concept of more experienced people assisting less experienced ones, providing structure and examples to support the attainment of goals. …  Apprenticeship as a method of teaching and learning is just as relevant within the cognitive and metacognitive domain as it is in the psychomotor domain.

Teaching and learning through cognitive apprenticeship requires making tacit processes visible to learners so they can observe and then practice them (Collins et al., 1989). The following methods support the goals of cognitive apprenticeship.

  1. Modeling: meaning the demonstration of the temporal process of
  2. Explanation: explaining why activities take place as they do.
  3. Coaching: meaning the monitoring of students’ activities and
    assisting and supporting them where necessary.
  4. Scaffolding: meaning support of students so that they can cope with
    the task situation. The strategy also entails the gradual withdrawal of
    teacher from the process, when the students can manage on their
  5. Reflection: the student assesses and analyses his performance.
  6. Articulation: the results of reflection are put into verbal form.
  7. Explorations: the students are encouraged to form hypotheses, to
    test them, and to find new ideas and viewpoints. (Enkenberg, 2001,
    p. 503)


Cognitive Apprenticeship in Educational Practice – Vanessa Dennen


All great chess masters have attained their mastery by evaluating and memorizing the elegant games of past masters. The most essential thing to victory in chess is a “Good Plan,” though at the lower levels, almost any plan is better than no plan and can lead to victory. The only problem is: No one can really explain what a good plan is. I have yet to encounter a writer who can give a satisfactory explanation of the principles of a good plan. That doesn’t mean many haven’t tried, it’s just that their definitions don’t really define anything, and always they must take refuge in presenting a game from a master to illustrate their idea of a “plan.”

It is my personal opinion that you should simply cut out the middle man and go directly to the master’s game, learn it, and try to imitate it. Imitation is the most natural form of human learning due to our mirror neurons and other factors. All people learn first by imitation. The modern age of education has erroneously convinced us that we can learn by reading, we cannot. We all learn best by doing.

Simply playing through a master game can be very instructive, but the most important step in chess education is the act of memorizing games.

It is a basic truth that to be very good at chess you must have a very good memory. It is lucky for you that good memories are as easily made as they are born, and with some small amount of preparatory work you too can have a good memory, even if you have always thought you did not.

There are many scientific theories about how memory works or where it is located, and all of them are useless for our purposes. The main secret to memory is attention, and the main secret of attention is interest. The main focus of modern research into this domain, which is comically called edutainment comes with the unfortunate problem that compelling attention for one person doesn’t not always work for another. Systems of learning which attempt to generate interest must be tailored to a specific person, unfortunately the only person who thoroughly knows someone’s interests is themselves.

At the core of interest is something called the Von Restorff Effect

The Von Restorff effect (named after psychiatrist and children’s paediatrician Hedwig von Restorff 1906–1962), also called the isolation effect, predicts that an item that “stands out like a sore thumb” (called distinctive encoding) is more likely to be remembered than other items. It is a bias in favour of remembering the unusual.

Modern theory of the isolation effect emphasizes perceptual salience and accompanying differential attention to the isolated item as necessary for enhanced memory. In fact, von Restorff, whose paper is not available in English, presented evidence that perceptual salience is not necessary for the isolation effect. She further argued that the difference between the isolated and surrounding items is not sufficient to produce isolation effects but must be considered in the context of similarity.

Source: Wikipedia

You can actually use this effect to remember the effect, that is Hedwig was the name of Harry Potter’s Owl. The name Hedwig is very unusual, and you can use the memory method of association to the unusual (A fictional bird that delivers mail to Wizards should be rather unsual). Our brains are naturally interested in the unusual, images and situations that are outside of our normal day to day experience cause us to focus more attention on them.

To save you the trouble of trying to figure all of this out, I will cut to the chase: The two topics that are almost universally guaranteed to keep your interest are sex and the macabre. You will notice that modern news shows tend to focus on these two, so I think I shall rest my case as to their effectiveness and move on.

The training of your memory begins with building a basic foundation for remembering things by creating in your mind a series of explicit or macabre images and motifs that you will attach to pieces of information. Since this is a private matter, I will leave it up to you to decide what those are. The simple test to the effectiveness of your memory motifs is your complete lack of desire to tell anyone else about them. If you can imagine telling someone about your motifs, then they aren’t messed up enough and you should try to refine them. After the prurient and macabre themes come basic comedy. If you can mash up all three, all the better. Comic motifs, slapstick especially, are useful. Whatever you find, you must find subjects that really captivate your interest.

You might want to note down some of these motifs under the category of prurient, macabre and comedic and learn them well, explore them and add details.

For the purposes of education, I will give you some mild examples of each:

Prurient + Comedic

An individual or item, brought to life, that is so over-excited at the prospect of consummation that he/she/it cannot manage to find the right orifice.

Comedic + Macabre

A malevolent individual or item intent on some violent criminal act constantly defeated by his/her/its own incompetence.

These motifs become the consistent way in which you animate information in your mind in order to focus on the ‘facts’ by surrounding them with fantastic details which are not ‘salient’ but compel interest. The purpose of creating these motifs beforehand is so that when you are attempting to learn some information you are not wasting any time coming up with ideas about how to make them interesting. You already have a nice ready-made repertoire of motifs that you can go to in a pinch if nothing else suggests itself in the moment. You are not forced to use these motifs, for instance in the case of Hedwig Von Restorff, it wasn’t necessary as there was already plenty of narrative and mnemonic capital from the Harry Potter series to work with.

Narrative Capital

Narrative capital refers to stories and plots from movies, books, or real life anecdotes which titillate your mind, or did so in the past. If you really loved the Greek Myth of Pyramis and Thisbe, then you can use that plot line to remember things. If Winnie the Pooh story lines and characters really captivated you as a child, and the memory of them has remained, then you can make use of those characters and situations to aid you in memorizing new information.

As a for instance, instead of imagining some non-descript psychopathic axe murderer, why not turn Winnie the Pooh into a loveable but inept chainsaw wielding revenge killer of stuffed animals?

Mnemonic Capital

Mnemonic capital are things you already remember, very well and vividly. The journey method and loci method of memorization is based on pre-existing mnemonic capital. Now you either have it, or you want to build it. For instance, if you would like to use the Loci method, you should spend a week walking around your house, or yard, or a forest you really like and taking notes about your path and what you encounter. Each time you would make the notes more detailed, noticing more and more things until you have a large base of mnemonic capital to work with.


You must resist the temptation to be high-brow. This is why you should never tell people what narrative, mnemonic capital you use or what motifs you use, because you will then be tempted to use less interesting and less compelling elements of human experience. For instance James Joyce’s Ulysses is NOT a good source of narrative capital, and is also the choice of a pretentious bohemian douche, so stay away from high brow. The most important reason of course is that it simply will not work. No matter how hard you try, characters from Edith Wharton’s Age of Innocence just won’t cut it. Pride and Prejudice may work, as Elizabeth Bennet is a very compelling character in my opinion, and of course completely loveable. If you aren’t totally in love with Ms. Bennet by the end of the book, you have no soul. Or you don’t swing that way, in which case you should be in love with Mr. Darcy. If you are gay and not in love with Mr. Darcy by the end of that book, then you have no soul. Or at least no taste.

The Grand Chess Board

A man’s real possession is his memory. In nothing else is he so rich or so poor.

Alexander Smith

Being able to properly imagine the chess board, and to find ones way around it, you will need to become familiar with how it is structured. The chess board has 64 squares, half are dark, the other half white. The rows or ranks of squares alternate in color and each column or file begins on either a dark or light square. The bottom left square is always dark. The files are each given a letter, A B C D E F G H.  The files A C E G begin on a dark square, and you can remember this by the Mnemonic from music All Cars Eat Gas. The files B D F H all begin on a white square, and you can remember these with Boys Do Find Heaven, or Bill Did Fuck Heather. It helps if you know a person named Bill and another named Heather. Also you will notice that these things alternate. For instance ranks 1, 3, 5, and 7 all follow the A C E G Mnemonic. For ranks 2, 4, 6, and 8 it is the inverse. So All Cars Eat Gas are white squares and so on.

To know the color of any square on the chessboard you simply follow this rule: If the number is odd, it is the same as the start, if it is even, it is the opposite.

For instance d5 is white, because D starts on white and the number 5 is odd. g4 is white because G starts on a dark square and 4 is even. After some small amount of time you will no longer need to even think this way, you will just know what color the square is from basic practice.

From this you can extrapolate several interesting rules. If a Knight is on a dark square, say e5 (E starts on dark, and 5 is odd) then it can only attack or defend white squares. You will also always know which Bishop is the one moving in your mind because Bishops are restricted to only one color.

These bits of information help you with something called board vision, that is the ability to accurately imagine the chess board in your mind, and to see the movements of the pieces.

The Pieces

When most people think about chess pieces they say: There are 8 pawns, 2 Rooks, 2 Knights, 2 Bishops, and a King and Queen for each side, totaling 32 pieces. Unfortunately this is terribly inaccurate, we must be able to trace each and every piece through the game, and knowing the pieces starting point is not always helpful when reviewing long games. You will need to attach and name and personality to each and every piece on the board. This is something I cannot help you with, because you will need to find people or characters that are compelling to you. I will give you a few examples.

Most pieces on my board that are duos, the Black Knights are comedic duos, in this case Jay and Silent Bob. Silent Bob being the Queen’s Knight. On the white side they are Buddy Love(Jerry Lewis) and Dean Martin. My pawns are also named, for instance the c2 pawn is Flanders from the Simpsons, while the a7 pawn is Barney Gumble. Most of my pawns are cartoon characters. The Black Queen is Morticia Addams(Angelica Houston) and the White Queen is Emma Frost.

Doing this allows you to use something like the link or story method to remember a game, who killed or captured or threatened who? Why did they do it etc. Because we are social animals, we are naturally built to analyze and recall social interactions, so once your pieces begin to interact socially, or anti-socially, then their movements become more easy to recall.

I have found that using this method allows you to remember even 40-50 move games with relative ease.

The Link & Story Method

I group these two methods together as they tend to work ensemble when memorising a game. The Link method is simply the sequential interaction of elements. You e4 pawn moves, and the e57pawn blocks him, or your d7 pawn “attacks” him and so on. For short games, this is all that is necessary, though it helps if as you play each move you have the pieces interact, and say something, like a child playing with dolls.

The story method is the link method with motivations added in, so the reason that the d7 pawn attacks the e4 pawn is because e4 accidentally killed the d7 pawn’s brother in a tragic farming incident.

For instance the Scandinavian Defense main line could go:

The White Queen was bored one day and so she convinced the e2 pawn to go to e4 and scout out a possible attack against her rival the Black Queen, the d7 pawn, who had a grudge against the e2 pawn for jilting her at the altar jumped forward to attack, but the e4 pawn killed her in the ensuing scuffle. The Black Queen, who really liked the d5 pawn decided to kill d5 in return.

Of course, here you would insert the real names of your pieces. Because my d7 pawn is a dog, and my e2 pawn is a girl, this story wouldn’t work, but you get the basic idea. Naturally this is a trivial example, and you may not want to be so verbose for such a common opening with so few moves.


Before going into the actual memorizing, I must explain that your trained memory will be based almost entirely on mental pictures or images. These mental pictures will be easily recalled if they are made as ridiculous as you can possibly make them. Here are the twenty items that you will be able to memorize in sequence in a surprisingly short time.

carpet, paper, bottle, bed, fish, chair, window, telephone, cigarette, nail, typewriter, shoe, microphone, pen, television, plate, donut, car, coffee pot, and brick.

A famous man once said that method is the mother of memory. So, I’ll teach you now, what I call the Link method of memory. I’ve told you that your trained memory will consist mostly of ridiculous mental images, so let’s make ridiculous mental images of the above twenty items! Don’t be alarmed! It is child’s play, as a matter of fact it is almost like a game.
The first thing you have to do is to get a picture of the first item, “carpet,” in your mind. You all know what a carpet is – so just “see” it in your mind’s eye. Don’t just see the word, “carpet,” but actually, for a second, see either any carpet, or, a carpet that is in your own home and is therefore familiar to you. I have already told you that in order to remember anything, it must be associated in some way to something you already know or remember. The thing that you now know or already remember is the item, “carpet.” The new thing, the thing you want to remember will be the second item, “paper.”

Now the, here is your first and most important step towards your trained memory. You must now associate or link carpet to, or with, paper.

How to develop a super power memory – Harry Lorayne


Method is truly the mother of memory. Those people who think they have a bad memory only lack method. They imagine that memory is an automatic process only, you either remember or you don’t, but in this they are completely mistaken. You never remember anything you don’t notice first, and you always remember things that are of interest. Your memory must become something that is interesting and interactive. Once the process of memory becomes interactive, there is nothing you cannot recall.



About Jason

I am a 31 year old programmer living in the south of France. I currently work actively in the fields of Ruby/PHP/Javascript and server/website administration.
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