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Home * Knowledge * Chunking

a term in cognitive science where individual units of information are structured into larger meaningful units to improve memory performance. The concept of chunking was first put forward in 1956 by psychologist George A. Miller in The Magical Number Seven, Plus or Minus Two, where he researched how many numbers we can reliably remember a few minutes after we've been told them only once.

Chunking in Chess

In chess and computer chess, chunking is about to recognize relevant patterns of a chess position. A chunk is a group of pieces, in some sense a semantic unit, a meaningful pattern that is recognized at a glance by a chess master. Reasoning about a position in terms of such chunks as atomic units, instead of individual pieces, reduces the complexity of a position from, say, 30 units to about 7 units, assuming that each chunk consists of 4 or 5 pieces. Pieces within a single chunk are closely related in terms of attack- and defense properties of the pieces as well as common color, type and proximity.

Chunking Hypothesis

In chess, the Chunking Hypothesis was researched in various cognitive experiments by Adriaan de Groot and others, where chess masters were able to reconstruct a chess position from a albeit unknown chess game almost perfectly after viewing it for only 5 sec, while players below the master level had sharp drop off in this ability. However, this result could not be attributed to the masters’ generally superior memory ability, since masters had almost the same difficulty to reconstruct the positions constructed by placing the same numbers of pieces randomly on the board.

Chess Patterns

Returning Bishop
Trapped Pieces
King Safety Pattern
Mate at a Glance

See also


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  • Adriaan de Groot (1946). Het denken van den Schaker, een experimenteel-psychologische studie. Ph.D. thesis, University of Amsterdam; N.V. Noord-Hollandse Uitgevers Maatschappij, Amsterdam. Translated with the help of George Baylor, with additions, (in 1965) as Thought and Choice in Chess. Mouton Publishers, The Hague. ISBN 90-279-7914-6.

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External Links

Expertise in Memory - Chunking Theory
Expertise in Memory - Evidence for Chunking Theory
Expertise in Memory - Chess Expertise
Expertise in Memory - Chess Expertise - History: Building up the literature
feat. Oscar Castro Neves, Octavio Bailly Jr, Don Grusin, Claudio Slon


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