Gobet, F. & Simon, H. A. (in press). Recall of Random and Distorted Positions: Implications for the theory of expertise. Memory & Cognition.


This paper explores the question, important to the theory of expert performance, of the nature and number of chunks that chess experts hold in memory. It examines how memory contents determine players' abilities to reconstruct (a) positions from games, (b) positions distorted in various ways and (c) and random positions. Comparison of a computer simulation with a human experiment supports the usual estimate that chess Masters store some 50,000 chunks in memory. The observed impairment of recall when positions are modified by mirror image reflection, implies that each chunk represents a specific pattern of pieces in a specific location. A good account of the results of the experiments is given by the template theory proposed by Gobet and Simon (in press) as an extension of Chase and Simon's (1973a) initial chunking proposal, and in agreement with other recent proposals for modification of the chunking theory (Richman, Staszewski & Simon, 1995) as applied to various recall tasks.