I've been thinking about the nature of counting and the intent involved. For most people who examine markets the aim of looking at data is, I believe, to consciously find some pattern which will lead to a winning market system. But what if one were to count without any particular intent in mind, purely as a means of familiarizing oneself with the nature of the beast we are called to dance with?

Vic and Laurel have mentioned many times the virtue of counting by hand, and I've listened because this somehow chimed with my chess experience without my being able to fully identify what the analogy is. Now I think I know; when I prepare for an opponent I've found it to be far more effective just to look at his games in a holistic way, familiarizing myself with how he plays rather than look for a particular move to play against him in a position he has reached before. And this works better still if you play through the games with a real board and pieces rather than do it on the computer.

I think there's a very subtle but important distinction in these two methods, the 'hand count' in both chess and markets being a method of familiarizing the mind at a subconscious level without the burden of conscious effort. I can't find any Western sources that adequately describe what's happening, but there seems to be a wealth of knowledge from the East.

"The mind of a perfect man is like a mirror. It grasps nothing. It expects nothing. It reflects but does not hold. Therefore the perfect man can act without effort." — Chuang-Tzu

GM Davies is the author of Play 1 e4 e5: A Complete Repertoire for Black, Everyman, 2005

Jeff Watson adds:

J WAlthough not a member of the technical analysis cult, I do update my daily charts by hand at the close. It’s an exercise that keeps me connected to the markets and affects my trading on the subconscious level. Abandoning hand-drawn charts in the late 80s in favor of having a chart spit out on a computer had negative impact on my trading. After quantifying my below average personal performance for a 19 month period, I reviewed what behavior had changed, and all indications led towards the charting issue. Resuming the task of putting up charts by hand had an immediate positive effect on my trading, right out of the gate. Perhaps it was a confidence changer, a talisman, or something else; That’s worthy of another study entirely.


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