Monday, July 13, 2009

Still recovering from the chess overdose

I appreciate all the kind comments on the previous post. I just responded there (indeed for the first time Blogger said my comment was too long so I had to break it in two).

I haven't touched much chess since the tournament, and I don't want to yet. I'm going to wait until my batteries recharge. I'll still blog lightly, especially the notes I took during the Open.

As for the helpful comments on the previous post, I wanted to highlight one of the things I said to Blunderprone:
People say Michael de la Maza [the Circles guy] burnt out doing the Circles. My hunch is this is partly true, but if you look at his rating page, he stopped playing chess after winning the U2000 section at the World Open. I bet that contributed in a big way to his burnout. To actually focus with the intensity required to do that is amazing.

He took clear first, 8/9 points, in a really tough section of the World Open. I now appreciate just how amazing that performance was. I also appreciate that he subsequently dropped out of chess. His experience contains much for inspiration and caution.


Blogger Will said...

My own interpretation from reading his book is that when he estimated the amount of time required to go from Expert to Master he felt unable to commit to it. One thread through the whole book is he was highly motivated to improve. Therefore having reached Expert and seeing this as his zenith bowed out before he became unhappy with a lack of progress.

7/13/2009 03:03:00 PM  
Blogger Admin said...

repeat your confession 100 times

7/13/2009 03:17:00 PM  
Blogger Blue Devil Knight said...

Will: That is part of it, but there is more. There is an interview with Howard Goldowsky (published here). He said, on why he isn't coming back into chess:
"de la Maza still didn’t seem enthusiastic to play his hand at master.

There seemed to be more to it than time and lack of ideas. When speaking of the World Open, he admitted to being under huge psychological pressure."

""Especially the last four games. I would have been happy if the other guy across the table had just croaked right there on the spot. I didn’t care about the other guy at all. So I was in a very nasty mood." It’s this pressure, not just in big money games, but in the constant need, the constant addiction to gain rating points, that he doesn’t like."

Some other great MDLM quotes too such as:
"I wrote the articles because I saw things that basically broke my heart. I saw a 1000 level player reading Kotov’s middle game book. That’s like someone who’s just learned how to add reading a calculus book.

"That’s one of the fundamental fallacies of chess, that there’s just no structure to the learning process. If you go anywhere else, if you want to learn about mathematics, you first learn how to count, then you learn how to add, then you learn how to multiply, then you learn how to do long division.

"In chess, you learn how to play, and then someone says, ‘Well, after you learn how to play, you can read Silman, or you can read Kotov, or you could read a tactics book, or you could read NCO…’ One hundred thousand books, any one is good, you’re expected to learn them all, and how can that possibly be?

"In every other subject, there is a very clean progression. You go to first grade, then you go to second grade, then you go to third grade, etc. How could learning Kotov at 1000 be good for you at 1500, and good for you at 2000, and good for you at 2500? There’s nothing else like that. In chess, there’s no order, and that’s why I wrote the article. [The order is], it’s basically all tactics until you’re a 2000 plus player."

Right, on MDLM!!!

"The first book I actually read from front to back cover was Silman [How to Reassess Your Chess], and I actually got worse. I would spend half an hour thinking about where to put my knight, and then I would drop a piece…[Silman] has ten or fifteen move variations…if you’re a class player, you’re going to drop a piece while you make those ten to fifteen moves... I don’t mean to dis Silman. I think that he’s a great chess author. But first, class players should stop dropping pieces, and then they should read Silman."

He also said:
"We actually started to talk about openings, and de la Maza explained how he used to play the Caro Kann and the Colle system, two positional openings, and how as soon as he realized the importance of tactics he switched to e4 and the Scandinavian."

7/13/2009 04:35:00 PM  
Blogger Tommyg said...

"In every other subject, there is a very clean progression.....[The order is], it’s basically all tactics until you’re a 2000 plus player."

de la Maza is right but he is also wrong. Tactics are the most important building blocks of the game. That seems concrete and unassailable. Where he and his method have gone awry can be seen in his burnout and some of the other "circles" burnouts that have been documented in the blogosphere.

de la Maza turned the whole thing into a zero sum activity where the completion of the circles and the corresponding ratings jump meant everything. This mind set can only take one so far.

Chess is an art AND a science much like music.

There are rules and scales (tactics)in music that one must learn to become proficient. The thing is, proficiency does not equal artistry. There are plenty of musicians who can play their scales super fast and clean but wouldn't know a melody if it bit them on the ass!!

The same holds true for tactics in chess. You can't get very far without them and they should be the first phase of study but we have to realize that tactics are not chess, just as scales are not music. Tactics are just the vocabulary of chess. How we use those tactics to create words (combinations or plans) are real chess. In music it is how we form the notes and scales into words (melodies and rhythms) that create real music of any genre.

The language analogies could go on forever, ie: Winning the national spelling bee does not guarantee that one could write a captivating poem or a compelling novel. Just look at Dan Brown: He can spell but he can obviously not write very well. (cheap shot I know)

Anyway, I think Heisman and Silman have it right when they encourage playing over games as the most important avenue to long term growth. (assuming that one IS also practicing tactics!)

Although I burned out on blogging last summer, I have yet to even come close to burning out on the game and I think it is because I play over a lot of games. Games Collections are the backbone of my chess library.

Those are my two cents on de la Maza: His basic concept is correct but the motivation behind it and the execution are a bit near sighted.

All that being said, have fun on your chess break!!

7/13/2009 05:14:00 PM  
Blogger katar said...

Your honesty is one of the reasons why this blog is among the most popular and well-traveled chess-blogs on the whole internet. People take comfort that someone who is clearly brilliant in non-chess fields still gets frustrated by this damn game and somehow has average results that they can relate to.

Main thing is that i hope you can appreciate the aesthetic and camaraderie aspects of the game and let the ratings/results fall where they may.

7/13/2009 07:43:00 PM  
Blogger Blue Devil Knight said...

Tommyg: I like the music/language analogy. I also use architecture. Tactics is the foundation and scaffolding that provides some (relatively) hard constraints within which some of the most beautiful and creative thinking takes place. I.e., strategy.

However, I think de la Maza was right to balk at people rated 1000 reading Kotov, about spending 30 minutes worrying about where to place a knight only to lose the knight. This has certainly happened to me.

My attitude is, while MDLM is technically right, there is more to chess than bare improvement in ratings. There is a whole strategic, aesthetic side to the game that his methods kill.

(Also if you look at his rating graph he was playing in lots of tournaments as his rating increased).

Katar Yes, it is hard to not let myself get focused on ratings, especially when there are bastards like you that have lapped me. :) But ultimately this is a mere game that should contribute to my overall enjoyment of life, increase the people I enjoy spending time with, and such.

7/13/2009 10:20:00 PM  
Anonymous webay said...

Good to know, thank you for sharing such a usefull tips!!

7/14/2009 04:54:00 AM  
Blogger BlunderProne said...

When my book comes out, " How Not to Suck at Chess", it will be tailored to the chess enthusiast and how to have fun while seeking improvement.

I took the MDLM challenge and could see how this would be a rather big challenge prone to burn out. But, as the title suggested, it was geared for a RAPID change in your ability. The seven circles with increasing speed will make a dent in a someone ability with the most dramatic change seen at the sub class B level. But it tends to squash the enjoyment right out of chess. The effect may not be long lasting and creates additional anxiety as one may feel compelled to keep up the pace in order to feel like they will get better.

Adult on-set chess enthusiasm should be nurtured. One needs to find a way to appreciate the game ( like studying whole masters games). Like jogging or running, MDLM is a high impact method but like the more aggressive exercises, it’s rough on the joints. Finding a low impact method of preparation will still be just as effect, just taking a little longer. But, instead of running by some great tactical examples, the journey of discovering a whole game means you will see more of the scenery as you get there.

I'm not burning out any time soon.

Back to the beach …on vacation this week.

7/14/2009 11:28:00 AM  

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