Thursday, September 03, 2009

Synoptic versus myopic views of chess

Tommyg has similar themes in his recent great post.

Speaking of fresh perspectives, Dk Transform has some great new videos up. The first could be a Saturday Night Live audition tape. Great to associate a face/voice with his David Foster Wallace style blog.

OK, now on to the main topic of my post....


I made a visit to the library where the Carolina Cobras played last night, where Loomis was TD. It was fun, after a couple of months away from chess, just to hang out and talk about chess, to play some blitz, and to not be all wrapped up in it like my life (and most literally, my self esteem) depended on it.

Watching IM Jonathan Schroer do a postmortem of his game (he's an IM and drew a 2600 GM) was like watching Mozart perform. It was fucking awesome he is so good it is a joy to watch. I was speechless I had nothing to offer but just watching he and loomis talk over the position was awesome and I soaked everything up that I heard.

I got to talk to Ron Simpson, a super nice guy. He told me to not try to force things in chess, to play solid chess and let the other person make a mistake. He pointed out that brilliancies are only possible when someone makes a mistake. Craig Jones was there, an intense dude who typically is at the first board by the end of the tournaments in my area (typically it is him against Simpson). He also seems really nice, and I liked his team-first attitude.

It made me want to play chess again. It also made me consider something new. No chess study. Every coach I've had has commented on how much I like to study, as opposed to just play chess. Schroer used to be my coach and would tell me to just play a bunch of chess, stop studying stuff. I never really listened. Not only would it just be fun, but perhaps I'd actually get better. Frankly, I don't give a shit any more. I just want to enjoy this game. It is really a beautiful game, and doesn't deserve to be sullied by getting linked to the self-esteem of insecure people.

Nobody at my level knows deep opening theory. I don't need to stress. Nobody knows deep endgame theory. I don't have to worry. I can have fun playing at the level at which I'm supposed to be. If that's the U1400 section for the rest of my life, fuck it.


Anonymous Chunky Rook said...

Some of it rejuvenating energy's definitely coming through your post, so thanks for that ;)

I think you *should* keep studying chess -- not because of rating considerations, but because I have an inkling that you are actually the kind of guy who *enjoys* studying chess as long as it's a) useful and b) not over-rated by one's own rating/improvement/omgifailedyetagaintoapplyitotb considerations. These days, I study chess not primarily because I want to crush my opponents or become a better OTB player (although that's a nice side effect, of course), but because it's simply nice to *know* things, to acquire knowledge. It's nice to be able to *talk* about isolated pawns, and to *notice* more things that are happening on a chess board. The achievement doesn't necessarily have to manifest itself on the board. Wouldn't you agree? On that note, have fun!

9/03/2009 01:38:00 PM  
Blogger chessx said...

Sir he's got i believe he's got it,you may have rediscovered the joy of chess again.
May it be with you forever.

Some people spend to much time trying to understand why they should or should not do something.

But others just do it.

I think we as chess players get to wrapped up in thinking what we should be doing(or what we think other players expect of us).

Rather than just playing chess and having fun.

9/03/2009 03:07:00 PM  
Blogger Blue Devil Knight said...

Chunky: interesting perspective, certainly in keeping with the do what you like spirit of my post. The problem is often when I study my ego starts to get wrapped up in my chess again. Clearly that doesn't have to happen, but it seems too easy. Like my spree with blitz, I'll try it and see what happens.

ChessX: thanks for the note, definitely the better attitude is just play and have fun. When I drew against a 1900, I was incredibly relaxed. I expected to lose, didn't give a damn about the outcome, and just played chess without ego.

9/03/2009 03:48:00 PM  
Blogger From the patzer said...

Hooray, chess playing - chess loving, BDK is back.

Let the enjoyment roll thru your life off and on the chessboard.

9/03/2009 04:23:00 PM  
Blogger Polly said...

Say hello to Jonathan from Polly the next time you see him. I remember him as one the young kids in my earlier years in the NY chess scene.

Sometimes I think I don't have enough ego so I don't give a crap about my results. With that attitude it's easy not to bother doing anything about my game. As they say "Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, expecting different results."

9/03/2009 04:25:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Older anonymous here. I don’t blame you. I made up my mind that until I hit 1800 (probably never in this life time) I will only study tactics and go over my games to see where it is I go wrong. I read this somewhere, that until you get to around 1800, it’s all tactics that wins and looses games for you, or your opponent. If you really look at some of your games, or any other player, are these 1400/1500/1600 players doing anything that is mind boggling? I doubt it. I think winning or loosing games at our level translates into who’s making the least mistakes in a game. Not who is making superior moves and four move combinations.

I recently got a book that I have been wanting for a long time. I got my board out, opened the book and began to read. I started to get a headache. It was like, why am I doing this to myself? I know this book is highly regarded, but still, why put myself through this now? My friend has offered his advise to me several times, learn some tactics, play the game, then go over your games, several times if needed. I think that is what I will do.
What do you think? Dose this make any sense?

9/03/2009 05:01:00 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Yay! What a great week -- DK is back and now BDK is back! :)

I support the spirit of this post 100% - you've studied so hard for the past few years that you could just play for the next couple of years and still be assimilating stuff you'd read a long time ago!

I'm terrible, myself, about studying a medium amount and playing very little. But I had a few years where I just played ridiculous 2-7 minute internet games with no increment and no postmortems to learn from my mistakes afterwards, and no studying of any kind. It was very inefficient in terms of improvement but I did build up some good instincts about safety issues and tactics that are now being supplemented with a bit more understanding of the other parts of the game.
So I've bounced back and forth between periods of all play and no study, and all study and no play, which I know is not the most efficient or effective way to go.

Basically finding the best mix between study and play, to set up a continual feedback loop between the two, is going to be the most effective strategy for improvement. But my overriding principle is that having fun as much of the time as possible is always going to be more important to me than improvement for improvement's sake! (And without the fun factor I just tend to give up, anyway...)

So I say go out, have fun, play a lot. And just study specific things that come up in your games where you can "fix" something about how you played, without too much additional investment of time! :)

Just my $.02... And welcome back!

-- Hank

9/04/2009 05:11:00 AM  
Anonymous Liquid Egg Product said...

"If that's the U1400 section for the rest of my life, fuck it."

This is one of the most beautiful chess quotes ever.

9/04/2009 10:12:00 AM  
Blogger katar said...

Don't call it "study". Surely you have a fascination for the game, so just dabble in whatever interests you.

"Studying" chess has more in common with heroin addiction than with boot camp training. There is no "discipline" involved, just obsession.

DOn't buy it, but i do believe that you could really relate to Josh Waitzkin's book "Art of Learning". (I read it off the shelf at a bookstore in a couple sittings.) JW talks about the beginner's mindset, and the destructive effect of ego. He says at some point the need to "get good" or live up to expectations overtook what began as his pure, childlike love for the game. That's when JW quit and took up tai-chi, in which he was a beginner with no ego at all. Beginners have the freedom to suck.

So stop using this word "improvement"... it's more about "enjoyment". It's a hobby, a board game for gods sake-- not an intellectual barometer. You already took the SAT and GRE years ago.

BTW, i do agree with older anon. that the CLass B players are not doing anything mindboggling-- they are just making fewer mistakes, and their mistakes are not as severe.

9/04/2009 01:20:00 PM  
Blogger LinuxGuy said...

If you are under 1400, shoot, I should think you've got nothing to lose by playing.

Improvement is a large part of the joy for me. The moves become more beautiful, special, the deeper the analysis goes. If I come out totally unprepared and get stuck in some opening line I wished I hadn't played, then I am not quite as happy.

I've played against 1600 level players that seem to simply want to draw me, quite a few of them. I can assure you that I don't think they were big studiers, rather their rating seemed to come more from their general abilities.

In terms of drawing, I've had my share of 'emotional responses' i.e. satisfied with a draw, but the game is "meant to be played".

9/05/2009 04:35:00 AM  
Blogger es_trick said...

I agree with your post, play more & study less.

It's apparent that at this point in your chess life, studying more is not providing you with any tangible benefits
(unless I missed the time[s] when you said you enjoy studying the game for study's sake).

9/05/2009 08:02:00 PM  
Blogger Tommyg said...

I am with Chunky Rook, in that I enjoy the study as well as the play. As I discussed in my post, it really doesn't matter. As long as it is fun, it is all good. People play and study chess for different reasons and motivations. As long as one is clear on his or her motivations and adheres to those motivations everything should take care of itself.
As an example, I will always play over games collections. I love that!! So what if I am playing through some games that are over my head or are not conducive to my immediate improvement?? I don't care because I love playing through those games!

9/06/2009 02:50:00 AM  
Blogger Chess? said...

I like your new attitude. I think you’re going to enjoy chess again. Welcome back.

9/06/2009 09:55:00 AM  
Blogger Loomis said...

It was great to have you at there. I have actually found over the last couple of years that this activity has done a lot for my enjoyment of the game, for a number of reasons.

Chess can feel very lonely -- it's always you against everyone else. But at this event, everyone present is on the same team and rooting for the same outcome.

Plus we always have a few people there analyzing the games in progress and in post-mortem. So you get to hear chess wisdom from strong players. It doesn't have to be hard work either, sometimes I just try to go into sponge mode and hope I come out better for it in the end. How often do you get a chance to watch a game live, analyze it with class players plus Rybka/Fritz and then ask the master afterwards what he was thinking -- "did you see this combination? were you concerned about this weakness? How did you come up with that plan?"

And as you noted, the team is super friendly. I've never had anyone suggest that a spectator is too low rated to be worth their time.

9/06/2009 03:17:00 PM  
Blogger X said...

I think your new outlook is a better one for the long term. There is nothing wrong with studying, especially if you like it. But if you look at the play/study ratio of kids who leap in the ratings...their play time totally outweighs their study time.

9/07/2009 01:46:00 PM  
Blogger wang said...

Preach that sermon brother!

Hey whatever floats your boat. I enjoy studying, I enjoy playing, problem is I really only enjoy playing OTB anymore.

With school and whatnot and there being only 1 tourney a month around here, well it sort of limits my playing opportunities. So I entertain myself with study.

Do what you like, play how you like, be the next you.

9/11/2009 08:05:00 AM  
Blogger takchess said...

Why didn't anyone offer Man de la Maza a movie deal like Julie & Julia?


9/12/2009 10:02:00 PM  
Blogger Howard Goldowsky said...

Good for you, BDK. Definitely read Josh Waitzkin's book. At the very least, you'll feel secure that others have felt what you've felt. Along the same line, try reading The Inner Game of Tennis, by Galloway. It's about 10% tennis and 90% attitude. Then if you really want to focus on "the path," there are great Zen performance books, like Zen in the Art of Archery. There's another interesting book out there by a guy named Stefan Fatsis. It's called Word Freak, and it's about his quest to go from a beginner Scrabble player to an Expert. He did it. (In Scrabble, an Expert's rating is 1600. He went from, like, 1000 to 1790. This is like going from 1400 to 2190 in chess.) The last book is not about chess, but it's about the "quest," something to which we all can relate.

9/15/2009 12:49:00 PM  
Blogger katar said...

sometimes while on a quest, maybe it's a good idea to pull off the side of the road and have a picnic, play frisbee, enjoy the view, and maybe even forget that it started off as a "quest" in the first place.

9/18/2009 03:26:00 AM  

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