"I am still a victim of chess. It has all the beauty of art—and much more. It cannot be commercialized. Chess is much purer than art in its social position."
"The chess pieces are the block alphabet which shapes thoughts; and these thoughts, although making a visual design on the chess-board, express their beauty abstractly, like a poem. ... I have come to the personal conclusion that while all artists are not chess players, all chess players are artists."
Whereas Go is nearly as simple as possible, yet much deeper. It's easy to imagine different designers coming to the same set of rules.
It's very unlikely that different writers would independently come up with "War and Peace", does it make it less of a masterpiece?
I can also agree that, at a high level, it can be an all-consuming game. It can be difficult to turn off. There are a lot of activities and pursuits that you can physically put away, but for a great chess player, the positions are always in your thoughts.
I always think it is interesting to observe which are movement is used to describe artists who did work in more than one (in this case Cubism and Dada).
Not at all a nit-pick or a correction; Duchamp's writing on Dada has influenced some of my own research/work and so I just find it interesting which labels we choose (of course one label is easier than some label fitting a monarch: Marcel Duchamp, Painter of Cubism, Assembler of Dada, Player of Chess).
“Much of an exile’s life is taken up with compensating for disorienting loss by creating a new world to rule,” wrote Edward Said. “It is not surprising that so many exiles seem to be novelists [and] chess players.”
["Chess-Playing Excitement” in 1859 - comments]
I would agree with this. Another change like the change from Cubism to Dada to 'make your paint' in reaction to production of factory made paint.
Cubism -> Dada -> Chess
Following rules and schematics in chess is great/necessary for end games (which he says he wins) because there you really just work through the algorithms and it also allows for quickly played openings (assuming you memorized the few standards that are played 99% of the games).
But in mid-game you actually need creativity and concepts like forks become much more important and I'd trade a "knight on the rim" for a choice between two forks the next move any time. His daughter seems to be playing with creativity while he is so stuck in schematic play that his daughter can even predict his moves (“I knew you were going to do that.”).
What I think is really curious is his remark: "She played [...] as if I were just some lower-level chess engine making haplessly random moves. Indeed, when I made my moves, her eyes would often drift elsewhere—as if what I was doing was almost inconsequential to the larger game."
She is right to do so, nobody cares about what one did 3 moves ago. The board is in a state that does not care about its history, it only cares about future possibilities :)
When I play chess and look at the board when it is my opponent's turn, I don't care for my opponent but just take the time for a deeper analysis.
I too apply them but my point is, in mid-game I'm much more free to ignore them than in openings or end-games in which I usually let my forearm do the thinking.
A great thing about learning and playing online is that you can find an opponent at your same skill level within minutes. Unlike learning in a local club, where every person you will ever play beats you every time, I win slightly more than half my games. I also get this nice increasing graph of my skill level. This is a lot more fun.
With sports like soccer it's quite noticeable that some people are way better than everyone else, or way worse. And there's no way to improve since you can't just rearrange thousands of teams.
For example in the Netherlands we have Football right. There's 9 divisions. You get promoted or demoted at the end of the season, such that on average you're roughly in the middle of a spectrum of 5% worse and 5% better teams.
Of course there's lots of individual differences and some teams get much better suddenly in one season, and ought to play a division higher right away. But that's an issue for online mechanics as well. Online mechanics make that 5% range more granular, sure, but the notion that thousands of teams aren't rearranged isn't true, that's exactly what happens in most sports!
Of course going to the court and playing a quick match with strangers doesn't have this effect, but the vast majority of football players play in some formal sense in a team which plays in some organisation's league system with divisions. At least that's how it is here, although football is an extraordinarily deep sport in most countries and so the difficulty of opposition will be less granular in other sports.
In the US we have baseball where we have a sane semi-pro system. In football and basketball which are the real money, growth sports, there's the best-in-the-world professionals, the unpaid 20 year old college players and not a lot in-between.
In college, a buddy of mine became close friends do with a semi-pro soccer player out of Austria. He wasn't the best in the world and he was an au pair in the off-season, but he was in tip top shape in his late 20s playing soccer for a living.
It really isn't like that here. On the top end of the average case scenario, you have 3 years to make a living doing what you've been trained practically 20 years to do and then you're out in most cases. The whole employment market for these athletes would be a lot more sane if it were like baseball where you have families coming out to see minor league football and basketball players at reasonable prices.
The people in those 9 divisions have a game every weekend, and training once or twice per week on weekday evenings, as a hobby. Pro sport is something different entirely.
I think competitive video gaming is like anything else, in order to excel and stay at the top you have to constantly compete against yourself.
About 2 months ago, I left my job at Facebook to move out here and it's been great -- I can always find someone that wants to play, and they're all in a good mood because they're on vacation.
As long as individuals recognize the limitations of their age groups they'll be just fine.
Actually, even if individuals _don't_ recognize their age limitations and play against 20-somethings that's also OK (if they're willing to have their ass handed to them on every competition).
BUT is is a dangerous game - you can get hurt playing against 20year olds!
My experience is that you need to play against people who will challenge you, but within an appropriate level of attainment. I am a keeper, so I will speak of keeper skills.
One important skill to learn early is to get off the line and cut off the angles. If you stay on the line when you are just learning, the net is too big and you have no chance to make saves.
Thus, you never learn to make saves because you have no real feedback on what you do. You always lose.
Now if you come out a bit, you start making some saves, and you get better at it. This would lead you to a place where you make nearly all the saves, and you would stop learning, unless your opponents are good enough to use passing and make you keep track of multiple strikers at once.
But if they are so good (or your defenders are so bad) that they are always swarming the net in threes and fours, you would get stick on the line and never learn anything.
So, the best way to learn is for your opponents to be better than you, but not so much better that they discourage good play on your part. And as you get better, they must get better as well, so that you must continue to get better.
But once you get the "how the pieces move" of Go—essentially, the Haeng-ma and maybe the basic opening algorithm, you can quickly dig in to the really rich tactical and strategic levels just as you can with Chess.
A lot of local special interest clubs fail because they don't deal well with newcomers and beginners. This essay was perfect down to the last line, written through the lens of that special bond of parenthood.
I highly recommend it.
First the author describes how he set about reading all manner of strategies, variations of strategies, positions, tactics, etc. I think he shot himself in the foot with this. Humans tend to surrender when a task looks too daunting and his real goal was to keep up with a child who did not know anything about chess. None of the stuff he studied would be initially useful against a fellow novice with an innately short term focus.
Second, the author hired a coach, ostensibly to teach both him and his daughter, but later notes "I would sometimes wander into the room when coach Simon was there, watching him present her with some puzzle on the board".
So I have to wonder, what was he doing during the other occasions where his opponent was learning chess from an expert?
Third, the author's stated motive to learn was to teach his daughter; he removed that motive when he hired the coach. Without motive to drive engagement learning anything becomes extremely difficult.
Finally, after he discovered the complexity of the learning task the author then set about studying all of the reasons why he could not do well at his initial goal. This, again, is not useful in actually learning chess.
All in all, it seems like the author actually learned a lot more than his daughter did in the same amount of time. However, his lack of focus lead him to spend the time learning many things that did not help him play chess at a novice level.
I'd like to get into chess, but the time commitment needed to get even moderately competent is daunting.
There's only a huge cliff if you expect to be able to win against 1500 rated players as a complete beginner, a totally unreasonable expectation.
Perhaps with this in mind, I found the interesting context of the story more about the parent-child relationship, than learning beyond a certain age. It is very easy to mis-balance the roles of parent, coach and competitor. In the last line, the author captured this very clearly.
Strategic chess can be taught with words, and adults will naturally lean towards the strategic parts. We respect our predecessors, we seek knowledge that has already been discovered. Alas, heuristics and such aren't worth very much to a Chess beginner, who will regularly make "simple blunders" (like putting their own pieces in a knight fork) until Elo 1500+ (a moderately skilled beginner club player).
And even then, Elo 1800 to 2000 will regularly put themselves in a position where they can be forked in two or three moves.
If you can manage to play a blunder-free game (much harder to do than it looks), that's when strategic thinking comes in. Knight placement in the center vs edge, or backwards pawns here and there, or whatever.
In part, I think children do best at chess because they aren't distracted by any of the myriad of books and research on the subject (which are... hopelessly irrelevant to beginners)
Think like a Grandmaster is a great book that illustrates how tactical chess analysis is -- all about iteration and composition of simple value judgements.
However, I have found books about chess strategy to be a very useful way to practise tactical thinking. For example, following the thematic sections in Think like a Grandmaster, or something like Bobby Fischer's analysis of his most memorable games (which both cover strategic concepts like two bishops or a strong centre) requires tactical analysis -- you're visualising moves and combinations in your head and making value judgements about positions just to follow along.
So strategy is a great way for an older player to keep tactical practice interesting!
I can sympathise with the author of the article. The cruel truth is that it is very difficult to improve as an adult. I think the analogy to learning language is a good one - to get really good learn as a child.
As far as I know there are no instances of a player learning to play as an adult and reaching grandmaster status. Akiba Rubinstein, an all time great who didn't learn until 16, was (nearly) an exception. Another famous (almost) counter-example is one of the pioneers of the Russian school of chess who learned chess from scratch twice - the second time as an adult after suffering total memory loss from a war injury. Unfortunately my Google Fu is failing me and I can't summon any confirmation or recall his name.
Why shall I not judge Alexander at table, talking and drinking to excess, or when he is fingering the chess-men? What chord of his mind is not touched and kept employed by this silly and puerile game? I hate it and avoid it because it is not play enough, and because it is too serious as an amusement, being ashamed to give it the attention which would suffice for some good thing. He was never more busy in directing his glorious expedition to the Indies; nor is this other man in unravelling a passage on which depends the salvation of the human race. See how our mind swells and magnifies this ridiculous amusement; how it strains all its nerves over it! How fully does this game enable every one to know and form a right opinion of himself! In no other situation do I see and test myself more thoroughly than in this. What passion is not stirred up by this game: anger [the clock-banger!] spite [the spite check!], impatience [the hasty move!], and a vehement ambition to win in a thing in which an ambition to be beaten would be more excusable! For a rare pre-eminence, above the common, in a frivolous matter, is unbefitting a man of honour. What I say in this example may be said in all others. Every particle, every occupation of a man betrays him and shows him up as well as any other.
- Michel de Montaigne, Essays, Chapter 50, tr. Trechmann, p. 295
Also, speed chess is much more forgiving. 1 mistake is not the end of the game, as time is the great equalizer. Whereas in slow chess, going down a pawn unintentionally is often a loss.
It encourages plenty of bad habits: guessing (instead of calculating), "gambling" (making bold but refutable moves in hope that opponent misses the correct answer), over-relying on simple tricks like common opening traps which wouldn't work and would get you into an inferior position in a serious game, etc. etc.
Good blitz players are good chess players who happen to put their skills to a use by playing blitz, but they haven't developed these skills just by playing blitz
>Good blitz players are good chess players who happen to put their skills to a use by playing blitz, but they haven't developed these skills just by playing blitz
I'm a class A player, and I've probably played < 20 slow chess games over the past 15 years.
There are a variety of clients that you can use to access it. I'd recommend Babaschess (also free).
Hmm, I think it might be easier for young people to get better at chess because they are not burdened with the responsibilities of an adult.
Also Chess is prominently pattern recognition which may play a role in chess development in older people, since the recall maybe slower.
Some time in high school, while studying openings and their variations, I was curious if computers would ever beat the great Grand Masters regularly and consistently. It seemed to me that the key to this success would be a full comprehension of knowing which opening to start with, how to respond to your oponent's opening, and how deeply that opening variation was memorized.
So, it wasn't surprising to me to learn that the Grand Masters are Grand Masters because of their memorization of opening sequences, the depth of that memorization, and when to use which variation.
Then while studying old games played by the masters, I saw a trend that disturbed me: more and more, Grand Master games were ending in draws. I recall reading an article recently that more than 50% of said games are draws.
This bothers me for two reasons: first, that the game is designed so poorly, that draws can occur as frequently as they do. But, more disturbing, is knowing that they are ending in draws because of a mastery on the opening game.
I am no longer a chess proponent, and won't play it when asked (although that might change if my daughter wants to learn). The only chess I will play is Chess960, by Robert Fischer, where the back row is randomized to 1 of 960 possible starting positions. This way, the game is less sensitive to opening sequence memorization, but on more on basic tactical strategy, such as control of the center board, when to pull out your queen, and how knights can compliment bishops.
Now, I'm a large advocate of Go. The game is much more strategy based and less memorization (although there are a good amount of tsumego and joseki that should be memorized, and you should know opening theory). But, due to the size of the board, the games are considerably different, and it is less sensitive to tactics. Thus, draws occur mostly based on evenly matched strategies, and less on cognitive capacity.
Another game I am enjoying is the currently developed Tak by James Ernest (http://tinyurl.com/takgameks (link to Kickstarter campaign (I'm not a paid schill, I just enjoy the game))). A simpler game than chess and go to explain, yet deep with strategy, and new enough, that patterns and sequences are still being studied.
Don't get me wrong. Chess is entertaining. I am glad there are people that enjoy it, teach it, and play it. It's just no longer for me. Again, unless the game is Chess960.
This is not true. Opening knowledge is a common deciding factor in games between GMs, but that's only because they're already so good at everything else. A low GM actually probably has a smaller skill margin over other players in terms of openings than in other areas of the game: as someone that's arguably a decent amateur (~2200 USCF) and has played against several GMs, I would prefer my chances in a game where we both have our opening knowledge versus one where neither of us has opening knowledge.
To pinpoint my gripe with chess, a single tactical error in your opening game can be unrecoverable, and the deciding factor on losing your game. It's too precise. Whereas with some other abstract strategy games, such as Go, you might make a strategical error, but the game might be more forgiving, where you can heal from your mistakes.
Of course, weak players should lose to strong players, regardless of game. I just wish chess didn't depend so strongly on defining a strong player by who has more opening variations memorized.
Chess strength _doesn't_ depend strongly on memorization. GMs are often content to take an equal position against IMs and then just outplay them in the rest of the game.
At top top level, they do spend a huge amount of time on opening research, but that is because they can. They can work full time, they know who their opponents are going to be, they have engines and seconds. You can use those resources on concrete analysis of positions that might occur, but not as easily on expanding your generic middlegame knowledge. It doesn't apply to normal GMs.
Agreed, but a tactical error in the opening is replicated and multiplied throughout the game. if I'm going to criticize it as an abstract strategy game, it's too sensitive in that regard. Yes, an error is an error, that's why they're called as such. In chess, opening errors have much more drastic consequences, depending on the error, than say Go, where you have more opportunity to recover from the error. An opening tactical error can spell doom for your middle game and end game (as analyzed by chess commentators, instructors, books, videos, etc.).
Outside of amateur casual play, you must play a stronger opening game than your opponent, if you want any hopes of winning. Even if your mid and end games are stronger, if you make a tactical opening error, you may never get the opportunity to play that genius finale, because you'll never get the opportunity to recover. Openings have to be damn-near perfect when playing seriously. That's what bothers me.
What distorts your view is that many chess players _like_ to study theory. The Sicilian with its famous counter attacking situations! The King's Indian with its famous attacks on opposite flanks and a closed center! I have seen many GM games like that and I want to play like that too.
When both players are like that, they play into really sharp and hard to understand lines, where it really matters if you know the theory one move deeper. There it does, because such positions are often extremely sharp, and as you _can_ prepare them often, that is worthwhile.
But in the other games where you meet an opponent who plays something quiet that you've never seen before on move 3, it's all useless. And such moves are a perfectly legitimate and strong choice.
Anyway, go to any chess club, and ask around which players have memorized the most opening theory. It'll be the 1700 guys, not the masters. Memorizing theory doesn't actually make you stronger.
For example: as White, you can play 1. g3, 1. b3 or a reversed Queen's Indian and get by with zero concrete knowledge. As Black it's a little more involved but 1... d6 and 2... e5 takes about thirty minutes of research and you can play anyone under 2400.
lichess.com is a parked domain with what appear to be some very malicious ads.
Maybe being young and concentrating on a single thing makes you more obsessed about it? So you end up spending a lot of time on just it.
Maybe the older you get the less obsessed you can be, having the interest spread around on family, work, and other thoughts?
Maybe accumulated knowledge makes you slower at learning and playing because you're more cautious due to the mistakes you made before?
The research showing the decline is really weird. As I've got older I felt I learned stuff much more quickly than when I started college. I know so much that this knowledge allows me to avoid traps. Far sooner I have a feeling of understanding and can demonstrate it to someone else.
If your whole life is oriented on learning and improvement it's weird to think that will slow down.
People, as they age, lose interest in learning and rarely become obsessed about something, for most it is right after highschool, for some after college. No wonder the performance drops and IQ too. No one is using that brain as hard as it was used before.
Drifting into a personal monologue, I know I am a lot better at learning now than I was 15 years ago. Learning advanced mathematics now is much easier than it was then (measured in the rather subjective unit of "amount learned / time taken"). Languages also are much easier. The only difference is the amount of time I put in now compared to the amount of time I put in then. If I was in full-time education now (instead of a half hour to an hour a few times a week) I would be yomping through textbooks and courses.
I think some of it is that I just know so much more now, and I've got so much more experience of joining knowledge up and making use of the combined result. I've also got so much more confidence in my ability to learn, and I know that if I'm struggling, grinding through does get results. I don't get demoralised, I don't wonder if I'm ever going to be able to understand it; I just do it.
Is this normal, I wonder?
You might say, well, if you're forgetting them a year later then you didn't really learn them, but I disagree. I feel more complete mastery of a subject matter more now than I did in my teens. No, I forget things I learn much more quickly now, and the only way to not forget them is to practice them at least each week, and that rapidly becomes a time sink.
Research on this topic points to the notion that the brain is pretty actively trying to ignore things and toss out information that is no longer useful. It seems that the heuristic the brain uses to determine what should be kept and what should be discarded is related to how well some new information fits with information already in memory and how often an area of memory is revisited.
If you were tasked with fitting a lifetime of useful information on a 100 petabyte hard drive, how would you go about it? When you inevitably run out of free space, how would you continue to store new information?
I wish I could say I didn't forget things when I was was in university, but I still remember the frustration of coming back from summer vacation and having forgotten half of what we learned last semester.
I reckon part of the reason is that when there's no pressure on you, you can explore around a question (how do you classify this particular thing...) rather than try to steer right towards the answer as fast as possible. Which isn't actually as fast as when you read around.
Maybe amateurs learning at different ages is a different phenomena than the top competitors decline, but the research showing the decline of professionals is certainly not weird, and probably not even research, since they are easy to lookup facts.
Also, Anand would arguably be world champion right now if he had the stamina. His knowledge of the game is probably the deepest of anyone, but he runs out of energy as th game progresses.
“Anand has been pretty active as well,” says the Bad Sodener Zeitung. “He bought a season ticket for the swimming pool in Bad Soden and swam about 1000 metres per day. He would also run 10km every day and has also been spotted on a bicycle in the beautiful hills around Bad Soden. He lost about six kilos this summer. Most of the time, though, Anand prepared for the match in the Chess Tigers Training Centre with his seconds.”
Currently I'm experimenting with my grandma, trying to get her to exercise to improve her cognition!
But for everything else, I agree with you. I'm able to learn new skills considerably faster now than in my twenties. Part of that is practice learning, and part of that is having a lot of things to relate any new concept to.
This is an interesting way to put it that I haven't thought about before. I have found it hard to explain that sometimes new things are easy to learn and sometimes hard.
I usually attribute this to the difficulty of the concept, but maybe it's that I'm not really learning the easy things but finding a very similar concept to relate it to that I already know.