Obviously, there are other reasons to go to a guy like Lev for lessons (the conversation, social cache etc.), I'm just curious as an amateur chess player if seeking someone out like Lev would make a notable difference in my game as compared to a more average chess coach.
Disclaimer: never have a personal coach before. Did play for a while in a chess club where the team leader is about 2200 FIDE.
Sorry, I'm rather confused. How are these prices exorbitant for professional coaching? I can't imagine you can get a tennis coach for your kid for less than $50 per hour.
The results of every rated game (played at tournaments etc) are reported to a rating body. Back when I played (low level) competitively, rating lists were published every couple of months in paper form; nowadays it's all online, of course.
Sounds like another instance of centralization that must be disrupted by the blockchain
The system has been tweaked over the years as there small statistical oddities.
But official ranks are determined after playing 10-25 games in “official” tournaments.
Tyler talks a lot about the role of computers that can surpass humans in various tasks, and looks at chess as an example (he was a highly-ranked Chess player when he was younger). He also talks a lot about education, especially with regards to the government's role in it.
He at some point mentions that chess players have gotten much better over the last 20 years, with the rise of chess-playing and chess-analyzing computer programs. He looks at this as an interesting natural experiment in an area of education that is highly optimized, and sees what a huge impact education-via-computers has had (as contrasted with usually a government-run classical educational establishment). I don't even remember his conclusion, but I though the anecdote was fascinating.
I highly recommend the book, btw.
That said, the fact that you've been able to play stronger and stronger players on your computer and in your pocket over the last 20 years must have made a difference.
There are many sites for doing this work online including lichess.org, chess.com, and then specialized sites like chess.emrald.net, chesstempo.com, and others. However, in my opinion they are also mostly useless. The reason is that interactive solving creates a practically irresistible urge to just try your move once you find one that looks correct. In general in tactical problems, stronger players are going to be able to reduce a position down to one or two "candidate moves" (moves that might be the 'right' move) and so the odds of success by guessing are incredibly high. In poorly designed tactical problems, as many of these sites host, it's sometimes the case that there's only one real candidate move - or that all of the candidate moves are good.
Those sites also suffer from the problem in that the defense offered is often weak. They generally use computers to solve the problems. So imagine we have a position where you make one kind of obvious sacrifice to initiate a tactical combination. The computer sees that if accepts the sacrifice then it gets mated in 7 moves after a series of highly complex follow ups. So instead it gives away its queen on the first move to stave off immediate mate, and the problem is "solved." That's quite ridiculous.
The real key to tactics is to work them out in your head, in entirety with all possible defenses, and the and only then finally commit. Only sites are currently just not very good for this.
Aside from the unwillingness to do the actual work for improvement (tactics alone can take players practically all the way to FM strength, which is about 2300 ELO) there's another big issue. Players are obsessed with openings. A datum I read once indicated that more books had been written about chess than any other sport or game, and I'd estimate 95% of those books are going to be books on openings targeting beginner to intermediate players. Openings are mostly irrelevant in chess. If a stronger player plays 1. a4 (a completely awful opening) against a player just 100 points below him, he's still going to be a clear favorite. Nonetheless players spend their time obsessing over openings. The reason is because unlike tactics, it "feels", like you're learning something.
Chess improvement is very weird. It's often a star step inside of an upward slope. What I mean is that you hit a level, get stuck there, study for months, see no improvement. Then you wake up one day, and are suddenly 200 points stronger. It's surreal. You can even see this in players like Magnus Carlsen. In April 2004, at the peak of his 'wunderkind' developmental acceleration period, Magnus was 2552. More than a year later in July 2005, he was 2528. 15 months of doing nothing but seeing your rating do nothing but decline? Nope, you haven't hit your plateau or some level you magically can't get beyond because of your IQ (a common excuse) or anything even close to it. That's just chess improvement for you.
Chess openings by contrast enable players to feel like they're learning. You'll, on occasion, even be able to win an entire game without ever leaving your preparation. But the paradox there is that it will generally have minimal to no effect on your overall rating or performance.
As for high level players, most of what I just said is completely different. Since this post is already getting too long, I'll try to keep it short. Very strong players capable of converting very small edges. And so things like incredible nuance and openings start to play a very major part of the game. And so the role of a coach, or second, for a professional player is very much different than it is for a lower rated player. It's kind of the difference of a grade school teacher compared to a post-grad research partner. And you'll often find very strong players taking on much weaker seconds. It's not so much about their skill, but their knowledge and ability to discover new knowledge.
This article mentions Josh's advice on end games teaching principles: http://chessimprover.com/spending-more-time-on-endgames/
IMO, the reality is that most professional chess players turn to coaching once their chances of making a living through being a professional player has disappeared. AFAIK, you're unlikely to find anyone ranked in the top 50 or 100 in the world who coaches (https://ratings.fide.com/top.phtml?list=men). Sam Shankland may be a notable exception on that front. Most coaches tend to be older, at least 40 years old, since that's usually long past when most people's ratings peak.
With the proliferation of chess engines and cheap computing power (see how a chess engine running on a smartphone can consistently outplay the world champion), even many professional players have given up the need to have other players who serve as assistants ("seconds" they're called). Famously, Hikaru Nakamura, currently #10 in the world, has Kris Littlejohn, who's rated ~700 points lower and is not a master, as a second. He relies more on Littlejohn's facility with chess engines and software to prepare for opponents and analyze lines than any human chess analytical ability.
That said, it's still the case that for major matches, like the Candidates or World Championship matches, players still tend to bring multiple seconds/assistants with them as prepare for their upcoming opponents.
> Does a world class coach make a big difference when we're talking about amateur chess players?
Something to realize is that there is no special sauce to becoming a stronger chess player. Someone who's rated below 1600-1800 is likely to be making relatively fundamental tactical and positional errors in all stages of their game. At that level, any coach who's a stronger player is likely to be able to point out and explain these errors to you.
When I was a top ranked junior, I had a variety of coaches, ranging from 2100 up to international master (~2400) strength. I can tell you that the best coach was not necessarily the highest rated player. Having someone who was a good motivator, and could suggest reasonable ways to improve was far more important than having a coach who was the strongest over-the-board player.
At this point, Lev Alburt himself has not played seriously in competitions in many years (https://ratings.fide.com/hist.phtml?event=2000156). It's definitely possible that he's a better trainer than his own ratings suggests, but IMO at least some of his ability to command the rates he does is a result of marketing and the 'social cache' you mention. There seems to be an unfortunate association of chess ability with trading ability or general intelligence in the financial world, if not in the broader world. Lev is simply cashing in.
Both are new accounts with only 1 comment each, both were posted roughly the same time (I can't see the timestamp), both have 5 digits in their usernames, both usernames appear to be throwaways, both mention 2300 USCF, both mention being inactive, and both start with the same terse "Yes." and say roughly the same sentence in roughly the same structure (okay, this is kind of a stretch).
Bots? A chess coach looking to stir up more business? Or maybe it's getting late and I should sleep.
However, when I opened the article, I was looking for what those lessons were. At least glimpse of them.
"Ushering me inside to the small one-bedroom apartment, he offers wine, vodka, or water, in that order."
"Many of his clients from the finance world, he says, “have this idea that it’s a good idea to distract themselves from their work.”"
The mind is just as physical as anything else.
It's a deeply complex question, but generally speaking most forms of cognition -- including processing speed, working memory, and fluid intelligence -- decline with age beginning in your twenties:
I don't think that learning to play chess better helps one create better financial models.
On the other hand, I do think it’s beneficial to exercise the muscle of strategic thought and quick decision making. Maybe it’s poker instead of chess. But I think the general class of hobby is beneficial.
Chess is a game with complete information, trading isn't. This is an important distinction, heuristics are very different. Maybe poker is better, but then there is opportunity cost. You can get better results by studying applied statistics or another subject matter area closer to trading.
I was playing chess competitively when I was young and am doing financial models for a living now. I don't think any skill or learning transferred.
I can’t think of any way of conducting a study to test a hypothesis.
I suppose I would say that, strictly speaking, chess is nothing more than a game of complete information, that has a big search space, filled with interesting corners.
On the other hand, when most non-experts play OTB, much of the thought is psychological — the classic leveling of “what is my opponent trying to do, and thinking I’m trying to do, and therefore trying to do...”