Thursday, March 10, 2005
The Great Chess Barrier.
The Missing Component
A hyphothesis on the difference between grandmasters and an ordinary player

There are certain things in life you dont mess around with. For example, my work is important to me, so while I sometimes disagree with the boss, I never, ever, disagree with the CEO. I simply have no desire to have career suicide. After all I've got a family to feed. Another small example is I drive in the intercity highway a little more carefully. This is because I know that vehicular accidents at over 100kph is fatal.

On the other hand there are things that we take for granted. Even indulgent to a degree. So while I know I really need to exercise before I have heart attack, I really dont have the motivation to do it in a regular manner.

In a way, this two levels of thinking may determine how far we can go in developing our chess talent.

You know, I study assidously everyday. Usually two hours, more during weekends. I've stopped watching TV, playing robotic computer games and going out. To a non-chess player, this may seems a little excessive, but I assure you - this is the norm among us who have the flu. But after all of that, in the end, I view chess as little more than a game. A hobby, to say it plainly. Something important, but not vital. That is to say, when I play a game, it is to have fun. Of course I make an effort to find the best move, but not nearly the whole game. I dont need to. So I dont. Because I know if I loose, there is always another day. I can just dismiss it with a shrug. If I even had a good game, I really woudnt mind.

But for a professional chessplayer, someone whose livelihood depends on having a good tournament, this attitude is unacceptable. Chess is not done for fun. It is something not messed around with. If you know your little boy will go hungry if you lose, woud'nt you be a little more careful? No, there is no tomorrow for peole like them. Each game they play is maybe a world onto itself. The situation practically forces such a thing. Forces them to be more careful, to be more precise, to be more of everything when playing. Because for people like them, chess is not play. No, not play, but work. A struggle for living itself. The most ardent student of the game Mr. Alekhine said so himself - "I dont play so much as struggle".

And so this brings us to what I think is a very real barrier that prevents someone like me from mastery. Different pressures produces different results. And the very pressures of my life prevents me from ever being a master. We may even say that learning chess is a way of rebellion against these pressures. But no matter how violently I rebel, It is inexorably leading me along a different path. Because don't you see? playing a game, there is always the safety net of tomorrow. Win or lose, it doesnt really matter. I may have a broken ego perhaps, but no fundamental damage occurs. I just do this for enjoyment. For fun. I have the luxury of not working as hard. Unfortunately (or fortunately?), I have a life outside of chess, and playing over the board, this life reflects itself on my moves. Whereas every move a GM makes may be for his family, for his sons and daughters. So he agonizes over each one of them. Each move is carefully deliberated and weighted before played. There is no fun involved here. No dogs, no friskbees. Only a grim, bitter struggle. The son is waiting for that new toy, which can be bought if only he can win the tournament. And so this opponent is only gonna win over his dead body.

You know, in the final analysis, the game is a reflection of the player. And so while it is entirely possible that someday my chess knowledge may equal a grandmaster. In its practice, its application, it will never be.

I hope I am making sense here. And perhaps I am wrong. This is only a hypothesis right now. But apart from talent and work there must be something different that enables a person to become a grandmaster. There must be something - Is there?
posted by Nezha at 9:01 PM | Permalink |


  • At 12:47 AM, Blogger Temposchlucker

    Of course I make an effort to find the best move, but not nearly the whole game

    I don't think you describe here the common way of working of the amateur mind. At least not mine. (did you mention laziness?)

  • At 4:18 AM, Blogger takchess

    Hi Nezh,
    I played through the game that changed you and agree it is a very good game. I like the wall of pawns advanced in front of his castled king and the brutal king side attack. I saw his bio on and saw he was a trainer for Tal. You might want to link this to you webblog.

    I have enjoyed your writing.
    Jim Takchess