Some Random Thoughts About Chess Development
Hi. I'm not a super duper chess authority (I'm about 2150 USCF), but in my unprofessional opinion the one thing that helps people learn chess most effectively is patience and perspective. In many ways, playing chess is like absorbing a complex and abstract unwritten language that we're constantly extending the vocabulary of, and it's going to take a long while for almost anyone to become fluent enough to debate in it with any sort of skill. Therefore, we chess "toddlers" might as well enjoy our ride on Caissa's linguistic learning curve instead of complaining about its length.
On Chess Books
While there's no question chess books are helpful, it's also true that in this age of instant information almost every book available to you is also available to potential opponents, so in a certain sense all those books can do is bring one up to the middle of the pack of "literate" chess players. I haven't played OTB much for years, but my guess is that most tournament players are in that pack these days, since books are cheap and access to databases and current games even cheaper.
So, how does one beat people with the exact same books and learning tools as you have? I dunno, but I suspect a lot of it has to do with forging your own ideas, testing them, and learning from the crucible of first-hand experience as much as possible, especially versus strong players, and even more especially in person if at all possible.
OTB (Over the Board) vs Internet Chess
Why in person? Well, because the most effective way to learn a language is in person. You see, we primates remember best when as many different senses as possible are involved, and the internet is pretty much only visual. In informal OTB/"real life" chess, such as in coffeehouses or parks (especially before the internet), there is often incessant dialogue, facial reactions, body posture and other physical cues, the ability to naturally move pieces around when analyzing, the tactile sense of handling the pieces, and so forth. This makes the learning experience "stick" in the mind in a much more three dimensional way than the rather impersonal internet experience. Furthermore, one's local cafe tends to be a more stimulating environment than most computer rooms and, hey, who knows, sometimes you'll find interesting non chess players there as well. :)
What do you the rest of you think? Assuming anyone out there actually reads these rants of mine.