Untenable Jadedness

Untenable Jadedness

| 63 | Strategy

 I usually set aside time on Wednesday evening to write my weekly column. It has already become a routine, though for such tasks I typically rely on my mood to determine when and what to write and not a schedule. Tonight, I am in no mood to talk too much about general planning techniques, something I have been doing for the couple of weeks already.  This article will be a little different.  Last week's article sported a picture of the hot Philadelphian IM Bryan Smith and the number of hits was lower than average. I wonder if putting a picture of a hot female chess player will help my article’s popularity? Anyways, today I will not talk about people, but instead talk about silicon brains.

 Recently I gave a talk to a chess team at a local private all-girls high school. They were the only all-girls team in the league and had to compete against other teams that were mostly guys. Chess is emphasized and approached as a sport in their school. Naturally, I asked them if they were intimidated to compete at chess against boys. The answer rather surprised me. The girls thought that chess came more naturally to boys. They felt that during the games that they worked extra hard at the board, while their opponents could stare into the ceiling, eat apples or chat with other boys.  They looked rather casual and still managed to play a good quality game. In reality this is not true: behind this easiness in play there are hundreds of hours invested in chess studying.

  There are a lot of good chess players out there claiming that they don’t study chess because they don’t need to.  I have never believed them. The same phenomenon can be observed in academia; there was always some guy getting an A on an exam while claiming he doesn’t study. I guess it is all relative in some ways. I am perfectionist so even when I put a lot of hours into studying it seems to me that I was not productive. Since I felt I didn’t get enough out of studying I might as well say I didn’t study much.

  I believe in Malcolm Gladewell’s rule that one can excel in a cognitive, complex field only by putting 10,000 hours into studying.  This means 20 hours a week for 10 years. This is a necessary condition but it is argued by many that it might not be a sufficient one. Productivity matters a lot. I spent 8 years playing at the Marshall Chess Club and saw numerous chess players that played there regularly and had no apparent progress over that time. Thus, it is not just about playing or putting hours into studying, it is also about the quality of the hours spent at chess. There is a term for this type of work which is called "Deliberate Practice" (DP) and is recently coined by Anders Ericsson, the psychology professor. The definition of DP is “activities designed, typically by a teacher, for the sole purpose of effectively improving specific aspects of an individual’s performance.” The key points to this type of training are that it should be aimed at improving performance through repetition, feedback and extreme concentration. One can have enough willpower to work hard but not have enough feedback to know what areas to work at. Having a regular trainer who supervises such work and monitors the player's progress over time would be an ideal scenario. Another way of getting feedback is to use the computer as a coach. Of course, there is no software that can substitute for a real chess coach but the computer can be of a great help when used properly.

 I believe that in modern days with Internet and highly developed IT one can learn anything ten times faster than in the pre-computer era. There is no ignoring the development of computers  in chess. Computers are why we have 14 year old grandmasters now – one does not need to wait for the  Informant to come out to look at new games and ideas, one just needs to visit the TWIC website and all the novelties are sent directly to one's computer.

  I had a coach who still used index cards on which he drew positions and wrote variations on them by pen. I used to write analysis into a notebook along with my game annotations. Not anymore! I remember having a lesson with Dvoretsky and he told me I should use ChessBase to create a library of positions not a notebook! To me, when I was about 17, this was a novel idea (due to the fact that I got my first computer at 13). It is so much easier to type rather than to write by hand and a computer with a proper software is such an efficient device for sorting chess positions and entering new data. It cannot be compared to paper notebooks.

  It has gotten to the point that I have a paranoia of not being able to catch up with latest technology, so now I try not to use anything paper based. (Ok I didn’t get myself iPad or Kindle or SonyReader, so I still read newspapers in their original print, but when the iPad 3G is released, this may change.) Generally, using a computer as a guide and checking your analysis with some engine such as Rybka or Fritz is a good idea. A bad use of computer engine would be just to read off what it has to say without truly understanding the ideas behind the analysis.

  I will look over last week's positions with Rybka and try to justify the complex lines it gives with my human ideas and link it to planning. That is the plan, I don’t know how it will work out, it is for you to judge.

       The main lines that Rybka is concerned with start with Ne2 and Nd1. I will be the interpreter.  Rybka thinks that the Nc3 is misplaced and wants to find a better square for it. White tried to break through on the queenside but failed – taking on c5 is pointless because there are two knights hoping to jump there. Thus, if White hope for some advantage he has to break through on the kingside. The g5-sqaure is a weakness, so his plan might be connected somehow with exploiting it.

 The next position has arisen from the Moscow Variation of Sicilian Defense (1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 d6 3. Bb5+). There is tension in the centre and there is no apparent way of developing the Nb1 yet. White finds a way to solve both problems at the same time.


Try your hand (mouse) at solving the following positions.




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