One Thing I've Learned

Mar 28, 2009, 4:39 PM |

One thing I've learned in my years of playing chess is that in an OTB setting, you can never truly know what your opponent is going to do. The human mind just doesn't allow for telepathy, you know? Sure, it's possible to consider every conceivable move that your opponent can make, and you can run through memorized variation after memorized variation.


Of course, this also means you lose some valuable time! This is especially true in blitz and rapid games, where a five-second hesitation can lead to a timeout down the line. I'm not a big user of Live Chess on, but that's just because I can't be fussed to open it most of the time. However, maybe I should do it more often than I really do. In blitz and rapid chess, quick thinking and instinct can trump brute force and skill, much like a flitting bird can harass and defeat a larger, more weighty foe because the larger animal cannot move as quickly.


Such situations can arise in the standard chess client here, but it is rare, mainly due to the time limits imposed, which are typically on the order of days instead of seconds.


The ability to quickly ascertain a situation and act accordingly is a skill blessed to a person. It can be learned but usually takes years to develop; in reality, it is a lot like physical speed. Only with rigorous training and hard work can the skill be cultivated to its highest degree. Yes, some are born with it; despite this, a talent is just a talent if it is not exercised continually. A talent only becomes a full-fledged skill when it is employed.


Some of the world's greatest minds - chess or otherwise - are wasted when people are lazy. They fail to put forth the required effort, to invest the necessary time, to study or analyze their craft. Without work, talent only takes a person so far. I could be the greatest chess player in the world if I wish. However, without putting in the effort and work, it will never happen. At the same time, putting in the same level of work/effort will produce results for a time; after that, no additional progress is made.


Therefore, the ultimate message is that to improve yourself in any facet of life - physical fitness, mental fortitude, intelligence, chess, sports, basket weaving - you must put in the work. You must study your craft, and you must progress.


You've read all the books on endgames cover to cover? Hey that's great. Did you study them intensively? Have you consulted game databases to see where errors have been made in endgames, and rectify them? Have you examined your own games? Could I set up an endgame scenario and have you solve it without batting an eyelash?


The bottom line is that yes, at some point everyone who studies the game of chess, regardless of his/her dedication and time invested, will reach a plateau. However, this plateau is also something with an exhilarating view. This plateau is the summit, the peak, the top of your game. It is the place in the distance to which we all should strive to reach.


Keep playing. Keep working. Keep studying. But, most of all, keep having fun.