Complaint about Chess Instruction

Sep 20, 2010, 2:58 PM |

My biggest complaint about chess instruction, video, books, in person, is that the instruction always comes from the "I have arrived" perspective. What I mean by that is the master that is teaching the concept always comes with a perspective that is foreign to the learner. Example, I recently watched a video from an instructor on (not mentioning any names here), the instruction was marvelous. The complexity of thought was astounding. The result of his logic could not be denied. However, when the video was done I was left with nothing. Just thoughts and feelings of unworthiness. There was nothing to really grasp into. 

I almost feel at times it is a conspiracy. Of course, you don't want to share your real thought process, because eventually you may need to play these people that you are teaching and you need to keep a few cards in your own deck. Every once and a while I will get a glimpse into the true thought process of a chess master. They will let something slip, and I will see into the mindset behind a series of moves, however, these are fleeting and disguised well. I want to understand better the thinking that goes on in the mind of a great player so that I can understand a little more on how I need to tailor my thought process. 

A great example of this is a game I was studying along with a video. The chess master paused the game and asked what would you do at this point in time. I analyzed the board carefully. I am looking at several different combinations that could occur if I moved one piece or another. Of course in this game, there is no way to win a decided material advantage, because we are analyzing a game between grand masters. So there is subtlety there that I am not privileged to, nuances that could lead to a decisive positional advantage. In my chess games, being as amateur as you can get, it is all about avoiding blunders and looking for combinations that lead to material advantage. 

Hence the problem, the chess instructor is coming from a different mindset, the correct mindset. It is like learning the golf swing I believe. I have learned over the years to think a certain way, the correct way is not in my "muscle memory" so to speak. I hear my golf instructor use that term a lot. Is the brain a muscle? Hmm. Interesting thought.

Nonetheless, the chess master thinks a certain way, and they cant really tell you they way they think because it is so natural to them that it seems obvious. I know this intimately. I teach computer science for a living. When I first started the new students really related to me, because I was recently in their shoes. I understood the process they would have to go through to start thinking the way I wanted them to. I could explain it in their terms. Now 15 years later, I have lost that. They way of thinking for me has become natural, so I appeal more to the advanced student then the newbie. 

After the chess master continued his analysis of a move, he came up with an answer that was obvious to him, but dumbfounded me. There was no combination of exchanges that would lead to victory, but rather a simple move that, "created space." He then showed how this move eventually led to a positional advantage in the end game which produced a white win. The analysis was great, fun to watch. However, only briefly did the lecturer point to the original concept and that was, the great chess player is attempting with every move to create space for his pieces and restrict or cramp the position of the other player. It is a way of thinking, a mindset.