Philidor's Snippets of Chess Wisdom #1
For years, I have been secretly and obsessively collecting chess quotes, passages from interviews, books, magazines, blogs, news items and even videos from top players or lecturers that pertain to life in one way or another. They have served to me as great "snippets of wisdom" that I find very relevant to the struggles of life and the general process of learning. I have benefited from them as a huge source of inspiration and a set of principles. All this "chess wisdom" has aggregated into a huge 797 KB .txt file with 138,306 words and 792,076 characters that is titled "the art of learning," named after Josh Waitzkin's lecture series in Chess Master 11. (Actually you will stumble upon a lot of his material in here as well.) So, at last, I decided to start sharing some of it in a long and hopefully continuous blog series.
All the material in this huge file I'll be sharing bit by bit represents a very personal relationship I have built with chess, and I hope others will find it useful in their lives or "chess lives." Remember, some stuff here might not relate to you at all, or you might not see any reasonable connection of them with "the struggles of life and the general process of learning" whatsoever, but I happen to do so. Maybe some others will too.
This first episode will mostly consist of the citations that have been on the right side of all my blog posts, plus a few fresh ones at the end. I hope you'll enjoy and follow the series. I definitely intend to keep this on the air for several seasons.
I always tell you, Pai Sho is more than just a game.
Time is merciless in the chess universe.
When I speak of the beauty of a game of chess, then naturally this is subjective. Beauty can be found in a very technical, mathematical game for example. That is the beauty of clarity.
Kramnik considers chess less as a sport and more as the art of carrying out a long-term plan.
[Kasparov] stressed a number of times during the lecture that there are no miracles in chess.The “real secret” is to work hard no matter what the training tools are. In his days it was books and notebooks and today it is computers.
He said “The tools can be different but what is important remains the same.” Kasparov also said that “I don’t think champions are born, I think they are made, it’s all the result of very hard work.” However, he further added that “being able to work hard is unique talent.”
It is when working under limitations that the master reveals himself.
Until recently I was a schoolboy, I am not very accustomed to rigid, hard and painstaking work. Only by working with Garry Kasparov have I become aware of just how important it is.
(...)but it's clear that talent alone, even the most brilliant talent, isn't enough for victory, but what's demanded is professional, intelligent work that's done over many years(...). Dedication, professonalism and renunciation - this is the path to the biggest victories.
-Evgeny Bareev / From London to Elista, p.299
[Botvinnik] drew the correct conclusion from his setback: he had to work still more persistently to improve his strategy, with painstaking analysis of his victories and defeats. Step by step he worked out his own system of training for competitions.
He combined serious work on chess with studies at the Industrial Institute, and at the same time was an active member of the Young Communist Leage.
After that defeat it would have been easy to lose heart, but Botvinnik has tremendous will power. He took himself in hand, and his next two games ended in a draw. In the tenth round, playing White against Lasker, he delivered a series of strong, precise blows, and on the 21st move Lasker resigned. Botvinnik was runner up to Capablanca.
In Nottingham Botvinnik fully revealed his qualities: skill, endurance, persistence, will to win, and theoretical knowledge backed up by superb technique. He played calmly and confidently, going through the entire tournament unstached.
While laying new paths in the opening and other aspects of theory, Botvinnik continued his work in the field of electrical engineering.
In 1952 he successfully presented his Doctor's thesis. He has been decorated with the Order of the Badge of Honour twice, for his outstanding chess activity, and for his fruitful work as an engineer.
Ever since his youth Mikhail Botvinnik has had a scientific approach to chess as a game demanding the most painstaking study and flights of creative imagination.
He happily combines his natural talent with a tremendous capacity for work, an iron will to win, and patience. His style is now exceptionally versatile: he is equally strong in positional play and complicated positions abounding in combinational possibilities.
Another characteristic feature of Botvinnik's style was revealed clearly at the Seventh U.S.S.R. Championship in 1931. We refer to his tenacity in defence, his ability to find latent defensive resources when he lands in a tight spot. True, this rarely happens, for he foresees danger in good time and takes steps to meet it properly. Still, when he does get into a tough situation he finds a way out of it more often than other players. When in trouble, Botvinnik usually defends himself by creating the utmost positional difficulties for his adversary. He displays great inventiveness in finding and camouflaging combinational possibilites which increase his defensive resources.
In his early period Botvinnik preferred a calm positional style of play. He negotiated combinational storms when they could not be avoided, but he was clearly less at home in them than in calm positions with a well-defined centre and a manoeuvring battle. It was here that Botvinnik's main feature as a sportsman revealed itself: he takes a clear, objective view of his short-comings, even the slightest ones, and works persistently to root them out.
Realizing that his weak point at the time was involved combinational positions containing numerous possibilites not subject to precise calculation, he deliberately sought such positions on every convenient occasion in order to acquire maximum experience in them. The following game is typical in this respect.
The chess world highly appreciates Botvinnik as an all-round player with tremendous theoretical knowledge, great tournament experience, unusal persistence and ability to fight.
Mikhail Botvinnik has made a deep study of the heritage of Chigorin, whom he resembles in his eagerness for struggle(...)
-Soviet School of Chess / A. Kotov, Y. Yudovich (p.123)
The incredible longevity of Botvinnik's competitive success undoubtedly owed a great deal to his Spartan self-discipline. Alhekine had gone into long periods of intense training before important matches, but Botvinnik adopted a sever training regimen as a permanent lifestyle.
At various times he concentrated particularly on certain aspects of his training. For instance, to inure himself to typical tournament distractions, he would play training matches while a radio was blaring and his opponent was blowing smoke in his face. To avoid the most trivial daily decisions during an important event, he would always dress exactly the same way, eat and sleep at exactly the same times, travel to and from the playing site by exactly the same route, take his refreshment (always orange juice) at exactly the same time during each game.
One of the most remarkable aspects of Botvinnik's chess career is that he was able to perform so successfully for so long while pusuing a seperate full-time career as an electrical engineer. We may never again see a top chess player with a dual career.
-Winning With Chess Psychology / Pal Benko, Burt Hochberg (p. 70)
If you don't try to set him up, hoping for him to go wrong, what's the point of continuing at all? Finally, whatever the circumstances on the board, whether you're winning, losing, or drawing, there's a proper strategy. Find it and use it for guidance.
-Josh Waitzkin, Chess Master video lectures.
# Forbes India It's said that at the highest level, Indian chess players suffer from lack of discipline and systematic thinking. Did you ever feel that at any stage? If so, how did you personally deal with it?
vishy anand : I had my years when I drifted and had fun, but eventually I understood that to become world champion I had to get serious
To be continued...