How to use the computer to improve your chess game.

Feb 4, 2009, 11:47 PM |

I get this question all the time. Chess isn't fun with the computer winning all the time. Or, why even play with computers being so strong? or Aren't you afraid of computer cheaters?

The answers to these questions and many more are simple.  I don't play chess purely because I want to beat people, or prove that I am a superior thinker.  I play chess because chess is a brain exercise that I enjoy.

When I seek assistance from the computer it is typically for one of two reasons. 1. Blunder check.  Am I missing a blatantly obvious mistake?

2. Sparring partner.  I may play chess engines to help reinforce opening or endgame ideas.  I don't play the computer necessarily trying to beat it.  But I may play it to exercise technique or to break a bad loosing streak against humans.

I won't go into computers and database study in this dialogue.

People who cheat using the computer for whatever gain are actually cheating themselves out of the opportunity to learn for themselves.  The brain is just like any other muscle in the body.  It benefits from usage.  Casually thinking about what you are going to eat next is not enough.  However, thinking about complex moves/patterns for extended periods of time will improve your concentration.

This is why basketball and football players can run for hours while the average person will stop after a few moments.  These same ideas apply to chess.  A solid chess player can concentrate on chess for hours.  If we take a moment to look at poker players.  The objective of the advanced poker player is to create conditions which allow his opponents to make mistakes.  It is during these lapses in concentration or discipline that the gains are made.  Now imagine if you were a strong chess player used to concentrating for say 4-5 hours intensely at a time and you are playing the neighborhood college kid.  You would crush him/her every time.

This same skill can be applied to everyday life. Especially when decisions have to be made over an extended period of time.  Try it.  Next time you are in the process of making a car purchase.  Stay at the dealership for say 3 hours negotiating.  They will eventually commit to something in your favor, just because they are tired of the process.

There aren't many places in life where I haven't seen this work.  People will typically give up 30 minutes passed the average time spent on whatever activity.  Some will have a slightly higher endurance and push on a little bit, but even then they break down over extended periods of time.

This is just one reason why chess is a good activity to be involved in.  In part II I will catalogue some other examples and reasons why one should play chess and not be concerned about computer involvement.