I need a plan, how can I become a good chess player?


Bobby, that's a very well written reply. You've framed your argument in a logical and coherent way and you deserve to be commended for that. A few points:


1) Yes, the first part is a purely semantic debate, I agree. Not a big deal, I don't think we even disagree on the general unlikelyhood of 40-year-old beginner becoming a GM.


2) You've brought up examples of teenage learners later becoming masters here. There’s no debate to be had here, clearly it’s possible. Point well made.


3) Yes, you are right to criticize the research methodology of cross-sectional studies and not take them for granted. Having read your post, I knew straight off that you read the Saltman paper (therefore there’s no need for saltiness (pun intended) about me only reading the abstract!). Unfortunately, you seem to have skimmed over his conclusion:


"[W]hat does appear clear is that several different types of results converge on the conclusion that age-related cognitive decline begins relatively early in adulthood."


Which has been my point since my first post. Let’s look a bit closer as to why I agree with Saltman on this topic.


You have chosen to ignore data from cross-sectional studies – which do have research flaws as you’ve explained (courtesy of Saltman’s own devil's advocate arguments). But that doesn’t automatically result in the non-medical longitudinal studies being of inherently more value. These studies, because of the retest effect - which you know about and understand - are also far from definitive.


So it would seem we’ve reached a stalemate at this point. One data point suggests one thing. Another data point suggests another.


Unfortunately, as you’re new to this subject area, you’re also unaware of the huge amounts of medical longitudinal data that show structural and physiological changes in the brain (such as reduced cortical thinning, smaller prefrontal and cerebellar volume) have already started to occur by mid-thirties (with more rapid changes coming after 70). If you have access to an academic or student library account, you can find an abundance of academic medical papers on this topic. If not, you could always read Scahill et al’s “A longitudinal study of brain volume changes in normal aging using serial registered magnetic resonance imaging” (2003). Do you know what their finding was?


They found that brain volume decreases throughout adulthood and not only in old age (just look at that volume decline on page 992 from 30 – 40!). Interestingly, when it comes to medical research, the longitudinal and cross-sectional data are actually very close in the results produced. They also lineup nicely with the cross-sectional data from intelligence studies.


The problem with the medical data (and there’s so much of it!), with regards to this topic at least, is that there isn’t an exact one-to one-correlation between intelligence and brain volume. However, we have two data points (both cross-sectional and longitudinal) that show that certain areas of the brain lose volume in early adulthood. We also have the cross-sectional data that suggests intelligence starts to decrease, in certain areas at least, at 25. On the other hand, you’ve rightly pointed out that the longitudinal data from intelligence tests suggests that this isn't that case. Nonetheless, I think you'll agree, that there are more data-points supporting my position than your contrarianism.


Regardless of your views on this topic (if regurgitating devil’s advocate arguments from someone who agrees with me counts as a view!), all you really need to know is that by keeping physically and mentally active, you’ll be better able to deal with the issues of cognitive decline, so keep playing and trying to improve at chess as part of a balanced healthy lifestyle! Just don’t expect to become a GM!


Best of luck!

Achieving mastery in anything is difficult (on that I think we agree )  While I would love to reach the level of GM (as it would be great to write a book on how to go from beginner to grandmaster as an adult!), I don't set goals that high.  Going slightly off topic, I subscribe to the idea that if you want to reach a high-level goal, you map out all of the smaller goals you need to accomplish first.  A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step, or so they say.

 I very much agree with this point of view. Right now I'm focusing on more effective use of my knights for example. It is a very small, focused objective, but like you said, small steps.


Great post all round Bobby, very good points well made. This caught my eye:


"So, it is possible the adult could have developed those skills in other ways and simply need to practice applying them in relation to chess."


I read an academic article on that very topic this week (not about chess specifically but about the need to acquire the necessary cognitive skills during the "critical stages" (early childhood) in order to excel in tasks that require those cognitive skills later in life).


So I would agree with you that a later learner needs the requisite cognitive development even if it's not directly gained from learning about chess.  


I'm also reminded that many shogi players (such as Yoshiharu Habu) are also pretty good at chess (these games are somewhat similar in terms of cognitive thinking but the theory base behind the games is entirely different - knowing the Sicilian and how to establish a strong chess pawn structure won't help you in shogi!). 


For BatusChess. Many good players here have already commented and provided excellent advice as well as the truth that GM is out of reach. Let me provide another example. I played 1500 games w my friend Ken rated OTB 2150 USCF. Expert level player. I lost 1485 games. I achieved a 1612 USCF rating. We replayed each and every game, and Ken explained how and why I lost, and I did get better over those 3 years. Our paths went different directions so we couldn't play anymore. Before we said goodbye, Ken choose to demonstrate the true gulf between us in knowledge and chess ability. He gave me white and 7 moves, w proviso being no moves across the frontier (4th rank) and thus no capturing any black pieces. Then he made his first move. I lost. Tried again. Lost. On third try, Ken made my 8th move for me winning a pawn. I still lost. I told this story to a few of my other chess friends, friends who never played tournaments. They laughed at me, said, "what kind of idiot gets 7 moves in a chess game and LOSES?!!" I said, ok, take white, make 7 moves. Yep, that's what I did! I proceeded on 3 different occasions to beat 3 different players who were not tournament players yet had played chess for years, with black, after giving them 7 moves. And I'm just a C class player. Just play for the love of the game. To be a GM, I'm not sure when, but I think you have to start around age 5, have talent, and in today's world, have a master coach during your childhood.   good luck. 


Very nice example, fpon. I remember doing something similar against Stockfish. It calculated that I had roughly a 6 point advantage at the start. It didn't end well.

icecoolpool yazdı:

Very nice example, fpon. I remember doing something similar against Stockfish. It calculated that I had roughly a 6 point advantage at the start. It didn't end well.

I used to beat rybka for fun with rook odds when i was at 1600s... Yesterday i imagined repeating this against stockfish with only knight odds but honestly i am scared grin.png