Originally posted by Eladar
Really? A false dichotomy? What's the difference between the very best and those who spend countless hours trying to reach a similar level?
Is it the logic? Or is it that the top chess players have photographic memories and can remember what to do in countless positions? Does a photographic memory effect logic or does it simply help you to remember wha ...[text shortened]... ay chess they are simply putting into practice what they've learned or what they can remember.
Yes, really, a false dichotomy. Nobody wins by rote memorization because the number of possible positions in chess are beyond human memorization.
If grandmaster chess was simply a matter of putting rote memorization into practice, their games would be played at bullet-chess speed. Instead, you find just the opposite: grandmasters spending 10-45 minutes on a single move sometimes, over the board. What are they doing during all of that time? Trying to make their omniscient photographic memories work? Or employing the totality of their skills (including but not limited to logic and knowledge) to analyze the position? Why do you suppose that time controls are much LONGER for professional, world-tournament games than for club games? In fact, grandmaster level games used to have much longer time-controls than the 3 to 4 hours or so at present.
Your question, "What's THE difference between the very best and those who spend countless hours trying to reach a similar level?" is simplistic. It's vague and meaningless. The difference between whom, and whom, specifically? You aren't specifying anyone with such general parameters. Even in the top echelon different players have different approaches. There are those who rely on rigorous calculation many ply deep. There are those who (or so they claim) only consider one move ahead, most of the time. As for the faults of lesser players, again, that all depends on the player. The possibilities, in the abstract, are numerous: all we can say is that seldom if ever does any single individual embody either all virtues or all faults.
Differences between top players and lesser players can include approach, methods of training and study, experience, what might be called their "starting handicap", and what might be called their "learning curve", as well as many other factors, some of which may be equally or more important.
It's true that grandmasters, today (unlike, say, in Capablanca's time) almost uniformly make a study of openings, and that requires a certain amount of memorization; but not blind memorization, since they are also looking for novelties (whether genuinely new, or forgotten) to improve openings; and don't forget that even in grandmaster games, openings do not always stay in book: another reason why memorization alone is grossly insufficient.