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  1. 16 May '06 16:30
    My day job is particularly tedious today, hence the following rant to ease the pain…

    Most computing engineers have heard of Dykstra’s “The Humble Programmer” article. Dykstra, although a great engineer, readily acknowledged that the human brain has it’s limitations. And rather than try to pretend that such shortcomings don’t exist, or that our brains can keep “expanding” to overcome them, he suggested that we develop techniques that take reality into account.

    What’s this got to do with chess? Nothing. I just thought he’s a cool guy.

    I think that a big limiting factor for many chess players is that they don’t realise how humble they are in relation to trying to solve a problem as complex as chess. Many chess players are too fast in thinking they’ve got it right… they under-estimate the difficulty of playing chess well.

    When I analyse post-mortem games with weak players, they often show a lot of confidence… “I should have done that”… “this wins”… “that loses”. But with stronger players there is more doubt… “I’m not sure”… “it’s unclear”… “it’s maybe winning”. (GM Rowson writes about this in “Chess for Zebras&rdquo. I often find that while stronger players outplay me, weaker ones often talk a better game.

    So, a small suggestion is to feel a bit more humble about one’s abilities. This is not to say that you shouldn’t be confident; but rather just a recognition of how daunting chess is.

    After some calculation, do you then focus on what you saw… or do you wonder what you may have missed? When you’re sure that a general principle applies, how much consideration do you give that the position in question is actually an exception? When you conceive an attractive looking plan or idea, can you honestly within yourself critically review its true merits? While playing a significantly lower rated player, can you really convince yourself of the possibility of losing? Etc. etc.

    There are many moments in every game when we think we’ve got it right, but we don’t. I think a big part of progress is being able to look for such opportunities to better ourselves. And they are easier to spot if we’re more willing to think we’ve got it wrong in the first place. As Rowson points out, saying “I’m not sure” is often a good thing in chess.
  2. 16 May '06 23:17 / 1 edit
    Originally posted by Varenka
    My day job is particularly tedious today, hence the following rant to ease the pain…

    Most computing engineers have heard of Dykstra’s “The Humble Programmer” article. Dykstra, although a great engineer, readily acknowledged that the human brain has it’s limitations. And rather than try to pretend that such shortcomings don’t exist, or that our brains ca ...[text shortened]... in the first place. As Rowson points out, saying “I’m not sure” is often a good thing in chess.
    I totally agree. When you get right down to it, no one really knows anything about chess. Even the greatest minds throughout the history of the game come to find they know nothing at all. An example: Nigel Short and Kasparov in their Epic Battle. Both players found out in a particular game - forget which one - they know nothing about the game and everything about it. Strange the irony, eh?

    p.s. Oh, I think it was the last game of their World Championship match. I know the book is out there. Read it. It's Good. Nigel is a cool dude.
  3. 17 May '06 04:28
    I myself am an engineer, and it is definitely true that the strong, imaginative engineers are the ones that acknowledge the complexity and uncertainty of certain types of problems. Not only that, but they embrace the uncertainty as opportunity for imaginative and inspired solutions, instead of being frustrated by the wide open nature of the problem.

    I think the cycle goes something like: you start and you are uncertain because you don't know anything, then you learn a little bit and think you have it all figured out, then something or someone comes along and humbles you, and shows you that you really don't know that much at all. A lot of people never get that last step.
  4. 18 May '06 21:20
    Originally posted by Archaeopteryx
    I myself am an engineer, and it is definitely true that the strong, imaginative engineers are the ones that acknowledge the complexity and uncertainty of certain types of problems. Not only that, but they embrace the uncertainty as opportunity for imaginative and inspired solutions, instead of being frustrated by the wide open nature of the problem.
    ...[text shortened]... ws you that you really don't know that much at all. A lot of people never get that last step.
    I think it's more like: I studied the game for a thousand years and learned everything there was to know concerning it. Now I am awestruck because I now realize no one understands anything about it at all including myself.

    In other words, when I look at some of the combinations (the art of chess) construed by the greatest chess minds of the past and present, I am awestruck. It makes me realize how infinite chess truly is and how nothing is ever what it seems. It's like look at the zillions of stars and planets in the universes above us. It's infinite. I don't believe it will ever truly be conquered.
  5. 19 May '06 17:01
    Originally posted by Varenka

    When I analyse post-mortem games with weak players, they often show a lot of confidence… “I should have done that”… “this wins”… “that loses”.
    US Senior Master Eliot Hearst once gave this definition of a Master: Every player's secret appraisal of his own ability.
  6. Subscriber BigDoggProblem
    The Advanced Mind
    19 May '06 17:34
    Originally posted by Varenka
    My day job is particularly tedious today, hence the following rant to ease the pain…

    Most computing engineers have heard of Dykstra’s “The Humble Programmer” article. Dykstra, although a great engineer, readily acknowledged that the human brain has it’s limitations. And rather than try to pretend that such shortcomings don’t exist, or that our brains ca ...[text shortened]... in the first place. As Rowson points out, saying “I’m not sure” is often a good thing in chess.
    I've seen this so often it's not even funny. I was analyzing a game with some 1000-rated kid. After 1.e4 d6 2.d4 Nf6 3.Nc3 g6 4.f4 Bg7 5.Nf3, I put 5...c5 on the board.



    "But that loses!", the kid immediately insisted. "Actually, it's book", I replied. The only way to convince him was to give him the White pieces and let him try 6.dxc5 Qa5! 7.cxd6 Nxe4! after which White isn't so happy.

    Similarly, I played a 1300, and after the opening moves 1.e4 c6 2.d4 d5 3.e5 Bf5 4.h4 h6 5.g4 Bh7, I surprised him with 6.e6!?. It was only a casual game, so he immediately condemned my move for losing a pawn. I pointed out that I had compensation in the form of weakened light squares around the black King (not to mention the e5 outpost and clumsy black e-pawns). He lost in about 20 moves.

    The point is not whether moves like 6.e6!? are sound or not, but that the over-confident player will miss such possibilities because of their dogmatic thinking.
  7. 19 May '06 20:31 / 1 edit
    Originally posted by BigDoggProblem
    I've seen this so often it's not even funny. I was analyzing a game with some 1000-rated kid. After 1.e4 d6 2.d4 Nf6 3.Nc3 g6 4.f4 Bg7 5.Nf3, I put 5...c5 on the board.

    "But that loses!", the kid immediately insisted. "Actually, it's book", I replied. The only way to e over-confident player will miss such possibilities because of their dogmatic thinking.
    Black: - "Qb3!?!?!?! are you mad!? I love free Queens yummy"
    White:- "Actaully no, its a very clever move....if you take - i'll mate in 4"
    Black: - "haha sucker! I now know your plan!"
    White: - "..."
  8. Subscriber BigDoggProblem
    The Advanced Mind
    21 May '06 02:32
    Originally posted by Shinidoki
    Black: - "Qb3!?!?!?! are you mad!? I love free Queens yummy"
    White:- "Actaully no, its a very clever move....if you take - i'll mate in 4"
    Black: - "haha sucker! I now know your plan!"
    White: - "..."
    Stories like that are one of the reasons I don't tend to talk much during chess games.
  9. 22 May '06 01:52 / 1 edit
    Here is a question. . .
    Although possible chess moves during a game are, perhaps, a large number value, aren't chess moves really finite ultimately? Granted guideliines for chess moves are helpful and not necessarily set in stone. But if possible chess moves are really a finite number; then "theoretically" chess should be able to be "figured out." Still, with all that is going on in a human's life, would a person be able to keep up with all possible variations of good and bad chess positions in every possible position?

    I don't know if the brain itself could handle it, but even less so, could the person access it from his brain at every new position? As great as creatures that we are created to be; can humans really do such a thing?

    Secondly, if our opponents and we, ourselves, did not have weaknesses in chess play, then would chess end up being like tic-tac-toe - one draw after another?
  10. 22 May '06 10:27
    Originally posted by KingOnPoint
    would a person be able to keep up with all possible variations of good and bad chess positions in every possible position?
    No. Not even anywhere close.

    Today there exists databases showing perfect play in positions containing 6 pieces or less. But I bet that nobody, regardless of the amount of study, could play every such position perfectly. For example, try perfecting every KRP vs KR position - it's hugely complicated.

    And that's only for a small amount of chess men. For a complete game, while the possibilities aren't theoretically endless, from a human point of view the complexity is unsurmountable and always will be.
  11. 22 May '06 13:22
    Agreed. As mentioned in my initial post, aiming to be humble does not imply having to lack confidence in one’s abilities. e.g. it is valid to say “I am confident in my calculation abilities, but this position is so complex that it is easy to miss something”. We can be fully confident with ourselves, but still alllow ourselves to be humbled by chess. It’s a bit like saying, “I’m tough, but this problem is tougher” rather than “I’m tough, and this is easy”.

    You’ve probably heard Alekhine’s quote: “Chess will always be the master of us all”. He was both confident and a World Champion, but not afraid to acknowledge his limitations.
  12. 22 May '06 14:52
    Originally posted by Varenka
    My day job is particularly tedious today, hence the following rant to ease the pain…

    Most computing engineers have heard of Dykstra’s “The Humble Programmer” article. Dykstra, although a great engineer, readily acknowledged that the human brain has it’s limitations. And rather than try to pretend that such shortcomings don’t exist, or that our brains ca ...[text shortened]... in the first place. As Rowson points out, saying “I’m not sure” is often a good thing in chess.
    Thank you Varenka for the post I have been thinking about it for about a week on and off. Your post can change and has kinda changed the thinking I do before I make a move on the board. I think this post has inmproved my play thanks. Kevin