Sunday, December 30, 2007

Thoughts on "My Brilliant Brain: Make me a Genius"

Spurred by Wormwood's post on the Susan Polgar segment of the three part series entitled "My Brilliant Brain", I decided to watch the documentary. The part in which Susan appears is called "Make me a Genius."

As I watched the presentation, I jotted down a few things that really caught my attention. There wasn't anything new I learned or haven't heard before, but it's just the fact that I was reminded of certain critical factors that are very important in life and chess.

Desire - Motivation - Drive

Whatever you want to call "it", "it" is absolutely essential in succeeding in life, chess and any other pursuit.

At 6:53 in the video, the narrator explains that Lazslo "was convinced he could train his daughter to be a genius at anything as long as she was a willing student." (emphasis added)

Later at 7:11, Susan says, "It's very important for a child to love the specific field, which in our case was chess and then the rest comes easy." (emphasis added)

On a slight tangent, I read an article in the Dallas Morning News about Chase Daniels ... the QB for Missouri. Early in Chase's childhood, his father Bill recognized Chase's abilities and decided to "make that boy an athlete."

The article continued,

When Bill laid out his plan to Chase, he promised to get the boy all the coaching and skills development he might need. Father asked for only one thing: that the boy commit to dedicate every fiber of his being to workouts and practices and games. There would be plenty of time to be one of the boys off the field. On the field, the boy would have to be a man.

Even before Bill could dangle Chase's beloved smoothies as a reward for successful practice sessions to come, Chase agreed to try. What boy wouldn't, he wondered.

"My dad wanted me to be the best I could be," Chase Daniel recalled. "I had a similar goal. I wanted to be the best."

A common thread can be seen ... a desire to suceed and a parent to help him or her along.

How do you instill this drive within yourself? Can "it" be instilled as an adult or does it have to be done in childhood? How do you plant "it" in your child? Can "it" be instilled and planted or does "it" just have to come naturally? I don't fully know the answers to these questions, but I want to look into it. Stay tuned for more on this in another post.


Around 30:30 the topic of intuition is broached. I noted that intuition was defined as trusting your experience and that chess players rely more on intuition than calculation.

Now this was a little new to me and somewhat of an epiphany. When I solve problems at ChessTempo and when I'm playing games, it feels as though my brain is churning ... chugging along trying to find and calculate tactics. However, I sometimes note what my first reaction is when I look at a position and then compare it to what the answer was. Sometimes I'm spot on while other times I'm way off. I'm curious to know how often my "gut" is right. I'm thinking about gathering some statistics from my time spent at ChessTempo ... how often is my initial response to the position correct? Again, more fodder for posting.

Susan defines intuition as "guessing intelligently basing it on prior games and experiences" (34:08). When I heard her explain intuition this way, a little light bulb went on in my head ... this is exactly why I need to play as many slow games and go over as many GM games as possible ... to get that "experience."

Now I can hear everyone collectively say, "Gee whiz Rocky, we've all known that for ages! Where have you been this whole time?" I know, I know ... I have a very thick skull and a lot of times the uptake isn't too quick with me. It takes several iterations for stuff to sink in. It's just the way it was explained to me in the video that made the light go on.

Pattern Recognition

Nothing really new here. But the video did talk a lot about pattern recognition. One of the points from the video was that pattern recognition separates the best from the rest. Susan studied and memorized so many important patterns over and over again, that it became second nature for her to make a move when she encountered one of those patterns. They became hard-wired into her brain.

I still like Dan Heisman's analogy the best. He compared learning tactics to memorizing the multiplication table. At first, it was difficult to memorize the table. But soon I was really quick about it. I remember we would have speed competitions in grade school to see who could finish the table the quickest. The same must be done with tactics and other patterns.

Overall, I really enjoyed the video. I'm going to find the other two segments and watch them too. I love NatGeo!

Have a Happy and Safe New Year!

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