Monday, August 30, 2010

Practice and the Illusion of Winning

The age old topic of practice and greatness reared its head again today.  This time it appeared on Scott Adams' blog (the guy who draws/writes Dilbert).

He says, "I've spent a ridiculous number of hours playing pool, mostly as a kid. I'm not proud of that fact. Almost any other activity would have been more useful. As a result of my wasted youth, years later I can beat 99% of the public at eight-ball. But I can't enjoy that sort of so-called victory. It doesn't feel like "winning" anything.

It feels as meaningful as if my opponent and I had kept logs of the hours we each had spent playing pool over our lifetimes and simply compared. It feels redundant to play the actual games.

I see the same thing with tennis, golf, music, and just about any other skill, at least at non-professional levels. And research supports the obvious, that practice is the main determinant of success in a particular field."

The comments to his post are equally entertaining.

image source:

Friday, August 27, 2010

Full Throttle Shankland

How about this for a pretentious comment: “the sharpest rating curve in American [chess] history, meaning I learned the fastest, I improved the fastest, I think of any American of all time.”

"Although Shankland admitted he does not know for certain how his improvement compares to all other players, he said it was a quicker improvement rate than many of the best in history, including Bobby Fisher."

“I have a lot to learn about modesty. I’m not as modest as I’d like to be. It’s one of my big problems in life I guess or one of the problems with my character.”


Now for the good inspiring stuff ... “Chess has also sort of made me learn to fight adversity a little bit better.” As a child and even during the beginning of high school, Shankland said he was “ruthlessly made fun of.”

“It definitely taught me to keep on fighting even if other people are making fun of you or whatever. Just believe in myself.”

source: Chess King

I just want to puke ...

Our team is playing a warm-up tournament before T44 starts.  I played the first game yesterday.  I got off to a fantastic start - found a really nifty tactic, won a bishop, made it to the end game and then ...

Well - let me put it this way - what would happen if Lance Armstrong decided to quit the last 100 miles of the 2000 mile race?  How would the world react if Federer threw in the towel in the last set at Wimbledon?  Or if you were running a marathon and collapsed with 1/2 a mile to go?  Truly frustrating and agonizing - it has taken me a full day to even talk about it.

So here is the justification - I had about 10 minutes on my clock and I needed to go pick up my kid from the bus stop.  Under that pressure, I simply dropped my rook.  I was truly blind and not thinking - the only thing I remember was the need to defend that pawn and that the rook would be defended by the king - which obviously he was not.  It's like my brain short-circuited - there is something fundamentally un-nerving about that game that makes me wonder if I really have brain-function issues.  Even under those pressures, I should not have dropped that rook.

... and the rook of all pieces!  My flippin handle is the rook - holy hell.

One of the biggest things I learned and liked from the game was the 'whisper' command.  I've never used the whipser command before in a game I was playing.  So I used it quite a bit and it helped me a lot - helped me see variations, avoid traps and what not.  I think I'll be using that feature again.

And with that - here is the game.

image source: bildungblog

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Chess and the Stock Market

This blogger has learned to apply chess principals to investing in the stock market.
Of all of the lessons I learned over the board, one saying has consistently resonated with me. I'm sorry that I can't remember the author, but I certainly recall the quote: "When you see a good move, sit on your hands and look for a better one." Equated to investing, this does not mean that you should be looking to hit a ten-bagger every time. Nor does it mean that, in times of general uncertainty, you should turtle up like Claude Lemieux under a barrage of Darren McCarty haymakers (anyone who knows what I'm referencing there immediately gets me as a groupie).
Simply put, it means be certain that the move you make is the right move. It may in fact be the wrong move, or a neutral move. But what you can not do is compromise and select a move for the sake of doing something and hope that it works out. In some ways investing is more forgiving than chess. At the highest levels, chess games are lost by the slimmest of margins. You may get only one opportunity, if that, to claim a victory at the master level. On the other hand, even a misplaced pawn can bring about a swift, catastrophic demise. With investing, you may miss one opportunity. But another will come along at some point.

Referring to his quote about finding a better move, I believe it was Emanuel Lasker who coined the term.

source: How 64 Squares Have Helped Me
image source:

OpEd: Mr. Obama - play some chess!

"Dear Mr. Obama: Center yourself" is an OpEd letter to Obama to play some chess (and to learn from it) while he is vacationing at Martha's Vineyard.  The author quotes Benjamin Franklin, "The Game of Chess is not merely an idle amusement. ... We learn by Chess the habit of not being discouraged by present bad appearances in the state of our affairs, the habit of hoping for a favorable chance, and that of persevering ..."

image source: The Daily Telegraph

Monday, August 23, 2010

Chess Joke Recognized

A chess joke was nominated as one of the worst jokes told at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe.  Emo Philips' joke was "I like to play chess with bald men in the park although it's hard to find 32 of them."  Despite having one of the worst jokes, another one of his jokes placed 3rd in the competition - "I picked up a hitchhiker.  You've got to when you hit them."

source: Best joke at Edinburgh Festival Fringe revealed
image source:

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Graphic Novels, Business School and Chess

One Texas Tech teacher is using graphic novels instead of traditional textbooks to teach his students about business.  The character's name in the graphic novel is Atlas Black.

Atlas plays chess with his friend and they discuss the similarities: "In both chess and business you have to deal with ambiguity and uncertainty. You have to anticipate your opponents moves. You have to consider a lot of potential options that aren't necessarily clear or perfect. In business and chess, you can take 'old moves' and put new twists on them."

From reading the article, it sounds like the format of content has changed, but the content has remained relatively the same.  In MBA school, we were always reading cases that had background scenarios.  In almost all of those cases, we had to decide what was relevant information and what was fluff.  If you've ever read The Goal then you could easily imagine it being reformatted into a graphic novel.

image source:

Friday, August 20, 2010

Conniving and Crushing Instinct

“Chess is a war game,” he said. “You’ve got to have that conniving and crushing instinct in you. I have a lot of anger and I express it in that."

source and image source: Chess man plots his next move to citizenship

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Prison Chess

Oliver Fluck took pictures of inmates while they played Princeton University students.  Here are 21 pictures from that series.  He has little profiles about each of the inmates - it is interesting reading these and viewing the pictures.


Words of Wisdom: Think before you Act

 "Think very hard before you go down a road, because you never know where it is going to lead you and how much time it will involve. The rewards are sometimes different from what you expect."

Stephen Lipschultz, MD (Food For Thought Software)

Source: Doctor creates software to help kids "think like a king"

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

When Did the Black and White Boards Disappear?

Steve Rushin at SI discusses "Vanishing traditions in sports" and muses ...

Auto racing's checkered flags are still checkered, black-and-white as a chessboard. Which is more than can be said of a chessboard. At the 2010 World Chess Championships in Sofia,  Viswanathan Anand of India defeated Veselin Topalov of Bulgaria on a board of brown and beige squares.

This color scheme -- along with green-and-white -- has become standard in tournament chess. But let's set aside the question, then, of why the player who goes first in chess is still White and the player who goes second in chess is still Black. Let us wonder, instead, what we're to sing when the Yes song "I've Seen All Good People" comes on the classic rock station in the car. Not, apparently, "Move me on to any black square, use me any time you want ..."

It does beg the question "when was the last time a tournament or major event used a black and white chess board?"

Here is what FIDE has on their site with respect to the chessboard:

image source:

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

More Chess Violence?

SYRACUSE, N.Y. -- A 16-year-old is recovering after being shot in the foot overnight. Syracuse police say it happened around midnight at 686 South Ave at The Chess Club.
Witnesses told police a fight broke out at a party and as the crowd was leaving, a man wearing a plaid shirt, grey vest, and blue jeans fired a handgun toward the crowd. They also say that at the same time, a red Pontiac stopped at Hudson Street and fired back toward South Ave as well.
At 2:30 this morning, 16-year-old Damani Prince walked into Upstate University Hospital with a gunshot wound to his foot. Police say that Prince told them he was shot when trying to get away from the gun fire coming from the Pontiac.

2 Months Jail Time for Talking in a Chess Game

Think twice the next time you're in Taiwan and want to talk during someone else's chess game ...

Opinionated spectators beware: talking loudly during a game of chess can land you almost two months in jail.

The Taoyuan district court has sentenced an elderly man to 59 days of detention for assault. The man, surnamed Lin, was watching a chess game at a local park when he made excessive remarks disparaging the players' strategies and got combative when they told him to keep quiet.

The incident occurred last September in Taoyuan, in an open space in front of a temple where public chess games were popular. Lin, 79, was standing behind a sexagenarian chess player surnamed Tao, giving him and his opponent unwanted advice and commentary.

When Tao and his opponent had a dispute regarding a move, Lin threw in his two cents as well and pointed to Tao as the one in the wrong. Tao responded by telling him to be quiet, causing the more senior Lin to fly into a rage and beat the younger man.

The judge sentenced Lin to 59 days of detention — the equivalent to NT$59,000 (US$1,850) in fines.

Playing chess in front of local temples or in public parks is a favourite pastime of many senior citizens across Taiwan. The activity often draws a substantial crowd of elderly people with the same interests.

Source: Old Man Gets Jail Time for Being a Loudmouth
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Sunday, August 15, 2010

T43 Results

I went 2-1 in T43.  My two wins are here and here.  My loss is here.

The first win was quite interesting - as usual, I worked myself into a poor position.  But my opponent allowed me to push a pawn and he didn't capture it.  He let me hang in long enough and I was able to convert a lost game into a win.

The second win was nice - but really nothing more than a blunder on my opponent's part.  He came at me with a blistering king-side attack which I managed to survive.  I finally got some counterplay and was able to corner his king until he resigned.

The loss - well - that wasn't too surprising.  I got into trouble early and never really recovered.

Our team almost made the playoffs.  I think we're in a good position to do well in T44.