Saying What is NOT being said: simple, middle, or complex
I have been reflecting and thinking for weeks. Although I tend to post a lot or impromptu, this post is one that I have chewed on for weeks, figuring out what to say and how to say it—even in things as different as during my short drive to work, after writing my blog, while working at my job stacking tile or moving carpet, after chess tactical server exercises, the works… so pretty darn intentionally.
This is an open post to temposchlucker.
Tempo, you are the king here, no pun intended. Nor need anyone try to supplant your position as top dog here, as you are obviously not only really smart, work hard concretely at your chess (anyone doubt this, all they need do is just go to CTS, go to “Tacticians”, and rank the “Tries” or RD--while this coefficient there indicates how much your rating is modified for any correct or incorrect answer. The lower it is, the less volatile your rating will be either way. But what it really indicates is effort in the last week, since it dissipates each day if a user remains inactive), post really great stuff, and help connect lots of us here. You are also kind and generous in being available offline in offering help when help is asked for. Thank you.
But having said all that, and this is in no way to disrespect you or your excellent work, I keep asking myself what is missing or what is not being said? The one time my brother (he has worked at a Director level for big systems integrators along the lines of IBM, EDS, etc. for 18 years, often speaking at big Comdex type conferences along side Microsoft, Oracle, Peoplesoft, SAP, etc.) was quoted in the Wall Street Journal, they asked him what he thought about xyz event? “Everyone wants to notice who is here; I want to know who is NOT here”. He is a level headed guy. I always remembered that.
So fast forward, to our Blogger and blogspot. We cannot really say a lot about who is not here, so instead get to ask what is not here, or, if not here, her to a lesser extent:
WHAT IS NOT HERE; AND DVORETSKY CHESS SCHOOL:
We all want to get better--better at chess. For many of us westerners, it goes back to the Faustian myth of effort. This deep effort goes through the core of our culture, all well chronicled by philosophers of history, such as Oswald Spengler (and also Arnold Toynbee and Ferdinand Braudel), who’s Decline of the West was much trumped up by mythographer Joseph Campbell in his Masks of God series. China and Japan also has this same obsession with effort, unpinned by Buddhism, Zen, Bushido, and Confucianism. But this is an effort in a different way. I can suggest ways this other stream differs, but not the place here—best left to others.
We have this idea that if we do more, somehow we will always be more. Even I have this bias. It is how we are wired. But there are parts of chess, and of course parts of life, where activity or lots of movement is exactly the wrong way. If not wrong way, let’s put it as “less than ideal".
Jacob Aagaard in his wonderful Excelling at Chess talks about how teacher and great trainer Mark Dvoretsky who recommends not only learning some 40 key endings, but rather than learn specific endings by rote or by heart as we say, he instead recommended the deep understanding of how a few but thematic positions or types of endings operated. The idea is not to flood the mind with hundreds of exceptions, but to SIT with only a few positions YET really embrace their concepts.
In network theory, or systems theory, three items have three relationships; four points have six relationships; five, ten relationships:
(7) 1 ... +6=21
(8) 1 ... +7=28 ... and so on. the idea is that as we add one more thing, we do not have a linear accumulation, but a system increase of complexity--i.e. more stuff to communicate with other stuff, just to do what was accomplished more simply at another level of preceding order, only exponentially increasing. This is exactly why large 'all play all' GM tournements are so hard to host, and in the modern era why long tournements like St. Petersburg 1914 etc, are so rare if not unheard. Hence the FIDE lotery and accelerated knockout or giant swisses.
But now the brain. The mind. All those exercises at a certain point might have deminishing returns. But only AFTER doing lots of them first. Now there is the catch!
Picasso could shift over to the abstract genre precisely because he had learned as a boy to drawn like classic photo-realistic master Ingres. Wittgenstein could throw out Hume and Kant because he had Russell who had ultra cogent J.S. Mill. Tal could throw out correctness because he had his highness, mighty Botvinnik to stand on.
This is why large mega-civilizations ultimatley collapse: grid-lock. This is why large fast growing companies like Microsoft and Cisco must become in the long run, slow stable growers with massive overhead, facilities, staff, in the pursuit of reduced risk--i.e. earnings stability and dependability. And this is maybe even why Kraminik began to do more to preserve his title than play best, creative chess (similarly Fischer who per the Kasparov MGP book viewed his supremacy as at risk after seeing the burgeoning if not more prepared Karpov).
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I agree with you. Lots of effort is needed. But not all part of chess are solved that way--so much talk by everyone—you, me, all of us—about more problems, more time, more intensity. But quietly sitting with a board, looking at simple positions and asking, “how is this won?” I guess this is a lot more like GM-Ram than CTS, TASC, CT Art 3.0, Renko, Polgar’ brick, or even 1001 Sacrifices and Combinations or 3000 blitz games on the web.
Further along side the obvious mention of Dvoretsky’s Endgame Manual (or Mueller’s Fundamental Chess Endings), we could just as easily mention his School of Chess Excellence 2: Tactics, or School of Chess Excellence 3: Strategy. There he gives exercise that you can spend hours on or days. Not 10,000 problems, or 50 problems, maybe not even ten--but one chess problem. You know all this already, but I believe that this bears mentioning here. Or take Agur’s 'Bobby Fischer’s Approach to Chess' (recommended by Jonathan Tisdall in Improve Your Chess Now. How many months might a person tracing the connectivity through all those related positions?--real chess.
And lastly, Shereshevsky in his Endgame Strategy book covers these deep, but overtly simple positions, but more like middle game to endgame transitions. In your wonderful post of Wednesday June 28th, 2006, titled “What Do you do with Your Analysis”, you touch on this. I say, may god have me do more work like this!
WHERE IS THE SELF OR OUR LIFE IN ALL THIS?
In business, marginal analysis is key to understanding how companies improve and distinguishing where they split. Not to upset any liberals, but the beauty of business is that, like chess you always get a report card. And the same can be said of major sports. Or even politics…
In business you get to see how much money you make. This is the good part (the bad part of course is that often times companies and/or business owners who own and control capital sacrifices the quality of lives of others in the single minded pursuit of maximal profits. Again, others elsewhere write of this).
Along with this line about effort, there is a person, there is a life. If we work at least eight hours, as we mainly do in the west if not much more in other countries (most notably east Asia where going home early is de rigor, or verboten. Where are you going, as they cast their glance), and travel on average 1.25 hours, then a lunch, then getting out the door and in the door or making lunch or other such “prep”, we easily use 11 hours. The 6 or 8 of sleep. We read our email, call a friend or take out the recycled waste… Then our loved ones… so there is 18 hours work and sleep, travel or mobilization, then 2 to 4 for relational stuff, eating or replenishment, entertainment, exercise. It is not my purpose here to argue 'time savers' such as living close to work, or cycling, or organic food. Just the raw number. So now we add the 11, then the 7, then the 3 and that’s 21 hours.
In business, if you are an airline and your gross margins are 3.5%, and jet fuel goes up, causing this go to up, say for example 20%, then now your overhead or SG&A (sales, general, and administrative or overhead) is now 4.2%. If on the gross margin, you only make 5.0%, your net is now 0.8, not 1.5% or a decrease of 46.6%. So a 0.7% net increase of costs in a key area (20% of 3.5%) is a huge impact. If fuel falls 20%, now 4.2% gross less 0.7% is a lot of “leverage”: You planned for 4.2, and now get a 16.67% decrease in a key cost, and go from 0.8 margin to 1.5% margin, or an 87.5% increase in profit. All this from 0.7% of something you can or cannot control.
If we study chess two to three hours a day, or play for 1.5 hours and blog for 30 minutes, this is a lifestyle choice. This is a lot more than tactical training or chess improvement, it is a way of being. “Show me what a man eats and who he associates with, and I will tell you who they are”, or however the saying goes.
We occupy ourselves, while on earth, and, it seems to me there is a lot more going on here than tactical calculation, cognition, learning, or long term memory, competition, or communities of knowledge. Chess, it seems to me is much more than that, and is a tool to activate or affect parts of the brain, and while living in life with chess, surely not doing many other things!
Old Turkey, F in School to A in Life!
In chess, we get to practice the doing of what we do somewhere else, and, it seems to me, only if these other things are sound is this chess viable. This is the tragedy of the great genius of Bobby Fischer. He won all of chess and lost nearly all of everything else: his freedom, his peace of mind, his money, his renown in a way, his proximity to others, lost good sportsmanship, lost his comfort and lost his way.
[I re-read this, and this is most of it; I will add more in the days ahead as I clarify what is missing in discussing what is missing! :)]