Saturday, October 20, 2012

400 Points in 4,000 Days: Not so rapid chess improvement for the adult class player: A five-year program (Part I)

A variation upon '400 Points in 400 Days Extremely rapid chess improvement for the adult class player: A five-month program (Part I) by Michael de la Maza...'

by David Allan Korn

Introduction:  The Set-up.

First off, this is a true story, despite the tiny attempt at attention getting humor, in back handed homage to Michael de la Maza, whose book, Rapid Chess Improvement, Four-Hundred Points in Four Hundred Days actually contains a truly great idea.  Whether you like some say there is no point to buying the book, or can skim it in a bookstore, or credit the author, one thing is clear, and that is that his book made a very great impression.  This next chapter is not meant to be a book review, but let me make no bones about it, I have very great respect for him. And before I begin, well, let me remind the reader that this is not five hundred days, but heck, it sounds good. Fourth-Thousand, yes? Yes, that part is true.

I have corresponded with de la Maza, for sure, not at any length, but if you do a little background checking, not hard to do, you will see that not only did he come on real hard at chess, coming in very hard and very fast, where some would say he did not last at chess, so what the heck, but quite the contrary shows great intelligence in the sort of obvious choices he made after his interlude at chess.

If that were not enough, you should know that I found him to be by all indications, a nice, decent person.  Quiet if not modest, focused, smart.   He scored three, I only got two of these.  I am constitutionally incapable of modesty.  Unless my boss kicks my ass, but even then, not really.  I am past that now :).

He went to MIT, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, for those either not in the know or outside the familiar knowledge here onshore in the United States.  This already says a lot about an exceptional intelligence.  You know the story--across a bit more than a year or two, he clawed his way through the brute force method to the great doppelganger of chess, the inestimable 2000 elo chess rating, again, hardly a laughing matter.

If, as some have done, attained great levels at chess then leave cold turkey, in the deep knowing that there must be more in life, wondering where does this lead if any, at the GM level such as Matthew Sadler, only to go on and work the mailroom at Hewlett Package, as he said it, actually having a blast, ‘give me a job, anything, I will do it’ (which cannot fail), and if like International Chess Grandmaster, Yasser Seirawan did, super GM back in his day, retire from chess, to read and write, invest, and be with wife and niece and nephew or whatever, and if like de la Maza also did, really get chess, come, arrive, attain, the go, well, to them, to that, I give a deep Gasho, a solemn Japanese Zen Buddhist or martial arts bow, the ones of judoka’s, karateka’s, aikikas, budokas, whatever.

In Zen, they have a name for this:  Leave no trace.  In alpine climbing, if not high altitude climbing, they have a name for it, the light and fast school.  Its all the same.  You get the idea.  Get in, live it, do it, get out.  I always said, you don't have to make a life in New York, go live there, see what it is all about, then go.  Don't get stuck there, god no.  Then my truly credentialed craft, architecture.  How many did it, but could not get their license, god damn thing is hard, 39 hour test in four days.  No shit.  I did it.  But the ones who never quite did it, then quit the profession, saying how stupid it all was, how silly.  No.

But get and architect license, do it for ten years, then go, that's a real architect, and those of us who have the license, invariable, get the mark of respect, who got out.  He was smart we always say, 100%.  Few smart ones stay.  This is true.  And I know what I am talking about.  Architecture is not a path, but a methodology, and once you get it, you can translate it to anything, nay, are better off putting it to use in far better places.  As Kurosawa's Derzu Usala said, in the movie, 'how can you live in these boxes'.  Exactly.  Devote a life to glorified boxes?  That is what a really good architect does.  For power, for wealth, for fame, for style, whatever, you pick the box, status, whatever.

He, de la Maza, went off into computing.  So did former world Junior Champ Tal Shaked, taking a degree in computer science, latter winding up at Google, well, is that smart?  He left chess, with only occasional blitz. Really ask yourself.

The prior often shows up at Linked-In, a place I greatly try not to have to feed, but what the heck, ‘they’ tell me, that ‘you have to have it’, and that ‘its the very first place that recruiters check’.  OK, so be it.  I checked de la Maza, and he had FOUR connections there. That already elevated his status in my eyes, in an instant, seriously.  Interesting.  No mention of chess or his book, but just Scrum and Agile or such, one corporate position or another in a row, guy knows where the cheese is, call it four jobs in eight hundred days, whatever, but guy moves on, at takes the next challenge.  $400,000 in five hundred weeks, whatever.   I will write more on this soon!  This being, the chess part, with, of course, the usual peripatetic musings.  But chess all the same.  Promise.

Addendum, 11:25 am PST, same day, next morning:

I feel pretty good about what I have written.  To be clear, I am not particularly interested in discrediting him, or idolizing him.  I also wish to be clear, that in no way do I wish to suggest that I have not made very significant improvements already--2001 to 2012.

This is not to say that I have not already done a TON of Chess Tactics Server, a bit of Chess Tempo, attained genuine expertise in chessBase (a term I do not use lightly, user pretty much every day the last seven years, have created all kinds of things).  This is not to say that I have not already done several or substantially complete circles of CT-Art 3.0.

What I aim to do here, is not to say this is the way, or my way is a better application, but if only to share, and as is my custom, provoke.

A few points before I go.  The MDLM method and discussion is not new to me.  I started blogging here in 2005.  I know most of the names of persons who come and go here, and have a great regard for many of them, and when not, certainly know their habits and characteristics, and in some cases, have had extensive offline, if not personal discussions with several of them.

For example, one fellow I see referenced in Aoxomoxo's blog (and knew of him years ago), was someone who once wrote me in February, from Finland.  I thought of him one morning in July, having had no contact with him for half a year, and he wrote me that very hour.  So be aware, that this is not new stuff, and you are not new faces.  This is not meant to be bad, only to say that I come to this not breathless excited, but not indifferent, and not marveled at the new, only to say it is now time.

The main rub of it, is that I am A. doing CTA again, as never before, have a plan, am doing it, and interested, within the limits of lots of other cares in life, some of them very serious, in B. sharing about it, and C. feel that I have some unique comments to make about it.  I have had plans all along, done many, some not at all, some very deeply, not for months, but years.

I had planned to go straight up to 1800, 1850 USCF, and not there yet, and am now serious about moving up, and doing what I need to do it.

I do believe that the total saturation school of learning works, to the point that you dream chess, or start to have psychic experiences (in any part of life), or learn a language fluently in three months {1.}, and hae direct experience, already, of the feeling from having played too many hours of blitz, lay in bed to close your eyes, and first see pieces moving around with your eyes closed, and in particular, dream it.  I aim to get more of this.  For the capability, shown in dreams, exists, and need to just translate this to 'the waking state'.

And between calls, last night, and researching lots of elements on Wikipedia such as solar, filtration, tidal power, about twenty reads, somehow diverted off to Extreme Running, and willy nillly got over to the many great runners in the 10,000 meter, then of course, the 5,000m and 100k, etc.

I go to see names I had not seen in years, but knew of, such as Dave Beford, and Lasse Virin, and remember all the talk back then of putting in massive mileage, with the latter person having a mention made about the run to total exhaustion school, totally draining the body, then resting, and making new effort.  I can appreciate that approach. 

Peace and love, dk

[1.] At least back in the day, seemed to have been called the Monterrey Language School, to name but one.  Upon examination, does not seem to be the name, but here is a link to the Defense Language Institute.  Whatever it was, they did it fast, and with great intensity.

My friend Malcolm Clark, who was one of the two brightest persons I have ever known on EARTH, and I have known a few, told me how once in the Military, ready to be shipped off to this school by the Department of Defense, having very obvious been heavily test then discovered, he asked to be in the Chinese program, but it was not available, presumably since others had asked as much (preternaturally about 1953), so instead learn Czechoslovakian in about three months, then was sent to the border to listen in on radio broadcasts.  Damn this guy was good.  He was a bridge master, a chess expert.  Of course, that is not all.  He played tennis at Wimbledon, and even once played with Roger Federer, the greatest tennis player, ever, Rod Laver, saying, 'he had an arm like THIS', showing a massive circumference' having been paired with him at The Italian Open.

Anyway, he told me how - *smiles* - once a man 'had blown his cork, and they carried him out of the barracks, out in the middle of the night, screaming in Chinese!'  Ok, so just as Jack Nicholsoen said in Kubricks movie, 'The Shinning', said:  'HERE"S JOHNY!', well then, here's MDLM!  


Blogger AoxomoxoA wondering said...

400 Points in 4000 days, very interesting

400 Points in 400 days:

Sat Oct 20, 06:47:00 AM PDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I read your post yesterday and it really stuck in my mind. Two different approaches to chess - and to life. As I've said before, this is what I appreciate about your blog. Chess is just a starting point.

Approach #1: attain a level of mastery, then move on. Benefits: personal satisfaction; accumulated competence in many things over ones lifetime. Sense of self: I am capable of mastering many things without attachment to any one of them.

Approach #2: attain a level of mastery, then maintain, perhaps for life. Benefits: sending down roots in a community of like minded folks, continual self-monitoring, the possibility of opening doors to improvement. Sense of self: chess is integral to my identity.

I am far from mastery, and have never questioned the "what's it all for". I only know I enjoy the game and hope to improve. But it's important to step outside of one's comfort zone and ask big questions once in a while.


Tue Oct 23, 11:04:00 AM PDT  

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