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!  

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Full English Breakfast et al.

A wonderful show I have been listening to since near inception.  Just one more thing to share about, a long list.  Oh, how time flees.

This is called Full English Breakfast, witty just delightful discussion about current top level chess.  Fantastic.  And if you already knew of the show, then to draw attention to a latter segment.

I mean, my god, just listen to Peter Leko.  His chess?  My favorite?  No.  But the man.  My type of guy.  Again, no, but I respect him.  But listen to his strength, the force of his mind.  This guy is a real guy, and his depth and solidity and overall grasp of things outside chess, at least to me, is evident.

This is the best show yet, show number 25, called 'Olympiadding It Up', Leko after 21:30.  This guy is a man.  His brain is like a bulldozer.  Damn.

* * *

I still aim to write about my own chess.  Time is what I need, and more than that, more energy.

I ran 4.5 hours last saturday.  The cost is very great.  I have to eat the two days before very carefully, then the morning before, to put the necessary sort of high grade energy into me.  If you are under age 18, skip this next part and go to the end.  I have to shit eight time between waking and departure, this is not joke.  Massive rice and beans, then oatmeal.  You don't just eat it, you need to chew it, like Buddhist Vipassana Meditation.  Which is really a lot of work.  This is not exaggeration.  Otherwise its a waste, just filler.  But don't laugh, first it is true, second how many 54 year old men can do this?  Not the eating part, but the running.

But you have not heard anything yet.  I ran hills.  A very steep hill, training to run Desolation Peak, off The Gorge here, a 4000' climb considered the gold standard of fitness, as far as alpine readiness, read crampons, ice axe, Mount Hoot, etc.

So I ran five times from 75' to 845' and back down again, and while this is over 0.9 miles, the first part goes up about 525' in 3/8ths of a mile.  I had no pain going up.  Its going down.  So steep in parts you slide on gravel.  So that's 4,300 feet or about 80% of a mile, five up, and four down is about 78% of a mile.  Water?  Yes, I drank about five litters of water, or about 1.2 gallons.  Then, to unwind, serious, I run and hour down, the long way, feeling the energy of trees, moss.  Almost 9000' movement vertically combining up than down.

I felt like running another hour at the end, and had little if any real fatigue, then went and had conveyor belt sushi, then a few beers.

I don't know why, I am so hungry after.  The funny thing is, I was not tired the next day, just a bit gingerly walking, like a man kicked in the nuts, but more or less OK.  I feel a lot worse two or three days latter, so the impact is over five days, to get ready, do it, recover.

* * *
I was a whistleblower against a $23B corporation last month, and after approaching my boss, then district HR, said you guys have the wrong person at the wrong time.  I said that.  They know me, and what I represent.

I told them, you have 24 hours to respond, since delay is the corporate way.  As a chess player, each move was expected, this is business maturity.  Read David Korn almost into The White House, etc., but as you recall, Homeland Security could not clear me at the highest level.  Ouch.

So when I call back, I dial my phone at 11:59:40 so as the call is processed, it rings at noon.  Yes, I know how to get attention.  As a brilliant therapist once said, 'The more definite you are with others, the more definite they will be with you'.  So I had a lot to run off.  I called the General Council, fearlessly.  That's all I can say, I reminded them I am protected under Sarbanes-Oxley.  Smiles. I disturbed them, but the issue got resolved.

Its nearly to totally impossible to win against a corporation, especially when you still work there.  There is one exception, and that is when you are totally and unequivocally right, and second, when you are helping all your peers.  I spent about five hours on the phone with them over weeks, and about seventy emails, or more.  I stood there.

So chess can be more than chess.  And Karate or Aikido can be more than striking and parrying, and upset can be the raw fruit of deep personal transformation.

Companies rule with documentation, a form of intimidation, well, from day one, I was documenting them, before I even formally signed, since I expect this stuff now, guys like me in recruiting are called the old grey hairs.  Don't fuck with me.

Am I weak?  Of course I am, that's why I talk like this, but I refuse not to try.

* * *
I am back at CT-Art 3.0, and aim to get back through the first 955 tries, levels one to five.

* * *
I got to 1700 blitz at, and proud.  I am now doing all the ground work to get to 1800 there, and same at USCF standard.  In no way to I equate them, just two goals, which to me, more or less correlate.  Not that they do, but to me, the skill I need above where I am now, is one standard deviation each.  Work.

* * *
After ten, twelve years in the deep desert of the soul, I am embarking on my next step.  Sustainability.  There is great need in wind, water, energy, solar, transport, global warming, tiny houses, filtration, coastal control (read Thames or Rotterdam cum New York or Seattle, but who can bother...............

* * *
I have so much to say, but have to take my marks when I can get them.

* * *
0.23 inches of rain in Portland the last three months, 0.21 of that in July, the record.  I got a tiny bit sunburn running last Saturday.  But now fall is here, with a vengeance.  Inches this weekend.  Talk was of maybe 5 to 8" in the mountains.  I lived in Seattle for exactly 20 years, this is not new.  I tell the newbies, at work, in from out of town--"It starts at the end of October, and goes till late February".  True.  It can rain every day for five weeks, but I love it.  It soothes my soul.

As a young architect, first out here, there was a record amount of rain.  One day, the sun came out, at around 3:35 pm.  It was visible for about five minutes, a patch of red through the clouds.  We all stood at the windows, marveled.  We saw the sun!  Once in a month!

How to run the gorge now troubles me, weeks of prep and build up, but the snow is not there yet, just mud now.  The reason I kept my old running shoes.

Love to you all, dk

* * *

Ok, without further ado, Peter Leko, minutes 21:30 to 25:45.  Grishuk, a testosterone guy also.  Listen to that Russian voice.

* * *
Grandmaster Seirawan promised to watch me at the 2012 US Open Blitz Championship, which we did, we still remain great friends.  Last night wrote him after a late night walk to groceries, and spill on him when I get back, and talk there, as I do here.  A class guy.  I cannot be calm and diplomatic as he is, but it is a lifetime accomplishment, after 12 year now, about 15,000 emails latter, to still be talking, about everything.

* * *
As someone once said, I am vain, a braggart, but I also never pretended to be normal.

* * *
Obama in the debate last week was weak, and like a lost little boy.  Romney, who I cannot vote for, impressed me, insip as he is, I can be open.

Last night, against Ryan, VP Biden was so rude, it was embarrassing, but then again, war is on, war for occupy, and neither are right.

Spend a bunch of money, no?  Cut all costs, no.  But both approach the problem from two ends, yet it can be agreed, that the issue is to connect the people to the resources, but they are listless.  Lack of policy comes from lack of leadership.  Lack of leadership comes from lack of self integration, read knowing what to do and how to do it.  We are fucked.  This is the Mayans, Easter Island, serious.

Get serious, but we are not.

I am serious.

Tuesday, October 09, 2012

First There Were The Humans, Then 'The Gods'.

Well, OK.  We all know this is not true, but rather, first there were gods, then from them came humans.

First there were chess players, then there were great chess players, then there were historically great super grandmasters.  Then there was the god of the gods, Magnus Carlsen [1].

[1] Currently.  Fischer, Kasparov, of course, in a class by themselves, making this three: demonic will to win as a fearful child trying to defend against the missing father figure, then the violent explosions of the L'enfant terrible stuck on the mother figure. 

Then Alekhine, Lasker, Capablanca, Botvinnik.  To one degree or another, each of these were also the truly great:  whether it be by force and calculation and passion, longevity, natural flair and good looks, or lastly the first professional if not scientific approach to chess for these latter individuals.

For a dose of good measure, add good proletariot correctness, the even intuitive objective approach, why Karpov of course.

Then there was the god of all gods, Magnus [2], [3].  See red text, page ALL THE WAY down:

[2] Last night at
Even in another language, THIS is "way cool": 

'Bilbao Rd6: Carlsen avenges loss and beats Caruana:

'At 21, Magnus Carlsen has had a career that equals or even surpasses the brilliance of that of Bobby Fischer or Garry Kasparov at the same age. He has been number one on 19 of the 22 lists published between January 2010 and August 2012. He also won the Masters Final last year, after an electrifying tie-break against Vassily Ivanchuk. He is a genius and by all indications has not yet reached his peak.

'The Oxford Dictionary defines "genius" as "exceptional intellectual or creative power or other natural ability". It is enough just to enjoy Carlsen’s (or Anand’s) matches to see that he lives up to this definition, although he himself gave another definition on January 17, 2008 on the death of the charismatic American, Bobby Fischer, the 1972 World Champion. "What I admired most about him was his ability to make what was in fact so difficult look easy to us. I try to emulate him," said Carlsen.

'But there is also no doubt that Carlsen is an overall genius, not just in chess, although he does not want to know his Intelligence Quotient. Just to mention one example, at age five he memorized the capitals, areas and population sizes of almost all the countries in the world, and similar information for all the towns in Norway.

'First and foremost, geniuses are a privilege to their parents, but can also be nightmares if they get bored easily in class and do not adapt to a world organized for people with much smaller mental capacities than theirs. Magnus’ parents made the right decision by taking him and his sisters on a one-year trip around the world when he was thirteen. If it is said travel is always an excellent school of life, it was even more so in a case like his. By then he was already the youngest grandmaster (a title similar to that of a doctor of philosophy) in the world, leading him to attend the 2004 World Chess Olympiad with his national team in Calvía, Mallorca, where the ushers refused to allow him on stage because they could not believe that someone who was just a child could be Norway’s best player.

'Geniuses tend to flee crowds and be very shy. Four years ago, Magnus hardly spoke to anyone that did not belong to his most intimate circle. Now, after covering great distances, playing hundreds of matches all over the world and being interviewed by, albeit reluctantly, numerous journalists, the precocious number one has learned that being interviewed forms part of his duties, although he does it sparingly, and he has even been a spokesmodel for the clothing brand Junior G-Star.

'Despite the fact that the stereotypes may make one think the opposite, most elite chess players are quite sociable. Carlsen is one of the few exceptions, despite already being a national icon, and he flees when he can from being exposed to people who are not part of his closest circle. Games with other chess players where he does not leave the hotel are usually the only way to see him outside of his room or the tournament hall. He lives in his own world, based heavily on the internet. He appears to be reasonably happy, perhaps because he knows that millions of fans have a great appreciation for the beauty and depth of his matches. Although he speaks perfect English, his native language is chess, and into it he has poured his amazing intelligence, which he really couldn’t care less about, just like Anand'. 

[3] One friend observe to me, that he wondered if Carlsen is not semi-autistic.  I am not talking smack, just consider what a therapist once called my dad, 'A high functioning isolate'.  Himm?

It takes a most refined energy to carry this much focus and force and concentration.