Ok this might seem bizarre to some of you. Nearly always lurking on chess.com, playing 16 correspondance games and part of two small but active chess.com groups… and Yet a poorly worded email and the lack recently of Live chess.com- had my coach quite concerned. It ‘sounded’ (from the email) that I didn’t intend to play chess – against people again – possibly for good!
I quickly assured him that this was wrong, very wrong. I’m not necessarily having great success right now in my chess training program. But I’m still feeling strong and active; working through puzzles, (trying to) meticulously working through my 16 games, and recently more than anything. Reviewing Old Games! I’ve got to try to quit making similar mistakes—and If I must keep on making the same weary game losing mistakes—I can at least be aware what I struggle with most.
Nevertheless.. there really has been a lack of games recently. This wasn’t intentional. But a number of times in the last few months have I had nagging doubts that I should be playing live (am I thinking well enough? Will I blunder a lot??)- and yes, I’ve lost rating.
Perhaps this Rating Game is getting to even me! You see its actually a great secret that many chess players don’t seem to realize…
Improving in this game doesn’t Always or Consistently lead to Rating gains.
Rating even when you are playing constantly ; comes at its own time and place. Rating gain as well, is an indication that you have worked out a limited habit; whether that is playing too blindly to tactics- or too unaware of a positional problem. But the point is that THEY are many chess topics to learn; and many are not as critical to your chess results.
BUT I DON’T WANT TO GO OVER THE ‘RATING GAME’ in this blog. Most of those that are most caught up with rating; don’t read my blog and wouldn’t/couldn’t be persuaded to change there mind anyway. ISN’T A sky High Rating Proof that you are talented and smart at chess?! (ahem-no!)
INSTEAD. I wanted to reiterate the need for LIVE games- WHY CAN’T WE JUST ‘STUDY’ CHESS?
- WELL first, game review excluded, you tend to lose the perspective of a game as a narrative a clash of ideas. And THAT is a big problem. Losing your ability to make long term plans, and juggle positional realities while remaining sharp to tactical threats and opportunities will make you MUCH weaker, when you do go back into the game…
- PUZZLES are exceptional positions with unique and “vetted” significance. IN a puzzle, its ALWAYS worth completely exploring the outlandish and un-natural. In the game, though, most of the time chess play is a matter of attentively playing by watching your control of squares and lines. You don’t need to (and shouldn’t) meticulously go through zillions of variations (this is OUR advantage over a computer by the way). Its important to realize most positions don’t HAVE a ‘right’ answer. only moves that are good, weak, or some kind of mistake.
- FUN! Ok this might seem off; I mean chess is- is it not?- fun! Well. if you feel that way strongly you probably haven’t been avidly playing deep endgame theory- or staring at chess tactics for 2 hours strait. While those activities can be plenty obsessing; they are draining, hard work. In fact, this is what holds back a great many talented chess player. but for those of us that have the determination to put in the effort- you need to recharge with quick, shorter efforts.
- THE WHOLE GAME. playing the whole game regularly keeps one from getting too narrow a focus. And too hung up on things that Really aren’t as important. It’s also a good indication of where you stand. This latter fact is why it pairs so well to game review. If you’re reviewing what you just played- your working on understanding where you are at.
- THOUGHT PROCESS. this I think is the most important skill to learn. It is Not enough to be able to recite chess principles or to do long calculations. Instead the most important skill is to be able to do a little of both and integrate it to a thinking process, in which you keep you pawns and pieces, safe and active. Alert to opportunity and threats. An easy way to show HOW important this is, if you knew, at a given position whether there was a stunning tactical win or an important game-ending flaw—how much easier would it be to get the right move? In short, we don’t know- not in a real game and however hard we work to develop our abilities to understand and visualize great chess moves—we can only develop a good careful process for seeing them by trying and failing and trying harder.
I WANT to end with this thought. In the end, as much as I would like to achieve a given rating (actually 2000 if you wanted to know). Its not important to me. I need to take joy in what I’m doing- building skills and understanding more chess day by day. I have no idea what ultimate rating ‘ceiling’ I have…. But I know I have one! EVERYBODY does.
I wrote back to my Coach that I am strong player; and I know I am.
I am strong because I am striving. I am strong because I am studying. Chess is actually really delightfully unpredictable. Exploring chess’s hidden insights is no small task, and no quick accomplishment.