Friday, March 30, 2012

REAP WHAT YOU SOW

This biblical saying applies itself especially in the chess world about 90% of the time. The amount of time spent involved in the game, be it practice, study, reading and researching is proportional to the great benefits it will have to the diligent and motivated student.

There are tons of chess information available on the Internet today if one knows how to track them. Videos, pdf ebooks and even java pgn-views of grandmaster games are abound. However, it will take someone to organiseand prioritise the learning of such huge volumes of information that will spur the progress of the player. It is this area that the chess trainers's experience and erudition comes in handy, for he/she can fastrack the absorption of useful chess knowledge rather than dishing out  junk bits of crap which is incoherent with the student's understanding of the game  and can only serve to confuse even further. The result? More lessons are required, says the nonchalant guru and the vicious cycle self-perpetuates.

So given that someone is able to devote just 1 hour a day to playing 1 online game, researching the game afterward and making notes on what could be improved, who wouldn't be able to correct typical faults in move selection and calculation? But, then again the psychological aspects of chess would require a trained eye to spot indecision, inattention, lapses in concentration (plus other traits listed in Jonathan Rowson's Seven Deadly Chess Sins) etc and to provide exercises in remedying these failings.

When Singapore schoolchildren tell me that they are unable to come up with 1 hour a day for chess study and practice, I believe them. Our school system is often filled with not just schoolwork from the schools but additional homework levied by the tuition teachers. Add that to speech and drama, piano, dance or art lessons and you pretty well get the idea how tired the child can be at the end of a day. So where does chess fit into this equation of time-scarcity?

Hence, expectations that the 1 hour chess lesson in bringing about desired chess improvement has to be managed. You reap what you sow. Put in less than 2 hours a week and I'd say we can then achieve what's planned at a quarter of the pace (ie what takes a year to achieve in result will take 4 in perspective).

There are also those who diligently spend large amounts of whatever free time available to all the chess-related activities but yet still fail to perform. That is akin to eating huge amounts of junk food which does not serve to help, but to hinder. Reading a hundred books about positional chess does not make you a better player (if you read them like novels). Playing hundreds of blitz games with trigger reflexes and no thought behind the moves just creates a blitz junkie and no more. Purposeful practice and study has to be enforced and persevered in order to yield results, or else the routine would really be a waste of time.That's where you'd see many players who'd hardly advanced in their skills despite playing for years and having a big library of chess books or DVDs (the ideal customers for the chess book-publishing and chess-video trade). What counts is not the vast amounts of information you've gathered, but how well you know it.

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