How good do players really want to become?

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Arshad Ali
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How good do players really want to become?

Post by Arshad Ali » Sat Oct 22, 2011 3:31 pm

I don't want to play games at the level of precision of those found in Informant. I'm content with my middling level of play -- crude attacks and defences, simple combinations, a modicum of endgame technique, and a patina of opening knowledge. I wonder if many players share this approach to the game.

Arshad Ali
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Re: How good do players really want to become?

Post by Arshad Ali » Sat Oct 22, 2011 4:01 pm

For this reason I think books by Kasparov, Nunn, Stohl, and Marin are wasted on me: they're meant for strong players who are ambitious and want to become very strong. Chernev and Reinfeld work just fine for me,

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Matt Mackenzie
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Re: How good do players really want to become?

Post by Matt Mackenzie » Sat Oct 22, 2011 4:17 pm

I've always thought there was something in this.

The late B H Wood once said IIRC that it was the "moderately strong" players who were, in his experience, happiest. Good enough to appreciate some of the subtleties and secrets of the greatest of games - but not so strong that they found the relentless pressure a burden, or (to paraphrase Tartakower) became good enough to finally realise how weak they actually were :)

One of the amusements, sort of, of sites like chessgames.com is patzers calling out Super-GMs as idiots for not seeing instantly what Fritz/Rybka did :roll: :D
"Set up your attacks so that when the fire is out, it isn't out!" (H N Pillsbury)

Arshad Ali
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Re: How good do players really want to become?

Post by Arshad Ali » Sat Oct 22, 2011 4:28 pm

The pre-Fritz era was, I think, a "happier" one. All of us -- including GMs -- played sloppier chess but we weren't being shown to be ninnies by the silicon monsters and weren't feeling the relentless pressure of producing accurate moves. A lot of the pleasure of playing the game seems to have departed: we are judging and being judged by a non-human standard that the vast majority of us cannot possibly approach (and which many of us don't want to). We may have to wait for a relapse of our civilisation into a pre-technological mode before we can get the old pleasure back.

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Matt Mackenzie
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Re: How good do players really want to become?

Post by Matt Mackenzie » Sat Oct 22, 2011 6:06 pm

Hmmm, I maybe wouldn't go as far as that myself (and of course, your final statement could be applied to more than just chess)

In chess, as much else, technology is a great boon - as long as it is used wisely. Something which is still, very much, a human attribute :wink:
"Set up your attacks so that when the fire is out, it isn't out!" (H N Pillsbury)

David Robertson
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Re: How good do players really want to become?

Post by David Robertson » Sat Oct 22, 2011 6:07 pm

Arshad Ali wrote:We may have to wait for a relapse of our civilisation into a pre-technological mode before we can get the old pleasure back.
:shock: You wait in your own time, mate. I'll be keeping my fridge, thanks

Arshad Ali
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Re: How good do players really want to become?

Post by Arshad Ali » Sat Oct 22, 2011 6:27 pm

David Robertson wrote:
Arshad Ali wrote:We may have to wait for a relapse of our civilisation into a pre-technological mode before we can get the old pleasure back.
:shock: You wait in your own time, mate. I'll be keeping my fridge, thanks
At risk of derailing the topic of the thread, I follow the Archdruid Report. For example:

http://thearchdruidreport.blogspot.com/ ... watts.html

George Szaszvari
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Re: How good do players really want to become?

Post by George Szaszvari » Sat Oct 22, 2011 7:32 pm

Matt Mackenzie wrote:I've always thought there was something in this.

The late B H Wood once said IIRC that it was the "moderately strong" players who were, in his experience, happiest. Good enough to appreciate some of the subtleties and secrets of the greatest of games - but not so strong that they found the relentless pressure a burden, or (to paraphrase Tartakower) became good enough to finally realise how weak they actually were :)
An interesting thread.

Baruch's remarks make a lot of sense. The original poster laments the effort and discipline he would need to invest to
improve his results, but is he also suggesting that he, and other amateur chess players, knowingly play "below par"
moves as some kind of anti-elitest statement? :P Are we to believe that amateurs don't want to play the best moves
that they possibly can, or is it more about being satisfied to remain in one's own "comfort zone"?

As an amateur I generally strove to play as well as I could, mood allowing, without which the whole basis for sitting
down at the board seemed to pretty much lose its meaning: chess is, after all, a competitive game. Occasionally,
everything would click and I could produce a game of some quality, win or draw, a satisfying experience, especially
against higher rated opposition that didn't blunder. Sometimes even losing a well fought game was not too disappointing,
but it was, however, more common to produce games of "average" or mixed quality, with some games filled with a lot
of bad moves and blunders, which used to be disappointing experiences. Perhaps some players tend to have these kind
of wildly inconsistent performances, while others perform more consistently at a certain level? My disappointments
vanished when my personal motivation to perform disappeared, and time and life experience gave me some appreciation
of how much the opponent got out of it.

Also consider Andy Martin's recent You Tube instruction video pointing out some of the reasons why many amateur
chess players underachieve, an useful introduction to an elusive subject that needs a lot of psychological insight.
Usually a player doesn't like to lose, but there are many who get a lot out of just being able to participate at whatever
level they can. Coaches will appreciate this point.
Last edited by George Szaszvari on Sat Oct 22, 2011 7:57 pm, edited 1 time in total.

Paul Cooksey

Re: How good do players really want to become?

Post by Paul Cooksey » Sat Oct 22, 2011 7:57 pm

Arshad Ali wrote:I don't want to play games at the level of precision of those found in Informant. I'm content with my middling level of play -- crude attacks and defences, simple combinations, a modicum of endgame technique, and a patina of opening knowledge. I wonder if many players share this approach to the game.
I think the problem with this statement is that it applies to everyone from 120 to 220 :)

Arshad Ali
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Re: How good do players really want to become?

Post by Arshad Ali » Sat Oct 22, 2011 8:53 pm

George Szaszvari wrote:The original poster laments the effort and discipline he would need to invest to
improve his results, but is he also suggesting that he, and other amateur chess players, knowingly play "below par"
moves as some kind of anti-elitest statement? :P Are we to believe that amateurs don't want to play the best moves
that they possibly can, or is it more about being satisfied to remain in one's own "comfort zone"?
A bit of both as I think about it. I don't purposely play "sub-par" moves -- at the board I try to play the best I can. But I don't attempt to play at the flawless level of a GM or Fritz -- I've come to realise it's like a dowdy middle-aged woman trying to emulate a 20-year-old supermodel by starving herself and punishing her body in the gym. In the autumn of my life I have a more forgiving attitude towards my mistakes and oversights. Chess (and life) have to be enjoyed as well. I don't berate myself after a game for drawing a rook ending which was technically won. Nor for not knowing some subtlety in the Grunfeld. If I were anxious to scale the heights I would reproach myself and try to rectify my shortcomings. But I'm going nowhere. And the superhuman efforts required to modestly improve my game just don't seem worth it. It's like that middle-aged overweight woman trying to lose an inch on her waist to more closely resemble what she can never be: a 20-year-old supermodel. These models -- whether in fashion or in chess -- can't be approached by most of us. Why, then, do we unconsciously use them as a standard to judge ourselves by, and try to emulate? I'm never going to play like Topalov. I have reconciled myself to my drab mediocrity but console myself that the brilliance of Tal and Shirov itself only has meaning against the backdrop of the mediocrity of millions like myself.

Postscript: To clarify, to "play the best move I possibly can" would require a level of study, preparation, and psychological strain that to me isn't worth it and takes away some of the enjoyment of the game. It's analogous to the difference between weight-training for fun and professional body-building: the latter is often painful and can be no fun at all.

Niall Doran
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Re: How good do players really want to become?

Post by Niall Doran » Sat Oct 22, 2011 10:44 pm

To answer the original question: 1900 elo.

I've been playing chess for ten years, and for ten years I've been farting around the 1700 level. Which on its own is fine. However I feel I can do a lot better with just a bit more effort. It's not just about gaining 200 more points, but also about getting more enjoyment out of the game by understanding it better. The 1900 is just a mathematical representation of progress.
Also, we all like to feel special. I'm sure a lot of players feel that if only they did X, Y or Z, they could progress. I remember once looking at the rating history of a local player famous for launching dodgy sacrifices after about 20 moves because he (probably) can't stand the tension any more. 9 times out of 10 he fails. (As an aside, I hate playing him, 'cos woe betide you if you lose to him, the mickey taking from team mates would be something awful). He's been rated 1350 or so as long as records go back. I remember thinking, "wow, how come he doesn't give up, if I was that bad and not progressing, I'd've stopped long ago". I then realised someone rated 2000 could look at my rating history and think exactly the same thing. He probably has the same hopes and dreams of progressing as I do.

So in reality, I'd just like to be able to play the odd game where I can feel proud of a good performance and show it to my club-mates. In other words, be able to play against strong player and strike fear in their hearts now and then. The 1900 is a goal (also the minimum rating needed to play in the Irish National Championship, which I'd like to participate in once in my life) to keep me motivated.

Nick Burrows
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Re: How good do players really want to become?

Post by Nick Burrows » Sun Oct 23, 2011 1:52 am

As in other areas of life what is important is the felt quality of the process, not the result. To much 'attachment' to the result massively hinders performance during an actual game also.
There are many players who are not particularly 'naturally gifted' but make great strides of improvement. I suspect these are the ones who enjoy the process of studying. Jacob Aagaard for example climbed from 2340 to 2540 over a 4 year period. No doubt through sheer hard work.
There are people who read and study for the simple love of it, without playing over the board, and there are those that only play games and love the adrenaline highs and lows.
Most of us aspire to get better, it's the lengths that people will go to to make it happen that differs wildly..

Dan O'Dowd
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Re: How good do players really want to become?

Post by Dan O'Dowd » Sun Oct 23, 2011 2:08 am

Ultimately I have already achieved a great deal comparative to my base skill level, which was a paltry initial grade of old 46 standard :lol: :lol: Once I got from 55 to 107 in a single season I knew I was playing at a decent level since I was one of the then best juniors in the county. (Cumbria bear in mind is not the hotbed of talent that some places are, though we've had our moments.) But then after having trouble for a while I broke the old 120, and I have very high standards of myself in both performance and aim.

My immediate target is to win the city championship, since I've come 2nd in that two years running after messing up. 2nd is good considering our top board is 162, and I'm only 143 (was performing at 163 grade first half last season), but I want that title! :P After that I intend to raise my grade steadily up to the 170s/180s, over the next 5-6years or more (since every step up requires double the effort), and then within 15 years win the county title, which will require a grade of roughly 200 at least given the increasing standards. Matt Mackenzie, my fellow Cumbrian forumite, was four(?) times county champ in the 90s, perhaps I should ask his advice :)

The question of technology and perfectionism is one where I fall in the few percent who not only look at my games copiously through engines (AFTER my annotations!) for tactical patterns etc, but who can in some way from each game learn precision from using them, and improve by that method as well as classical book training. Not only that, but I set myself a very high standard in technique and play, particularly when it comes to saving Rook endings (this I do on a regular basis from even 2 pawns down simply by practise). Ultimately my goal is to try, to reach 2300 over my lifetime , for which I have another 50 years. If I only ever qualify for the British Championship in some or other way once though, I can hold my head high :)

Personally I find the pressure I set myself to play best stuff quite invigorating. Unlike the others who play for enjoyment, I had so little natural understanding that I can only really enjoy it when I play as well as I know I can, and I'm forever working with example master games, looking through my own games, and annotating, and various other ways to climb that greasy pole. :)

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Matt Mackenzie
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Re: How good do players really want to become?

Post by Matt Mackenzie » Sun Oct 23, 2011 12:20 pm

Hi there, Dan :)

Yup, four times - most recently in 2001. I don't think many other people are going to be winning it whilst Robert is around, though :lol:

BTW I have tried to join the Forum on the new Cumbria Chess site - but without success. Maybe you could send me a PM??
"Set up your attacks so that when the fire is out, it isn't out!" (H N Pillsbury)

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Sebastian Stone
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Re: How good do players really want to become?

Post by Sebastian Stone » Tue Oct 25, 2011 3:05 pm

Meh, better than I am at the moment.

I wouldn't want to become a titled player (NM or above), but that is not going to happen so I needn't worry about it.

If I were to put a number to my goal it would be 160.

I'd also like to stop playing like a total idiot at congresses.
AKA Scott Stone

"Give a man fire and he's warm for a day, set fire to him and he's warm for the rest of his life."

That's Mr Stone to you, f**kface.

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