The Moves That Matter by Jonathan Rowson

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Paul Cooksey
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Re: The Moves That Matter by Jonathan Rowson

Post by Paul Cooksey » Sat Apr 11, 2020 8:39 pm

Being dull, and returning to the topic, Rowson has said this is not a book aimed at chess players.

I liked the book more than Justin, although I suppose nearly everyone did. But I felt a little sad reading it.

I guess a non-chess reader would correctly see that playing chess was a formative experience for Rowson and that he gained much from it. But from the chess players perspective, it also gives you an insight into someone who has put a huge amount of themselves into chess, but reached a point where it was not giving enough back. It felt to me to some extent a rationalisation of a process of moving on.

That train of thought, reminded me a bit of the Waitzkin Art of Learning book, and Sadler's controversial review raising Waitzkin glossing over his reaching the peak of his talent and moving on to martial arts. I think that moment and deciding how to deal with it comes to us all, from primary school beginners to Kasparov himself

Keith Arkell
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Re: The Moves That Matter by Jonathan Rowson

Post by Keith Arkell » Sun Apr 12, 2020 12:42 am

To begin with my apologies that I've somewhat jumped in at the end , before reading what others have to say on this thread.

I think Jonathan is unlucky that his writing can come across as pretentious, whereas in reality I know for near certain that he is simply doing his utmost to express himself. By comparison, my good friend John Hawthorne, a philosopher at the pinnacle of his career, has the ability to express complex ideas using everyday words. This is a rare gift, which, were he not to possess it, would leave him also appearing pretentious to some.

Jonathan believes he has more to offer the world (and himself) than chess alone, despite the eminent level he reached ( 2599 and 3-time British Champ), and so needs to fully move on to that other stuff, but yet he can't completely let chess go, because it is deeply embedded in his psyche. So he has reached the following intellectual compromise: chess was and is a useful tool which he can exploit to better understand the stuff he has moved on to. I think that that message permeates the book.

To really know whether the book works I think it would be better to ask a none-player.

The following is not really very relevant to what I have to say, but on a personal level I was not altogether happy to see that the book includes a lousy speed game I lost to decide the 2008 British Ch title (but not the English title, thank goodness :D ) I understand why the press needs to dwell on such games ( Steven Gordon losing to Gawain Jones from a Q v B up was an even more silly version) but would have expected better from Jonathan. Both Stewart Conquest and myself played good chess to get into a tie,in 2008, as did Gawain and Steven in 2012.

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Re: The Moves That Matter by Jonathan Rowson

Post by ben.graff » Sun Apr 12, 2020 10:05 am

As I said in my earlier post (and Chess Magazine review) I certainly don't think Jonathan's writing comes across as pretentious. I found his book to be extremely warm and a very enjoyable read. I agree with Keith's summary in relation to Jonathan using chess as a useful tool to explore other questions. I think anything as ambitious as The Moves That Matter, was always going to provoke a reaction, but isn't that part of the joy of a book? It's certainly got everyone talking!
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JustinHorton
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Re: The Moves That Matter by Jonathan Rowson

Post by JustinHorton » Sun Apr 12, 2020 10:10 am

ben.graff wrote:
Sun Apr 12, 2020 10:05 am
I certainly don't think Jonathan's writing comes across as pretentious
If it isn't, I would welcome nominations for something that is.
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Paul Cooksey
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Re: The Moves That Matter by Jonathan Rowson

Post by Paul Cooksey » Sun Apr 12, 2020 12:38 pm

Pretentious in what sense? Accusing a professional intellectual of being an intellectual seems a bit redundant.

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Re: The Moves That Matter by Jonathan Rowson

Post by JustinHorton » Sun Apr 12, 2020 1:03 pm

In any sense if I'm seeking nominations. In this particular case though, in the sense of displaying knowledge for show rather than for illumination.
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Paul Cooksey
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Re: The Moves That Matter by Jonathan Rowson

Post by Paul Cooksey » Sun Apr 12, 2020 1:28 pm

Autobiography by Morrissey comes to mind. Distressing on many levels.

I felt Rowson was showing off his erudition to support his points, rather than for its own sake. But I suppose that is just liking the book against disliking it rather than an objective measure.

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Re: The Moves That Matter by Jonathan Rowson

Post by Mick Norris » Sun Apr 12, 2020 1:56 pm

Paul Cooksey wrote:
Sun Apr 12, 2020 1:28 pm
Autobiography by Morrissey comes to mind. Distressing on many levels.
I thought the first third was really interesting, the middle third self justifying rubbish and the final third just rubbish
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Re: The Moves That Matter by Jonathan Rowson

Post by Mike Gunn » Mon Apr 13, 2020 9:30 am

I was bought the Moves that Matter for Xmas but I haven't read more than a few pages (yet). I have started to re-read Zebras and most of the points JR makes are reasonable, indeed they are common sense or common place things and they don't need backing up by long quotes from scientists, psychologists or philosophers. Overall I feel he has padded out the messages considerably - he could say what he says in about a tenth of the space he uses.

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Re: The Moves That Matter by Jonathan Rowson

Post by JustinHorton » Mon Apr 13, 2020 10:49 am

Quite
"Do you play chess?"
"Yes, but I prefer a game with a better chance of cheating."

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Nick Burrows
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Re: The Moves That Matter by Jonathan Rowson

Post by Nick Burrows » Mon Apr 13, 2020 11:42 am

I found Zebras and Sins two of the most enjoyable chess books ive ever read, probably due to the high quality padding.

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Re: The Moves That Matter by Jonathan Rowson

Post by NickFaulks » Mon Apr 13, 2020 11:49 am

Nick Burrows wrote:
Mon Apr 13, 2020 11:42 am
I found Zebras and Sins two of the most enjoyable chess books ive ever read, probably due to the high quality padding.
I read that to be the basic thrust of Justin's review, which set this thread running. If this is the sort of thing you like, then you'll enjoy this example of it. Otherwise, probably not.
Last edited by NickFaulks on Mon Apr 13, 2020 12:24 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Christopher Kreuzer
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Re: The Moves That Matter by Jonathan Rowson

Post by Christopher Kreuzer » Mon Apr 13, 2020 12:14 pm

Some interesting points in the 'second' (or third?) life of this thread.

Keith, is this the John Hawthorne you are referring to?

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Hawthorne

If you compare that article with the one on Jonathan Rowson (putting aside for the moment any concerns about Wikipedia as a whole, and using it merely as a starting point), you see the difference between a classical 'academic' career and the career (or life choices) path taken by Rowson.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jonathan_Rowson

Rowson is an "Applied Philosopher" and Director of the Social Brain Centre at the United Kingdom's Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce (RSA). We also learn that in 2016 he co-founded the research institute Perspectiva.

It is clear that the spirituality and eastern thought has been a big influence on Rowson.

Maybe the best place to go further is here:

https://www.systems-souls-society.com/

That is the Perspectiva website.

There is also the RSA Social Brain Centre pages here:

https://www.thersa.org/action-and-resea ... cial-brain

I presume the reports there are the ones authored by Rowson, such as this one:

https://www.thersa.org/discover/publica ... challenges

Though that dates from 2014. (It is difficult to get a proper handle on the chronology here.)

I found myself wondering how often Rowson publishes on this topic and what to expect next? Clearly far more time is spent on the non-chess activities, and reading round the website of Perpsectiva gives you a good idea of the people and projects going on there, but less of an idea of how similar or dis-similar it is to other such organisations, and how often they publish and how often they do events and I am not sure where the funding comes from either.

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Re: The Moves That Matter by Jonathan Rowson

Post by Paul Cooksey » Mon Apr 13, 2020 6:26 pm

NickFaulks wrote:
Mon Apr 13, 2020 11:49 am
Nick Burrows wrote:
Mon Apr 13, 2020 11:42 am
I found Zebras and Sins two of the most enjoyable chess books ive ever read, probably due to the high quality padding.
I read that to be the basic thrust of Justin's review, which set this thread running. If this is the sort of thing you like, then you'll enjoy this example of it. Otherwise, probably not.
I'm resisting being too combative about Justin's review, but I think is fair to say he did not indicate who might enjoy the book.

I vaguely remember a couple of decades ago, a listener saying to Mark Kermode that he was a better critic than his predecessor Barry Norman. This was because Kermode liked Tarantino's early movies, which were new at the time. Kermode said this was unfair to an excellent critic, because although Norman did not like violent movies himself, his biases were made clear to the listener. So you knew from his reviews if a violent film was good or bad, regardless of Noman's own enjoyment.

For myself I did not really enjoy chess for zebras. I was hoping for something closer to 7 deadly sins, which I found very helpful and therefore concur with Mike Zebras felt a bit light. You could not persuade me to reread it. So I was quite surprised when it started to pop up on peoples favourite book lists. I clearly lack myself the skill of a professional critic to identify quality even in those things I do not enjoy.

I think Rowson's wiki is out of date, and that he left the RSA before forming Perspectiva. I find him very interesting on non-chess matters, particularly spirituality. His views very different to mine, but I can't dismiss them in the way I probably would from someone with less impressive credentials.

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Matt Mackenzie
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Re: The Moves That Matter by Jonathan Rowson

Post by Matt Mackenzie » Mon Apr 13, 2020 7:17 pm

I'm the opposite and liked Zebras more than Sins, if anything because it *was* a bit "easier".
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