Saturday, August 16, 2014

Chess Talent and Titles

One frequent question comes up in chess and most performance based aveneus. "Can anyone become a master, or is it birth talent?". Not only is it often asked, but it's heavily debated to this day.

To get the obvious out of the way. Possible is a dangerous keyword. It is possible that every top skilled player gets sick long enough for you to meet requirements held by the federation. The odds of that happening makes that argument unrealistic. The real question is "Can anyone develop the skills required to reach a level needed to win a Master title". My answer lies somewhere to a combination of factors and I lean to the answer of "no".

Many top players will often take the stance that talent itself is only one of many barriers, if not requirements. A second issue is nurture. Growing up with the "right" influence makes a significant deal on how you exploit your talents. That is not to say having a chessboard shoved to you at a young age will make much difference. The key is not chess as much as "mastery". Mastery at chess can be developed outside of chess itself at a young age. Learning to solve or at least approach problems analytically at a young age makes a major difference. Sometimes this works out better if you are encouraged and have a cast of motivators throughout your life. Sometimes you learn by beating the odds and making ends meet. It's all about how you exploit your talents in the here and now.

Skill itself can be taught and learned, often by will. So asking if anyone can become a "good", or "knowledgeable" chess player, the answer most definitely is yes. However, not anyone can, by odds, have the perfect set of talents, right training path, motivation to develop skills, and competitive opportunity to thread the needle. That is why masters are defined with the requirements they are.

So where does this leave you? Well, who's to say you are anyone? Who's to say you can't thread the needle. Your situation may seem so off-target that it seems impossible, but who cares really. No one will really if you were talented until it's all said and done and even then... You can't predict the future and it's too late to change the past. Instead, be confident and play the game you love and develop your mastery of the game.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Best Way to Improve Concentration

A big question is how does one keep their mental composure when playing chess... or perhaps doing anything in life.

Sure, when you're on a roll you're on a roll. What happens when things get complicated? Your whole focus tends to break down. You make a move and seconds later you think... "gah I can't believe I overlooked that important detail". Then it goes to... "I hope they don't see that mistake". Then it goes "how do I make up for that blunder".

Concentrating can make all the difference. Even if you blunder horribly, if you concentrate hard you can still win the war on attrition by keeping your opponent on edge and making up lost ground.

So what is the best way to concentrate? Well... concentration often starts before the match. Practicing good structure to your thinking goes a long way. Good structure to thoughts are applied to each move not just to some. Just because you have blundered or the situation looks completely foreign, it doesn't mean sticking to your thought structure will prove any less valid.

Armatures tend to break away from their practice is scary situations. Sometimes it's safer play, sometimes riskier gambles. Regardless of the direction, the intent is always negligible and tends to domino uncontrollably. That means you giving the keys to your opponent.

So with all things said and done practicing structure to your ideas is key. The practicing part engraves this into your system so your knee-jerk reaction is using your brain and not just your nerves. If you find yourself not concentrating... slowdown. Forget the clock... for a moment, and add a bit of structure. It will save you time in following up and will, if nothing else, give you direction.