Saturday, May 2, 2015

Of Moves and Men part II: actually doing it

So much for the methods. Putting them to practice is the hardest part of the equation and surprisingly so. One thing is to know what is to be done and another to actually do it.

I'll go off a tangent now. I find that when I'm in the heat of the game sooner or later I revert or devolve to the very old habits that I want to supersede. My guess is that these habits have proved their worth by getting me to my present state of development; though I can clearly see that they impede my further growth; hence, my interest in this aspect of play and in these books.

If I have decided upon a method or system in a cool and reasoned manner, then I want to follow it as it appears to be the best course of action.  Following it in a slipshod way won't do and skipping it altogether is worse still. And this is not limited to chess alone as I find it also true for some other skills. Trying not to be cheesy about it, I see chess as a microcosm or lab where one can try out mental skills in a self-contained setting that can then be useful for everyday situations. In other words, if it works in chess, then it might be adapted to some other area. And what could this skills be? Memory, patience, imagination, visualization, discipline, willpower, self-regulation… an efficient zen-like state if that is not too much of an oxymoron.

Coming back full circle, the actual integration to self is the hard part. I don't know if this happens to you or if my case is better or worse than that of others but I do have a working hypothesis based, at this point, mainly on Kahnemann's ideas found in his book Thinking Fast and Slow. What I believe  is happening at this stage is that my System 1 is still is trigger happy and that I'm slowly adapting it by the application of System 2. The trouble arises from S1 wanting to shoot from the hip while S2 is too resource intensive to sustain for long.

Ease opposes change. From what I read, continued focused effort is, at the heart of it, the key. That is what training is all about. The best example integration of a system from the ground up that I've known about is that of Mystery from Neil Strauss' book The Game . First he deconstructed his approach to his problem and put it back again. Then, he tried it repeatedly again and again in rapid succession debriefing himself after each night on all encounters. Finally, he changed what had to be changed to get to his results. It is hard to find any room for improvement on the structure of his method. Let's see what he gets right:

  • Deep burning desire
  • Insights from experience
  • A flexible  method built from said insights
  • A fail fast approach
  • Debriefing
  • Willingness to try new things, integrate what works and let go what doesn't

All aspects are key as none can be let go and still have great results. The aspect that beckons me the most is the fail fast  practice. Lots of experience in a short time, isn't this how bacteria thrive when subject to novel attacks? It appears to me that this where my chess training sags. Experience is needed, but I don't play that often to fully sink in my own methods.  Maybe also more focused practice is needed, that is, not wasting time on unprofitable training. For instance, I've been reading Nimzowitsch's Chess Praxis and I feel it has helped me zilch (My System is more instructive and, yes, more fun).

The debriefing aspect on the other hand is close to what great (chess) teachers emphasize: go over your games. I have been so won over with this concept, that I built the negotiation debriefing script I posted some months ago based on this very idea . This is a tangible everyday result from my chess efforts.  It is hardly necessary to point out that the process became teachable.

So, if you believe  on a given system stick relentlessly to it until it is second nature (and then some more).

If you want to know more on effortful training I'm not yet done. I'll take a closer look on books that deal with these very matters in the near future.

(Mystery's own book, The Mystery Method, feels contrived to me and I think it could benefit from some editing and rewriting)


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