The ACIS (Adult Chess Improvement Seekers) seems to have really taken off, from its modest beginning in some comments at Chess Confessions, through its modest viral development by Blunder Prone (part II, part III), and a cascade of Seekers.
(Mr. Duval aka Blunder Prone has a list on the top of his sidebar. More are to follow, I'm sure)
A.C.I.S of Caissa (so far)
- Back rank (Loomis)
- Blue Devil Knight
- Chess Tiger ( new and improved!)
- Chunky Rook
- Getting to 2000
- Steve Learns Chess ( Mr. Eddins)
- Tacticus Maximus
- Wang's World
- You Are Here (BP)
Much of the chess blogging by non-professionals is about improvement. Certainly, there are history blogs, Grandmaster blogs, club blogs, etc., but even these sometimes touch on improvement. Scrolling down the list of blogs I've chosen to link to on the sidebar, the majority of posts on a majority of the sites are about general or personal chess improvement. The original Knights de la Maza were, of course chiefly about improvement using a certain, defined method as defined in de la Maza's articles (Part I, Part II) and book.
Very few of these thousands of chess improvement posts seem to ask the questions:
Why do you need to improve? Why do you want to improve? And how, exactly, is this improvement to be defined?
Let's go back even farther. Let's go back to First Principles. Why the hell do we play chess at all? That's worth an essay in itself, and people have already written it: Concentration, competition, achievement, healthy struggle; given that we do play, why try so hard to improve? I've referred back to my posts about Dr. Kenneth Mark Colby many times and I'll do so again:
Why should a patzer seek to become a grandpatzer? Because of the aristos (Greek: Aristos = best). Life is more than ham sandwiches and beer. Humans strive, not just to survive, but to enhance the quality, the excellence, of survival. Striving for excellence in any endeavor, developing yourself to become your best at what you do, is rewarding and fulfilling to aspirations higher than happiness. Merely happy people, without artistic goals, vegetate in incomplete, hobbled and impoverished lives...A grandpatzer is a strong chessplayer, a threat to anyone (including himself) in a given game.
Very philosophical, no? There is however, another take, another approach that one could find just as legitimate, indeed, more practical:
"Anything worth doing, is worth doing badly."
---G. K. Chesterton
"Right now, I’m 1600-ish, the same as 10 years ago without putting effort into improvement. What would happen if I tried? Does the thought of “maybe there’s an Expert somewhere in here” motivate me enough to work?
More likely, the “I’m sufficiently skilled so most people can’t dismiss me; that’s good enough” win out (again)."
---Donnie, Liquid Egg ProductLet me state it this way: One could just play chess. In the days of yore, the olden days when there was smoking in chess clubs and all kind of dangerous stuff like that, quite a few people became experts or masters just by playing a lot of chess at a club with strong players. Reuben Fine, for example, had the best Americans of the 1920s and '30s New York chess clubs to school him, and played a great deal of blitz as a youngster. I believe he once wrote that he did very little formal study before reaching master level. So just as a base, using your chess time to play chess will bring you to certain level, your natural level of chess skill, so to speak.
After that, it gets murky.
"Improvement" is almost universally defined by us in the ACIS/chess blogging community as an improved rating, whether USCF, FIDE, ICC or other. Whether a higher rating is all we really should be striving for in our chess career is something well worth exploring, but I want to save that for another post. Let's accept that as given, for now. The big question (drum roll, please...)
Is studying chess really the best way to raise your rating???
I'm going to give you a few questions to ponder. Have you ever been kibbitzing a game and seen good moves that the players (sometimes much higher-rated than you) missed? Have you ever played a move in a (non-blitz) game and instantly seen, as soon as you took your hand off the piece, that it was a blunder? Have you ever seen a Grandmaster blunder? (if not, see my "Homer Nods" series). I'll wager a bundle you answered "Yes, yes and yes."
Have you ever asked yourself how these things are possible?
If you are a person who has played a reasonable amount of serious chess, "lost at least 500 games" as Capablanca is said to have formulated it, you already know enough about tactics to avoid major blunders, and to take tactical advantage of your opponents' mistakes. You already know that "Loose pieces drop off" and the pattern of a knight fork and a back-rank mate.
So, why do you, (and me too!) still make these kinds of mistakes, mistakes that are usually the main reason that our rating is static? Why can't we call up this knowledge on (almost) every move and avoid blunders and climb the ladder to the rating we so richly deserve? Why do tactical exercises, even thousands of them, sometimes help, but often in a very limited way--that is, why have some people done 10,000 or more of them and not become masters?
Questions, questions...these are questions for human performance psychology, rather than arguments about whether MDLM is the best study method. And like a good old-fashioned movie serial, for now I'll leave you hanging. In the next installment, we'll survey the field and see what we can glean that will help us ACISers out.
Until then, let us ROCK