Sunday, January 3, 2010

Just do it!

I caught this in a recent "Lifehacker" post.

The philosophy makes sense and is in the spirit of ACIS in general, and my personal program specifically. I've given up trying to figure out a "perfect" curriculum for me. But I have embraced full-on "just do it", to the max. Right now I'm focusing on Grooten's book and I'll be going back to play at MetroWest CC this week. What if I "fail" in something? That'll put me one step closer to improving. While I go through the Grooten book, I try to work out the tactics in the examples so I haven't ignored that part too much :-)

I'm up to Chapter 16 of "Chess Strategy for Club Players" by Grooten. I can't say this enough -- this book:
  • has not invented anything new,
  • is "merely" recycling material from back in the Steinitz days (old!),
  • and this material was rehashed by Nimzowitsch in the 1920's (old and rehashed!)
and still... many authors have tried to be a compendium of middlegame strategy, for example Euwe (I have it but have not read his two volume set), and Silman (especially his Reassess book which I have read - almost - twice). The Silman book makes intellectual sense (at some level) to me, but I can't internalize it, or put it into practice.

So why the heck am I still reading Grooten?? And why is it practically a page-turner-suspense novel for me? I put in all (except the most trivial) positions, game fragments or complete games either into Fritz 12 (thank you Santa this year!), or PocketFritz3 (thank you Santa last year!). I play through it all, comparing what the book says, vs what Fritz says, vs what I was thinking. Very time consuming, and yet (compared to other chess books) I am flying through it, and up to p. 240, and zooming along.

Why is the book so compelling? I can't really explain except to say that it is teaching me about all the pieces, all the pawns, and more importantly all the muscle movements. In contrast, Silman's book is relatively one-dimensional, constantly focusing on whether the bishop or knight is stronger. But why the heck would one be stronger than another? That - is what the Grooten book teaches me, and the examples are perfect (for me) in illustrating principles in action. Then there are four(4) quiz problems after each (short) chapter to get the reader to participate. All the examples and quizes are from real games, IM to super-GM strength.

I guess the best way to sum it up is that Grooten breaks down the concepts into the right bite size pieces, in the right order, and then focuses on the muscle movements (active, process) to do in various situations, with excellent examples. And then frequently puts emphasis on what the decision making process is, tradeoffs, and so on.

I've never been this enthusiastic about a chess book before, maybe that is a good sign in and of itself...


  1. That's it! That book has been on my "might-buy-list" for some time. I am glad you're enjoying the book and I hope I will be just as enthusiastic.

    BTW, have you read Stean's "Simple Chess"?

  2. Always good if a book really bites you in the ass sorta say. Hope you continue having fun with your chess study, no matter what curriculum you will follow.

  3. The Lifehacker post is a great reminder of a critical truth that's easy to forget. Basically, everything is a data point, and every attempt is a learning experience. Creative types know this: it's often summed up as "You have to make 100 terrible pictures (or write 100 terrible short stories) before you're ready to make a good one." It's easy to forget, though, because the progress isn't linear/stepwise; your play in your 99th game might not be appreciably better than in your 98th, and it's very hard to maintain the perspective to see the gradual upward arc.
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