Friday, June 22, 2007

Chasing the Line...

"It's all about wins and losses.  Not what's important." 

That movie to me, is so right on.  And every time I think I am over it, I get dragged back in.

It was last weekend's tournament and my bestfriend is in second place rating wise.  And just like any of the tournaments it is full of tears when things don't go well.

And not going well, of course,  means losing.   Regardless of what I tell my son, winning is not 1/losing.   Losing is much further away from the origin than winning a game is.  Many, many strong players have said that.  There was an interesting article in the last chess life that talked about the soviet system for dealing with losses.  A system for dealing with losses.

About the only decent way with dealing with that is the Fischer system.  Don't lose, then you won't have the problem.  But unless you are that guy, it is impossible to do.  But it also brings up the question of being that guy.  My best friend has gone from being about 50% in the state when first measured to being top 5% in the state for his grade.   And I think he actually is  a bit stronger than that.

But next year they move the lines.   Instead of being the 3rd grader in the k-3 section, he will be the 4th grader in the 4-6 section.    And the stronger players seem to get much stronger by a quantum than in 3rd grade.  The stronger you get the more you stay in place.  Which actually raises an interesting question.  At what speed should you gain strength? Unless you are going to be that guy, and beat everyone, it seems that you would not to get too good to fast. Otherwise you just miss opportunities to win during the path from your strength today, to your personal maximum strength.   If you grow too fast, too much will be expected of you, and when you stop growing, it will become painful and difficult.   If you grow too slow, then you will not do much better than expected.  There is some middle ground, when you will grow, and be successful for the maximum length of time.  How fast is that?

And how do you know if you are not that guy?


Temposchlucker said...

I wrote a post about the
ratingdevolpent of Kasparov.

hisbestfriend said...

Thanks for the post! Now I am going to have to go read that. Fundamentally, it seems to go against practical experience at many levels though.

Starting at 1300 ELO points at age 5 is extraordinarily precocious, and the 100 points a year learning rate, leads to a correspondingly less precocious return, followed by an incessant surge to grandmastership.

This all may be true to Kasparov, but does not seem like the normal path at all. And in many parts of his career if this is the path, then he is truly that guy,
Being that guy is in no dispute the best way to win all the time, and to enjoy the tournament experience. But in the absence of being that guy, and you are chasing the line, what would be the best growth rate to maximize wins and calendar time as a winner before you have met your personal peak.

Chess Teaching said...

Sometimes even when you have lost a game it feels that you have played well despite of the loss.

It think that it is easier to deal with losing from a strong player.
But losing is never easy and maybe it shouldn't even be easy, because if we didn't try to win ...

HardDaysKnight said...

I don’t think that the issue is delta(rating)/delta(time); if it were then we would want to reach our maximal rating tomorrow, _ahead of our peers_, and thus enjoy our wins (and when our peers caught up, we could switch to another field where we had the advantage); instead, I think that the issue is delta(rating)/delta(effort); and isn’t this typically how we choose our vocations and hobbies; if we are excellent in some area, and excellence typically brings to us something we value (good grades, approval, self-worth, money, etc), and if that excellence comes easily to us (or we perceive the effort as enjoyable), then that’s the path we go. So, I think the issue for your friend is whether or not he enjoys the effort. Also, is he willing to give up other things that are displaced by that effort. This latter question is pretty significant, and your friend will probably express his opinion sooner or later; of course, a lot of people don’t get to answering it until around 45, but c’est la vie! ;)

hisbestfriend said...


I think I understand your point, but your thought experiment is not taking into account the problem of the class player. They change the line. And your peers change. They change the group you play in based on your ELO. If your actual strength is ahead of your ELO then you tend to be successful, but once it catches up, it is hard to stay a winner as you will be boxed into a group that you can't be successful in.

Class play is the Peter Principle in action.

Since not all of us can be that guy, you *can* stay ahead of the curve, by keeping your strength ahead of your ELO, for as long as you can. The question is, what is that speed, and how far.

HardDaysKnight said...

HBF: Oh, I see what you’re getting at: you get better, win more games and therefore enjoy more, but then, because of your success, the line is moved, you face tougher competition, lose more, and so you don’t enjoy it as much; even though you’re stronger you lose more, and have less enjoyment; your success has made you unhappy by taking you to your level of incompetence: voila! the peter principle.

I’ve never thought about getting stronger, but having my Elo stay low, so that I could maximize my winning enjoyment; I suppose I could sandbag, and only reveal my true strength in the big tournament, but then again, winning is not precisely why I play (although, I very much want to win).

No, I think the point for me is to hit my level of incompetence and then push through to higher ground, and to do that as quickly as possible (we only have so much time in life to achieve our goals); that’s why I play; I have no illusions that I’m _that guy_; rather, I have the, perhaps, arrogant belief that I can improve, and I have the desire to experience the thrill of transcending my current limitations. Of course, I could be deceived and have already hit my ultimate level of incompetence, but I’m not ready to embrace that.

As fathers (you with yours, and me with three kids under the age of 5), there is, of course a desire to have our children excel, but not so fast that they get thrown into the deep end. Reaching their level of incompetence too fast may cause other problems. So the issue is real, and I don’t know the answer. What I have observed in my children is that one day they have no skill in some area (counting, ABC’s, vocabulary, grammar, etc), and seemingly the next day, they grasp it completely. When I was a new father (and I guess I still am), I was very concerned that the kids learn as soon as possible. I have since discovered from theory and practice that they get it when their brains are ready.

Thanks for your thought provoking post.