Friday, August 31, 2007

Here I go again...

I just love Searching for Bobby Fischer.  While ostensibly it is the Josh Waitzkin story, it does a remarkable job of capturing many many of the arguments and sentimentalities of scholastic chess and even chess in general.   More so than any other chess movie that I have seen.   Unfortunately, I have not read the book, but I think that I must at this point.

I have read, mostly,  Josh Waitzkin's book The Art of Learning.   It is the tale of a remarkable life. And Josh's viewpoint of how he got there.   Namely, through his ability to learn.

It does provide some interesting background from his view that shows up in the movie.  And it provides some interesting background of Tai Chi that I had not known, especially regarding the martial aspect of the discipline, and the competitive aspect.  And as an adult world champion in Tai Chi, his results there are superb.   But...   I got this book to help me in chess.   I was wrong.

It turns out, other than a bunch of parables about events in his life while growing up, it has almost nothing to do with chess at all.  It really doesn't help you learn about chess, and it really doesn't help you learn better about chess.  It pretty much only leads you to the despair that a successful young player can have at chess, and the doubts that can come at the beginning of mastery.  

Well, crap.  These are hardly the encouraging words that a parent needs, or is hoping for.  And it finally dawns on me, that even with the scholastic successes, and the apparent trajectory towards greatness, he stops with an FIDE rating of 2464, and hasn't played a rated US game since 1999.  He provides little help for guidance of a junior, and somehow, the glint of information that we are all hoping for hasn't been attained, and can't be communicated.

Parts of the book were an easy read, some quite difficult, and ultimately, for this reader, I just couldn't slog through it.   I wanted to, I usually really like books of this nature.   I love the movie.   I think I gotta read his Dad's book.


Pawn Shaman said...

Well Josh Waitzkin has always seemed like kind of a knob. A fantastic and gifted chess player for sure. But he was exposed to an enormous amount of money and fame as a child. We all know this does not bode well for many people. His talent lies in chess. These other things, like writing and martial arts, he seems to be good at, but I think we all would be exceptional at our favorite hobbies if we had the money and fame.

The retired pawn said...


It is my opinion that Josh gave up chess because he didn't like to lose, and when he did, it ate at him. I can understand this, as my loses have led me to a many sleepless night. Imagine, just for a moment, what type of pressure he was under.

I don't think he billed this book as a chess book. I think he wrote it about the ability to learn, and probably needed some cash. I don't find fault in him...he is just a human doing what is best for himself.

likesforests said...

"I think we all would be exceptional at our favorite hobbies if we had the money and fame."

Sadly, when I receive a bonus at work it seems to correspond directly to a drop in my chess-playing ability. ;)

Anonymous said...

If he were as good as the movie, err, i mean his dads big mouth made him out to be, he would have made GM. He gave up at 29 realizing he wasnt good enough to. (No I'm not a troll, just someone telling the truth. if the truth is bitter, so be it)

likesforests said...

"It really is better to have 2 different kinds of engines during analysis (you can do this with the add kibitzer setting)." You also said this a few months ago. I'm now using two engines: Fritz with contempt set high to look for tricky lines, and Rybka with contempt set low to play a sound and extremely solid game. They both give different insights into a position. And the Chessbase GUI makes it easy to swap between them.

Pawn Shaman said...

Are you saying more money causes you to stray from chess?