The 9-day challenge
For those who've been following the blog regularly, you'll remember this week I've been working on a 9-day challenge to improve my chess game.
My initial goal was to memorize the 1999 game between Garry Kasparov and Veselin Topalov, studying the beginning, middle, and end-game over nine days. Well it didn't quite pan out as I thought.
I spent two days memorizing the entire 44-move game as black and white. Then I spent 2 more days, repeatedly playing the game as I tried to identify the intent behind each move. I learned a lot about chess through the process:
Sometimes you have to sacrifice a valuable piece for better positioning.
Always think twice before someone presents you with an easy capture.
If you don't have a clear line of attack, you can often force a piece into a more vulnerable position.
After the first four days, I've spent the remaining five memorizing and playing another game, Alexander Beliavsky vs John Nunn, 1985. I memorized the moves for both black and white in a day - the game only lasts about 27 moves - and spent the rest of the time replaying it. Again, I was trying to dissect the intent behind each move and where the game went wrong for the losing player.
Needless to say, my game has improved but I also found myself going down a rabbit hole of obsessive study. I not only studied the game, but I went to the library and got halfway through Garry Kasparov's How Live Imitates Chess - I recommend everyone check it out. Since I started the challenge, I've played nearly 30 games - not including the ones I studied.
In addition to the chess lessons, I also picked up a few lessons on intentional study:
It's important to combine actual practice with study to reify concepts and lessons.
Setting concrete and measurable short-term and long-term goals improves motivation.
Memorizing a chess game is more about identifying tactics (a series of moves) than individual moves.
It's important to study the game from the perspective of both black and white to understand the full range of mistakes and opportunities.
After these 9-days, I've noticed that my work has suffered a bit but my work ethic has improved. I haven't gotten as much writing done as I anticipated but I've forced myself to complete daily tasks before I can do anything chess related. Thus I have constant incentive to push through work as efficiently as possible.