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Chess Skills. Born or bread?
The question hit me while I was reading the article on Gata Kamski and his father Rustam, posted in the "Gata Kamski on fire..." thread. Apparently, Rustam made Gata play chess from the age of eight and drove him to become a chess champion. He believed that anyone can become a champion if he perseveres. That made me think, how much of my chess skills are from my talent and how much from my efforts dedicated to the game. Lasker, himself said that he could coach anyone into a first rank player. Even now, certain trainers advocate that with a sizeable budget, 50000$ per year, they can turn you into an IM, or even GM, in the space of five years.
For those of you that are interested enough to reply, I wish that beside your point of view regarding the matter at hand, you would state to what extent you think that your chess savvy is derived from your innate talent and from your hard work.
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As in any kind of sport or activity, I believe that to become the best in the world, or one of the best, you need a certain amount of natural talent, and a lot of hard work with the appropriate coaching. We are all different. I really believe that not everybody can become a chess GM or even IM, no matter how early they start and how hard they work. Some of us are born good at maths, others at languages, and so on.
As for myself, I would hesitate to use the word "talent" in relation to my own play! However, I'd say 50-50.
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In my opinion
nobody is born good at chess, good at music, good at arts, good at languages, good at maths.
We only use a little fraction of our brain during all of our life (I don't know what the rest is good for). In simple words: If normally 10% are used, then a 20%-user already is an expert, 30% is enough to be a champion - no matter which discipline. I assume that there is a music-brain, a logic-brain, a language-brain and so on (= parts in the brain responsible for these skills).
Those percentages can be maximized most easily in the early years, so parents should be proud of having provided a good education rather than the transfer of excellent genes (or blamed vice-versa). In my eyes that is the reason why music parents often have music kids, math/science parents have kids with these skills, and so on.
As far as I know, a Hungarian educational scientist has given a strong proof for that. He adopted two girl babies and gave them an excellent education in general, but especially in chess. His name is Polgar.
According to these thoughts I wouldn't claim any chess talent (= chess or logic genes) for me, but 100% work at the end of my parents, my teachers and me. (By the way, my parents don't even know the chess rules.)
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The truth is probably somewhere in between...
Misato, by your logic it becomes kinda hard to explain the genius of Mozart, Ramanujan, Morphy, etc. Because, the fact that these were all _HIGHLY_ proficient in their respective fields at a very early age, would mean that they have gotten a very good education in those very early years and that is that. But I would find it quite hard to believe that in the last few hundred years no parent should have been as ambitious as Leopold Mozart must have been if the only way Mozart could have been so good at music was via early training.
Mozart wrote his first concert at five, his first opera at seven. There's no way he could have gotten so good in it by education - there is simply not enough time. Noone taught him - he simply knew. Same goes for Ramanujan - he didn't even know what a mathematical proof is when he already postulated theorems that took Hardy et al.'s breath away.
There _is_ born talent and such talent is probably easier to nurture than what most of us mere mortals are doing...
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You should find them, not teach 'em
A genius is found, not raised. Most of the stories of teaching from an early age and make a genius are just another marketing scheme to make people spend more money to some ‘revolutionary’ teaching aids. Or, it is another excuse why you are not a genius now, your mom or dad didn’t do something.
Proof? Nobody ever succeeded to prove that he/she could make a genius. Some people have the talent to find the early sign of prodigy and they took the kids away from their parents and raised them to become a genius and argue that they make a genius out of common. Just look at their credentials. In their whole life, they can make only one or two real geniuses. Why the genius they made cannot find and teach more geniuses? Simply because they cannot.
You can make a 5-year old to speak 5 languages or solve mathematical problems. However, the 5-year old can do what 30-year old person does will not make the kid a genius. It is just an early bloomer (or mentally abused), and most of these people become normal when there brain cannot fake it any more.
I, no genius, can learn how not to play a bad chess. However, nobody can teach me how to play a good chess.
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.....excellent driver...yeah...I'm an excellent driver. K Mart sucks, yeah. We have fish sticks on Friday - DEFINITELY Friday. Uh - oh........17 minutes to Wopner, yeah.....DEFINITLEY 17 minutes to Wopner........
PS - I DEFINITELY was born with this talent, yeah, DEFINITELY!
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alberlie, I agree to a certain degree
but I wasn't talking about geniuses (which in my eyes are kinda evolutionary exceptions, maybe one mutant in a million or even more rare). So I must correct my first words from "nobody is born ..." to "nearly nobody is born ...".
The reason for my radical point of view is that I don't care for gifted geniuses, the gene thing is too much of a comfortable excuse to explain own or others' faults instead of working for improvement. Those who try may fail, but those who don't try already have failed (I think it's a Brecht quote).
Oh, how I hate this stupid "no way to get rid of my poor grade in math, my parents both had bad marks as well"!
I only accept those genetical reasons when they are really obvious, unfortunately this is the case at the other end of the scale (when explaining handicaps). And those people often work harder for improvement than normalos need to.
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Like nearly every other human characteristic you could possibly think of, genetics set the limits and environment/upbringing determine exactly where you are. With some traits, genetics set very tight limits and it seems like environment does nothing. With others, genetics set very large limits, and so it seems like environment does it all. Intelligence of any kind is neither extreme, so like many here are saying, training can only get you so far in chess.
I also want to say that the Polgar's aren't proof of anything. We know they got good training, but what do we know of their 'chess genes?' Therefore, no useful conclusion can be drawn with only one half the needed information.
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If a talent for say chess was purely innate why does Russia produce most of the worlds best chess players? Surely we are not suggesting that Russia produces more geniuses than any other country.
To be the best at anything you have to have some natural apitude, but also the single mindedness, to a degree the arrogance, determination, and the opportunity to spend the time to improve in your chosen field.
Many of the Russian chess players were given places in academies where not only were they taught the usual academic studies but also trained in hte art of chess, many of their exported players (mainly to Israel) have continued this approach and set up academies, i read recently about a small town in Israel where some emigre's from Russia set up their own academy and the town per head of capita produces more GM than anywhere else.
A degree of natural analytical talent is required but chess can be taught and a great chess player can be created, if you spent all day everyday being taught by Lasker you would improve as a player. I was fortunate in NZ to be coached by someone who is now an IM i also benefitted by having games analysed by another IM coincidentally a Russian emigre, as a consequence i became a strong OTB player.
There have been many naturally gifted players Tal for instance but they all benefitted from the opportunity to learn from great players and the time to pursue single mindedly their goal to be the best in the world.
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I would like to make a short point about people suggesting they 'know how the situation is' regarding nature or nurture. It may *seem* clear to some that a minority are born with skills, or the potential to obtain skills, that they think the vast majority do not and others may 'think they know that' anyone can attain an ability of the highest level in any field if that is what they desire. But there is one major problem with this, and all research conduncted - it is extremely complicated and difficult to conduct a worthwhile test. Since it is the individual that matters in these situations it makes almost every test invalid as no truly fair statistical method can be carried out when it is only possible to compare the results of two or more different people. The only way to even begin to approach a worthwhile test would be to somehow compare the same person, from scratch and from the same point in time, with many different nurture methods - this is clearly quite difficult without the ability to time travel! Not to mention the grave moral implications of deliberately giving people 'bad' nurture - just to see what happens. Even then the results would be highly dubious in something with so many variables as human life and human beings.
At the end of the day all we can do is make observations, and my observations are: Almost any extremely proficient person in any field that I have ever spoken to (or a friend has spoken to) or read an interview of - has a very positive mind-set/competitive edge (and those that appear not to, I get the feeling they may just be modest!). I have rarely (if ever!?) heard of a 'genius' or 'prodidgy' who did not believe that anything they wanted to achieve was possible - what does this suggest? To me that indicates that either these people are born with a drive to succeed (which I find hard to believe) or that those who doubt themselves have severly handicapped their chances. It is well known that certain handicaps limit academic potential at the lower end of the scale significantly - but there is little reliable evidence to suggest that there are any limits to the upper scale.
At the end of the day, I am more comfortable not placing bounds on my potential. Is this foolish or optimistic? I don't really care! :P I know there is enough evidence in my life alone to convince me that I can achieve certain level of ability in something if I want to.
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About what we know
From what I understood, I thought it was generally accepted that both nature and nurture play a role in nearly everything. Afterall, the research is pretty split, right? Also, it's simply logical. While life may not follow simple logic (some things are counter-intuitive), it certainly seems rather convincing.
Anyway, I think I can almost prove that I'm right, at least concerning chess. The very first time Kasparov played a game of chess, he was not GM material. Then he trained, and now he is GM material. Therefore, training plays a role. Here's where it gets iffy. I propose that no matter how much training some people get, they will never be able to be a GM (if becoming a GM is too easy then I'll say some can never be WC). If this proposal is true, then training isn't everything, and that leaves room for genetics to play a role.
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I realize now that my 'proposal' is kinda what we're discusssing. Have you ever tried to teach someone math? If you do, you may sometimes think that they'll just never understand this topic, or a more advanced one. It definitely looks like some poeple just don't have the brain for chess no matter how much they focus.
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I think there are one or more interesting studies on identical twins who have been raised apart.
They tend to confirm the intuitively apparent conclusion that nature and nuture both play a role in
most talents. Sorry, but I don't have any cites to the studies.
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......of a story I heard about Einstein (who was arguably one of the most brilliant people ever born). The story went that while he was not an AVID player, he did play chess and only had an approximate rating of 1800. Has anyone else heard this tale? Now that I'm writing about it my curiosity is getting the better of me and I would really like to know.
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My sources are correct, Einstein was a close friend to Lasker, after all they were both Jews.
Just a curiosity, the American Jewish Community makes up about 3% of the population, but in turn they make up 26% of Nobel Prize laureats. Also, most of the chess GMs and WCs are Jews. The only notable exceptions are prodigies the like of Capablanca and Fischer. The reason for this is that the Jewish community has a very high IQ compared to other communities or the general population. If that isn't genetic background, I don't know what is.
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Please show me that jewish genius gene - maybe it works with my Siegfried-German hunting genes?
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The bad side is that with such a closed community, besides a very high IQ, they are also very exposed to genetic deseases due to lack of gene variance. So even though I can't point out the Jewish genius gene, like alberlie asked me to, I can point out the several simdroms that plague their community.
But this is only straying us from the subject. The truth is that no matter how great one's talent is, without a lot of hard work no one could ever obtained regular success in the game of chess. Talent may be necessary at first, but one thing that I feel it is most desireable to have a very strong self-confidence and killer-instinct. That is what truly separates GMs from us ordinary mortals.
Just an idea, it would be nice if an OTB GM would share his thoughts on the matter.
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misato stated that we use only a fraction of our brain (a widespread myth), but that's actually false: -> faculty.washington.edu
So I would say that chess' skills are 60% born, and 40% breed...
Concerning IQ, I once saw somewhere that our ELO rating was somehow linked to it (-> www.jlevitt.dircon.co.uk ). If it is true, our potential ELO rating (i.e. after years of playing) is 10xIQ+1000, or about 2000 for an average person.
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<<As far as I know, a Hungarian educational scientist has given a strong proof for that. He adopted two girl babies and gave them an excellent education in general, but especially in chess. His name is Polgar.>>
Some years ago I read in a newspaper that Polgar initially intended to conduct his experiment with adopted children. This was not allowed by the Hungarian authorities for hopefully obvious ethical reasons.
Be that as it may, Zsusa, Sofia and Judit are not adopted. Hence it's not clear what their daddy proved.
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Breed a Chess Prodigy Today
"Yep! One hundered percent Biologically Engineered! Uses 1970s Openning Book, made 'em myself 'ah did!"
Okay, now what do you want? a Wolf or a Prize Show Poodle?
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As johnrowell said, both. Every player has a combination of hereditary and environmental factors. While I am a firm believer in training, study, and experience in Chess improvement, it does seem to me that there are certain innate abilities that must be present in certain degrees to be successful at reaching various levels. I also believe that the particular talents which create success are different for OTB vs Corr. Chess. This has been brought out many times by coyotefan and others here in the forums.
OTB skills aor abilities that seem vital to me are:
Concentration and visualization abilities
Short term memory (like concentration, essential to otb analysis)
long term memory
personal character (EG not lazy, nor overconfident, determination & persistance, work ethic ... etc.)
creativity, conceptualization, & ability to sythesize from similar positions
prudent use of time (some people lack accuracy of the "internal clock"~ EG. Me!)
physical conditioning & mental stamina are more important than many realize.
For Corr Chess I Believe that the same abilities are important but in varied degrees,
comparatively. For EG's Short term memory, and long term memory of specific postions is less vital. You need only remember where to find the game or who played it. RESEARCH ability is much more important I think, in Corr. As well as analytical correctness ... since there are going to be less opportunities in Corr to capitalize upon errors, or survive your own. Obviously Concentration and Visualization are much easier when you can shuffle the pieces around. And writing things down is going to help all types of memory. A good work and study ethic is at least as important, and perhaps even more so in Corr. Also creativity and ability to synthesize are more important in Corr I would say. To be able to get opps out of book theory, while maintaining an equally good position and putting them upon their own such abilities is a large plus. And tells who has the better understanding of the position.
There is a matter that I probably disagree with many about. That is the applicability
of generalized intellegence, like that which IQ tests attempt to measure. (Myself, I feel it really takes a battery of such to really begin to attain significantly useful measure, even of this. And adding in skills testing such as Gatby Test Battery ... if I recall the name. And even skills and personality testing. To really begin to clarify ones potentials. A matter that can produce much debate without even adding the Chess element. )
I have heard quotes of Fischer & Kasparov being around 180 & 170 respectively. Which may well be fairly accurate.(Or not) But my belief is that such outrageous scores are not prerequisite to a high degree of Chess success. If would certainly help! And I must admit to knowing a gaggle of Chess Masters above a 140 or even more. And yet, I also know that Chess requires some very specific skills and abilities
and specialized knowlege and experience as well. Some very high scorers of IQ will probably never be great or especially good Chessplayers due to a lack of some talent I listed. Character and ethic seem especially precarious to me for some players. If there above average intellegence causes them to be lazy, impatient, or overconfident, or to refuse to study ... or if one prefers to rationalize losses rather then investigate and repair their play, or many other attitudinal factors, then they may never reach the potential they would seem to present. [Some players never seem to realize that many others are Just as intellegent as they, and just as dedicated ... or even moreso. Even tho they feel they are Very dedicated, and may well be! Or fail to realize that a room full serious players is often more like a room full at Harvard than a room full at the grocery store. For instance, it is said that a bottom class tournament player can still most of the less serious players in the world. Perhaps it was 80%. And I think that is very true. But the game tries very much to give back to you satisfaction for what you have put into it. !]
It seems to me that generalized intellect will serve more as an "edge" in this game than as a requirement or absolute advantage. And that many other things are more important. Study and Work Ethic to start with. And for me, I have seen firsthand just how important the factors of Concentration and Memory can be, especially in the OTB game ... having gone thru a period of significant impairment of these. And having to rebuild my game as well as mental exercises ... during close to a year of dropping pieces, and even a Queen or two. I would hate to have lost either function permanently. Of the two, the concentration factor probably lead to the most losses, since we do play a game where 39 brilliant moves followed by one blunder is so very likely to be just another loss! (Tho perhaps one might take comfort in then being a Brilliant Loser?! :)
And from that same period I can also attest to the very large importance of the physical and mental stamina. Also the absence of distractions such as pain, or headcolds, noise, etc., or the ability to deal with them is vital. It is said for instance, that Botvinnik used to play practice games where someone would make noise and cigar smoke and other attempts at distracting him in order that he learn to deal with that when in a real tournament. And it has been said that he was a very difficult player to distract!
Another important element I havent mentioned ... A player that is very determined and persistent, who doggedly tries to avoid losing, and fiendishly pursues the minutest advantage to win has a very strong ability going for them. Such as Reshevsky and Karpov (or Fischer) respectively. However even more so, some players have a love and delight in the game. And undampened enthusiasm, and a curiosity, a Need to see and understand, to experience any new idea or technique,
to play one more game. This is surely the case in many Great players and Lifetime enthusiasts of the game. Fischer certainly displayed it. I've had it. Very many players I have met here at GK have it. And if it goes away, something important is lost. Hopefully it returns. For that intellectual stimulation and satisfaction from this game, must be felt by all of us at least sometimes. And keeps you coming back for more. And lets Chess find something to fascinate you even after 30 years or more of play. And gives something that so many endeavors do not seem to match. The competitiveness, artistry, technical aspects, achievements & satisfactions seem to be unparalled in other games I've known.
Imo however, those that can keep the love ... who play to play, rather than to win,
or achieve or boost the ego or bring home a paycheck even ... have much the best deal from Chess and will probably go the furthest in the game. So keep your fascination above all else, and the game will always be there for you when you need it, like a very dear old friend. One who can lift you up when you are feeling down or take you away from the latest crisis for awhile. And make you go "hmmm !?
" as one more new thing appears ... just when you thought there were no more!
Sometimes you even find yourself married to a Chessplayer, not just to Chess ! And that is about as good as it gets!
That's all my thought upon this at the moment, tho there could easily be several books written upon it, I'm sure... and perhaps there are? :)
I wish you all the best in your endeavors and exploration of our 64 square passion.
Sorry to be so longwinded; but of course I cannot help it. You see, I still have some bit of fascination left for Chess. Even if it is more talking than playing, these days. But Chess is quite good and satisfactory for THAT as well :))
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PS// Parting Thought ...
Don't play to Win ... Play to MAKE YOUR BEST MOVES on each and every turn, and you will be well rewarded. Think ahead.
Study your losses and add to them at least one more good move for the next time it arises, and you will gain from it.
Have you ever spent 10 hours for a move? Some players have in Corr Chess. Make no mistake of that. Outrageous ?! Maybe so, but there you go. Such is the love the game inspires, to show such artistry the heart desires.