Man de la Maza

Thursday, September 23, 2004

Why bother?

It really all started about 4 years ago. I came across this article on the Internet that the author used to improve his chess rating 400 points in 400 days. Very impressive. I've been playing chess seriously for 20 years and my rating has risen about 300 points in that time. Granted my chess playing career usually comes in short bursts of interest followed be long peroids of inactivity, but the author's success was impressive. I printed out the article and put it in my chess file.

I think I printed out the damm article about 4 times now. It always sounded like a great idea, but I could never resolve myself to putting that much effort into chess improvement. A chess rating is ,after all, just number that means nothing to anyone except another chess player. There's a whole world of people to impress, and chess players frankly don't belong anywhere near the top of the list.

So why bother? There are so many things that I could spend this time on --
  • In less than 2 months, we will be picking a new president. I could go to rallys and pass out pamphlets.
  • I could complete one of 6,000 projects around the house
  • I could drag my carcass around the block and stop the mysterious process whereby my underwear get smaller every year
  • I could meditate and get a good start on reaching enlightenment
  • I could actually read Don Quixote beyond the first 7 pages ...

But no, I'm gonna spend an hour or two a day for 5 months doing chess problems. OK, I'm not (see post 1), but pretend I am. I really have had to come to peace with why I want to do this. In my experience, there are 3 reasons why people try to improve at chess.

1) They want to improve their rating. It's a sickness really. A sad sickness to which I admit I am not totally immune. Every chess player would like to be able to say "I'm a chess master". That's a pretty select group of people. Less than 1% of the serious, tournament playing chess population can say this. To most of the world, this statement probably sounds like "I'm really frickin' smart". It shouldn't. Anyone can be a chess master. It just takes a lot of work.

2) They want to win big class prizes. These people piss me off. I happen to know that there is a special section in Hell reserved for people who play amateur chess to win money. They sit between the pedophiles and the faith healers. It is largely an avoidable problem if you stay away from big money tournaments.

3) They can't help it. At some point in my freshman year of college, I simply fell in love with the game of chess. This too is a sickness, an obsession. I have told my wife many times that chess is jealous mistress. She wants all your time and often you want to give it to her.

So number 3 is my rationaliztion ... I mean ... reason for doing this. I've been playing chess a long time, and I'd like to take my understading of it up a notch. Tactics really is my weakness and Mr. de la Maza seems to have a good plan for raising your tactical game.

Did my exercises for an hour today.

Day 2 down, 153 to go.


  • Even at 50, I would give a shot at improving my rating! Chess is an obsession but I hope that as I age it will help me keep occupied and also help me keep my brain cells alive.

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