Adrian Legg

Somehow, probably in the discount bin at the failing Coconuts music store, I fell into possession of a cassette called Guitars and Other Cathedrals, by Adrian Legg.

Accurately described in Wikipedia as “impossible to describe.” (Heh.) Legg plays hybrid acoustic/electric reassemblies that he constructs himself, and while playing often changes the tuning of the strings mid-note.

And now another commentary on people who rely on formula rather than thinking

I submitted it to one publisher after another as well as several literary agents. It was rejected again and again, always on the same grounds. ‘Older children wouldn’t like it because it’s about rabbits, which they consider babyish, and younger children wouldn’t like it because it is written in an adult style.’ I refused to alter the draft in anyway and went on knocking on doors.

– Richard Adams on Watership Down, which has been in print continuously for 36+ years and has sold more than 50 million copies worldwide.

Learning math

This presenter argues that today’s spoon-fed textbook curriculum is possibly the WORST way to “teach math”.

The nicely sculpted exercises produce students who can squeak by on a test consisting of identical nicely sculpted exercises, but who retain little long-term and can’t reason their way out of a paper lunch bag.

Educationally “it’s the equivalent of turning on Two-and-a-Half men and calling it a day”.

Which is likely another reason OTB chess tournaments are turning into G/60s. No patient problem-solvers left, just people who want to crank out the formula and be done with it.

$200 chess budget – my answers

The concept is: if you took a long break from tournament chess and then came back with a $200 improvement budget, how would you spend it?

Like most respondents thus far, I wouldn’t spend anything on chess software or website memberships. For computer-related chess training I’d make do with

  • the free chess tactics server mentioned by Denys : – I have attempted ~7600 problems there thus far
  • as my pseudo-openings-database
  • and FICS for blindfold play and new opening tests. I do find it interesting that hardly anyone said they’d cough up for the Internet Chess Club

I didn’t word the challenge very well I guess — we all agree OTB tourneys are critical, but that is non-informative. I was wondering about how people would prioritize other improvement allocations.

So for me:

  • $60 memberships (Metrowest Chess Club and MACA)
  • $20  Dvoretsky’s Endgame Manual (used)
  • $20 another book hopefully on Complex Endings (used)
  • $30 King’s Indian: A Complete Repertoire by Bologan
  • $17 Flexible French by Moskalenko
  • $25 Starting Out: Slav and Semi-Slav
  • $28 Kasparov’s My Great Predecessors IV: Fischer (used)

A little explanation:

First of all, I’m rated around 2150 and have a relatively set ambition: 2200. So my plan is focused on that goal.

The MACA (Mass state) membership is mostly for its excellent publication Chess Horizons.

The two endgame books are obvious. Used to be a weak area and one of willful neglect. Now that I have worked through Aagard and Shereshevsky and tinkered in other books on minor piece endings, I see progress in my results. More hardcore study here is going to translate directly into wins.

The opening books may surprise as choosing them runs completely counter to everyone else’s plans. My defense is this: While class games are mostly not decided in the opening, at the 2200 level, the opening is pretty important. Or to look at it another way, I’m not talented enough to screw around and then hack my way out of bad positions game after game.

Also, if you’re one of those players who was always fascinated with openings to the detriment of your overall middlegame knowledge, congratulations – I am not. I started serious opening study 4-5 years ago; before that, I knew essentially nada.  The middlegame was always my strength; this budget plan applies improvement money to shoring up the other two phases.

With one exception: the GK book, which I have never read, and think I’d not only learn from but also greatly enjoy.

So whaddya think?

Note: In addition to the many interesting comments on my earlier post, see Robert Pearson’s sneaky plan on his blog. Anybody else blog on this?

The $200 chess budget challenge

Chess blogger question:

So you’ve just taken three years off from chess.

You sold all your books and all your memberships have expired except for USCF. Everything else – state, club, ICC, Playchess, MCO, Fritz, Chessbase – you have none of that. You’re starting from scratch.

You’ve decided not only to get back into the game, but also to raise your rating to the next class level.

But you only have $200 to invest this year.

How do you spend the money?

Which books, DVDs, lessons, memberships, software…? Be specific to your own improvement requirements — as opposed to saying “every chessplayer should have a copy of My System” —  and stay within budget.

Question inspired by standing in front of the suddenly-expanded chess bookshelf at local Barnes & Noble, wistfully eyeing “Play the Ruy” and “Starting Out: Slav and Semi-Slav”, $25 each. I bought neither.