Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Joining the dots

Perhaps one of the most difficult thing in our lives is to continuously join the dots. Why? Every dot joined is an invitation to change. And so we see many stuck people.

But the ability to embrace change is the essence of chess.

Look at it this way. Debono talked about lateral thinking. To stop digging a hole a few miles deep but to move laterally and dig a hole a short distance away for that is where the oil is. What he didnt explain was the psychological problems associated with that manoeuvre.

Let me use a few examples here.

Have you ever seen a Sunday Christian who is so pious in church and then go out and be a totally ruthless businessman?

I once had a conversation with a civil servant on why he appointed a foreign consultant when the locals had better knowledge of the conditions surrounding the job? His answer was that they can now shift the responsibility. If he had joined the dot of the cost to our Nation, he would not have been able to justify that decision in his head. So he compartmentalised.

If you are able to embrace the other 3 components of chess, join the dots, then you will need to change your approach. Can you now see the fierce struggle to defend technical? But is the answer there?

So it is not easy to move laterally. Thinking is not only technical. Thinking is much much bigger than that.

And so resistance is the instinctive response. It signals danger. Here.

The typical response, unless trained otherwise, is to deny, obfuscate etc. What the mind will do is to find one aspect that they do not agree with and attack it, thinking and deluding the self into believing that if that point is won, they can then discard everything else.

Now lets look at chess again. It's a discourse between 2 minds. I give an argument and then you give yours. At a high level the ideas become more and more sophisticated. And so the untrained mind either disassembles or it goes into denial to cope. And they then cannot see the obvious.

And remember this also. Join this dot. If you are operating on instinct ie fight or flight, your mind is closed down or its on narrow focus mode. Look carefully. Both fight and flight are fear responses. (It could be that seeing the big picture is the appropriate response at the time.)

But there is no "danger". The "danger" only exists in your mind. And the defender of those fears is the ego. The ego. I repeat, the ego. Think on this.

And so there is no learning. You cant see. To learn you have to join the dots. And in chess, the faster you can do this; as the argument heats up, and the less resistance you have in your mind, the better a player you will be. And the less tired you become during play.

This phenomenon was first noticed by me in negotiations especially when the numbers became larger and larger. I then formulated a body of work called "The Sentic Negotiator" and gave talks on it. I later expanded on it in my inner child work. Here. So you see, chess is a good training tool. If taught properly you learn to think. So join the dots. It's not easy but it works. An aside: That is actually what thinking with integrity really means. Integrated.

The consequence of not joining the dots is to condemn ourselves to making the same mistakes over and over again. And that is not chess.


  1. Imposing a general observation of the mind to the specific way of thinking of a chess player is rash and pretentious.

    I would dare say while your idea of "imagined fears" exists, it is not the main impediment of what a chess player can see on the board.

    Many times, the decisions made on the board are determined by goals that they set prior to the game. But of course, the goal may change with the position. For example, if I were to play against a stronger player, I might have a tendency to spend more time on each move to "compensate" for my lack of technical skills. You may argue that I am spending more time on each move because of my "fear" but it is only practical. To make the example more concrete, assume I am able to calculate about 10 ply in 10 minutes, and the stronger player is able to visualize 20 ply in 10 minutes, is it not practical for me to spend more time to outplay the stronger player? But the time eventually runs down, and at the end, I might find myself short of time to play moves that match those of my opponent's abilities in a fixed amount of time.

    And also, many times, a chess player has to decide on a trade-off between thinking of a better move, or keeping the time for later. It is an objective decision, not driven by emotions. And in any given amount of time, typically, what a chess player can and cannot see is dictated by his or her knowledge and technical abilities. I may decide to play a practical move to keep my time advantage albeit the move may not be the best on the board. But in doing so, it is a risk that the move could be a blunder if one is willing to spend enough time analyzing the position.

    This "slip of the mind" can occur in many ways for different people. For some, it could be due to the lack of stamina. Stamina, in its own right, is part of a technical skill in chess. That is why most top players go through physical training as well. Our kind late GM Eduard Gufeld once shared the story of Kasparov's ability to run 100 meters in 12 seconds.

    IM Jon Rowson, who is incidentally a PhD in psychology, has also shared this idea of "blinking" in his book "Seven Deadly Sins of Chess". It explains why some players, masters included, miss even the simplest of moves. The book has some great insights into why chess players blunder during games. You might want to add that to your reading list if you haven't already read it.

  2. Thank you for your comments. I see a question in your perambulation. However you still exhibit the weakness of referring to other experts instead of showing us what you understand from your identification of titles.

    But nevertheless consider this. What is the percentage chance of losing if you die on time?
    The correct answer is 100%. And what is the only thing you can do to increase your chance of winning? The answer is to think faster. Actually you do exhibit some thinking skills. So use it to expand your mind. Read my postings on "emptying" or better still get "The road less travelled" by M. Scott Peck. A title is a title. If I was to show you my library would it mean that I understand anything or does it only show that I have a big library?

  3. Also if you dont mind me saying, you have obviously blanked out the fact that I have been observing and studying the application of thinking in chess players for the last 7 years; have coached a National Junior; I write and answer questions on a blog for chess players and I was also appointed the mind coach for the Malaysian chess team for Asean. Look at yourself and ask this question. Why is there such a huge hole in your thinking. What are you trying to prove? You may learn something there. Then join this dot also. This blog is to serve the purpose of giving new ideas in the search of solutions towards better chess in Malaysia. That is apparent. What are you actually contributing? Join these dots. You'll learn much about yourself.

  4. Just for my curiousity.

    What did you actually do as mind coach.
    What had , say Edward, Tarig and not forgetting Mark lesarnt and bebefit from your coaching.

  5. Thinking faster is in itself a technical skill. It requires one the ability to visualize and remember the variations and positions that have been analyzed. It is also a lot of pattern recognition from past experiences. If one does not have enough training to visualize the position, one simply cannot see the "right" moves, whether he wants to or not, or whether he is imagining his fears or not.

    Also, in an attempt to think faster, one can also "miss" possible variations or continuations or underestimate or overestimate a particular counter. But you have missed the point. Yes, it is obvious that the flag fall necessitates a 100% chance of losing the game. I am not saying that one loses on time literally, as that rarely happens to strong chess players nowadays. What I am saying is that, when you are down on time, for example, if you had 3 minutes versus a stronger player with 10 minutes, the clock running down will sooner or later cause a blunder, given that you had less time. The blunder itself would have cost you the game, not the flag fall.

    How did this result? It is from the earlier part of the game where the weaker player took more time to ponder over his moves. While you can ask the weaker player to think faster in the earlier part of the game, but technically speaking, if both players were to use the exact same amount of time to think, the stronger player should find a move of better quality.

    I must admit I was unaware of your chess credentials but you have also ignored mine. Unlike you, I am always ready to learn something. My mind is always open for improvement. My contributions are for all to see, for anyone who can open their mind to accept my recommendations and ideas. Unlike you, I do not mind book citations. If you sincerely can recommend a relevant book, then I do not mind reading it.

    And if you don't mind me saying, your ego is in the way of accepting what other people say. You feel that "illustrious reputation" is threatened by what you don't know about how chess players think. You are too obsessed in trying to "poison the well" so that your readers do not see the flaws in your methods. It is not about how long you studied. You have learnt little after your 7 long years of "studying" the chess mind. What are the fruits of your supposed labor? Coaching one national junior means nothing because nowadays, every Tom, Dick or Dandy has coached a national junior player. How has your training make your trainee superior to the other national juniors in terms of results? Perhaps you can enlighten us on that.

  6. Do you really think that gutter level thinking deserves a reply? I think I know who you are now. There are not that many people who have your type of venom.

  7. If you do not write in abstract, but write clearly your sucess story on your coaching the junior and thw work done in mind coaching in Asean, people can understand you better.

  8. I have given you the honor of my replies despite your repeated underhanded (and weak) attempts at belittling my ability to think. Replying is the least you can do.

    The Chess Ninja is not merely a pseudonym. As you observantly pointed out, each establishment exists for a reason and my raison d'etre is to brutally expose the flaws and shortcomings that exist in the chess arena. This is nothing personal. Your closed mind is just being exposed for what it really is. A closed mind.

    I do not feel the need to boast about my chess credentials to "prove" my intelligence because it simply proves nothing. I had no idea you were such an important person in the chess scene. Perhaps you would like to explain why you felt the need to exhibit your credentials?

  9. Thank you. Do read my latest posting. The purpose of this blog is to explore new ideas towards stronger chess players. So I write to express my ideas and not to tear anyone down. If you have something to contribute you are welcome to use this space. I hope you can understand that chess ninja. I have tried many times to explain this to you but to no avail.

  10. Haha,self-appointed 'mind coach' whatever that means. Now I know why Mark is still so weak after 7 years of your so-called "coaching". Nonsense and senseless drivel is more like it.

  11. I can see I'm hitting a nerve. Why are you so angry? What is the conversation in your mind?

  12. Very good question! What is the conversation in my mind? It was 'Why is Mark so weak if the father-coach is correct? So the answer came that it was just nonsense driven into Mark's head by his father. The end result is just one confused kid. With a father who is a born trouble-maker, petty, fault-finder and manipulator all rolled into one around, the pressure must be tremendous on Mark when he is competing. Not to mention arrogant and rude.

    Good day to you and sweet dreams, Mr Siew.

  13. P.S. As they say, the proof of the pudding is in the eating.

  14. I can see you must be one of those that hits out at small kids. Bravo for you. But you may be surprised now. He is top 4 for U18 in this Country and he is no more a small boy. He is 17 years old now and beyond you. What are you going to do now? Find someone your own mental size to pick on? Maybe another 12 year old?

  15. Naahh!! Mental sparring with a 52-year old with the mentality of an 8-year old will do for me. A 12-year old is too much for me.

    Mark must be a good kid. Able to get top 4 in U18 whatever that means, despite having a father that causes so much trouble for him.

  16. Back peddling my friend? Anyway I dont think you are ready for anyone over 12 yet. Come back in 40 years and I'll consider again if you are worth my time. I do not waste my time with people who attacks children.

  17. Mark is good kid but weak chess player. Lots of room for improvement. Improvement can only come if he breaks free from the nonsense inculcated by his father. Here I am trying to help Mark improve his ches and all his insecure father can say is I attack children. As an expert in human psychology, I would say that this is a symptom of an inferiority complex exhibited by you, Mr Siew.

    As you say, Mark is 17 and no longer a child. Anyhow, I don't think I have attacked any child except maybe a 52-year old that is still a child mentally.

    Mr Siew, you seem to be a very poor reader for one who is able to write and manipulate the language so well. You need to improve your powers of understanding and rise above the level of an 8 year-old. Really, I have come to the conclusion that I have been wasting precious time discussing simple things with you that I feel even a 10 year-old can understand but you cannot.

    So I shall end here and no longer contribute any comments to this blog. Cheers and wishing you well as you grow up.

  18. Raymond why are you even wasting your strength and intelligence over some random dude with no balls to reveal himself. Did you notice something? They are not here to expand the horizons of their thinking or to have a stimulating discussion. They are here based on emotional reasons and to display their oversized ego which of course makes them look like an idiot(when the ego is oversized, they tend to put it at ridiculous places,thus making them look ridiculous).

    All humans have emotions but few can use logic well. So Raymond i suggest that you do not waste ur logic on them cuz they are being ruled by emotions.And because of ppl like them who is dominated by hate or revenge or being resentful towards the others, the world is going topsy- turvy.

    Attacking others under the cloak of cowardice does not deserve anyones respect. They do not have real courage. Real courage lies in the ability to live inside your own reality and frame of mind and to speak as who you are. They are living in your reality, Raymond, cuz their emotions and logic are fulled by their resentfulness, hatred or envy for you. And when someone lives inside your reality, you have all the power. The power to IGNORE and leave them as bombastic fools.

    I have nothing against anyone but definitely have something against those who attacks with bad intentions.So ladies and gentlemen, if you feel the heat now after reading this, pls check if your name is inside. If none, then say nothing. If you still feel something, then too bad cuz its really you. Thank you. =)

  19. I am glad these people have reared their heads. We see them everyday. They hide in plain sight and they attack the kids. In person they try to come across as decent people. And we have to learn how to recpgnise them.

  20. We do hv a few characters using pseudonym. I too support Chess Ninja's perspective on you.

    Colourful posting from Chess Ninja, another person who understand Chess in Msia. He can quote name like Christy Chia, hmmm. Btw, Ray do u know who is Christy?

    While, u ask others to join the dot, u too should do the same thing.

    There is a saying "When many diff. people have the same feeling or opinion on one subject, is it that these people don't understand or rather the subject is a suspect?".

    We hv many people penned down their opinion in your articles. These people have great experience abt Chess and have been doing their part to flourish Chess in general.

    Lets remove all who wrote under anonymous in the last 2 mths. Those can be identified are listed below. Ranking by years at national level chess scene - John, Jimmy, SIFU. MYCATUR, myself, Chess Ninja, Ilham, Rationality, Yourself, abdooss, GiLoCatur, Firey_rook, camilyn.

  21. The new ranking should be changed to the sequence listed below since I'm able to guess who is Chess Ninja based on his latest comment inside Musing article.

    Those can be identified are listed below. Ranking by years at national level chess scene - John, Jimmy, Chess Ninja, SIFU. MYCATUR, myself (anonswriter), Ilham, Rationality, Yourself, abdooss, GiLoCatur, Firey_rook, camilyn.

  22. Thank you for counting those who have commented and displaying your capacity to think.