I’m curious: How good of a speed chess player could you become by only playing speed chess? No ordinary chess or ancillary study allowed.
I used to play chess when I was young, but it was a very deliberative and sometimes serious process. I never really studied old games to see how I might have done better, but I probably wasn’t all that far off.
So the question is whether or not you can improve (and by how much) through playing strictly instinctively — starting from wherever you are (from scratch if you have zero chess knowledge), moving as quickly as possible, failing fast, then starting again… and again… and again — all without the opportunity for conscious processing. Will your brain do the work and internalize it all without time to question “How?” or “Why?”
In my younger days of more deliberate play, there were a couple of situations in which I might recognize myself:
- Odds are better than even. Just keep playing and see where it leads.
- It’s not looking good, but I’d like to win and I certainly can’t throw in the towel.
- The game is untenable. Loss is inevitable. It’s practically embarrassing. Might as well just quit.
It’s that #3 that was most troubling: More often than not, that was me playing against myself, certain that I could not win (whether true or not), certain that the other player sees how I will lose (whether true or not), and certain that the other player will not make a mistake and than no opportunity will unexpectedly present itself. Sometimes it was legitimately true though, particularly when playing against a computer. There, if things looked bad, there was always the temptation to roll-back a move or two or just start over. There, there was no need to actually experience the consequence or the loss.
In the martial arts — and maybe in zen as well — there may be some useful application of thoughtfulness before action. People learn in different ways, after all. Some time spent in an intellectual realm can inspire further study and help one to understand a technique, but the objective is always to integrate it to fluency and eventually to spontaneity — bypassing that thought process when appropriate.
So, … Speed Chess. No thought — just whatever you have as you enter the situation. Act now. Win or lose? No matter — there’s no time to gloat, no time to brood. Keep moving. Begin again. From here forward is new, a situation that you’ve never been faced. What can it teach you? How far can you go?
As a teacher’s note, for people who only know “Act now!” we introduce thinking — have them sit them down with a master who will change the rules, turn the tables. We can save that for another time…