Category Archives: Offtopic

Lost 2 years of data

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Filed under Offtopic

Hello MyChessBlog.com readers,

It has been some time since I last posted anything about chess and it has more to do with my server than my love for chess. In 2011 I lost almost 100 old articles that I had posted on the site.

I tried to get backup but I could only get as far as 2009. I will be posting new article ASAP. Please add the site on your favorites and looking forward for a great 2014.

cheers

Man versus Machine: When a Computer will become World Chess Champion

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Filed under General Chess, Offtopic

Not next year, when it will be either Anand or Topalov! But how far later?

In one of the 4 myths (depending on what you believe) on the game of chess, I held the view that we have not yet reached the stage where we expect a machine (read computer) to become World Chess Champion, notwithstanding that one win of DeepBlue against Garry Kasparov in 1997. But I left a question mark against that conclusion as I was not sure how long this state of affairs would hold, seeing the speed of progress in computer technology. More powerful processors, larger memory chips, and sophisticated software to utilize the hardware advances are hitting the road every year.

This prompts me to take an inventory of relative strengths and weaknesses between man and his robotic creation and try to understand how they are placed against each other in respect of our area of interest – the game of chess.

To make such a comparison, we must select the parameters on which to base our study. I thought of the following – it will be great if you can suggest some more, with your analysis on those aspects of chess in lines similar to what I tried. Another point – men can make ten identical “Deep Blue” computers but no two human players are alike. So when comparing the relative strengths and weaknesses, I am considering only the best human chess players in the following comparisons.

Chess Strategy:
Simply put, chess strategy is a plan of action. As discussed in What is chess strategy? Isn’t a chess game all chess tactics?, a strategy may be formulated even before the start of a game and may continue well into the end game. Strategy encompasses not just the game but the players as well – we examined this in the first two points of our article on 10 steps to raise your game – part 1.

Do you expect a computer to think like this? I am sure the answer will be in the negative. But let us leave aside this question and ask a more basic one: does a computer think at all? From whatever little I know of computers, I understand that a computer’s seeming intelligence is the cleverness of its programs put inside by human programmers. In fact one of the aims behind creating progressively stronger chess-playing computers is to understand the nature of intelligence and the thinking process of humans. Are our thoughts simply the results of logical process linking appropriate information from our memory of accumulated data in our brains?

That is very difficult to accept if you study the background of most theories and inventions. When Einstein propounded his theory of General Relativity in 1912, it was nothing but an interesting idea as it went against many concepts held dear by scientists till that time and something that could not even be proved. It was Eddington’s experiment 7 years later during the total solar eclipse of 1919 that finally established the bizarre idea of light rays getting bent by gravitation! This is what I understand as “thinking”. Will any computer ever be able to produce that kind of thought?

I am with you if such esoteric thoughts keep you off! Let me therefore bring our thoughts nearer home – the playing of chess. All of you know that a chess player has only 20 moves at his disposal when making the first move – 16 pawn moves (8 pawns taking either one or two steps forward) and 4 knight moves (each knight jumping forward of Bishop pawn or Rook pawn). I rarely play chess against computers because I like to see my opponent and get the feel of the physical chess pieces (not to speak of the chance, however remote, to sit opposite someone like Alexandra Kosteniuk – a computer could not care less)!

But unlike me, many of you must be playing online chess and hence my question to you – have you ever seen a computer make any of the 10 moves other than pushing the four central pawns (c-pawn to f-pawn) or Knight to c3 or f3 squares? Even pawn moves b3 or g3? Making a reply like a5 against White’s e4 opening? That is exactly what Preston Ware did in 5th US chess championship held at New York in 1880 while playing as Black against Congdon, Sellman, Cohnfeld, Grundy, Mackenzie, Delmar, Judd, Moehle, Ryan and Noa, and won against the first four players! A human player can go out of the shell at random, but not a computer (unless programmed to make random opening moves!)

What is the point of telling all these? Just that computers cannot really think independently and so bound to be week in strategy when compared with humans.

If they could do otherwise, then why bother with such mouthfuls like “QGD Slav Defense Dutch variation Main line” or “English Opening Caro-Kann defensive system Bogoljubov variation” and similar others! Just ask the computer to start successively with the permissible 20 opening moves one after another. Then let it keep working out both players’ best moves till the board situation reaches a position where a request for further analysis will make it emulate Rip Van Winkle! We can scrap all those 500 ECO codes and replace with only 20 codes – Rybka1, Rybka 2, … Rybka 20 or Fritz1, Fritz2, … Fritz 20 etc. We humans could then start where the computer went to sleep and take the game forward whatever we can! Wouldn’t life be much easier for chess players?

Chess Tactics:
Chess tactics comprise of several moves in sequence, your own and the expected responses of the opponent, the execution of which is supposed to give you some advantage – be it material, space, or time (tempo). This obviously needs a player to visualize correctly the successive changed positions on the board to make sure that the tactics are sound. With the increase in the number of moves involved in a combination, the complexity tends to increase exponentially. The capability of our brain to store these visuals in memory and our ability to recover these without error ultimately limit the number of moves we can foresee.

As far as memory cells are concerned, human brains may be superior to the best computers available now but the problem comes in recovering the stored data immediately when we need it. A computer has no such problem as its human designers have put in all the links that enable instant recall facility. The electronic circuit also allows it to calculate all the permutations of moves at a much, much faster rate. This gives a computer what we call ‘a brute force’ capability with which a human brain cannot compete. Agreed that with this method, a computer probably carries out umpteen times calculations most of which are useless and would be instinctively bypassed by a human being. But by the sheer speed of calculation, a computer can come out with the filtered output much earlier than his human competitor. All I can say, give the devil his due!

Also, keeping this aspect in mind, I would suggest that when you play against a computer, try to avoid tactical games which is a computer’s forte. Instead, go for playing those slow positional games with a lot of maneuvering for putting your pieces and pawns in strategically favorable positions. I am sure it would give you a better chance to prevail upon your computer!

Memory and Processing power
As already referred under the previous parameter, a computer’s all the memory is active memory whereas for a human being, it is only a small fraction of the total. The number of brain cells may be varying between humans but still remain within a limit and I have not seen any report that this capacity will keep growing in future. But computer memory and its processing power keep increasing every year and hence it will sooner or later exceed the power of human brain in this respect.

Physical factors
Another weak area for poor humans! If you take care that the power supply is stable and the processor is not allowed to get overheated, the computer can play at the same level 24 hours a day, seven days a week! Even when you are physically well-rested, does your efficiency remain same in the morning and in the evening, on Saturdays and on Mondays? If you try to analyze your own performance, you will surely find days in the week and time-slots in the day when you seem to perform better than at other times. If you have to challenge a chess-playing computer, you better choose your time and place!

Emotional factors
I do not know if others will agree but it is my conviction that the emotional state of the mind affects human performance probably even more than the physical factors. During a game if something unexpected happens, we get surprised. Out of surprise comes confusion and confusion makes us lose our track. We get annoyed and angry that we have lost the way and errors mount upon errors. Does the computer feel any such emotion? Not by any chance – it simply remains busy calculating, calculating, calculating….. This lack of emotion and retaining objectivity is a very strong plus point in favor of computers.

In fact, I have always wondered about the emotional state of Kasparov’s mind when he started the return match with Deep Blue 2 whose predecessor he had defeated in an earlier match. In all the 3 games he played as White, he opted for openings he had rarely played. When Deep Blue played as White, it opened with e4 but Kasparov responded with moves that he rarely used prior to this match. It was as if he was afraid that Deep Blue would be well prepared against his favorite openings and defenses (about 1/3rd of his games in Chessgames database have to do with Sicilian Defense) and he went for openings on which Deep Blue would not have enough data about his style of play!

It creates a nagging doubt in my mind that such emotional factors along with the stress of worldwide publicity made him playing to outwit the computer rather than playing to his own strengths.

This is what Yasser Seirawan had to say in his Inside Chess article on Game 5:

Garry was visibly shaken by this result. He stayed on stage at the board following the game for quite some time. … Garry wanted to win this game badly and I think he expected victory. When it wasn’t achieved his agitation increased. He will be very tense for game six with so much at stake. As he himself joked, “I hope I won’t resign in advance.”

Now that we know what happened in the 6th game, the above seems prophetic, doesn’t it? And that is why I laid so much stress on emotional factors.

Intuition
We have already discussed the role of intuition in Intuition vs. logic in chess and this is something that a human player will use, not the computer. An expert chess player takes an overall look at the board and intuitively rejects many of the moves without even bothering to calculate their outcome. In the same situation, the computer will calculate everything may be twenty moves deep and then reject those same moves as discarded by the human expert. Only the sheer speed of calculation makes it possible for the computer to come out with its moves in a reasonable time. The human player is slower in thinking, but as he is calculating only a limited number of lines, he appears to be capable of matching the computer move for move. I am sure many of you win at least some of your games against your chess playing program and that is possible because of your ability to ‘read the position’, what your program never does. This is one factor that only a human mind possesses.

Inventiveness
What is inventiveness? It is the ability to devise or contrive, to design for the first time or originate, possessing creativity or original thoughts, showing imaginative skill. Imagination is formed in your mind and nobody has claimed that a computer has a mind of its own! So this is one quality that is the prerogative of a perceptive intelligent mind and humans will score much above computers in this aspect.

All of us have read stories of how some apparently insignificant event from daily life has led to extraordinary inventions owing to the curiosity (a mental state?) of the inventors to find the explanation of those events. We are unable to authenticate the stories linking the boiling kettle to James Watt’s engine or the falling apple to Newton’s laws of gravitation. But we do not reject them also as fiction because those appear so plausible for a human mind. At least no one doubts the story of a laboratory research on staphylococcus culture going wrong because those germs died in contact with some fungus-like thing that accidentally fell into that Petri dish. A computer would reject the sample as an aberration but Sir Alexander Fleming’s questioning mind sought answers for this peculiar observation, leading to the invention of penicillin that literally saved millions of lives. Will you expect a computer to do this kind of ‘tangential thinking’?

Where does this aspect relate to our game of chess? Without trying out latest computers to analyze Levitzky-Marshall game position after White’s 23rd move to see if they come out with Marshall’s reply, I cannot comment on a computer’s inventiveness at least regarding the game of chess. I leave it to the readers to throw more light on this.

**********************************************************************

Well, that is all I could think of on this debatable topic. Probably another 10 years will take us nearer the truth on the subject of this article. But in the meanwhile, can you readers who have powerful hardware and chess software at their disposal carry out an experiment and bring the results to this forum? Please load the following position and find what should be White’s next move and the winning line.

Position after 13 moves in the game Breyer vs. Esser, Budapest, 1917 with White to play:

rnbq1rk1/p3bp2/2p1p1p1/1p1nP1P1/2pP1P2/2N5/PP4P1/RBBQK2R

Those who are aware of this game know that White’s next (14th) move is considered by chess experts as one of the deepest moves ever played on the chessboard. Just see if computer finds this move or something even better!

Gazing into the crystal ball
I understand that the designers of Rybka has thrown a challenge to FIDE rated players to win against it. If so, the writing is on the wall regarding the future of human players against the chess computer.

Nonetheless, just for fun, I would suggest the people who own it to try the following to test its mettle:

  • Play in strategic and positional lines, avoiding tactical games.
  • Computer chess seems to prefer bishop against knight. If you are adept in knight maneuver, build your game around this offering your bishop against its knights.
  • I expect a chess software to have built-in safety considerations for the King. Try to throw it off-balance by marching your King as an attacking piece (possibly after creating locked positions). Keep in mind something in the line of Chess Tactics: The King’s role in attack – part 2.
  • It is superfluous to say that you need a computer to play computer chess! Your time to think for a move does not depend on computer, but it does for the software. The chess software may think deeper than you, but how long will it take? Set the tournament rules for your game and see if it defaults on time limit.

A very (possibly the most) important part of the foundation on which the development of such chess software stands is the progress in computer hardware. When we look at the strength of future chess software vis-a-vis humans, we are always thinking of this factor. But we keep overlooking that progress in bio-technology and bio-sciences are likely to bring advantages to human players also. Through implant of micro-electrodes in brain to enhance neuron cross-connections, the brain’s active memory capacity and computing power in future may get augmented manifold. So, you need not yet despair that the days of Grandmasters are numbered!

Epilogue
I read an interesting paper by Hans Moravec of Robotics Institute, Carnegie Mellon University that was published in 1998. Things must have progressed way beyond in the decade that has gone by but it is worth noting what he said in connection with the celebrated chess matches between Garry Kasparov and IBM’s Deep Blue computer.

Now, the team that built Deep Blue claim no “intelligence” in it, only a large database of opening and end games, scoring and deepening functions tuned with consulting grandmasters, and, especially, raw speed that allows the machine to look ahead an average of fourteen half-moves per turn. Unlike some earlier, less successful, chess programs, Deep Blue was not designed to think like a human, to form abstract strategies or see patterns, as it races through the move/countermove tree as fast as possible.
 
Deep Blue’s creators know its quantitative superiority over other chess machines intimately, but lack the chess understanding to share Kasparov’s deep appreciation of the difference in the quality of its play. I think this dichotomy will show up increasingly in coming years. Engineers who know the mechanism of advanced robots most intimately will be the last to admit they have real minds. From the inside, robots will indisputably be machines, acting according to mechanical principles, however elaborately layered. Only on the outside, where they can be appreciated as a whole, will the impression of intelligence emerge. A human brain, too, does not exhibit the intelligence under a neurobiologist’s microscope that it does participating in a lively conversation.
 
In forty years, computer chess progressed from the lowest depth to the highest peak of human chess performance. It took a handful of good ideas, culled by trial and error from a larger number of possibilities, an accumulation of previously evaluated game openings and endings, good adjustment of position scores, and especially a ten-million-fold increase in the number of alternative move sequences the machines can explore. Note that chess machines reached world champion performance as their (specialized) processing power reached about 1/30 human, by our brain to computer measure. In coming decades, as general-purpose computer power grows beyond Deep Blue’s specialized strength, machines will begin to match humans in more common skills.
(the underlines are mine)

Though I am no expert like Mr. Moravec, but my common sense (or is it nonsense?) makes me disagree with some of the points raised by him. As mentioned in the first paragraph, I do agree that the distinctive feature of human thinking is the ability to form abstract strategies and see patterns. But the implication of his second paragraph appears fallacious to me. If I have understood him correctly, the issue can be rephrased as under:

A human brain will not exhibit any sign of intelligence under the neurobiologist’s microscope but human interactions show this intelligence.

A computer’s innards do not show any intelligence to the computer scientist, but the computer’s external responses give an impression of intelligence.

Therefore computer intelligence and human intelligence are similar.

Is that the conclusion and is it valid?

Mr. Moravec laid a lot of stress on the reaction of Kasparov about his feeling a sign of intelligence in Deep Blue after he lost the match. But that may just have been an instinctive reaction to salvage his pride (an emotional issue!) after the shock of getting defeated by a computer. Read his reaction together with what Mr. Seirawan (who was a commentator during the match) had to say and you may judge if my views are totally unfounded. I would go so far as to say that Mr. Kasparov was defeated not by the superior speed and memory and calculating ability of Deep Blue, but by the weakness of a human under emotional stress which did not exist for Deep Blue. Most of you may have played out those six games of the match. Would you agree that those games hardly show the real Kasparov we have revered, a far cry from the type of game he played against Topalov at Wijk Aan Zee in 1999? In my view, emotional factors will remain the Achilles heel of humans when playing against computers!

I would like to end my ramblings with a silly question based on a real-life story of mine.

Many years ago in a gathering of friends, the discussion somehow veered towards English as a language and someone asked if anyone knew the longest word in English. He claimed this honor for ‘floccinaucinihilipilification‘ (29 letters!). We had to check the dictionary to verify the existence of this word (it is there!) but since no one could come out with a longer one, we had to accept his word for it. But then the joker amongst us claimed that ‘smiles‘ was the longest! How could it be? He replied with a straight face that a mile separates the two end letters, so no other word could come anywhere near!

Give this question to a computer and in less than a minute it will search all the English dictionaries in existence and come out with the word which may indeed be the one quoted above. But will it think like that joker friend to give another interpretation to “longest”?

 

Online chess helps improve the skills quickly

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The game of chess is a thinking game. More than providing just fun and entertainment, the game stimulates the mind and trains the mind in such a way that a person can face the life with more confidence, take wise decisions and have a better quality life.

Now with the advent of technology and the spread of Internet at a faster pace across the world, the number of people taking advantage of online chess is on the rise. Online chess has many advantages. There is no need to go in search for a partner as was the case earlier before the advent of Internet.

One more disadvantage in chess in earlier days was that a chess player, in his novice stage, would not get more opportunities to play with other novices and invariably there would be a mismatch between the two players playing in academic and amateur tournaments or games. Lack of encouragement at the early stages of the learning process also diminishes one’s appetite for the game and many people lose out in early stages due to this recurring problem.

It is in this context that online chess comes to the assistance of the chess player. He can find partners across the net at any point of time. He need not worry or go about searching for a partner to play the game. The skill set of the partner can also be decided in advance and such partner who is at par with your skill or slightly better than you can be chosen from the Internet. In this way, you can have a better experience and excitement playing with a player of equal skill than a game involving a mismatch of skill sets.

With online chess, a player can find the right partner to compete with and this helps in a long way in mastering the skills and improvising on the same at a relatively quicker time.

As there is no room for chance, luck or other outside influence in this game, the player will be ultimately responsible for all that he does in the game of chess. If he makes a wrong move or overlooks a threat to one of its pieces, then he is bound to lose that piece and ultimately the game itself.

The onus lies on the player to think, concentrate, calculate, analyze and then make an appropriate move aimed at cornering the opponent’s King. This practice of thinking before acting and taking wise decisions helps a player not only win the game, but also take important and wise decisions at real life. The more one practices the game of chess, the more matured and intelligent he will become in his approach towards the game, and towards the life in general.

Online chess has other advantages as well. The internet is storage for vast number of games played by grandmasters and others and some millions of games are available in the Internet.

A person aspiring to excel in the game of chess, can exploit this vast storage of data in the Internet to look at the great games played by grandmasters since the 1900s when the first professional championship tournaments began up to the latest tournament. Looking at those games, playing out those moves, analyzing the moves and their ultimate objectives will go a long way in helping a player gain the much-needed insight about the game. This will help in understanding the game to its core and help in improving the skills.

20+ ways Chess is beneficial for You and Your Children

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baby_chess

The numbers are only to draw attention, they do not tell the real story. If you are genuinely curious about it, don’t keep counting but keep reading on …

Several months earlier, we made an attempt to show how chess is beneficial to your mind. But that was aimed at beginners and amateurs so that they may seriously pursue their interest in chess not only for just fun and enjoyment but also for its other beneficial effects. Here we are trying to take it one step ahead to address parents with young children on how playing chess can be good for the whole family.

We firmly believe that any caring and sensible parent will like to see their children growing up to be intelligent, rational human beings who will make a success of their lives and be pillars of the society. The level and quality of interaction between the child and parents have a profound impact on the life and outlook when the child reaches adulthood. Developing an interest in chess and sharing it with children can be one of the ways, an enjoyable one too, which can help in this pursuit. We are trying to put our thoughts on areas where chess can make a positive contribution.

However, only at a few places we have referred to the child, leaving other benefits to be understood by parents and then to be explained by examples to their children. For example, without looking at the board at the start of a game, you can tell the child that if he moves his KP, his KB can go to the white square on the fourth row in front of his QB, from where it can target your black KBP on its white square. The child looks at the board, tries to play it out and accepts that what you said is true. You explain how visualization and planning works and encourage him to do that – you can make it a new kind of game between you and your child. You have to use your ideas on how to expose him to the other areas of the game so that he can reap the benefits.

1. Inquisitiveness – fueling the urge to learn

If you have observed the growing years of a child, what is sure to strike you is the unbounded inquisitiveness of a child. This lies behind the learning of any new subject or ideas. It is like a fire inside which needs constant supply of fresh fuel to sustain it. When he throws a toy, he is not being ‘naughty’ but trying to find out what happens if he throws it (a rubber ball bounces a lot, the toy car does not) or the kind of sound it makes. He puts things in his mouth to find out the difference in tastes. When he breaks a toy, he is trying to find out what lies inside or what makes it ‘tick’! But he may also be doing it simply to draw attention and seek company. You may have also noticed that a child soon loses interest in something that only a few weeks earlier was the dearest item. Why? Because he has learnt everything that was to know about it within his realm of experience and now looks for something fresh!

Only problem is that such inquisitiveness may get on to the nerves of the harassed young parents, increasing their household chores to clear up the ‘mess’. By teaching and playing chess with them, you can give them something that will sustain the interest for long, become more intriguing as they learn more, provide a challenge and at the same time ensure companionship (you cannot play chess with yourself!). You thus channel their energy in lines that help both the child and you as parent to develop …

chess_kid

2. Understanding and learning – one branch leads to another

Any exercise of the mind helps in its growth and what better exercise than trying to learn the intricacies of chess! Basically, chess is not at all a complicated game as far as rules are concerned. All you need to know is:

  • the initial arrangement of pieces and pawns
  • White’s first move
  • check and checkmate
  • capture as a part of movement
  • 15 types of moves
    • 6 for six types of chessmen with their individual but single rule of movement
    • 4 more for the King (K-side castling, Q-side castling, not moving to a square controlled by opponent’s piece, immunity from capture)
    • 5 more for the Pawn (initial double step forward, no backtracking, diagonal capture, en passant, promotion)

Other rules are for tournaments and can be disregarded in your family game. Therefore, starting on chess is much less daunting than what the uninitiated may think! But its pursuit builds up the ability to learn and understand. These mental faculties can be used in any other walks of life provided these can be retained in …

3. Memory – the mental links

It is said that all we have experienced in life – seeing, reading, tasting, hearing, feeling and so on – from the first day of our life get stored somewhere in our brain. Unfortunately there is no direct link from our conscious mind to most (possibly 90%) of these and we are unable to recollect the information. Our memory covers only those for which such link can be traced readily. The more links we can establish, the more we approach a super-memory and the benefits are easy to perceive. It has been held by memory experts that repetition or regular exercise of mind to recollect the links helps in improving the size and strength of this memory domain. Chess provides an opportunity in this as you and your child try to learn from past experience (which is memory) and from studies of chess openings, chess tactics, master games and so on. Once a child understands that paying attention, mulling things in your mind and repeated practice help in remembering, he can apply it to his other studies also. It will also become apparent that though there are some items that need to be learnt by rote (like multiplication tables) before you understand them, most others are easier to remember if you try to see the underlying meaning and principle like the chess opening theories. In short, you start looking for the …

4. Logic – making sense of things apparently incoherent

In chess, every strategy, every opening, every move, tactics, combination has a logical thinking behind it. There are no imponderables – only a flaw or deficiency in the logic or limitation to the depth of analysis. These shortcomings start getting remedied with experience when the right logic builds up to replace the flawed ones. The development of logical ability is all-pervading, with practice it comes into play in whatever activities you may undertake. Arising out of this logic comes …

5. Analytical ability – understanding cause-effect relationship

The correct sense of logic leads you and your child to carry out analysis to read any situation even if it is something unfamiliar. In chess, all the brilliant combinations that one sees are the end results of the deep analysis by the player concerned. To improve your game, it becomes incumbent on you to read any position in your game to identify strong and weak areas, possible moves and counter-moves, and to select the line that is expected to yield an advantage for you. This kind of analysis becomes a habit which supports …

6. Problem solving – the tactical ability

The techniques that you apply over the board in a game of chess help to give you a sharp mind and this incisiveness can cut through obstacles in other fields of activity. This also paves the way to anticipate problems rather than getting caught unawares. This ability to foresee prompts you to look for an appropriate course of action that calls for …

7. Planning – the strategy before the tactics

It is thinking ahead to consider the different possibilities (the lines of play for your game of chess) so that you are ready beforehand and can take control of the direction the events should take. You are in charge of the situation rather than the other way round. When you are planning, everything is happening in your mind and yet to become a reality. This ability develops the power of …

8. Abstract thinking – seeing it in your mind’s eye

This tends to be a weak area for most people and those who can do it naturally enjoy an upper hand vis-à-vis the others. If you apply your mind to it, you will realize that practice of chess and gaining proficiency in it necessarily involves thinking of this type. You may argue that all thinking is abstract as compared to reality! Here we do not mean a thought in isolation like what to have for your dinner, but thinking about a series of moves and counter-moves and the resultant board positions before we put them into action. Once you are adept at this, you can see yourself before an interview board and answering their questions! But such a sustained thought process needs you to develop your …

9. Concentration – focusing your mind

If you sit back and think, you will realize that your untrained mind is like a monkey jumping from tree to tree, branch to branch, without spending any length of time anywhere. Only with intense thinking on a subject, as happens when you are working out a set of moves on the chessboard, you develop the ability to concentrate. We are not talking of a single subject, rather a line of thinking related to the subject covering different possibilities. The power of concentration is a requisite for …

10. Vision and Imagination – beyond the routine

With more experience, you can take any activity to a certain level but sequential thinking can take you only that far. To go beyond the mundane, you have to break out of routine and develop ‘tangential’ thinking. A deep study of chess games by brilliant masters exposes you to this lateral thinking and the beauty of such ‘unpredictable’ moves. All great ideas and inventions some way involve such vision on the part of the proponent. Chess can be a conduit for developing your child’s mind towards …

11. Inventiveness and Creativity – something out of nothing

As your child keeps learning, playing, improving his game and enjoying the free flow of his ideas, his mind is ready to add that 1% inspiration to his 99% perspiration, all possible through your active support and guidance. When that happens, you get a genius in your family! The realization of his ability gives your child …

12. Self-confidence – standing on his own

To be successful in any field, a person needs to do away with all doubts nagging his mind and to be confident in his own abilities. Do not be indulgent, let him fight it out with you over the board. If you become easy meat, let him not be complacent. Take him over to local chess club, encourage him to join school tournaments and do similar things to throw new challenges in his path. This will develop his ability to …

13. Face Challenges – toughening the steel inside

As they say, life is full of challenges and the sooner a child learns to face up to it, the better he can rise above his surroundings. Mankind has always revered the winner and your child will soon …

14. Earn peer respect – incentive to grow

That is what you hopefully expected of your child, didn’t you? He stands tall and you are proud of him. Being the school champion, town champion, state champion …. Earning admiration in one field opens many doors to other fields for him to explore and excel. This can stand him in good stead towards …

15. Choice of careers – prestige of being a ‘brainy’ person

The perception of chess players as men of high intelligence makes such people to be welcomed by many organizations. After all, you want a success for your child in the material world also! But this is probably too far down the road. What is now more important and precious for you and your child is …

16. Fun and enjoyment – release from tension

Going back to where we started – how to manage your child without stress – and to bring more fun and enjoyment in the family life and the great feeling of togetherness that can last for years to come through …

17. Family bonds – the closeness to one another

In these days when more and more families seem to be breaking up and the communication gap between children and parents become barriers in understanding, the worth of family bonds does not need to be stressed. These bonds prevent children from going astray and inculcate in them a respect for values in life. Such children grow up to be better adjusted human beings who contribute to …

18. Positive social interaction – sign of a good society

The value system today’s children learn affect their behavior as parents of future and more positive the outlook, the better is the community. Such a society induces the children and youth of impressionable age to remain happily a part of it and is the most effective …

19. Deterrent to bad habits and company

Birds of same feathers flock together – be it well-adjusted people or ill-adjusted people. The better the parents contribute to raise their children creating a sense of belonging, the less is the chance of such children becoming social misfits.

If all this induces you as a parent to make chess a source of family entertainment, go ahead but don’t forget to take care of two pitfalls. Chess may be considered a sedate activity by many but experienced tournament players can tell you that intense competition can sap energy like any other grueling physical activity. Examples abound where top grandmasters fared poorly when they were lacking in fitness. So you must ensure that side by side with chess, your children participate in outdoor games and activities also. The other issue is to see that the child does not remain so much engrossed in chess as to become a recluse. Sharing indoor and outdoor activities with your child can avoid these side effects.

20. As a side issue related to mental development of your child, I would like to bring a topic that interested me greatly. I am quoting from memory, so there may be some difference between the original text and my interpretation of it. I apologize in advance if someone finds such discrepancy.

Dr. Hans Jürgen Eysenck (1916 –1997), a British psychologist of German origin, was noted for his work on intelligence and personality and as per Wikipedia, he was the most frequently cited psychologist in science journals before he passed away. In the preface to one of his popular books on self-testing IQ, he made a comment that should be of utmost interest to parents who would like to see their children attaining high level of intelligence.

He said that the innate intelligence in a person, like his other physical abilities, continues to grow with age as a normal process. But what is significant is that the growth continues up to an age of about nineteen after which it remains more or less at same level for some years and then a decline starts. What is even more astounding is that 50% of this total intelligence is said to develop within the first four years and the remaining 50% in the next 15 years. In other words, if we could nurture the child to reach above-average intelligence by four years of age, he/she would have doubled that higher intelligence at nineteen making for a super intelligent person! Unfortunately, most parents leave their children to grow in their own fashion during these initial years and start paying attention to the child’s mental growth only when he/she is ready to enter the kindergarten and by that time, a substantial opportunity for the child’s mental development has been lost!

Lessons for life in the game of chess

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I came across an interesting sentence that made me ponder a lot. Playing chess is one of the most invigorating exercises to the mind that not only helps one refresh physically and mentally, but also paves for enhancing the quality of life in many ways. After reading this sentence, I was a little perplexed and at the same time little surprised. How can a game played for killing time or for relaxation can help in enriching the quality of life – my inquisitive mind questioned and the result is this article.

We all know and accept that indulging in some sort of physical activity or sports activities can help a person keep his body in a fit condition and proper shape for a considerable amount of time even if one retires from the sports activity or physical exercises.

As a chess player or ardent lover of chess, we also know that chess is a thinking game and also a fair game in that there is no room for chance or luck whatsoever. The outcome of the game is entirely in your own hand. The fair outcome of the game is only a Draw and winning over the opponent is nothing but an accident caused as a result of the opponent’s mistake and exploited by you.

Moving away from the concept of chess for a while and thinking about ourselves or our life, let us try to find answer for a simple question – what is life? Is it a science or an art? The body which we have in which our soul resides can be explained in a scientific manner to a great extent, thanks to the advancement of medical sciences. Body and life are not one and the same. Though not trying to sound philosophical, it is but true that the body is only a carrier of the soul and not the soul itself. The soul or the life is not scientific in any feasible way. How one leads a life, though bestowed with the same basic capabilities as any other person next door, is an art in itself, and you are the designer of your art or life. It might sound a bit vague to start with, but introspection would help you get the point clear I believe. Life is a bit of science and a bit of art and the right blend of the two defines one‘s success in life.

Now, coming back to the game of chess, there is a specific set of rigid rules that one needs to follow in the game. There are only 64 squares in the board, of which 32 squares are already occupied by the pieces at the start of the game. A number of theories, combinations, variations, openings are there to help a player in the game. In spite of all the proven methods and combinations at the disposal, why one finds the game fascinating enough to play again and again and get different results each time. I feel that here comes the role of art in the game of chess. While the rigid rules, combinations, proven opening theories and such other things can be roughly compared to the science of the game, the execution part is an art.
The game of chess is also a bit of science and a bit of art – is it not.

It is in this context that I find some similarities between the life and the chess game. Chess is nothing but a miniature of life. May be that is the reason this game of chess withstood the travails of time and technology and will be there as long as one derives inspiration for life from the game of chess.

The game of chess, as a thinking game, requires concentration, attention, intuition, planning, execution, defense and patience. These are some of the traits that a person does need in his life to weather the day-to-day challenges in life.

As such, playing chess helps a person develop these invaluable traits that will help in enhancing the quality of life.

Playing chess means involving two people as well as an ideal time and place. In this fast-paced world, there is not much possibility of matching all the three at once and then playing chess. Online chess is the answer as people, separated by distance, can be found in the Internet at your convenient time. So free time can be effectively spent on the computer playing online chess with players like you might be the answer to enrich one’s life. Ponder over the same and Prosper in your quality of life.