Fixed on one idea – A common scenario

I got an email from Patty describing a consideration:

Candidate idea, ie strategies. I will come up with a idea (strategy) and run with it. But rarely will I come up with more than one idea. In my post mortem I seen a million different things I could do. But I never trained myself to come up with different ideas, just look at different moves. (which translates to different ideas) Just seems easier to wrap my mind around coming up with different ideas or strategies. When a position is per say static, and i have to come up with something I normally only try to develop one plan based around the best move. Versus coming up with multiple plans based on the best move, the position , weakness. And so on.

This is the extent of the information I have been given. Based on this I will have to make a number of assumptions and guesses to try to say something meaningful about this situation. Forgive me for this.

My first thesis about why this is happening is that we all have a tendency to revert to out default way of doing things, especially when stressed and under pressure.

The second thesis is that Patty mainly thinks in move-move-move during the game; the good old I go there, he goes there, I go there – and so on.

It becomes clear that once Patty is relaxed and the immediate pressure is gone, he is able to think of things in a more open way, considering things from different perspectives and so on.

My suggestion

For this reason I think the main focus here should not be on the chess (though there are some interesting questions about how Patty thinks and if there are potential for adding some ways of thinking to the mix – f.ex. by reading Positional Play and do the exercises in that book), but on why Patty is so tense during the game.

There are some people that believe that when you feel agitated, stressed or in other way in a sense of urgency, you perform better. They probably would not express it in this way, but they act as if it is true. So, I would call it a firm life strategy.

I believe that I can do anything with passion and joy without losing focus or perform worse. My results show that it has worked for me. Obviously I do not enjoy losing, but I do not fear it and I do not fall apart when it happens, as many other people do (whether or not it is their behaviour towards themselves or others that malfunction is irrelevant to me; their character collapses, which is bad). I would suggest focusing on playing good moves and enjoying the thrill of the fight more than focusing on the result and feeling terrified about it.

There are some people that only can function under pressure. There are also people who can only function if they had their fix of caffeine, nicotine, heroine or whatever. To use adrenaline is maybe less unhealthy, but it is not healthy and it is not a great strategy. If this is you, think it over.

I see confidence as preparation in action. You will feel more confident during the game and have more confidence in what you are doing, if you have done training. Deciding to do things another way, without training your neural pathways to do it rarely works. And when it works it is never with anything as difficult as chess.

So, do training, be conscious of what you are training and pay attention to whether or not you are actually managing to train what you are trying to train in the process. It will get easier all the same, as it is with learning any new skill.




36 thoughts on “Fixed on one idea – A common scenario”

    This is insane. I haven’t read that book yet but I’m sure nothing Jacob writes deserves less than 5/6 or 4/5 stars rating. Please Jacob, don’t answer that bullshit review, they don’t deserve your time.

    What a logic!
    Because Rieger is too weak a player to understand the positions the book must be bad.
    He should limit himself to reviewing books from Schiller or Keene. They may be closer to his own mind.

  3. Jacob Aagaard

    This is hilarious! I cannot be bothered to read the review in full; I have more pressing things on my mind, but as I can understand the book is too difficult for Mr. Rieger. I can see that the exercises he has chosen to include in the review are some of the more difficult ones. I can honestly admit to this, that in a book that would be 1000 pages if it was spread out in the way our books normally are, about half of the material is quite advanced and will put a player rated 2103 under a lot of pressure. However, there are also exercises he can solve with certainty and about half the book will be very useful for him.

    Actually, I was thinking when I put the book together that some of the exercises were far too easy for strong players; but decided to keep them in for those rated below 2200. The series is not aimed at these players, (Yusupov’s books covers that ground), but at players with a realistic chance of becoming grandmasters.

    A German GM disliked Attack & Defence on the account that the exercises were too difficult. I have gone through them with many IMs and GMs and know exactly what level they are at. And it is exactly the level I intended.

    Some people will not find my books useful for how they work with chess and how they think chess. They do not meet everyone where they are and this is fine. I do not think Mr Rieger is wrong to say that the book was not useful for him.

    Endgame Play is a high level book aimed at players aiming to make title norms, who frequently play tournaments and want high level training material. Martin Rieger has played three FIDE tournaments since 2000. The book is not aimed at his level. We have a lot of other books that are and I hope he will find them more useful.

  4. Jacob Aagaard

    I talked to Matthew Sadler on Saturday and he is half way through Endgame Play. He was very complimentary, though he was clearly holding back until he had reached the end to come with a final judgement (I think he is going through the entire series to review it all in one go). I was very pleased with what he did say and I felt that somehow I had managed to achieve what I wanted to achieve with the book.

    I do not know if Matthew’s endgame skills have improved after reading the book, as I sadly never made it out of the early middlegame alive in the two games we played…

  5. I read the review. It is quite harsh indeed. The reviewer reasons that the book is only suitable to titled players, and that the lower-rated player doesn’t learn any ‘rules of thumb’ from the solutions to the exercises (which he calls a ‘table-base dump’). I guess this is another case of ‘this is a bad movie because I don’t like science fiction’.

  6. Jacob Aagaard

    I do not mind a review like this. The book does not appeal to a big market and I do not want people to buy my books if they cannot benefit from them. The idea that the book is for FMs and up is hardly news and as a criticism it is silly. But I am happy that the message get out there that this is the target audience.

    The idea that I would teach Andrew Greet (1 GM-norm and in the middle of the target audience) rules of thumb is funny. I might actually try to do that and see if he punches me…

  7. Jacob Aagaard

    Btw. Rieger gave a good review of Attack & Defence, which was more to his taste.

    You cannot please everyone all the time. I hope Rieger will like my next book, which will be much different from the style of the Grandmaster Preparation books and have far more words and not that many moves in it!

  8. Not too many people here in Germany are interested in Rieger’s reviews.

    Writing about “Playing the French” he tells us that at his level the 1988 edition of Watson’s is enough. Maybe one could add that probably any edition of MCO would do the same in his case.

  9. Jacob Aagaard

    Two minor points:

    1) Any review of a book is generally good. It means more people will know it exists.

    2) I am happy that the high level of the books are known. I do not want people to be unhappy customers with Quality Chess and we have the EXCELLENT series by Artur Yusupov for players rated between 1500-2300 (of course Germans will get Artur’s self-published German edition).

    I do want to do something else for others later on. But at the moment I am doing this high level stuff.

  10. Jacob Aagaard

    I am of course happy with the support, but Rieger should also be commended. It is easy to give your views honestly under a synonym, but Rieger puts his name on it and will at times find himself criticised for it. For no reward but a free book – which he in this case did not even like.

    At times it is interesting to discuss reviews, but here it makes little sense.

  11. Even if it’s not more than just a free copy, I’d expect more from a review. Some basic things: What kind of book is it? Who is the target? Of course, what even embarasses more are those reviews by other reviewers who never critisize anything, and by coincidence keep reviewing stuff from the same seller all the time. So it’s good if someone is critical. But he should have read the book and should have tried to understand it. Otherwise it’s worthless. And just to write a review to be “part of the scene” is not what I want to read.
    I understand that for the editor it is publicity, so you see it as a good thing. For a player it’s annoying.

  12. Jacob Aagaard :
    1) Any review of a book is generally good. It means more people will know it exists.

    I’d have appreciated a more realistic review. Do you want to express your concerns? Ok, give the book 3 stars out of 5, or even 2 out of 5. One star is ridiculous.

  13. Jacob Aagaard

    Not yet. I want a cover before I talk more about it. I am co-writing a book with a friend. It is something less work intensive than the Grandmaster Preparation series, but also very enjoyable. The idea is that it needs to be like the Attacking Manuals and Judit books; something you can read.

  14. Jacob Aagaard

    I have some ideas; but first I need to finish Grandmaster Preparation. But I am not sure the difference in level from Chess Evolution 3 and Positional Play is that great?!

  15. @Jacob Aagaard
    I was joking; there have been some strong suggestions before on this blog for an ‘ intermediate’ series. Personally, I’m perfectly fine with two series! Sorry for being a bit sarcastic 🙂

  16. @Jacob Aagaard,
    could I have your e-mail address? I want to show you an interesting variation from your book.

    1. Jacob Aagaard

      It is on the website, where you would expect it to be. If I put it here my spam quote goes up :-).

  17. Jacob Aagaard

    Yes, we saw this a week ago or so. I think the reviewer would be better off with Yusupov’s books, but I am glad he liked the book all the same.

  18. Jacob Aagaard :
    For no reward but a free book – which he in this case did not even like.

    Thomas :
    Even if it’s not more than just a free copy, I’d expect more from a review.

    Hi there, I am new to this blog.

    Well, when I say new I mean new to writing on this blog. I have been reading it for at least the last 2 years. I have to say that it has some of the most interesting and unusual discussions on any website. That is why I love it. There is stuff you won’t find on any other chess website.

    I enjoyed especially Mr. Aagaards’s ‘juice diet’ and the ‘review the reviewer’ type debates. This site is an especially nice way to relax between studying.

    Anyway, the first time I came across QualityChess was when I was 8 years and my dad got me a copy of My System. At that time, I had no idea who the publishing company was and all I know was that it was an excellent book. I loved the paper, the chatty and fluent English
    and the big, clear diagrams. I enjoyed the book so much that I read it 3 times before I was 9.

    When I was 10, my dad got me 2 books for my birthday: ‘Playing 1.d4 – The Queen’s Gambit’ by Lars Schandorff and published by you guys and ‘Play the Catalan’ by Nigel Davies and Everyman.

    That was when I became aware of the different chess publishers. The striking difference I noticed was not just that Mr. Schandorff’s writing and repertoire was of a much higher quality but so was the book itself (i.e. the paper, cover, binding etc.). The brand Quality Chess really did stick in my mind.

    I enjoyed the book so much that I used it for the next 3 years. I always hoped that a 2nd edition would come out, as well as one on the Indian Defences. I was overjoyed when they did and we immediately bought those 2 books too, as well as Avrukh’s books.

    Every single book we have bought from Quality Chess was not just high quality, but a game-changer for me.

    The books that we have purchased from Quality Chess so far:
    My System
    Playing 1.d4
    Avrukh’s 1.d4 Repertoire

    Currently I am working away at the GM Prep. series, Calculation and Positional Play to be precise. Brilliant books, and perfect for me. They are challenging, but solvable.

    I basically want to say thanks a lot for all the great work that Quality Chess is doing – to Jacob Aagaard, John Shaw and the rest of the team.

    The only way how I can imagine Quality Chess improving is publishing more books (even though they obviously focus on quality over quantity).

    Finally, referring to the quotes above.

    What do you mean, only a book? If I had a chance to get the book and all I have to do is just write a good and thorough review, heck, I would definitely take it! I mean, the books are + – 35$ and then shipping to South Africa.

    For any of the Quality Chess books, I would wish I had the chance write a review and get the book.


    Regards, TheDragon

    1. Jacob Aagaard

      I mean that if the reviewer did not like the book, he spent his time reading it and not liking the process. Or in this case maybe not reading it :-).

  19. There are two things I dislike about Rieger’s review. He classifies Jacob as “Vielschreiber” i.e. someone who writes a lot of books in short time. I would apply this attribute to Lakdawala but not to Jacob -and actually looking at the number of reviews one may attribute it to Mr. Rieger too. The second thing is that he didn’t read the title. It seems people are so used to exagerations in chess book titles that they seem to ignore the “GM preparation” part. The rest of the review is ok for me. He even mentions the book may be useful for stronger and more ambitious players. He makes very clear the book just doesn’t meet his expectations which may be more of a problem of his expectations than of the book. Evaluations are always subjective, this is ok as long as it becomes obvious what the criteria of the reviewer are. Don’t forget, 95% of chess players are weaker than 2100, so a statement that this is not a suitable book him has some worth. It’s actually very bold from Quality Chess to write books for the remaining 5%.

    Someone asked me to write a review of Avrukh’s slav book. I’m still undecided because I have mixed feelings about the book while I’m still working my way through it. On the one hand it’s a fantastic book and it’s clear Avrukh put a lot of work into it, on the other hand it’s not my cup of tea because there are a lot of sharp variations in it which is not my type of approach to the Slav (at least not yet). Then it’s a “GM repertoire” and the various transpositions to a6-Slav, Schlechter-Slav or even Semi-Slav require the skill to play a broad variety of structures. Weaker players like me just prefer more insipid approaches (which may be one of the reasons why we are weak …) . So I’m sitting in the “Rieger trap” with a splendid book which just isn’t for me.

  20. @wok64
    Even if many books are aimed at GM level, it doesn’t mean non-GM players can’t enjoy them and benefit from them. I can play a Mozart piece even if I’m not Mozart and will never become.

  21. @Indra Polak. Me too.

    The idea is to get it before Matrix or if really close during my gap year. Once I am (hopefully) a GM, I can decide whether to carry on playing chess or switch to Actuarial Sciences.

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