WARNING: Prepare for extreme eclecticism
First, I discovered a real treat in Elizabeth Vicary's USCL news and gossip blog, wherein her sense of humor and the absurd are allowed to shine through in a way that's not appropriate in her very competent reporting for the USCF (example). In a word, I find this blog hilarious. In a recent post though, she makes a semi-serious point:
The most recent issue of New In Chess Magazine has a letter from a reader, David Wright of Sacramento, who takes Jonathan Rowson to task for his condescending review of Josh Waitzkin’s book The Art of Learning. While Rowson makes it clear that he essentially likes the book, his main point is that Josh can’t really be so good at learning or he would have made GM. David Wright’s point is that this attitude is more ungenerous than it is correct, and I think I agree. But it's also par for the course in the chess world: the belief that the higher your rating is, the more you have a right to an opinion. If you’re not at least a master, or in Josh’s case a grandmaster, then your experience is inauthentic and doesn’t really count. And you certainly shouldn’t have the arrogance to write a best-selling book.
Now I happen to love J. Rowson's writing--in fact I'm devouring Chess for Zebras right now-- but Elizabeth hits the nail on the head here; related to this idea that if you're not highly rated you can't write a worthwhile chess book is a kind of "desperate elitism" that's endemic around the chess scene, where 1700-rated people who are mediocrities in the game of life turn up their noses at 1300- rated guys who arrive at the club in BMWs, and are in turn looked down upon by 2200-rated people who can't drive a car, hold a job or take a shower.
I'm exaggerating for effect here, but I challenge anybody who has attended clubs and tournaments for any length of time to tell me this isn't true: For a certain portion of us chess geeks rating is a substitute for failures in other areas of life and lack of self-esteem. And a portion of GMs and IMs have the same syndrome, only worse: "I'm a Chess God, and I don't have time to bother with you Little People." This is not true of all strong players, and I could name several that I've talked to at tournaments who turned out to be very nice people. But when you have a high rating it's tempting to correlate ratings with intelligence and success. As much as I love and enjoy the game I can also see a bigger picture, and I'm not buying into that at all.
On a somewhat related note, over at Mig Greengard's Daily Dirt I spotted some more high-level drivel in this post:
I've often said that elite chess is a very different game from amateur chess
Yeah, I've often read this sort of horseshit before, too. Some old book by Reinfeld made a statement like this, and I laughed then--that's what they would like us to think, so we'll keep stroking their egos and paying them for books and lessons. Now Mig was talking about openings and all the super-duper high-level mysterious inscrutable prep these guys go through in order to keep up--but let's try the sentence with some substitutions:
I've often said that NFL football is a very different game from sandlot football
Well, the players are bigger, faster and more skilled and they spend all freakin' day working out, practicing, watching film and planning their plays. It's the same damned game, but played at a higher level. So is the chess in Mexico City versus what will be going on at the Reno Chess Club this evening.
Back to Elizabeth Vicary for a moment; in the comments to her most recent post "anonymous" (who seems, very, very busy in that thread) says, "What kind of attitude would you expect from someone who has spent 15 years as an A/Expert player. Break 2200 someday, and then, maybe, the grandiose opinions you have for yourself may not be so insulting to people who have earned their ratings, titles and ability." She replied:
Oh, I'm sorry, anonymous. I didn't mean to insult your enormous rating. It's a shame we can't all appreciate it because you are too CHICKENSH*T to post under your own name. You know why I get to express my opinions? Because it's MY BLOG.
Bravo! And this is MY BLOG here, and I have a USCF rating of 1607 and and IQ of 140. I'd estimate my rating at life its own self at 2300, and rising. And I, too, allow anonymous comments, so let the games begin.