Thursday, September 27, 2007

Ratings Snobs, "Different Games" and Piles of Horse Dung

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.


Anonymous said...

You come off as pretty pathetic. If you're so intelligent why is your rating a measly 1607? Higher rated players know what they're talking about, you obviously don't.

Sciurus said...

Long live the patzer!

Reading the anonymous comment I remembered a study (one of the many...) on the connection between intelligence and chess skill that was mentioned here at the great Streatham & Brixton Blog: Chess skill has nothing to do with high intelligence (may be even other way around ;-)

BTW, I am even lower rated and still have opinions.

Wahrheit said...

Very interesting link, Sciurus, thanks! The comments are a gas.

Eric Shoemaker said...

Hi Robert, I too not believe chess and intelligence have anything to do with it.

But here's my take on the matter:

As one of the higher-rated snobs, I can honestly say that the entire reason I seldom strike up long conversations on chess with lower rated players is because I hate listening to them! I can tell right away and almost immediately that they are clueless and this makes them burdensome to listen to.

And quite frankly, they haven't earned the right to get my ear to listen to their concepts, which are usually false. Bottom line: Get your rating out of the tank and join the higher rated players, or quit your belly-aching!

And sure, there are a lot of lower rated players driving fancy cars and making more money than the better players, and guess what?

I don't see them helping society with their money and putting it to more humanitarian causes! In fact, I see them practically hoarding it!

As far as intelligence is concerned, in my own opinion, a liberal arts education kicks butt on any other type! Once you've read most of the Literary Canon in English Literature, Italian Literature, History and Philosophy, the rest of the world is playing catch-up...Believe me!

My I.Q. fluctuates between 129-131, "borderline genius", if my information is correct, and this is the worst place to be because it means that not only are we capable of doing really great things, but we're just as capable of doing really stupid things!

I know for sure I am guilty of having done both in my life.

Perhaps I'm wrong and if I am, I'll be the first to admit here and in the open. But you don't seem to me to be a man with a 140 I.Q., at least not in our conversations and I'm guessing you haven't read what is necessary. If you had, I would certainly have noticed.

As far as your chess is concerned, you're 1607. If you want respect, then that rating needs to come up. No one gets respect or even deserves respect unless they earn it and that's over the board when it comes to chess. Anything is else is bullshit.

The Masters and the Grandmasters would treat me the same way and I'm probably more successful than they are away from the board, but you know what?

I'm the one that needs to improve my game if I want their respect and that's the simple truth.

We may be snobs at times, but no more so than the lower-rated players driving their fancy cars and having nice homes. You guys are the ones who want their cake and eat it too, not us.

If I want respect from GM's and other Masters, then it makes sense that I have to earn it by working hard for it.

How is that any different than if I was making lots of money, driving fancy cars and had a good career? That too had to be earned, but you don't see too many of us higher-rateds getting on your case for being snobbish as you have done here with us with the higher rating over the board.

That's my take. Get your rating out of the tank and I in turn will bring my income up and then all of us will have no more cause to complain or envy each other!

That's the bottom line!


Eric Shoemaker said...

I should also say that my income is likely to jump $25,000-$40,000 on top of what I make now in the next year or two, simply because I went back to school and did what was necessary.

Lower-Rated chess players have to follow this good example. Meaning, less time worrying about money and more time at the board.

GM Igor Ivanov is a good example of a good chess player who was practically a drunken bum away from the board. He needed to work harder away from the board "IF" he wanted respect away from it.

The same holds true of lower-rated chess players who may very well be successful away from the board--in other words, put more work into it.

Quite frankly Robert, I'm a little surprised at the side you're taking because you don't play often enough at the club to warrant this position you're taking.

And remember, you said 'bring it on' in your post. You knew this was coming. No higher rated player is going to let a lower rated player talk like you did in your last post.

As for "anonymous", I'm liking you less also. Hiding behind that title is exactly that--hiding...and where I come from, we don't hide and we don't coward down to anyone. If you got an opinion and you also want a little respect, then you don't get to hide behind words like "anonymous."

How many cowards deserve respect? How many of the world's great societies in history were founded on cowardice? None that I'm aware of, Mister! And I should know, being a History Major and an English Literature Major as well. I know my history and I know words and I don't hide behind them!

I bet your rating is in the tank also.

I should also say this, if you're rating is not "2000" and above, you're a big nobody in the chess world--so stop acting as if more respect is deserved somehow from others, because it's not.

A scrub is a scrub is a scrub is a scrub...


Eric Shoemaker said...

By the way, I have to clarify this as some readers may be thinking I'm a little too harsh on Robert Pearson lately. I have been a little harsh, but I also give credit where credit is due and here is a good place to do that so that I cannot be accused of being unfair:

I won my third 'Budapest Gambit' tonight and thus stole another painting!--See my post "The Budapest Gambit: The Art Thief Mentality."

To date, since my adoption of this eccentricity of mine, ONLY Robert Pearson knew what to do against it. All others were surprised and did not know the theory.

transformation said...

love it!

BTW, my wall street rating is 2550. i have often said this.

but in life, i am only 1749.

as a chef, i am maybe 1950.

i appreciate your self esteem. all healthy, if you ask me.

bravo! love this robert you show us!

Eric Shoemaker said...

Hi Transformation, I agree. Self-esteem is a healthy thing as long as your honest about your abilities.

I know Robert's not a whelp, so he'll take out the sword in a minute, unless he totally rethinks his position on this.

It's all good fun! "2550 Wall Street" is pretty good. A lot of players can't say that regardless of their ratings! But New York has rather large rats!


Wahrheit said...

Hi Eric, thanks for your response(s)! I was trying to stir the pot a bit and am glad I promoted some discussion take on a few of your main points:

I wasn't trying to get personal by talking about "ratings snobs" or identify any individual as such; indeed, it seems obvious that in certain respects higher-rated are usually much more worthwhile to listen to on certain chess subjects, like in a postmortem. However, I think it's a sign of openness and objectivity when a higher-rated takes the ideas of a lower-rated on their own merits, for example in a postmortem--I've seen times when the "lesser" player came up with a good idea. Not as often, but it happens.

I probably shouldn't have brought up my own IQ but it was to make a point--as a matter of fact I read that Einstein liked chess but was mediocre at it. The number I gave is based on two tests I took back in my 20s. My rating was once over 1800 and now it's 1600, but I don't think I was smarter then than I am now, which is the point. Chess results are pretty specialized, "intelligence" as we use the term here is general. Honestly, chess is a lot like "Halo 3" or some other complex video game in that it takes a lot of practice to get good, some people have more natural talent than others, and skill at either is not necessarily indicative of general intelligence or success in other areas of life. This was the main point I was getting at.

I love chess, I love to play it, and I regret that I haven't been able to play serious games as often in the last couple of months as I'd like--but two nights taking care of sick family, one seeing my brother from out of state and one on a family vacation were probably the right things to do and actually more important in the larger picture. We all get the rating we deserve, in the long run, which is what is good about it--but a high rating is no substitute for a well-rounded, happy life.

GMs and IMs might look down on you for your so-called "low" rating of 1940 or so, but how many of them know the history and literature that you do? Not many...I think I'd consider you the better man, in a larger sense.

I'd much rather have you around if some real world asskicking had to be done, anyway, as opposed to most of the GMs I've met!

Eric Shoemaker said...

Hi Robert, I'm still on line, your comment at the end made me laugh, especially since I have known for a long time now that I'm basically a closet tyrant when it comes to politics and it's a good thing I'm not in power, or some real ass-kicking as you put it would certainly get done!

I can tell that I'm getting older though, because lately, I've been leaning towards "Aristocracy" as a better form of government.

The "Democracy" we have now needs to be seriously overhauled, but unfortunately there is no Sulla Felix or Julius Caesar anywhere in sight!

Back to chess, last night's game was really kind of weird...Here's why:

All throughout my game with Norm Wyatt, I had Beck's "Que Onda Guero" repeating itself in my head and so my concentration was only at about 80%.

Beck is a really talented and rather eccentric musician, very original. You can catch some of his stuff on YouTube.Com

My favorites are "Nausea"; "Loser" and "The New Pollution."

Maybe my opponents should listen to "Beck" when they play chess; what do you think?


transformation said...

seattle. rats here own crampons and ice axes, caffinated then sedated with beer in the off hours.

according to Ken Wilber, span = depth, or is that Hooks Law?

all those guys who say they are architects who never passed the exam annoy me. try going around (unless you stayed at a Holiday Inn Express last night :) and saying you are a lawyer or doctor or cpa but been to school, but never passed all the test???? f-ck!

so when you pass the exam, then do it for ten years, it tends to legitemize (sp?) the title and qualification.

viz walls street, to have been there so intensely and then leave there (read get fired; DK telling one customer: 'you husband is weak') tends to validate the view.

i was a big boy. bought and sold 100m+ in stock, using these same fingers. maybe 150 million. the leasons, not unlike rook and pawn or in blitz does ten to sink in.

not every car salesman is rotten. not every surgeon a butcher. good and bad everywhere.

what i did, was very honest work, but, then again, not every Morgan Stanley broker wore saftey orange turtleneck shirts to work every day (and i mean bright orange) with orange socks.

i studied with a guru who lived in india with Maharishi most of the time at morgan, then Swami Chetanandana of Portland before that, who got transmission from Muktananda and Nytananda. those were the real big boys.

fire coming from the eyes.

nice to make a new friend. ill link to you.

warmest, dk

transformation said...

my fantasy life would be to be a totalitarian dictator, and punish for example ghetto kids throwing mcdonalds bags all over my lawn, or fizz pop plastic pouches, or lock up neighbors tunning a high performance car three doors down (vroom, vrooommm, vroooommm) at two am despite it being a week night, and folks sleeping... (last night) the height of selfishness.

clint eastwood, gun in face: "make my day".

transformation said...

Jung's version of the double.

"This entry comes from "Jung for Beginners", Maggie Hyde and Michael Guinness. Icon Books Cambridge 1992. I have taken from pages 1 to 13 and 86 to 89.

"I've taken only a few pages of this profusely illustrated book and slightly rearranged the material so that it is easier to read. I know little of Jung, I have read a few of his books and have found it difficult to give to him the general acclaim that seems to be associated with his name. But that's just my experience to date.

"It strikes me that Jung's Number One personably (which he later called the Ego) and Number Two personality (which he later called the shadow) fit into the following schemata...

"Personality Number Two is the Double, the part of us which links to Jung's concept of instincts and has the possession of our body. While, personality Number One is the soul - the equilibrium focal area between our higher self (which is cosmic in scope) and the Double (which Jung addresses as Number Two, or the Shadow). In my suggested schemata Jung's Number One (Jung's Ego ... or my soul) is our daily personality. To this Jung attached the "Persona" a special personality we create to facilitate our daily social interactions.

"It is note worthy that Jung never did formulate a Higher Self, a spiritual aspect that is part of the total cosmos. I suspect there are two reasons for this. One he trained as medical doctor with a 19th century scientific orientation, and he lived and functioned in that world. And two, having a spiritualist church rather than an esoteric upbringing he would have had difficulty in conceiving a higher self as part of the human personality.

"Jung's boyhood soul - searching.
Carl Jung was born in 1875 in Switzerland, the only son of a Evangelical minister. His family was steeped in religion Jung had 8 uncles in the clergy as well as his maternal grandfather, Samuel Preiswerk who was a pastor in Basel. Every week the respected pastor had contact with a different world - the spirit world. He conversed with deceased first wife, while his second wife (Jung's grandmother) and his daughter (Jung's mother) listened in.

"Jung experienced his mother as dark and unpredictable, " rooted in deep, invisible ground". She knew the world of the uncanny and she could be frightening and erratic. She used to stand behind her father to keep the bad spirits away while he wrote his sermons.

"Jung was a strange melancholic child who had no brothers or sisters until he was nine, so he played his own imaginary games.

"He used to sit an a rock and ask, "Am I the one sitting on the stone? Or am I the stone on which he {Carl Jung} is sitting?"

"'But, I have a secret, none of you know anything about it! You don't know that God wants to force me to do wrong - to think abominations - in order to experience his grace!'

"Jung brooded on his secret, in vain he searched in his father's library for more information.

"At other times Jung would sit on his rock and it would free him from his turmoils. Jung had a strong suspicion there was something eternal in himself, some "other" in him which was like the stone ... "It knows my secret, it is the secret, because it's thousands of years old."

"Jung came to believe that he had two different personalities, which he named Number 1 and Number 2.

"Number one was involved in the ordinary, everyday world. He could burst into emotions and seemed childish and undisciplined. Yet he was also ambitious for academic success, studying science and aiming to achieve a civilized, prestigious life style.

"Number two personality was much more troublesome, the "Other", identified with the stone and the secret of Gods grace. Number Two carried meaning and seemed to stretch back into history in a mysterious manner.

"Jung associated his Number Two dimension with the uncanny world of his mother. He carved a little man wearing a black frock-coat and boots and placed him with a stone, in a pencil case that he stashed way in a forbidden place in the attic. In this simple, primitive way, he felt in touch with his Number Two.

"Jung's struggle to reconcile his Number One and Number Two worlds persisted throughout his adolescence. He recalls his twelfth year when "he learned what a neurosis is". He shirked school with mysterious fainting spells, a "whole bag of tricks" that worried his father who was told by doctor that perhaps his son suffered from epilepsy. He conquered his dizzy spells with an effort of will.

"Jung identified more and more with Number One personality and his newly discovered sense of self. The Number Two world began to slip away. He grew into a tall, handsome, athletic and physically strong young man. Throughout his life these qualities, along side his loud booming laugh and infectious hearty love of life, gave him tremendous physical presence and enormous charisma, especially with women.

"One of Jung's four archetypal figures ... the ego and the shadow.
During his student days Jung had a dream ...

"On a dark and foggy night, when there was a high wind blowing and he struggled to protect his Light from the wind Jung perceived a black shadow following him - he recognized it as his own shadow cast by his light.

"'Light' and 'Shadow' where Jung's Number One and Number Two personalities which he later recast as the archetypal figures of Ego and Shadow.

"He saw the Ego as fragile, the precious light of consciousness that had to be guarded, protected and cultivated.

"The Ego is a person's sense of purpose and identity. A healthy Ego {ie, a well functioning 'Soul'} balances the conscious and unconscious elements of the psyche. A weakened Ego leaves an individual "in the dark", in danger of being swamped by chaotic unconscious images.

"The Shadow, the dark side, is not wholly bad, but it is primitive and unadapted. It vitalizes life. We must face it honestly. Infact one of the first steps in counseling is to make the patient aware of the "Ego-Shadow" relationship.

"The Ego and Shadow are personified by Dr Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, the classic "good and bad" split in all of us. Mr Hyde becomes a real danger to the psychic health when the Ego itself screws up."

so, yes, i love this robert two. let us see more of him, and less of the church boy. wildRob. dangerous governement employee.

Eric Shoemaker said...

Hi Trans...I actually prefer Nietzsche to Jung, especially his work "Ecce Homo" which suggests that each one of us must "create" himself because we are not born to be anyone idea already.

All of us do have "gifts", but we must seek and search in order to find out who we are.

The most important question anyone can ever ask themselves is: Who Am I?

If Nietzsche is right, then it is a life-long effort to become exactly what we want to become, if only because it's not easy to find out all of your gifts.

For example, "What if you were the world's best downhill skier?" How would you know it if you never took up the sport?

Why didn't you take it up? Most likely, your time was taken up by something else...another sport? Girls? Music? Philosophy? Another subject? Hardships? The environment wasn't there? (it's a little hard to ski in warm climates).

But still...hidden away like infectious disease is the ultimate downhill racer! And you might not know it.

Nietzsche says one must find these secrets in themselves, regardless of difficulties.

But as usual, we as humans are here only a short time. Some of us may never know who we really are!

One thing is certain, if you were not who you are now, then you would be most certainly someone else...and probably according to environment.

What if all of us are really downhill racers and not chess players? How would we really know? And what about downhill racers? Might they not be good chess players if they had our background?

Nietzsche's "Ecce Homo" raises interesting questions. Go ahead an link up...


transformation said...

eric, i lived, ate, breathed Nietzsche AFTER reading a lot of Schopenhauer, my guiding lights at age 17-19.

i read beyond good and evil until it delaminated and almost disintegrated.

now i cannot read him but appreciate him.

needless to say, i went beyond all that, to the Upanishads, the Dhamapada, the whole nine yards, almost Fulbright to Japan, etc...

but, in the end, my cat has a Sanskrit name: Shruti for Vedas.

Jung, too, is a thing of the past. now you know what i read? i read people. i read my body. i read my breath. i read the news. i read between the line in corporate BS. i read the female mystery. i read vegetables.

i thirst for no books now, but thirst to be reality based in my community, work environment, and intimate social mileau. authenticity is the real book i worship.

and, i read a lot of great blogs, the true wild west of the cyber 21st century haydays. some may feel we are late, but, i can assure you, many of us are TRUE PIONEERS!

links were added tripartite.

Loomis said...

The problem isn't that higher rated players are snobs in post-mortems or other analysis sessions. I have no problem with a high rated player being the boss when it comes to chess -- that they've earned.

The problem is that chess players often try to carry what they've earned on the chess board to the rest of life. When chess players are together, for some reason their ratings impact every social interactions, chess related or not. That to me is bizarre.

By the way, whatever happened to brevity as the soul of wit. ;-)

Blue Devil Knight said...

Shoemaker: it sounds like you will make an excellent teacher.

Fischer is proof that chess genius is not correlated with worthwhile opinions outside of the 64 squares.

Bringing up IQ is another way to jump for ersatz self-esteem. Or degrees one has. Or where one went to college. Or how much money one has.

Many of these ego-polishers have come up in this one thread. It seems toxic at many levels. No wonder women hate this game. Bunch of guys waving their wands around trying to outdo each other :)

What I like about the blogosphere is that there is usually very little of that posturing crap. I don't care who you are in the blogosphere: if you don't have good arguments and reasons to back up what you say, then go home. If I want pronouncements I'll go to church. This is the ultimate intellectual democracy and if you don't have the patience to explain your genius to others, then we won't have the patience to listen to you.

Rowson sounds like a wanker. What he said is offensive to virtue at many levels.

Temposchlucker said...

I wish I had a rating an IQ and a BMW.

Eric Shoemaker said...

Hi Blue Devil, your instincts are very good. I'm actually studying to become a University Professor and will teach History and English Literature.

As for the I.Q. posturing. I hope I didn't sound too bad. I've taken five I.Q. tests in the last 8 years and I've scored 129 twice and 131 three times.

But I know some sharp people, not living up to their potential who should go back to school but haven't and would easily outscore me on any I.Q. test.

I met GM Samuel Reshevsky in a Simul once and to be quite frank, I thought he was kind of arrogant. It didn't seem to me that he had any real intelligence that was, say beyond anyone elses.

That said, however, he was an excellent chess player and as a 1. d4 player myself, Reshevsky was certainly an influence on me.

In case you're wondering, he kicked my butt in the Simul! He was a very little man with very large moves on the chess board!!


katar said...

good article..... until you publish your IQ and "life rating" with your nose in the air-- a most unfortunate irony.

-patrick, IQ withheld.