Monday, October 01, 2007

A Little Follow-on

My previous post on Ratings Snobs, "Different Games" and Piles of Horse Dung succeeded in starting some stimulating discussion, and for that I am grateful. Today, a brief expansion of a couple of points:

1) Publishing my IQ and my estimated rating at "life" (2300) were both given in a spirit of humor and humility--hmmm, if I'm so smart why am I a mid-level bureaucrat with 1607 USCF rating :)--but Loomis summed up what I was trying to get at very nicely:

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 interaction, chess related or not. That to me is bizarre.

Well and succinctly said!

I guess I could also sum it up by saying having a 2200 rating doesn't make you a Master of Life, nor does it make your opinion on who ought to be the next President of the U.S. or any other political or social issue worth more than that of a person rated 1200.

2) I got on Mig Greengard for writing:

I've often said that elite chess is a very different game from amateur chess

but meant the critique mainly for the terminology ("a very different game"). To expand, the difference at the very top (say 2700+ or -; there's no bright line) is that the opponent isn't going to make very many mistakes (though few games will be "perfect"), and so obtaining some advantage as White, or equality as Black, is a lot more important than at lower levels. Even at the 2500-2600 level a GM is going to get more opportunities in most games, with either color, to redress the balance after an inaccuracy or two. So in a tournament like Mexico City openings are more important than for the rest of us, agreed. But the terminology employed seems designed to separate these guys as some kind of demigods or something--us chess proletarians just don't understand what's going on, y'know. But if that's really true, why should the rest of us waste our time looking at the games, buying these guys' books or supporting Superduper-GM chess in any way, when we could be spending it on our tactics exercises and studying our own games? I'm just sayin', that's where the "different game" logic leads.

Anyway, heartiest congratulation to Anand, World Champion. Better get those openings ready for Kramnik...


John Clifford said...

Hi Robert,
You seem to have unleashed a lot of angst with your previous post. I am personally quite aware of the snobbery which exists in chess. Like many of us I have experienced higher rated players look at me as if I had just learned to walk upright. If I am honest I have been both the doner and the recipient of such unjustified contempt. Chess snobbery appears to be universal. Snobbery exists in every walk of life though in chess it appears to be in extra abundance. In London they say jokingly that if 3 chess players walk through a doorway they will walk through it in order of their rating. Perhaps the rating is the cause. I don't know if there are many other sports where a club level player can know so readily if he/she is better than someone they have never or rarely played. Ratings are analogous to ranking and perceived ranking is at the core of snobbery. There is also the psychological aspect. A higher rated player already has a psychological advantage over a lower rated player, and if they talk down to that player with regard to any matter it serves to amplify that advantage. In the limited and bounded world of chess if someone puts you down in any way, the best way to deal with it is probably not to complain about it but to beat them and say nothing. Results speak volumes. If you are unable to do this then within the parameters of the chess world the chess snobs may be justified.
John Clifford

PS Looks like I might be playing you on Thursday. As our ratings are almost identical I don't know which one of us will be able to look down on the other. Maybe we should base it on IQs. My IQ is 141.

Blue Devil Knight said...

I wonder how girls think of this. "I am rated higher than you, I hope I can help you improve." Versus boys "I am rated higher than you. I will crush you."

Yes, I know I shouldn't generalize. It took a while to filter some of the snobbery (which I take as shorthand for hypermasculine competitiveness) in academia, and it has helped attract female faculty. To the extent that it remains, it attracts masculine hypercompetitive women. Women who are more traditional, who want families, tend to leave academia. It seems very similar in chess.

That's why we need Barbie chess. :)

wang said...

Loomis said it the best. When I competed in Judo people of different belts would interact and there was never a problem with snobbery. You would always have a few dicks out there but by and large people got along and there wasn't a division by belt color when we were hanging out.

The difference with chess is that it is strictly a mental endavor there is no physical aspect to it. I think this leads to the snobbery. People feel that a higher rating makes them smarter. There is a guy I know that is rated significantly lower than me. I never have a need to treat him differently or be snobbish to him. I don't understand this behavior at all. It is like the arrogance I encountered when I was in training in the Navy. All of these really smart kids that were to become Nuclear Reactor Operators and their enormous egos and blind belief in their mental superiority to everyone else.

Wahrheit said...

Thanks everyone--good comments! I think the rating number and its apparent scientific exactitude is one factor that make it different from the belt system of martial arts, even though statistically 50 ratings points mean very little.

John--I guess after our next game whoever wins will be smarter (hehe).

BDK--anything that brings women to chess is great. What I've read of the Polgar tournaments and others like them make me think you're on to something; the girls play hard, but also cooperate more with their "enemies" between rounds.

Wang--I was in the Navy too. Nucs start out smart but their brains get radiated and they end up whacked...

wang said...


That would explain so much about me...

Man my chess skillz are only going to get worse :O

Eric Shoemaker said...

Well...I said it before and now I guess I'll have to say it again.

Get your rating out of the tank. If you want additional respect in chess, you earn it and you do this by playing well, not just once, but several times.

It's the same unbelievable concept as when you land your dream career, get a nice car or SUV, buy a nice house, get married, maybe have a couple of kids and are basically successful in life.

You earned it! So why is any different in chess? The upper board club players and the Experts and the Masters and the Grandmasters and the World Title Candidates and the World Champion do not owe you anything!

To be sure, they could be friendlier on other topics or more personable people, but as for chess, they do not need to hold your hand.

I have listened to a lot of lower rated players and one of the things I hate the most is when they quote from a chess book and in the same and very next sentence out of their mouth, they decide they will not listen to the authority who wrote the book. In other words, suddenly...they try and refute the author!

What!! (I wish I had a bullhorn!). Who are you to question the author who's higher rated than you and has taken the time to research the subject and write about it?

Did you write on the matter? I think not. Did you equal his research on the topic? I think not.

You can't have your cake and eat it too. The best thing for lower rated players to do if they want to improve their chess game is to not question the authority they're reading about, at least not yet. You shouldn't be questioning anything unless you're rated "2000" or above. Anything underneath that means you're not good enough and need to get over yourself.

When I was rated pretty low (and to my mind, I'm still low) in San Diego, I acted the same way and accused some of the Masters and Experts as being arrogant, but when you listen to them talk, they are far more objective than anyone beneath them, especially in the assessments over the board.

Nearly all other players will constantly try and justify their position as always being good, without any defects, etc, etc. Well if the position was always so good, then why is your rating always so low? Is there a major "KGB" conspiracy against you that I or anyone else is unaware of? Probably not...

Every time I hear this ridiculous argument from lower rated players, I hearken back to my days (days of old) where I was an "1175" player underneath a noisy old air conditioner at the San Diego Chess Club, freezing during my games and wishing I was better than I was and thinking the Experts and Masters were arrogant simply because they didn't talk to me much.

It wasn't up to them to coach me along and hold my hand. It was up to me to step up to the plate and knock the fastball out of the park!

And every now and then, a lower rated player will tag me for a loss or draw me and usually, about 1/3 to 1/2 of those types of players will think that they have arrived!

Oh my God! You've got to be kidding me! That higher rated player is going to beat you more often than not and you won't even get a draw!

Only when you get your rating out of the tank and "finally" pull even or surpass that player will the games even out. Otherwise, you haven't arrived anywhere!

I only became a good A-player when I became more objective and worried less about my betters. In fact, I hardly think of them now. I simply do my thing over the board and they do their thing over the board and guess what?

They started treating me better...duh! Who knew?


Eric Shoemaker said...

I should also ask a question here for the lower rated players? Since you don't readily understand the "concept" of "earning" respect from your betters.

When you really "earn" something, you don't want it taken away or it makes you angry.

With me so far?

If I was a thief and I steal your nice SUV that you worked so hard for, how's that going to feel?

Or maybe a thief breaks into your house (the one you worked hard for) and takes several things of value (you know, the things you also worked hard for)

Or what if a lowlife, maybe your closest friend decides he wants to borrow your wife for a few hours, what then? You know, the same wife you cared enough about to marry.

It amazes me, even stuns me that lower rated players can try and steal "respect" that they haven't even come close to earning and this they do with this "ordinary" argument against higher rated players.

Perhaps the lower rated players should look in the mirror and ask themselves whether or not they are the ones with an ethics problem?

It's really funny that when it comes to practical matters in life (your house, your car, your wife), you readily admit you earned these things, but when it comes to chess, you no longer have to earn anything?


The message I get from upper board players is that we've earned our ratings--good, bad or otherwise--just like we earned anything else we have.

It has never occurred to me that I should have something without first earning it. I don't understand that.


Wahrheit said...

Eric, I think we've gotten off the subject of the post somewhat--I'm not saying that higher-rated players necessarily need to respect the chess of lower-rated...but when it comes to respect for other's as people, their opinions or other parts of life, rating doesn't or shouldn't matter. In those areas. As you say, as chess players we get the respect we earn.

I do respect everyone who is willing to put themselves and their egos on the line in competition, win or lose.

Eric Shoemaker said...

Hi Robert, I am not aware of a single incident where the opinion of a chess player outside of chess was simply dismissed because he was not a good chess player, when that individual was talking about another topic.

As a matter of opinion, I find that most chess players are awkward in conversation and have little in common to overcome this awkwardness.

But it does seem to me that the lower rateds have what the rest of the world would consider an "inferiority complex" and they get around this by transforming their own demons into "snobbery" on the part of higher rateds.

Ratings are necessary or you would have every chess player who took up the game thinking he or she could somehow hang with the World's elite. They do not know any better, so what is to stop them from making the ridiculous claim?

I too used to think "snobbery" in chess existed, but as I got better, I realized that that was only a myth.

In reality, I wanted more respect at the board than I deserved or even earned.


wang said...

One problem eric...

Which books? Is MIchael de la Maza correct about the circles?

How about Silman, who thinks that MDLM is crazy?

I've gotten different advice from different books. And no I don't pareticularly think the advice from a master is good or bad. The folks that are good at something don't necessarily make the best teachers. Especially when you get to someone that seems to have a natural talent. Bottom line even among Grandmasters, they got to where they are by different methods.

"Chess is 99% tactics" Anatoly Karpov is quoted in one of my books as responding to that by saying "what rubbish" Now you read that and its likely to be a head scratcher.

I guess what I'm saying is that everyone wants to improve but no one is quite sure how. Is is unfair to think that higher rated people will have the answers? Yes, but they could be nicer about it too. Especially when other people are trying to have a conversation with them.

Eric Shoemaker said...

Hi Wang, you're right and that's a problem because everyone's sense of "aesthetics" is different. Even if we could all agree, what we would each get out of it would likely vary between all of us.

If you're talking about the literary canon, that's pretty much mandatory and pretty much well established already.


Eric Shoemaker said...

Hi Wang, I'm not yet high enough for people to approach on how to improve. Few people have approached with that question. I couldn't even answer except to make a few suggestions and to explain how I improved my game, which is an on-going project that seems to have no end.

Karpov's statement, the one you quoted gives me hope!


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