Thursday, December 20, 2007

"Secrets of a Grandpatzer" (Part 3)

(After straying seriously from the chess focus of this blog, though in a very enjoyable way, we now resume our regularly scheduled programming)

(Part 1) (Part 2)

Preface: For those readers new to this series, Dr. Kenneth Mark Colby, M.D. (Dr. G), was a Professor of Psychiatry and a leading researcher in the field of Artificial Intelligence until his passing in 2001 at the age of 81. In 1979 he published Secrets of a Grandpatzer: How to Beat Most People and Computers at Chess. Though I present some highlights here, I want to clarify that I don't necessarily endorse all of his advice, especially the part about memorizing openings (see Part 2). Since this is a book that few readers will have a chance to look at, however, I do my best to present excerpts of his material without too much editorializing of my own.

Part III of the book is headed "How to Play," and covers Thinking, Nerves, Pressures, Clocks and Conduct in mostly brief chapters. Some nuggets for your consideration:


Depth of analysis counts for little among patzers and grandpatzers. It is accuracy of calculation which counts. Unless the moves are forced there is no point in looking deeper than 6-8 ply (half moves) because there are too many possibilities for flaws in the analysis.

In many positions there is no best move, and a modest one suffices, especially if it restrains or frustrates your opponent's intentions.

The lack of sustained will-power and the making of "what-the-hell" moves is another reason one does not become a master.


Speaking of being nervous and being drunk, I have found it useful to be slightly swacked at the start of a game...I know this is heresy...but I advise a few drinks before a serious game. This is hard to do when the game begins in the morning but afternoon and evening games are ideal for this opportunity.

Computers do not evaluate people from their appearances an neither should you. It is a very dangerous thing to do for reasons I will now spell out. The greatest psychological danger for the aspiring grandpatzer lies in playing the ego-game.

Nobody wants to be a nobody. It is precarious to use chess as a way to defeat a sense of nobodiness.

Some booked-up teenagers are the best examples of contempt-in-action...The way to get an edge on them is to increase their conceit and disdain for you by acting as bumbling as possible.


To be a master one needs good physical and mental stamina. But health, mental or physical, is not necessary for the grandpatzer.If you look at a group of us in a chess club tournament, you will observe what wrecks we are...Having problems is not the problem; it's what you do in spite of them that counts. To rise above physical illness and pain, to strive for your best in spite of these distressful states, represents a challenge for the aspiring grandpatzer with artistic goals.

Tenacity and resourcefulness are the marks of the grandpatzer. He hangs in there for a long time knowing there exists a great variety of hidden possibilities in every position.


Once during a tournament, an old guy fell over backwards in his chair. As I was trying to get his pulse (he was dead), a true chessplayer rushed up to the board shouting "Stop his clock, stop his clock!" (Article 14.6). The ending to this funny-not-so-funny story is that a few years later this same chessplayer died of a coronary during a tournament game.


There is more to chess than moving the pieces.

Chess is play, a game having its own reality. We can obliterate one everyday reality, not by dimming awareness, but by intensity of concentration in another.

I hope your artistic goal in studying the teachings and preachings of this book is to improve your play in an enjoyable way.


(In Part 4 we'll look at Dr. G's advice on playing Young Guys, Old Guys, Women and Masters, plus How to Beat Computers, 1979 version, by an expert in the field).


Blue Devil Knight said...

Great stuff. THanks for the summaries.

Playing with a few stiff shots of Jack Daniels in me...hmmmm....hey, the doctor ordered!

Glenn Wilson said...

I've really enjoyed this series. Thanks.

I once, a long time ago, did a series of experiments playing against my computer sober, with one drink (beer) and with two and kept track of my estimated performance ratings. Not scientific exactly, but I was willing to make the sacrifice anyway.

For me, one beer degraded the performance about (if I recall correctly) about 100 pts and two beers dropped it 200. YMMV.

On memorizing openings. Yeah, we tell people not to do that all the time but it is an obvious truth that it can be of practical value. The danger is spending much time doing so instead of studying other areas of chess. And, memorizing is mostly of benefit only if one understand the ideas, typical positions, etc.

drunknknite said...

Some booked-up teenagers are the best examples of contempt-in-action...The way to get an edge on them is to increase their conceit and disdain for you by acting as bumbling as possible.

I must admit I have been guilty of losing concentration against bumbling patzers on more than one occasion. See this post. Incidentally, my last loss.

Christian said...

Wonderful stuff indeed. The comic-tragic -- and quite philosophical, in a way -- "stop his clock"-anecdote will stay with me the rest of my life.

gorckat said...

...I have found it useful to be slightly swacked at the start of a game...

I now have to find a chessy shot glass take to my first tournament, even if I wuss out and use a really dark tea to try to drop my opponent's guard :P