Monday, December 03, 2007

"Secrets of a Grandpatzer" (Part 1)

Secrets of a Grandpatzer is a very interesting book that was published back in 1979, interesting both for the subject matter and for the author, Kenneth Mark Colby, a Professor of both Psychiatry and Computer Science at UCLA. Dr. Colby had a lot of valuable things to say about chess and chess players, and since the book is now out of print and very difficult to find (only one copy at $35.00 on Amazon) I thought it would be of value to readers to share some of his thoughts, since I'm fortunate enough to own the book. Even though he passed away in 2001 at age 81 the book is still under copyright and I don't want to steal someone's intellectual property, but I believe it's fair use to describe the contents and quote a few passages.

The sharp-eyed may notice that over on the sidebar there's an (excellent) blog named Secrets of Grandpatzer Chess, but curiously, when I commented on one of the posts there asking if that was from the book, Grandpatzer replied "wahrheit: no, I had to google in order to find the book you were referring to. I was playing off the title of one of Nunn's recent books, although Soltis' "Grandmaster Secrets: Endings" was also floating around in my head." I just wanted to clarify that for the record.

Enough of the prelims--to the book! The subtitle is "How to beat most people and computers at chess," and the author's stated aim is to raise the "duffer, fish, woodpusher or rabbit Class E, D, C or weak B" to the exalted status of "grandpatzer" (1700-2200). The "beating computers" part needs some historical context; at the time there was, of course, no Fritz or Rybka and Dr. Colby is talking about the Chess Challenger and others (here is a nice page with examples) which played in the 1200-1600 range on their higher settings. Interestingly, he believed one way to get better at chess was to emulate the computer ("the greatest grandpatzer of them all").

Here is a quote from the first page that should touch any discerning reader:

Why should a patzer seek to become a grandpatzer? Because of the aristos (Greek: Aristos = best). Life is more than ham sandwiches and beer. Humans strive, not just to survive, but to enhance the quality, the excellence, of survival. Striving for excellence in any endeavor, developing yourself to become your best at what you do, is rewarding and fulfilling to aspirations higher than happiness. Merely happy people, without artistic goals, vegetate in incomplete, hobbled and impoverished lives...A grandpatzer is a strong chessplayer, a threat to anyone (including himself) in a given game.

And one more indicative quote from the Introduction:

As Dr. G will show you, becoming a grandpatzer involves understanding the ego-game in addition to knowing lots of patterns, themes and tricks.

There are a great many other valuable and enjoyable quotes and tips in this book, and I'll share some of them with you in future posts.


wang said...

This looks really interesting. I'm looking forward to more. Thanks Robert.

Eric Shoemaker said...

Hi Robert, that kind of goes with what I've always said, "Every chess player wants the World Title." They may not admit it, they may not public with it, but a chess player always wants the next level and if and when they get there, they will want the next level also, so in reality--they want the top spot--truly a strive for excellence!

Liquid Egg Product said...

Future installments of this feature would be greatly appreciated.

If Grandpatzer status is achieved at 1700...dang, you and I aren't too far off!

chessboozer said...

If he was a Grandpatzer in 1979 he has probably passes away by now.

chessboozer said...

Oops, he has passed away, should have read the article before commenting

Wahrheit said...

@Wang--On the way.

@Eric--Yes, and that's part of the "ego game," too.

LEP--We're Candidate Grandpatzers!

Boozer--Heh, it helps.