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Monday, August 23, 2010

Anxiety isn't the opposite of training!

Andrew Gelman blogged:



I was playing out a chess game from the newspaper and we reminded how the best players use the entire board in their game. In my own games (I'm not very good, I'm guessing my "rating" would be something like 1500?), the action always gets concentrated on one part of the board. Grandmaster games do get focused on particular squares of the board, of course, but, meanwhile, there are implications in other places and the action can suddenly shift.”

To which I commented:

How well I know this problem :-(

I've seldom played blitz games [the internet is wonderful; you can play 1 minute games, or two weeks a move], but with time pressure I can almost feel the tunnel vision.

Maybe this is an epidemic problem with intermediate players [1400-1800]. Maybe this broader viewpoint is what you get with 10,000 hours or so of high-quality practice in a field, so you can chunk the information better.”

But upon further reflection I think I was assuming too much symmetry in the situation, and definitely confusing two aspects of the situation.

Seeing the whole board quickly is a result of natural aptitude, sure, but also a result of practice and the appropriate chunking of information that comes from practice (e.g. the ability to instantly see what squares a rook controls because you are very familiar with how a rook moves).

“Unseeing” the board, or the tunnel vision I currently get in quick games, is more a function of anxiety/nervousness. It’s possible that this can be “cured” by taking anti-anxiety medications and then playing blitz chess, but I’m not interested in that experiment.  

What they do have in common is practice. Presumably, with additional blitz chess practice I’d learn to more appropriately channel the emotion.