Sep

29

Botvinnik/FisherUntil quite recently chess games would be stopped after the first time control (40 moves in 2 or 2.5 hours) and resumed after dinner or on a separate day. The player on the move would write down his next move and put it in an envelope. This envelope would then remain in the arbiter's possession until it was time to resume, at which point the 'sealed move' would be played on the board. This apparently complex proceedure meant that both players were looking at the position in which it was his opponent's turn to move.

Naturally a whole culture emerged around the best way to deal with adjournments. At one time players would not seek outside help for the analysis of such positions, and indeed Lasker was appalled by the thought. But little by little adjournments became a team effort, with Mikhail Botvinnik reigning supreme in this now-forgotten art.

Essentially Botvinnik's proceedure was to consult colleagues immediately after adjourning (a kind of brainstorming session) after which he would retire to his room to work out the details alone. A scientist by profession, Botvinnik was very methodical and thorough in his analysis, this particular aspect of his game enabling him to save the 1951 match against Bronstein and his famous game against Bobby Fischer.

I mention this subject because of a conversation I had with a chess student this morning. Just recently I have started studying chess again, after a haitus of more than a decade. I have been looking at a particular type of position, which essentially involved reviewing some games annotated by someone else (familiarisation), searching for any further developments in a database and then trying to form my own view and develop my own ideas. It was the Botvinnik process, but applied to a particular structure rather than a specific position.

Botvinnik/FisherThis, however, was already at least two steps further than my poor student wanted to go. As a busy person I knew he wanted answers rather than ongoing enquiry. And this in turn made me think about speculative research.

The problem facing most people is that they are goal orientated, ie they want a particular result (wealth, for example) and will logically attempt to achieve it via the simplest and most direct route. Unfortunately this lays them open to the fixed system approach, relying on the untested views of others or hope that cycles will not change. It is, I believe, a psychological vulnerability.

Buddhists believe that our problems stem from first wanting something, and perhaps this is the very point at which the seeds of our downfall are sown. The correct attitude for study may be when we have no goal in mind but do something for its own sake. For it's only then that one is able to swiftly accept things that frustrate us in our goal, such as the flaw in our cogitations or the hidden counterattack.

So why would I waste time studying chess when my best days are obviously behind me? The answer is that it is a pleasure. So did Botvinnik analyze his adjournments for pleasure? No, but he was very disciplined.


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