Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Frustration and Chess

On occassion I get a message from a YouTube subscriber or blog visitor asking about frustration at certain development stages in chess. Often the question is along the lines "Is this normal?" or "How long will it last?" and both questions are very legitimate.

From my experience so far, it is very natural, and very healthy to be frustrated as one learns new concepts and skills. Learning new things is always challenging, especially when you consider the complicated and life-long pursuit of chess. What I have noticed since I started exploring chess, is that there is a degree of frustration before reaching a new high in personal skill. It's as if new skills are in place, but not quite settled in yet. Deep down you know they are there, as you learned them and worked on them, but the "magical" switch hasn't turned on yet, which causes the frustration.

Achieving new highs in chess skill seems to happen in subtle yet very noticeable ways. One day you are still in the 1350's range with rating. That rating might have taken some time to work towards, and people rated 1500-1600 seemed to have it all together compared to you. Then, as if by explosion, you start to win consistently against people rated 1400-1450 and your rating increases steadily until yet again it levels out. You can insert any rating here and it will make sense.

From my experience, the frustration comes just before the surge. You know you have new skills, you know you have new abilities, but it's the period in-between learning them and putting them to natural practice which causes the frustration. And if there is one message I would like to put out to everyone is that is completely normal, and to be expected. It's like a race horse ready to start the race but the stupid humans haven't opened the gate yet.

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