Thursday, May 3, 2007

The Polgar "Experiment" and Me

My goodness - here it is Thursday already. Just one more day to make it through at the office and once again I'll be having my lovely weekend. I don't care if the forecast is for cold and rain; I don't care if my grass is now a foot high (the weather and/or time constraints haven't permitted me to pull out the power mower, but it is ready to go; I changed the oil, put in a new spark plug and had the blade sharpened 2 weekends ago); I don't care that the dust is now half an inch thick and there's moldy food in the fridge. My weekends - ahhhhhh.... I have to tell you (whoever may read this), it is really liberating to be able to just come here, by myself, at the end of the day, and post my thoughts. There's no traffic counter here, so I can imagine that millions are going to - soon - be awed by the eruditeness (is that a word?) of my posts or, conversely, that only a select few who manage to follow carefully placed clues here and there - succeed in finding this secret treasure trove of chess profundity. Ha! Because I've had David Shenk's project on my mind, and the Polgar sisters and other chess "prodigies" naturally figure into that, and given the recent bent of my entries here, today I did a little internet searching under "the Polgar experiment." That led to a lot of interesting articles, and those led to a few other searches, that also led to interesting articles. The upshot of what I've found, thus far, in conjunction with what I've read at David Shenk's blog, is that I too could - if I had the will (desire), persistence, patience, and time - develop a certain level of expertise in chess, perhaps even become a GM. If I wanted to give it 10 years of full-time activity :) I'm not kidding about that 10 year figure. According to Herbert A. Simon who has been researching the subject since the 1960's, he says it takes approximately a decade of heavy labor to master any field. "Even child prodigies, such as Gauss in mathematics, Mozart in music and Bobby Fischer in chess, must have made an equivalent effort, perhaps by starting earlier and working harder than others." No wonder the great chessplayers seem to be made these days at such early ages; if they wait until they're out of college to learn the game, they have to "make a living" and can't devote the time/effort/will necessary to mastering the game - that - what was it called? - "effortful study." It's a tantalizing thought, let me tell you. Me - Jan Newton - a GM. Hell - I'd settle for beating Licenser and Kreider soundly in 10 moves or less :) Could six months of concentrated study do it, do you think? Hmmm... Here are some of the articles: Scientific American "The Expert Mind," by Phillip E. Ross, July 24, 2006 Psychology Today "The Grandmaster Experiment," by Carlin Flora, July-August, 2005 issue

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