Sunday, January 20, 2008
Talent Needs Hard Work to Develop
A timely reminder from Errol Tiwari, writing for Stabroek News (Guyana): Chess Talent needs hard work to develop Errol Tiwari Sunday, January 20th 2008 He who would accomplish little must sacrifice little; he who would achieve much must sacrifice much; he who would attain highly must sacrifice greatly. -James Allen, author, 1864-1912, who illustrated the power of thought to increase personal capabilities. A little before the National Chess Championships began in November, I started playing some serious chess with Loris Nathoo. Neither of us was preparing for anything. We just felt that we should play deeply creative chess for pleasure and our individual satisfaction. At the nationals, we both performed creditably, placing second and third in the tournament. Quickly, I realized that if we should look higher, work harder, and dig deeper, we would move beyond the basics of the game, and become successful in its practice. So, what makes someone a better chess player, or a better writer, a better manager, a better anything? I believe the answer lies in dedication to a cause, and hard work. "Genius," Thomas Edison said, "is one per cent inspiration and ninety-nine per cent perspiration." He should know because his true genius lay in his capacity for endless experimentation. In creating the electric light bulb, Edison tested thousands of substances to find a filament that wouldn't burn out. "Opportunity," he argued, "is missed by most because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work." This was an echo of another great thinker and worker, Thomas Jefferson, who wrote, "I'm a great believer in luck and I find the harder I work, the more I have of it." Garry Kasparov was impressed by the prowess of Michael Jordan who was famous for his athleticism and high-flying dunks. The man had talent. Yet he was the first to arrive at practice and the last to leave. In interviews, Jordan's teammates and coaches all talk about his extreme discipline, not his leaping ability. One veteran NBA manager described Jordan's talent in this way: "Without the ceaseless work ethic, Jordan is merely another talented athlete gliding through an admirable career, but nothing historic." Hard work develops talent and brings it to the fore. Jordan's discipline and capacity for work were intrinsic parts of his talent. Like the proverbial tree falling in the forest with no one around to hear, talent undiscovered may as well not exist. Kasparov writes that everyone, at any age, has talents that are not fully developed; even those who reach the top of their profession. He tells us over and over again that hard work in chess allowed him to reach the top of the top of his game. He was inspired by men like Michael Jordan, Winston Churchill and Alexander Alekhine. Why did Kasparov so admire Dr Alekhine and become so inspired by him? We have to go back to the early 1900s to the time of Cuba's chess machine, Jose Raul Capablanca. You see when Capablanca defeated Emanuel Lasker in 1921 to become chess champion of the world, there were various emotions expressed by his colleagues, the press and the public, but among those emotions the element of surprise was missing. This was because for many years Capablanca had been invincible, and therefore the result of the match was confidently anticipated by everybody. In the 1970s much was written about 'Fischer-fear,' but the concept had been used long before in relation to the mighty Cuban player. Capablanca was wrapped in a mantle of invincibility; he had the aura, and even the best players in the world had a dreadful feeling of inferiority and inadequacy when they sat before him. Without seeming to do anything wrong, they would somehow drift into lost positions. The games of all other players showed tension, struggle, work. Capablanca's games were smooth, effortless, simple looking. How did he do it? In his entire chess career of some 700 games, Capablanca lost only 35. He went eight years from 1916 to 1924 without losing a single game. The Cuban government made him an Ambassador at large with full diplomatic status. No one, it seemed, could stop Capablanca on the chess board. He rarely prepared for his opponents, and liked to brag that he had never seriously studied chess. He was confident he could escape from any trap he fell into, and he was usually right. But Capablanca only held the title for six years. His conqueror was a young Russian named Alexander Alekhine, who refused to believe Capablanca could not be beaten. Anybody could be beaten he said, and he would show the world. In an age when the gentleman chess player was still common and chess as a profession was considered questionable, Alekhine made chess his life as no one had before him. Alekhine had never beaten Capablanca going into their 1927 World Championship match in Buenos Aires. Earlier in the year he had come in ahead of Alekhine in a tournament in New York. The winner of the championship would be the first player to take six games. Draws did not count. The match turned out to be a murderously long, exhausting struggle, with draw after draw. Alekhine had studied all of his opponent's games and came to the conclusion the Cuban was not invincible. There were weak spots in his games unexplored by other players. For the first time in his career Capablanca found himself up against a player he could not dent. After 21 games the score was 4 to 2 in Alekhine's favour. Capablanca had never seen such determination in a chess player before. He began fighting for his life. He won one other game, but could not hold Alekhine. Final score: 6 to 3 in favour of Alekhine with twenty-five draws spread out over 75 days. Afterwards, Capablanca, chastened, said he had learned from the match that he was no longer able to enter a contest without preparation. Alekhine had demonstrated to the world that talent, without hard work, discipline, and adequate preparation, would be defeated. Alekhine had his own fiery genius at the board, and by combining that with his intense dedication, he was more than a match for the raw talent of Capablanca. He had carefully dissected Capablanca's games and although he found few weaknesses to exploit, he did find occasional errors that gave the lie to the myth of his opponent's invincibility. I have written this story to encourage, and stimulate chess players to study the game. Talent is natural up to a certain point. We have to develop talent or be left behind. Our test will come this year when we confront international competition. Let us begin serious training for our invisible tournament opponents. And for sure, our efforts would not be wasted.