The Wisdom of Priyadharsan

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Over the past few years the journeys of many adults trying to improve at chess have started to gain a larger audience. So much so that the phrase “adult improver” is now widely accepted thanks to Ben Johnson’s Perpetual Chess Podcast.

In my own years of working to improve as an adult I have heard every take on improvement from “of course Player X can become a GM after starting chess at age 45 as long as they work hard enough” to “anyone working to improve as an adult will be lucky to gain 50 Elo.” My own beliefs fall somewhere in the middle.

Peak to trough in my return to chess I have gained 400 points. Now I need to regain the ones I’ve lost and go 304 beyond that.

An interesting point of view came to my attention the other day in the form of a Twitter thread by my friend GM Priyadharshan Kannappan.

In it he makes some very interesting observations which I had to admit apply to me. Here’s the thread:

My first thought was, of course, to be internally dismissive. After all, what could a GM possibly know about the struggle to improve? Of course that was just a shallow initial thought. When I stepped back and really took the time to think about it this was my reply.

This was based on the sudden realization that every time I have discussed chess with stronger players, be it a GM/IM/FM that while I was trying to make some superficial point they were trying to really dig in to the position.

I reflected back to a conversation I once had with Tom Polgar where I said that when I analyze with stronger players I am capable of making interesting and sometime useful suggestions, but that I struggle to evaluate those ideas correctly over the board.

Now it makes perfect sense to me that a large part of the reason is that when analyzing with strong players I do become  more fully immersed in a position. Players at my level often try one or two ideas in a position when analyzing, yet I’ve sat in on analysis by titled players where they’ll look at 5-6 times that number. I am trying to make the idea I’ve become fixated on work, while they are trying to break down a position into its essence.

This is something I should really work on. Now I just need to figure out an effective way of doing so. I’ll start with analysis of my own games.

Til Next Time,

Chris Wainscott