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Head back in gear!
Posted on 2005-12-23 19:12:38
I want to say I'm pretty heartened by some of the nice things people have said to me, both privately and publicly. Wasn't really expecting it :) We all need some encouragement now and then, and what you've said tops my holiday spirit right up.
I would like to thank Akira, Jacky, Kim, Thierry, Ed, Randy, and Imre. Everyone except Ed wrote a really long and thoughtful reply or email, and that was really surprising. I'm thanking Ed because he wanted to be explicitly thanked- so, I can thank him for writing, and for maintaining the site- he recently had to delete approximately 6000 comment spams from the site!!
About what Akira said- I think a lot of stuff came up just because I was the first world champion to play a lot online, and I'm English speaking and probably seemed accessible. I was thinking about different incidents that had happened, and noticed that the only time I got any real flak, or was insulted or experienced heavy demands, it was from newer, online players. They probably just behaved in their usual online-behavior mode, and for some people that includes some pretty trollish behavior. But for many others, their behavior was completely pleasant and respectable :).
Jacky said some nice things. Thanks, Jacky, I think you're a very cool guy, too :) I still don't understand what makes you tick, but I'm glad you could tell I wasn't criticizing your posts or anything like that ^^
Kim made a couple of good points... yeah, I can see why people would deter themselves from making any comments, even if they wanted to, and that's too bad. So I will take this opportunity to say that anybody should feel free to say anything or ask anything, and I don't think I will get offended or bite anyone's head off. I don't think I've ever responded really negatively to someone's comment or post on here, even for the (very) few that were negative in tone. Naturally, I prefer comments that are nice in tone, and while I'm not fond of the negative ones, I try hard to turn them around and get value out of them, and respond in a constructive manner.
I would like to add that sometimes the "flak" I got was pretty valuable. Stephane Nicolet, for example, criticized me for not complimenting other players enough. And I think he was right, for a long time I didn't respect other players' efforts enough. After he said that, I tried to make a conscious effort to be more complimentary; there was a lot of stuff worth complimenting, for legitimate reasons I had overlooked before.
In the first 5 years of my Othello career, almost everything came easy; somehow my talents were perfectly suited for Othello (I used to joke that it was too bad they weren't in some other, more remunerative area), I had a huge amount of free time, I had a huge drive and ambition to become good, the online situation was perfect for me, and I liked everything else about the Othello experience. In short, the setup was a perfect storm which pushed me to do extraordinarily well in Othello, in an almost effortless way. The problem was that I had trouble seeing that for most other players, they were missing all or most of those pieces, but were still doing their very best, and accomplishing quite a lot given their situation. This was definitely meritorious of praise and support.
The interesting thing was that in the past year I had the opportunity to discover that a lot of those "perfect storm" ingredients were gone, and I realized that if I had to start over again, I wouldn't have been able to get half as far as I had the first time around. This also put a real cap on my ability to maintain or improve my current skill level, which was the first time I felt like I had both external and internal blocks to being able to win the world championship.
Kim also pointed out that maybe my posts are sometimes too long :) I think he's right about that. I have to work hard at that tendency, and my writing still isn't very economical. I think it's a family trait- we see numerous ways to "prove" or communicate the same thing, many ways to link anything to anything else (and feel those links are important), and just as many different ways to say each thing. Then we repeat ourselves. Iit helps us to thoroughly understand something (such as Othello), and gives us the capacity to eventually find a way to teach people, if they are able to learn; but in writing, it often means that every reader is subjected to a never-ending cascade of complexity and redundancy, which I know can suck. You should see how many paragraphs I always have to delete from anything I post on here- you would be amazed. The situation could be a lot worse!
I onlt have a couple of things to add to Thierry's well-written comment. One is that I could never turn down the pleasure of playing Tamenori, Suekuni, Murakami, et al. And I tried to learn from those games, as well, and thought I did figure out some potentially valuable things. I thought I had good chances against Tamenori in the WOC, and thought I might even win all three WOC games against him (I presumed there would be three...).
But for one blunder in our only game, I might have won that game and the next two- or not, as Tamenori was on an incredible roll in Iceland. But I like to imagine I would have :) And it's small consolation, but like Tamenori won most of our friendly games in London, I won most of our friendly games in Iceland.
Anyway, the point is, it was an equal-opportunity competitive thing to play him online, and aside from the irremovable pleasure of playing him, I think if he came out ahead it was just because he had a greater discipline to study and learn from those games, which doesn't imply any generosity on my part :). I think one potential problem in Chess, is that perhaps Kramnik and Kasparov would have feared that the other top GM's would benefit even more from their games than they would. Or maybe they are content with their private prospects, and don't want to throw them in jeopardy. Or it may simply be an ego thing... if they play their best openings, they lose valuable advantages; if they don't play good openings then they are more likely to lose, and if the games are public in any way then they will feel embarassed. Kasparov doesn't even like to lose seemingly meaningless simul games- and why would he, when sometimes he went for months or years without losing any games to anybody?
Thierry also supports the idea that articulating strategy is an excellent way to learn, and I completely support and agree with him. And like I pointed out in the intro to the teaching session chat, even teaching the basics to a beginner can be helpful, especially if a player is at a level where they think there is noone they could possibly teach; not true, teaching the basics will help you to learn the "advanced basics", which is all there is after you have mastered the basics.
I would also suggest that sometimes it is possible to gain a lot from blitz games, even though they have some severe limitations relative to writing or playing long games. Another Frenchman, Paul Ralle, suggested that 1 minute games were the best way to become a world class player (or so I heard). I believe they help provide a beginning player with better basic pattern recognition, and a foundation of instincts to build upon or manipulate, if one so desired. One of the things I've focused on a lot in the past few years is finding ways to constructively manage my instincts, understanding their strengths and weaknesses and how to use them in deeper evaluations, without being blindly obeisant to them.
At the very least, a player can learn to immediately recognize the discs that will be flipped (though my visualization still gets screwed up by board angles OTB, in online blitz games I almost never make moves which flip unintended discs). And, if you always try to practice one thing, anything, while blitzing, you can get a lot of intense training in on whatever it is you practice. But, it's probably best that I encourage long games, before nobody is ever able to find a long game- and long games are fundamentally much more interesting, anyway.
And finally for Randy's comment- I experienced some of the same stuff he has experienced though I could tell it was usually well-intentioned and understandable. Sometimes in the space of a minute I would get more than ten verbal game invitations, or stuff like that, which would interrupt the game I was already playing! And even if I had had an immense amount of time, I could never have said "yes" to everyone's request for teaching or playing, even though I might have wanted to. This wasn't the kind of behavior which made me bitter, it just put a dent into my own enjoyment of Othello. And sometimes people were over the top in their praise. That was nice, but I never know how to respond to that- pnly rarely has someone insulted my opponent just because they are playing or talking to me, and that was never justified. But, there were a few instances of gaga behavior, which I couldn't help but enjoy- Michele Borassi's reaction to realizing he had just met "Ben Seeley !!!" was absolutely priceless, and I don't think I'll ever forget it. I got a vague idea of what it might feel like to be a rock star- a rock star who wasn't recognized until he pointed at his name tag, but still :).
Anyway, the bottom line is that I have decided to just focus on writing and working with the folks who are sincere and who reciprocate, and let everything else slide, instead of harping on about it. I'm also going to keep having fun playing Othello, when I do get the opportunity to play :) Cheers everyone ^^
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