Everything Evolves (Laws of Adult Improvement, Part 7)

The Chess world is changing. Here's what we need to do to adapt.

I like nothing more than to read history in my downtime. Book after book of people and eras gone by.

Like most people who engage with history, I'm struck by the cycles we go through. The same sorts of events, over and over, just dressed a little differently.

But I'm also struck by the evolutions. The way that everything changes over time. And the way that, when it's through changing, humans forget it was ever different.

The new world becomes the normal world. The old world fades away.

It happens in every area of human experience. It happens in politics, and business, and arts, and Chess.

There's a story I think about regularly that really brought this idea home to me.

The year was 1498, and Leonardo Da Vinci attended an evening of friendly debate at Sforza Castle. He was determined to give it his best.

The topic: Should painting be considered "art" in the same way as sculpture, music, or poetry?

Painting was considered by many to be "low". Not worthy of the same praise as other, more "refined" creative pursuits.

Leonardo, obviously, argued that painting should be considered as art.

It seems insane to us now that this was even a question. Of course painting is art! It's the main thing most of us think of when we hear the word "art".

But it wasn't always that way. And the modern world has many equivalents to this debate.

Are digital artists equal to painters? Is television as much an art as cinema? Is an electronic music producer as worthy of praise as a concert violinist?

It's been like this with every new wave of ideas through time.

First, there's a way of doing things that's been around for a while. Then a bunch of new people with new ideas or technologies come in and shake things up.

Some fight against these new ways of doing things, claiming they're not the "real thing" or "how it's meant to be". Calling them inferior to what came before, simply because they're new.

But, eventually, inevitably, the new wave becomes so normal everyone forgets it was ever controversial.

I think Chess is in one of these periods at the moment.

Chess has been taught much the same way for a long time. Computers shook it up, AI really shook it up, but now, like dropping a Mentos in a Coke bottle, it's bursting.

The reason is the flood of adults coming to the game for the first time. People like you and I. With our brains, our experience, and our needs.

We come with fresh ideas, fresh voices, and fresh perspectives. And things are shifting.

There are more ideas out there now about what improvement is or should be than ever before. Some are useful, some are less so, and it's harder and harder to tell them apart.

Masters freely offer their vast knowledge. Adult improvers openly share their journeys and what has or hasn't worked for them.

New voices have emerged offering scientific, motivational, technological, or even spiritual approaches to Chess improvement.

Chess looks totally different now than it did 20 years ago. It's exciting, but it's also pretty darn overwhelming.

To navigate this new era of the Chess world, and actually find some improvement, the modern adult improver needs to do a few things:

These are the Laws of Adult Improvement. Whatever your level in the game, whatever your target areas for study, you'll find better results when you embrace them.

Together they form a mindset. One you can use to adapt the vast ocean of Chess advice to your unique needs.

The amount of people offering advice on Chess improvement will not go back down. The line between the helpful advice and the useless advice will just get blurrier.

The only answer is to understand ourselves. Work out what we need. Then filter everything we find through that lens.

That's what I designed the Laws of Adult Improvement to help you do.

The kids may have sponge-like brains taking in everything they see, but we have our own superpowers.

We can reflect and understand ourselves in ways that kids can't. We can pinpoint what we need.

We can draw on decades of prior experience to make connections and create new exciting perspectives and insights.

We can identify the things that truly matter and focus on learning those first.

We can build our mental muscles, bolstering our weak areas.

And we can work out why Chess matters to us and engage with it accordingly.

These are superpowers of Chess improvement. They are superpowers of learning in general.

And we all have access to them, anytime we wish.

I hope this series has sufficiently armed you to do that.

There's one final piece I haven't discussed, but that is so relevant to everything in this series.

As this flood of new ideas comes into the Chess world, I urge you to keep an open mind.

Sometimes it's scary to do, it feels more comfortable to be set in our ways. But to be closed off is to ignore things that could become our greatest insights.

The advice that works best for you may come from the normal places, the GMs, IMs, and FMs, in books, or at your local club.

Or it may come from this new wave of voices. Or from a random person on Twitter. Or from somewhere that has nothing to do with Chess.

John Roderick of The Long Winters once said "I try on arguments like other people try on jackets." I encourage you to try on Chess ideas like that as well.

Keep what fits. Put everything else back.

Your adult brain can do incredible things.

Help it help you. You'll be amazed at the results.

About the author

Aiden Rayner writes about how to make the adult brain better at Chess. Using science-backed insights, he works to change the narratives around adult improvement, and help adults discover the power of their Chess brains.

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