Internalize Precision

Opening, middlegame, endgame; which is most important?

If you go out on the ski slopes of Colorado, you may find a very fit elderly man hitting the slopes in a cowboy hat.

You’d know him when you saw him. Despite his age, he still oozes the confidence and control that he held in his younger years.

Eyes turn to watch him whenever he starts his runs.

He’s a true celebrity in those parts.

The man’s name is Billy Kidd.

Billy was a member of the US ski team from 1962 to 1970.

He was one of the first American men to win an Olympic medal in an alpine event.

He is also the only racer in history to win both the FIS and Pro Tour World Championship titles in the same year.

That record still holds today.

Some years ago, a newcomer to the sport of skiing entered the alpine lodge with some questions.

He wanted to learn skiing the best way he could.

He asked the seasoned skiers at the lodge:

“What is the most important part of a run to focus on?”

Half of the skiers at the lodge said:

“The beginning, because that’s where you get all your momentum and set yourself up for success.”

The other half said:

“The middle, because that’s the most complicated part of the run.”

Good-natured arguments broke out and our newcomer didn’t feel any closer to an answer.

Out on the slopes later that day, our newcomer saw an elderly man in a cowboy hat skiing with incredible grace.

He knew he was watching a master at work.

When the opportunity arose, our newcomer approached the man, introduced himself, and asked:

“What is the most important part of a run to focus on?”

Billy Kidd looked our newcomer up and down.

He considered this for some time, then answered:

“It’s the final three turns. The last bit before you get on the lift.

“That’s when the slope levels off, there’s less challenge.

“Most people are very sloppy then. They have bad form.

“The problem is, on that lift ride up, you’re internalizing bad form.

“If your last three turns are precise, then what you’re internalizing on the lift ride up is precision.”

Billy’s answer changed the direction of our newcomer’s life.

The newcomer was Josh Waitzkin.

Chess prodigy and subject of the 1993 film “Searching for Bobby Fischer”.

(The same film from which I got the name for this business.)

Josh is now an expert on learning and even wrote a book on it.

Billy says we need to internalize precision. I agree with him.

The most important part of any Chess session is the end.

The most important part of any Chess game is the end.

If we’re precise at the end, that’s what we’re internalizing between games.

First up, we need to get resignation out of our Chess vocabulary.

If you’re at a certain rating (2000 and up), etiquette dictates that you should resign in a lost position. Up to you if you follow that rule.

Until you’re at that rating though, even if you’re clearly losing, play on.

Aim to play with precision. Make it as hard as possible for your opponent to convert.

Resigning is giving up. It’s damaging to our growth as players that resignation is such a part of Chess culture.

Don’t let “giving up” become part of who you are. Don’t let it be the thing that you internalize between games.

When you’re winning, aim to convert as precisely as possible. Don’t take your foot off the gas just because you think it’s a certainty.

Don’t get sloppy.

Internalize precision.

And lastly (this is the hardest one)…

End your Chess sessions immediately after a great game. If you’ve just played the game of your life, take a break.

Every part of your energy and your adrenaline will be telling you to continue.

But end there.

Let that awesome performance be the thing that your mind rolls over for the next 24 hours.

It seems a small thing, but if you end every session of Chess having just had a fantastic performance, you will start to feel you are growing.

That mindset will help you grow more.

It’s self-fulfilling.

Regardless of how you played the rest of your games, if your last game was full of blunders, mistakes, and a final resignation, that’s what you’re internalizing.

Internalize precision instead.

Here’s to the journey.

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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