Moments of Transition

(This guide originally appeared in the Don’t Move Member’s Newsletter for August 16, 2022.)

Hi, it’s Aiden.

I’m in the midst of another big burst of Chess improvement.

It’s been great. Still doesn’t feel like it’s over.

I’m winning most of my games and feeling a few steps ahead of each of my opponents.

There’s maybe another 80-100 points in this burst before it slows down.

This forming insight is part of it.

Most of the time, I am focused on the meta-learning of Chess. Learning how to learn it.

And learning how to run a business.

Those are the ingredients needed to make Don’t Move work.

But every now and then I jump in and work on my own Chess.

Partly because I like to test my new ideas before I hit you all with them.

And partly because I love the game – and especially the feeling of improvement with the game.

As I grow further in rating, there is one element that is becoming more and more important.

And it’s another one that very few people talk about.

I’ve been thinking about this since I saw the interview Josh Waitzkin gave at Google in 2008.

In it, among other things, Josh discusses the “moments of transition” in a sport.

He speaks about it in the context of Tai Chi and his life, but it is so relevant to our Chess.

In Chess, we build plans.

These plans, like any good plans, are based on objectives.

Objectives are like a lens through which we see the possibilities in a position.

They help us see the best way forward. What gets us toward our goal.

The challenge is that our goals in a Chess game sometimes do not line up with the possibilities in a position.

To put it another way-

Often the door closes on an objective without us noticing.

Our pieces are swarming around the opponent’s king. It looks like mate is coming.

Achieving checkmate is our immediate objective. It’s the lens through which we’re looking at the position.

But our opponent defends well.

Our pieces are still swarming. The position looks great. You think that there MUST be a way to break through.

Because we’re focused on the mate, we don’t spot the opportunity to take the free pawn, or maybe even a piece.

That would take the pressure off the opponent king. Lead us further from our mate.

Mate is the objective. These minor opportunities don’t even enter our minds.

But there is no mate.

In fact, we lose the game.

Why?

We kept aiming for a target that had moved.

We didn’t spot the moment of transition, and kept playing as if our goal was still relevant.

If we’d detected that our objective had changed, we’d have bailed out of our attack and won in the endgame.

Identifying the moments of transition is key.

Always ask yourself:

Is my goal still relevant?

Has my target moved?

What should it be now?

Something to ponder.

This line of thought is early stages in my mind.

Has this kicked off any line of thought for you? Have you noticed this in your own Chess?

Leave a comment and let me know. Let’s expand on this together!

Here’s to the journey,

Aiden

Aiden

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