A wonderful piece by Tom Vanderbilt in Nautilus about learning chess with his four year old daughter:
“It wasn’t long before it struck me that chess seemed to be a game for the young. When my daughter began doing scholastic tournaments, I would chat up other parents and ask whether they played—usually the reply was an apologetic shrug and a smile. I would explain that I too was learning to play, and the resulting tone was cheerily patronizing: Good luck with that! Reading about an international tournament, I was struck by a suggestion that a grandmaster had passed his peak. He was in his 30s. We are used to athletes being talked about in this way. But a mind game like chess?”
Read the whole piece, it’s a good reflection on how our brains change with age. I particularly like this sentence:
“As we get older, there is one thing at which we get worse: Being a novice.”
I always found it depressing that my phone, even set to the lowest level, can beat me at chess.
Psychologists have long been interested in chess and chess players. Some have even gone so far as to compare the role of chess in the cognitive sciences to the role that fruit flies play in genetics.
Because it possible to rank and track the performance of chess players across their careers, chess provides an excellent arena for the study of how skill, training, and performance interact.
One important, observation is that chess masters usually play their best chess when they are younger, but as an article in yesterday’s New York Times points out, this is not always the case:
“Unlike in football, basketball or baseball — where players lose their skills as they age — in chess some older players experience a competitive renaissance and regain the form that made them champions.”