On Chess, Mind Control, and Smashing Paradigms

As in any ideological system, young chess players are inculcated with seemingly inviolable commandments:  Thou Shalt Arrange Your Pieces to Control the Center, Thou Shall Not Move the Same Piece Twice Until All Other Pieces Are Developed. In what you might call the romantic era of chess, before the development of artificial intelligence, these commandments were considered the founding laws of the game – and for good reason: they were excellent strategies for winning.

But now we’ve stood on the shoulders of giants, we’ve seen from Tal and Fischer and Kasparov (and all the other preceding geniuses)  these are not really steadfast rules for success. They’re merely an expression of statistical phenomena: bringing your pieces to the center is indeed often a good strategy; in many situations and circumstances it works. But in some situations and circumstances, such as when playing an opponent weaned on analysis of AlphaZero, something else may work better. Something “wrong.” Modern players understand this. Now almost any strategy can be made to work, even ones that seem to violate the sacred laws.

In his prime, Fischer made moves that offended chess purists wedded to received doctrine. Today, Magnus Carlsen and kin make “Fischer moves” almost every game! To experts of the early 1900s, the games authored by today’s top players would seem preposterous, foolish. Amateurish. But isn’t that the point of evolution? Nothing is static, least of all human intelligence. All of us must occasionally abandon the safety of our old belief systems and periodically embrace an entirely new way of thinking. Smash the paradigm and find a new one.

This is the ultimate act of mind control. This is when you’re in charge.

Most of the time, far from controlling your brain, your brain is its own master, a magnificent stallion that can never be saddled. It’s conscious, it’s living – and it’s operating according to what often seems like its own schedule. Real creativity involves abdicating any need to control the galloping steed. Instead, hang on tight and enjoy the ride — to wherever it wants to take you.

What you can control is how you learn, by creating study habits that encourage curiosity and a sense of wonder.

Learn every day like a child. Fascination requires no effort. And no rules.

You may also like...