Monday, October 15, 2012

The Fake Sound Of Progress

"Never confuse movement with action."

Ernest Hemingway

Progress. Soapy, soapy progress.

Having spent all of Friday afternoon being herded into a valley of unhappiness in the name of Marxian theory, and having watched Mehdi Hasan veritably implode this weekend, I'm feeling fighty. I'm also in a dangerously rational state of self-awareness and, all right, it probably wasn't a wonderful idea to get up at 6:30am for Sunday's predictably dull Korean Grand Prix. 

In short, I'm knackered. 

Still, let's have a cheery discussion on the nature of progress within chess, shall we?

Black's just played 7...b5, winning a piece for two pawns. 

And now, after 20. c5, the material balance is the same. But which player has made progress? Has either?

 Guaranteed victory or guaranteed defeat?

Objectively, given they've hoovered the queens off and white's kingside isn't coming to help its centralised friends any time soon, black's improved their position. But what's the point of that if they're uneasy? After the opening disaster, white has very little to lose and might as well go for it, which they have done. 

Richard James' advice to "look, not think" applies here. Because, aaah! the pawns and aaah! my king and aaah! I've been completely winning since the opening and if I don't win this everyone will laugh at me and I'll probably lose all my confidence and aaah! my confidence is waning already and aaah! aaah! aaah! DRAMA!

And breathe.

I think a state of progression exists largely in the mind. In general life terms, if I can't look back at myself from 12 months ago and wonder what on earth that person stood for, I know I'm going nowhere. This is unhelpful in chess because it's results-oriented and, however much we protest otherwise, the journey matters little to the outcome. If we can find the crudest possible way of reaching a desired outcome, we will.

"But how do I make progress?" should be a question reserved for quiet contemplation on the bus. Within a chess game, in precarious positions such as the above, I prefer this:

"How do I win?"


John Cox said...

Ah c'mon, you can't do that! What's this game then? And who did win?

Entertaining enough piece though, and I thought Mr Hasan had one or two more facts than the usual speaker about abortion, (one or two, in other words), so I think 'implode''s a bit harsh.

ejh said...

Talking of Hemingway, who in your second photo appears to be anticipating the opening of Apocalypse Now, I happen to be in his favourite Pamplona right now, where during the festival of San Fermín, the price of the hotel room for which we are presently paying forty Euros a night goes up to four hundred Euros, due to the annual descent on the city, in that week, of several thousand of the world's most stupid people.

Now that's what I call movement.

PJM said...

Hi John!

Ynojosa - Makepeace, Canterbury 2010 should be of interest...

The climax to the piece wasn't intended as a poser, rather a concrete piece of advice based on my own approach to hairy positions.

And the reason I said that about the Hasan piece has little to do with the finer points about abortion, which is a very polarised issue. Rather that he had the temerity to conflate some kind of bullshit 'lefty' ideology with female body autonomy.

John Cox said...

Actually, I don't think 'how do I win' is ever the right question. Once you go away from 'what should I do next', then in my experience this is the start of the slope.

So c'mon, what did you do? I'd be pretty tempted by 20...Nxc5 - seems to preserve all the advantages of Black's position, as they say, except for the extra piece of course-, but a wild guess is that you played that and it didn't work out well.

I should have thought 'female body autonomy', certainly in this context, *was* a bullshit lefty ideology, of the worst kind. You might quarrel with 'lefty', I suppose, but the rest would be fairly incontestable. Perhaps I'm not understanding what you mean.