The Essence of Talent

There are a lot of ways people get to know chess. I remember having seen my father’s sophisticated chess pieces and getting acquainted with an interesting game which looked like a war between two armies. Very soon I understood that the army led by the more experienced commander won the game, and it was not at all easy to gain that experience! But I wanted to gain it, and understanding nothing at that time, I made my first step to join the society of people who had united to discover the secrets of the GAME. One can join and abandon the society at one’s own free will, but in all my life I have not seen a person who abandoned it VOLUNTARILY FOR GOOD.

What one needs to win chess combats?
First of all, one must have the gift of God – the particular “talent for chess”. The talent might differ from person to person, but unless it is there, one will never achieve much in chess. In this case neither the fanaticism in studying the obscure positions, nor the participation in numerous tournaments will help. The talent can only be developed. No coach can give it even to the most diligent and hard-working trainee.

But chess is a wise and grateful game. Those who used to play it seriously, even for a short period of time, and then gave it up, nevertheless generated the skills that came in handy in real life. Once a prominent coach told me about a conversation he had had with a “new Russian” (there is a modern term now which is used to allude to the Russian businessmen who have quickly come into money), his pupil’s father. After a few lessons, when the coach was convinced that the boy would not become a good chess-player, he told the father about it. The answer was: “But I don’t want him to become a strong grandmaster! I want my son to learn to think logically, predict and take into account his partners’ possible steps, take his own decisions and put them into effect”. The father wanted to prepare his son for the life in the world of business by means of chess learning! The businessman understood what the people, who had worked in the field of chess for quite a long time, felt: he understood that chess was a model of life! I always tell my pupils that if the unearthly origin of life is proved, the unearthly origin of chess will be proved, too.

So what is talent for chess? And what is talent in general? Here I can’t help recalling an episode which happened in this country’s communist past. I was walking along the central street of Kiev, the capital of Soviet Ukraine, and in one shop window I saw a book by the great Jewish writer Sholom Aleikhem. The fact that the book appeared in the Ukraine during the time of the highest efflorescence of anti-Semitism was quite unexpected, and taking it in my hands, I started reading the preface written by the great Ukrainian writer Ostap Vishnya. The preface only covered two pages, but I could not find anything about either the contents or the author of the book. Ostap Visnya tackled the problem of talent, significance and necessity of hard work for a talented person. There was only one paragraph left, which consisted of just two sentences. The first one ran as follows: “So what is talent? It is such a thing that unless you have it, you haven’t got it!” To my mind, this is the most correct definition of talent. We’ll get round to the second sentence of the preface a bit later.

Though it is impossible to say what chess talent really is, this talent is quite obvious for a coach. A talented child digests chess knowledge much quicker and uses it more effectively. The child is quick to single out the main things in a coach’s explanations or in the books, and identifies the moments when this or that chess rule or skill can be applied. Usually talented children can quickly learn to play without having a chessboard before their eyes. They are quick to make moves and figure out the possible lines, they are good at “blitz” and at playing games with reduced time control. There is “a rule of thumb” among chess coaches: “blitz is the indicator of talent”. I would like to stress, that it is an indicator of talent but not of strength of a chess-player, as talent is necessary but not enough for what is called the strength of a chess-player. A grandmaster at the age of 12 played at such a rate that, trying to teach him to play slower and more seriously, I suggested that he should write down in a note book the moves he considered before making a move on the chess-board. The “sly” boy managed to put down seven (!!) variants of moves for about a minute, making an eighth on the chess-board. So – “unless you have it, you haven’t got it!”

One should distinguish between chess talent and a good ability to memorize. Many children are quick to memorize a vast quantity of chess lines, especially the ones they like, but not many of them are capable of putting into practice what they have memorized. That’s what the talent is needed for. It is possible to develop and improve any kind of memory, including the memory for chess lines, by means of special exercises. The main thing is one’s will, tenacity and time.

Contributed by : A.Vaysman  Honored coach of Ukraine

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2 Responses

  1. Epic post, I’ve been playing chess since I was little, I never get bored of it.

  2. Thanks for the information about chess talent

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