Review: The Seven Deadly Chess Sins by Jonathan Rowson

The Seven Deadly Chess SinsThe Seven Deadly Chess Sins by Jonathan Rowson

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A fascinating analysis of the seven “most common causes of disaster in chess”, Grandmaster Jonathan Rowson’s book, “The Seven Deadly Chess Sins” provides virtually inexhaustible material to provoke thought and study for the serious player.

As a beginner/improver whose ratings bumble around the 1000 mark and who rarely has the patience to play through worked examples, 50% of this book was beyond me. However, it will be returned to over and again in the future and there is enough to fascinate and provoke at any level. Rowson analyses both the psychological and practical outworking of each of the “sins”.

The book is divided into seven sections dealing with problems that are loosely tied to the traditional “Seven Deadly Sins” (Pride, Envy, Gluttony, Lust, Anger, Greed, and Sloth).

Thinking – sometimes there is too much of this.

Blinking – lapses of attention that cost too dearly.

Wanting – being too focused on the result.

Materialism – thinking too much in terms of material.

Egoism – missing your opponent’s point of view.

Perfectionism – taking too much time.

Looseness – failing to maintain a grip on the game in front of you.

Each chapter begins with a discussion of the more conceptual and psychological aspects of the game. How does your personality affect your play? What do you see when you look at the board? Is it possible to be objective? How does the Chess Mind work? Are you too attached to certain lines? What is really going on? The discussion is delightfully buoyed up by quotes from Grandmasters and diverse sources such as Kierkegaard, Sartre, De Bono, and the I-Ching. There is a wonderful sense here that Chess is about life and who you are that has much wider implications. This is what really excites me about the game and it blew my mind open to new possibilities and taught me a lot about myself.

The second part of each chapter is given to the worked examples drawn from historic and lesser known matches of over 60 different players. Here Rowson’s encyclopedic breadth of detail guides the reader through the trips and turns that demonstrate each “sin” on the board.

Every chapter is worthy of at least a year’s study and application and it is small wonder it took me a few months to plough through it all. The reader never feels patronised or dictated to as the author has a way of presenting ideas in a way that encourages them to mature and stand on their own feet; to explore and develop through shedding the kind of formulaic mantras that all of us tend to have absorbed. It’s like coming under the tutelage of a Zen master.

This book will remain close to hand, a challenging resource for a lifetime of learning.

View all my reviews

Mistakes: The Departure Point for Creativity

Light bulb patent application. Photolithograph...

Edison's Light Bulb

Accept that you will make mistakes as everyone does. If mistakes are so inevitable would it not be better to incorporate them into your creative process and use them as opportunities to be exploited rather than set-backs or even fatal flaws in the project.

The ever wise Dorye Roettger famously said, “There are no problems – only opportunities to be creative,” and for a person who adopts this as their maxim, every mistake made in the creative process can become an extraordinary opportunity, too.

At the very least, a mistake can be a lesson in what doesn’t work. The inventor Thomas Edison said, “Results! Why, man, I have gotten a lot of results. I know several thousand things that won’t work.” However, a mistake can be so much more than that. It can be a prompt that kicks you off the tramlines of your typical thought processes and in pulling your best effort in order to compensate for your “mistake” you may find that you excel yourself or stumble into new paths.

A chess player who makes an error in their opening line of play could throw their opponent off guard with their unorthodoxy, be forced to invent a new line of strategy and work ten times harder because of their vulnerability.If your inventive mind has a tendency to fall into a rut a mistake can jerk you awake and bring you back to a sense of presence in the task.

A songwriter who always finds themselves going back to the same old chord progressions could take a hint from John Lennon and switch to a less familiar instrument. He is reputed to have done most of his writing at the piano because it was much less familiar and he was therefore more likely to stray into new musical territory. He may not have called it progress by mistakes but this is much closer to the kind of attitude that an opportunist creative needs to take to make the best of the inevitable.

Hints for using mistakes as a departure point for creativity

Get Socratic: Ask “why” at least five times until you get to the root of something. “Why did this happen?” “Why do I see this as a mistake?”

Get Freudian: Is this slip up some expression of a deeper subconscious intelligence? How might this “mistake” be seen as a wise move?

Get Existential: Instead of lamenting your stupidity in the past, even the past five minutes, embrace the fact that you are here now and nothing will change that. Enjoy the moment. Assess your options in the “NOW”.

Zen Out: Walk away from it for a while and settle your mind on something else. You may have made a “mistake” because you were trying too hard or wanting it too much. If you take a break and look away as if you do not care quite so much, you give your mind a chance to engage the subconscious.

A creative breakthrough is never far away from a mistake, let it find you.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,674 other followers