Flowing With Intuition

After moving to Hendersonville, NC, I found myself sitting across the chess board playing a speed game at the weekly chess club from Expert Jimmy Hardy. It was my move. I saw the opportunity to retreat my Queen, bringing it back to the center of the board where it would be surrounded by enemy pieces. Nevertheless, it looked like a strong move.
I was never much of a speed chess player and have always thought the reason was because I began playing chess as an adult. While playing speed chess I would often see what to me was a beautiful position and wish there were more time to look into the depths of the position. Sometimes I would try to remember the position so it could be looked at later. When I mentioned this to Big Al after losing yet another speed game after my flag fell, he said, “That’s crazy.” The last time we played speed chess Al won again. He got up from the board saying, “It happens every game…You have a winning position and I win on time. This is no fun.” I beat Oscar Al Hamilton in only twenty moves in what would now be called a “classical” game at a Thad Rogers event, called by the Legendary Georgia Ironman “another nameless, faceless weekend swiss.” Big Al got up after resigning saying, “Nobody beats me like that. NOBODY!” It was only years later I realized how much the loss had affected our relationship.
Another time I was facing Uylsses Martin, a man who had served seven years in the state penitentiary for murder before being paroled. I sat there contemplating whether of not to move my h-pawn and launch an attack. The logical, “Mr. Spock” side of my brain was arguing with the intuitive, “Captain Kirk” side and I went with Spock holding back the pawn move, hoping to make the pawn move next. Without even writing down my move, Uylsses immediately played a move to prevent my moving the wing pawn. I looked at him and sort of grinned. He looked back at me as if to say, “What?” I went on to win that game, but it took much longer than it would have if I had listened to Kirk. As an aside, I won another game against Uylsses, one of the nicest fellows you could ever meet, when his flag fell before he made his twenty fifth move!
I could give many more examples, but you get my drift. Because of the battle between Spock and Kirk that has raged in my brain over the course of my chess career I have been interested in reading about chess intuition. Just this week a new book, “The Enigma of Chess Intuition,” by Valeri Beim, arrived. The book, in excellent condition, cost only $7.95, plus shipping.
The Ironman has a book, “The Magic Tactics of Mikhail Tal,” by Karsten Muller & Raymund Stolze. Like the aforementioned book, it too is published by New in Chess. I allowed Tim to open “Enigma” and the first thing he said was, “If it’s published by New in Chess you know it has got to be good!” When young and on his way toward the battle for the World Championship with Mikhail Botvinnik, Tal was a creative genius who was an intuitive player. He played moves that defied calculation by humans of the day. Computer programs may be able to refute some of Tal’s moves now, but human players were unable to do so “back in the day.” Just how much chess programs have affected the game of chess is illustrated by this from GM Rafael Vaganian in an interview with Sergey Kim on the chess24.com website:
“Sergey Kim: Both at the board and simply in life you met all the Soviet world champions from Botvinnik to Kasparov. The world champions of the twentieth century – of your generation – and the champions of the third millennium – first and foremost, Carlsen: how do they differ?
Rafael Vaganian: It’s hard to compare, because the chess is totally different. Those champions worked in another setting, playing another kind of chess. With no computers, they worked and created on their own, and their creativity was immense. If they found something it was with their own minds, while now there are these amazing programs. Theory has “grown” to 30-35 moves, and you simply can’t compare the two types of chess. Frankly speaking, I don’t like modern chess, and I’m not sure what’s going to happen next. After all, a person isn’t capable of remembering so much, so they simply suffer because of it. They need to remember and learn it all, but then what of creativity? They barely play at the board, but at home, and that’s bad.
I consider those champions to have been greats, though perhaps that’s natural, since I’m a chess player of that generation – the Soviet School – and it all means a lot to me. I find modern chess alien, so it’s possible I’m not objective. Botvinnik, Karpov, Kasparov – they beat everyone for 10-12 years in a row, while for me the thirteenth champion is a separate topic. The way Kasparov and his group worked was incredible. They were a class above the rest and therefore he crushed everyone. Garry won a huge number of games in the opening. His preparation was colossal! But he found moves himself at the board rather than the computer coming up with them. Back then people still beat computers, while now even the world champion can’t beat a computer.” (https://chess24.com/en/read/news/rafael-vaganian-anand-won-t-lose)
After one tournament Gail told me Big Al had mentioned to her that I was “trying too hard.” I gave his words considerable thought, coming to the conclusion Al was right. When at my best I did not have to try so hard because it seemed easy and just kind of flowed. Many years later, after devoting all my time and energy to backgammon, chess was anything but easy. When playing baseball I had to give it my all since I was smaller than the other players. When a senior in high school I was awarded a small trophy that meant all the world to me because my teammates had voted it to me for being the player that best showed what our coach called the “105” spirit. We chattered “105” on the field that year, which meant giving that little extra. It was the only way I knew to play, and it carried over into my chess.
I read something earlier this year by a Go player, Michael Redmond, that seems applicable to a discussion of intuition. “The charismatic Redmond, an American, is one of very few non-Asian Go celebrities. He began playing professionally in Japan at the age of 18, and remains the only Westerner to ever reach 9-dan, the game’s highest rank.”
“The trouble is that identifying Go moves that deserve attention is often a mysterious process. “You’ll be looking at the board and just know,” Redmond told me, as we stood in front of the projector screen watching Crazy Stone take back Nomitan’s initial lead. “It’s something subconscious, that you train through years and years of playing. I’ll see a move and be sure it’s the right one, but won’t be able to tell you exactly how I know. I just see it.” (From-The Mystery of Go, the Ancient Game That Computers Still Can’t Win, by Alan Levinovitz 05.12.14)
http://www.wired.com/2014/05/the-world-of-computer-go/
Substitute “chess” for “Go” above and you will understand, grasshopper. “You’ll be looking at the board and just know.” You do not have to calculate, and sometimes it will not matter because no matter how long you calculate you will never to be completely certain as there are just too many possibilities.
Intuition can be found in every endeavor. For example, in a 1997 interview with Robert Hilburn, found in the “Dylan Companion,” while referring to Neil Young in the song “Highlands” from the “Time Out of Mind” album, Bob says, “It’s anything you want it to be. I don’t give much thought to individual lines. If I thought about them in any kind of deep way, maybe I wouldn’t use them because I’d always be second-guessing myself. I learned a long time ago to trust my intuition.”
In a 1995 interview in the USA TODAY not long after his “Unplugged” performance, Dylan said, “As you get older, you get smarter and that can hinder you because you try to gain control over the creative impulse. Creativity is not like a freight train going down the tracks. It’s something that has to be caressed and treated with a great deal of respect. If your mind is intellectually in the way, it will stop you. You’ve got to program your brain not to think too much.”
The first line reminds me of Mikhail Tal. His style of play changed as he grew older. Part of it may have been a natural process, but being forced to work with Karpov also had a lasting effect on his style of play.
What it all boils down to is that one must go with the flow and play what you know, Joe. This is exactly what Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, a “Positive psychologist,” means when he says that flow is, “A state of heightened focus and immersion in activities such as art, play and work.” (http://www.ted.com/talks/mihaly_csikszentmihalyi_on_flow?language=en)
Viswanathan Anand lost his “flow” but somehow managed to get back into the flow for the Candidates tournament, one of the most amazing things in the history of chess.
After losing the game to Jimmy, our friend NM Neal Harris walked over, asking the result. Jimmy said, “I won, but take a look at this position!” He immediately set up the position to which I referred at the beginning of this article. Jimmy looked at Neal with blazing eyes and said, while moving the Queen to the middle of the board, “Mike missed this crushing blow. I don’t see how I can continue after this move.” The two mountain men continued moving the pieces around while I debated telling them I had actually seen the move, but rejected it. Instead I said, “Yeah, that looks like a real strong move.”

Watching The River Flow by Bob Dylan

What’s the matter with me
I don’t have much to say
Daylight sneakin’ through the window
And I’m still in this all-night café
Walkin’ to and fro beneath the moon
Out to where the trucks are rollin’ slow
To sit down on this bank of sand
And watch the river flow

Wish I was back in the city
Instead of this old bank of sand
With the sun beating down over the chimney tops
And the one I love so close at hand
If I had wings and I could fly
I know where I would go
But right now I’ll just sit here so contentedly
And watch the river flow

People disagreeing on all just about everything, yeah
Makes you stop and all wonder why
Why only yesterday I saw somebody on the street
Who just couldn’t help but cry
Oh, this ol’ river keeps on rollin’, though
No matter what gets in the way and which way the wind does blow
And as long as it does I’ll just sit here
And watch the river flow

People disagreeing everywhere you look
Makes you wanna stop and read a book
Why only yesterday I saw somebody on the street
That was really shook
But this ol’ river keeps on rollin’, though
No matter what gets in the way and which way the wind does blow
And as long as it does I’ll just sit here
And watch the river flow

Watch the river flow
Watchin’ the river flow
Watchin’ the river flow
But I’ll sit down on this bank of sand
And watch the river flow
Copyright © 1971 by Big Sky Music; renewed 1999 by Big Sky Music

Bob Dylan Watching The River Flow

http://njnnetwork.com/2010/01/bob-dylan-watching-the-river-flow/

LEON RUSSELL, WATCHING THE RIVER FLOW

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