Born On A Blue Day

The man to whom I have referred to as “Louisville Lefty” on this blog was autistic. He was what was called a “high functioning autistic” in the time before it was known as Asperger’s syndrome. After reading an article in the last decade of the previous century I called Lefty to inform him of the article. He chuckled when telling me he was aware of Asperger’s and had been recruited for studies, but had turned them down. “They tell me I am a perfect specimen,” Lefty said, “but I have no desire to be a guinea pig.” Asperger’s became part of one umbrella diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders 5 (DSM-5) in 2013. (https://www.autismspeaks.org/what-asperger-syndrome) Designations change, but the thing remains the same…

After reading the book, Shadow Syndromes: The Mild Forms of Major Mental Disorders That Sabotage Us, by John J. Ratey,

I mentioned it to Lefty. “Freud once said that nobody is “normal,” and after reading Shadow Syndromes, you may well be convinced of that. While more than 50 million Americans suffer from full-fledged mental illnesses such as depression and obsessive-compulsive disorder, millions more suffer from milder forms–yet they likely don’t realize it.” – Erica Jorgensen review from Amazon (https://www.amazon.com/Shadow-Syndromes-Mental-Disorders-Sabotage/dp/0553379593/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1541186705&sr=1-1&keywords=shadow+syndromes)
Louisville Lefty read the book later and a long phone discussion ensued. Lefty had earlier mentioned he thought I showed traits of Asperger’s, at which I scoffed. After reading Shadow Syndromes I was no longer scoffing. As a matter of fact Lefty mentioned most game players probably have some form of Asperger’s Syndrome.

Reading the book, Born On A Blue Day: Inside the Extraordinary Mind of an Autistic Savant, by Daniel Tammet,

recently has caused me to reflect on what Lefty said decades ago…

Daniel Tammet –

a “high functioning autistic savant” from East London, England. To sort of set a benchmark as to his mind’s capabilities for the curious among you, Daniel once successfully recited the constant Pi (a circles circumference divided by its diameter) to 22,514 digits – a feat that took over five hours and ended on his own accord (not by mistake). (https://www.synesthesiatest.org/blog/daniel-tammet)

From the book:

“Take the following example:

A bird in the hand
is worth two in the
the bush

Read quickly, most people don’t spot the second, superfluous “the” in the sentence above.”

I am one of those who do spot the the.

“I find it very hard to filter out external noise and regularly put my fingers in my ears to help me concentrate,” writes Daniel.

It is something I could have written. Other players are much better than I at blocking out distractions. In addition, it usually takes me far longer ‘settle back in’, shall we say, than other players.

At a Chess tournament in Atlanta, probably in the ’80s, I played a Bishop’s opening against Mark Coles. I cannot recall his rating at the time of the game but he was either a 2100+ Expert or a 2200+ Master. Big Mark played weakly in the opening, allowing me to lam into him with the Bxf7+ move when the bishop could not be taken, and Kf8 was the only move. For all intents and purposes the game was over. Mark attempted everything he could to destroy my concentration, to no avail, and I won the game. The last time I saw Mark he was dying of cancer. He was only forty years of age and looked good, better than I remembered him, as he, at one time, was very much overweight. He came by the House of Pain and some of the old crowd, some still into Chess, and some not, came by to see Mark, who had moved back to Georgia from the left coast. We went to the pizza joint next door and food and beer were ordered. The last four were the legendary Georgia Ironman, his high school Chess teammate Jason Whitehead, Mark and yours truly. Jason was in conversation with the Ironman, while Mark and I had a chance to talk privately. Mark apologized for his “reprehensible” behavior during that long ago game. I told Mark it had been forgotten a long time ago. “Not by me,” said the dying Mark Coles. “You were a stepping stone, Mike,” said Mark. “If we could beat you we figured we were on our way,” he said. I will admit to putting more than my share of younger players “on their way.”

“Writing was always a chore,” Tammet writes. “Even today I write most of the letters in a word individually one after the other.”

I began printing many decades ago and can print words much faster than writing in longhand. Many years ago I read something about what it means when a person prints in lieu of using cursive, and it was not good, so I just did a search using http://www.startpage.com and this was found:

“Using print also reflects personal characteristics of the user. The absence of connectors (connected writing) symbolizes difficulty to communicate and to talk about feelings.”

Psychology of Print

Handwriting Interpretation. From the psychological point of view, those who use print reflect that is hard for them to express emotions.They do not allow their feelings to come out spontaneously. They need to have everything under control, avoiding unexpected events. Difference must be made in interpretation according to the type of print or to the “degree” of evolution of each one, since there are different levels.” (http://www.handwriting-graphology.com/handwriting-interpretation/)

This is something of which more than a few women have accused me.

From the book:

“My father taught me how to play chess when I was thirteen. One day he showed me the chessboard and pieces that he used when he played with friends and asked if I wanted to learn. I nodded, so he demonstrated how each of the pieces moved on the board and explained the basic rules of the game. My father was self-taught and only played occasionally to pass the time. Even so, it was a surprise to him when I beat him in our first game together. “Beginner’s luck,” he said and put the pieces back in their starting positions and we played another game. Again, I won. At this point my father had the idea that I might benefit from playing socially at a chess club. He knew of one nearby and told me he would take me to play there the following week.”

“I liked going to the club each week to play. It wasn’t noisy and I did not have to talk or interact very much with the other players. When I wasn’t playing chess at the club, I was reading about it at home in books I had borrowed from the local library. Soon, all I could talk about was chess-I even told people I wanted to be a professional player when I got older.”

“After each match, I would take my sheet of paper home with me and replay the moves on my own chessboard while sitting on the floor of my bedroom, analyzing the positions reached to try and find ways of improving. It was advice I had read in one of my chess books and it helped me to avoid repeating mistakes and to become familiar with various common positions during a game.”

“The hardest part of playing chess for me was trying to maintain a deep level of concentration over a long game that could last two or three hours. I tend to think deeply in short bursts, followed by longer periods when my ability to concentrate on something is much reduced and less consistent. I also find it hard to switch off from small things happening around me and this affects my concentration.: someone exhaling noisily across the room from me, for example. There were games where I would play myself into an advantageous position and then lose my concentration, play a weak move or series of moves and end up losing. That was always frustrating for me.”

“Each month I read the latest chess magazine at my local library. In one issue I read an ad for an upcoming tournament not far from my home.”

“The games were timed and I started my first match confidently and played quickly. Soon I had a strong position on the board and a big time advantage against my opponent as well. I was feeling very positive. Then suddenly my opponent made his move, pressed the button on the clock and stood up quickly. I watched him as he paced up and down the hall while he waited for me to respond. I had not expected him to do this and found that I could not concentrate well while he walked up and down, his shoes squeaking on the hard, shiny floor. Totally distracted, I played a series of poor moves and lost the game. I felt thoroughly disappointed, but also unable to go on with the other games because I just could not get my concentration back. I walked out of the hall and went home, deciding that tournament play was not for me.”

These are excerpts from pages 103-107, and these words were chosen for a reason. Some of these words could have been mine.

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