Sunday, 30 December 2007

Chess improvement v Chess enjoyment

Are chess improvement and chess enjoyment mutually exclusive? Improving one's ability at any game of skill takes dedication, study, practice and application. Where's the fun in that? I'm half joking here of course - I recognize that if I enjoy chess (which I do) then learning to play it better should also be enjoyable and motivation shouldn't be a problem.

So why is it a problem?

I believe that improving your chess ability requires much harder work than most patzers (myself included) realise, and are prepared to undertake. I don't think I'm lazy (not more than average, anyway) and I'm prepared to work hard at something if I feel it is worthwhile. The question is - is studying chess worthwhile? It is after all just a game - a beautiful, beguiling, compelling frustrating, uplifting game. Life is short and chess study takes a lot of time.

If the aim of life is to be happy, is there really any point in spending so much time on a game which can produce as much frustration and disappointment as happiness?

It may sound like I'm writing this on the back of a bad loss, but I'm on a winning streak at the moment (I'm playing correspondence games at No, this post has been prompted by the impending new year and thoughts of resolutions.

I've decided not to make any resolutions, about chess or anything else. I will continue to try to balance enjoyment and study of chess in my leisure time and hope to end 2008 understanding chess a bit better than I do now.

My blogging friend Dan Scoones has suggested I finish reading 'The Most Instructive Games of Chess Ever Played' by Chernev (one of the many books I haven't finished). So that's what I'm going to do - and continue playing as much as possible - given the time available!


Wahrheit said...

Hi Ryan, how's it going with finishing that book, and everything in general?

Ryan Emmett said...

Hi Robert, thanks for the comment!!!

I still haven't finished the book, but I'm getting nearer!

I still blog at, but as you can see I've stopped here. It's just easier to blog there - posting games is really easy and it was always a pain on Blogger.

I decided I was spending too much time reading chess blogs, so I rarely read any now. I just subscribe to a handful of feeds these days.

I've focused instead on playing ( again at and I've found that I'm enjoying that much more than blogging. I feel like I've re-discovered my close connection with this wonderful game.

Thanks again for taking the time to post a comment. I guess I should post a final post here to make it clear that my blog is dormant for the foreseeable future.

I think I'll add your blog to my feed list again, so I can keep in touch.


ConservativeChessNutInSeattle said...

Hello from Seattle in the Great Northwest. I found your post as I am studying the Caro-Kann and in the process of reading what you have said, found your blog rather interesting. Especially the part on the Art of Losing. It was a well written piece and I take it too heart.

Win or lose, Chess is meaningful and should be learned. I took it up as a kid and recently picked up on it again as an adult twice. This last time for the past year and a half. It keeps me busy. During that time I have earestly relearned the Torre Attack (an offshoot of the London System), and switched from the Sicilian to the CK defense.

All in all I just wanted to express that I have enjoyed what you have written and hope to read some more. Keep up your studies and hope to hear from you on my site if you are around.

Jim H. USCF rating 1074 (and moving up)

PS: If interested try tackling either book on the CK Defence by Karpov. It's a great refence.

Chess Teaching said...

You are probably right, but trying to balance enjoyment and study isn't limited to chess. The same is true for all sports and probably even for our jobs.
In general a little bit of study makes it more enjoyable, but the study in itself should (almost) never be the goal.

M. Thomas Southerland ( said...

Hey Ryan,

I'm diggin your blog!

Seems like you and I have at least a few things in common...

Thanks for doing what you do.

Waldemar said...

Hi SonofPearl,

I stumbled upon your blog by reading your last article on about "Magnificant Magnus".

I must say I have always enjoyed studying chess, that is to say when I did it seriously. Experience has tought me that it creates some sort of craving for the pieces, which is very enjoyable since you're eager to play your next game.

If you finish ;-) "Chess for Zebra's" you will learn that chess is not so much about knowledge and studying as it is about skills and training. So you might want to consider shifting that. By the way how do you study?

I'll be honouring your home land Wales with a holiday in July ;-)


Waldemar, a colleague blogger at: - mind boggling chess blogging...

Ryan Emmett said...

Hi Waldemar,

Thanks for your comment. At the moment I barely seem to have time to study at all, because of all the time I spend writing news items for!!! :)

I tend to read chess books without a board and try to pick up tips, play correspondence chess, and also games against Fritz at handicap levels.

As a qualified chess trainer yourself, do you have any advice on the best way to learn? Your comment about 'skills and training' rather than 'knowledge and studying' is intriguing.

Your blog looks great, especially the videos, and I have added it to my google rss feeds.

I hope you enjoy your trip to Wales. I have a naturalised Dutch brother-in-law who lives in Ede and I always enjoy visiting the Netherlands! :)

Waldemar said...

Hi Sonofpearl,

I think you hit the nail on the head with this post. Indeed, isn't chess supposed to make us happy?

In the past for me this "happiness" was very closely related to winning a game or not and my chess results in general. Since the summer of 2007 however I have let go somewhat and try to enjoy chess more. Not beating myself up or taking it too seriously. Your post has inspired me to think about it again. I might do a post on my blog asking people: "Why do you play chess?".

Anyway, enjoy chess and while you're at it: continue your winning streak, because there is fun in winning too!