In the closing stages of an international tournament Réti was playing one of the weaker competitors and had obtained a won game… he seemed to fall into a brown study, did not move for ten minutes; then suddenly started up from his chair – still without making his move – and sought out a friend, to whome he explained he had just conceived an original and entrancing idea for an endgame study… His friend dissuaded Réti from demonstrating the idea on his pocket chess set, and Réti returned, somewhat disgruntled, to the tournament room, made some hasty casual moves and soon lost the game. – Harry Golombek, Foreword to his translation of Modern Ideas in Chess by Richard Réti
Réti went on to stay up all night working on his study, lost the next day’s game, and with it the tournament. His run of unsuccess at that point in his career was only terminated by his untimely death in 1929 from scarlet fever.
I feel for the man. Sometimes I’m exquisitely tuned in to chess and turn in commendable games. Other times, I’m bored with chess as other interests obtrude and distract from my focus. In particular, when programming projects are particularly interesting chess seems shallow, a sort of abacus next to the vastly shinier and more complex matrix of computer science.
The most striking thing I infer from watching videos of Kasparov playing is that Kasparov, another man of many interests, is able to dial it up at will. He seizes his head in his hands and grimaces and he has projected himself back into Chess World. Further, he is able to stay there until the end of the game. I need to be able to dial up focus in that fashion and intensity.