Dear Professor Verghese…

Due to some recent controversy on the matter I have been considering writing to Professor Verghese about his Alzheimer’s study. Although ‘board games’ were cited as being associated with a lower risk of dementia, would this happen to include chess?

There was a certain lack of clarity on the matter, so I guess he might have meant that Monopoly and Cluedo were the ones that were really good for the brain. But after mulling it over for a while I decided that this would be a really stupid question. The best that would have happened is that the prof would have had good chuckle. There again I might spark a new line of research on chess players and pedantry.

Chess is good for the mind, and there’s an overwhelming mass of data and anecdotal evidence to support this view. If anyone doubts this they should research the popular practice of giving homework, which is doled out to kids with far less evidence than we have for the benefits of chess. Meanwhile it’s clear that pedants are annoying, so much so that the best you can hope for is escape from their presence without them hating you and wanting to show your ‘errors’ to the World. Of course I’m sure that many chess players have valid conditions that cause their pedantry, such as obsessive compulsive disorder and/or Asperger’s. But whatever the excuse (and there are chess people with Asperger’s and/or OCD who make brilliant positive contributions), pedantry shouldn’t be the main face that chess shows to the World. It puts people off, from potential chess club members to sponsors.

Unfortunately pedants often seem to be those who are most active on blogs, forums and in chess politics, they just have to put the world to rights if only in a hypothetical way. Everything is criticism, negativity and pet whinges, nowhere will you find evidence of creation. So they don’t organize tournaments, don’t improve and don’t get others involved or on the road to success. They seek only to belittle the achievements of others and glory in the magnificence of their critique.

I would like to be innocent of these crimes myself but unfortunately I am not. I have moaned and whinged and criticized to the applause of my peers and felt good about doing so. But I came to realize that this was all about me, my own failings, fear of success and resentment of those who actually did succeed. And it’s interesting to note that around the time I changed things around and got the GM title I was also into inspirational books such as Scott-Peck’s A Road Less Traveled and People of the Lie.

I think that if I’ve managed to change then so can others, or at least they can try. And if anyone would like specifics on how to move their minds then please contact me and I’ll publish specific methods in subsequent articles.

Nigel Davies

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About NigelD

Nigel Davies is an International Chess Grandmaster living in Southport in the UK. The winner of 15 international tournaments he is also a former British U21 and British Open Quickplay Champion and has represented both England and Wales on several occasions. These days Nigel teaches chess through his chess training web site, Tiger Chess, which has articles, recommendations, a monthly clinic, videos and courses. His students include his 15 year old son Sam who is making rapid progress with his game. Besides teaching chess, Nigel is a registered tai chi and qigong instructor and runs several weekly classes.