Independence Day

First of all let me wish any American visitors a happy 4th of July! I’d also like to say a few words about the importance of independent thought in chess. As Emanuel Lasker pointed out in Lasker’s Manual of Chess: ‘Education in chess has to be an education in independent thinking and judging.’

This is borne out by the personal characteristics of strong chess players who tend to be remarkably independent in their thinking, even at an early age. In 1917 a six year-old boy was invited to the home of the German Governor of Poland to play chess. After winning the game the little boy put his deeply unpopular host even more firmly in his place by telling him, “You can shoot but I can play!” That boy was the chess prodigy Samuel Reshevsky, who went on to become one of the greatest players in chess history.

Why is the independence so important? Because when you’re in a combat zone such as the chess board it’s not enough to get by with second hand opinions. The degree to which you trust your chess board weaponry depends on the extent to which you have tested it via play and analysis. Independent thought is required for this because the process calls for initial skepticism about the consensus view, even if it is finally accepted.

Is there a particular way to cultivate such independence? Well chess might help someone to do it over time, though there’s no particular technique that I know of that will particularly accelerate the process. It’s something that will more likely be either a natural trait or one acquired from those around us.