Wednesday 5 January 2011

The dangers of G: Chess edition

Spiegel interviews Magnus Carlsen, the world's top chess player, aged 19.
SPIEGEL: Mr Carlsen, what is your IQ?

Carlsen: I have no idea. I wouldn’t want to know it anyway. It might turn out to be a nasty surprise.

SPIEGEL: Why? You are 19 years old and ranked the number one chess player in the world. You must be incredibly clever.

Carlsen: And that’s precisely what would be terrible. Of course it is important for a chess player to be able to concentrate well, but being too intelligent can also be a burden. It can get in your way. I am convinced that the reason the Englishman John Nunn never became world champion is that he is too clever for that.

SPIEGEL: How that?

Carlsen: At the age of 15, Nunn started studying mathematics in Oxford; he was the youngest student in the last 500 years, and at 23 he did a PhD in algebraic topology. He has so incredibly much in his head. Simply too much. His enormous powers of understanding and his constant thirst for knowledge distracted him from chess.
The whole Carlsen interview is interesting - especially his notes on how technology has changed how young players train. HT: @crampell.

Tyler Cowen, a youth chess champ, gave it up:
“Chess is all or nothing, like an addiction” he said. He looks back at players he knew growing up and wonders what more they might have done with their talents if they had spent less time at the board. Meanwhile, those who moved on were able to achieve great things. He points to GM Kenneth Rogoff, Ph.D., for example, who is a leading economist and former director of research at the International Monetary Fund.
I think Carlsen's conflating intelligence and focus.

Being terrible at chess, I never faced these sorts of choices.

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