Figure – Paul Klee painted this work in 1930-1931. He entitled it “Super Schach” (Super Chess). On his own way he was a remarkable visionary. It’s all about patterns, and relations between them. Frequently perceived in a few milliseconds. While playing, sometimes, I see the board almost like this, as only few pieces were there, and important places in the board at that precise moment were painted in vivid blue. Tilting to us on a special manner. Calling us, like a pointillist painting does.
“The problem for me is the playoff will begin at 3AM my time. So you all better send lots of coffee which I don’t drink :)” – @brandnewAMIT have red bull instead, it’ll give you wings :) – “I’m probably the most boring GM ever. I don’t smoke or drink, not even red bull. Always try to eat healthy food and work out.” ~ Susan Polgar over Twitter on May 28, 2012. (link)
“Whoever denies the high physical effort of a tournament player doesn’t know what he’s talking about. Many examinations prove that heart, frequency of breathing, blood pressure and skin are subjected to great strain, weight losses appear during a tournament – so chess players need a special way of life with regular training, practice of other keep-fit activities and healthy diet.”, Dr Willi Weyer speech on the 100th anniversary of the German chess federation in Bad Lauterberg on 12 March 1977.
[…] Cuenta la leyenda que segundos antes de llegar a una curva, Juan Manuel Fangio dirigía una fugaz mirada a las hojas de los árboles. Si se movían, levantaba el pie del acelerador; si, por el contrario, no soplaba el viento, pisaba a fondo. […], in Ángel Luis Menéndez, “Los abuelos de Alonso”, Público.es (link)
In a few hours, today, one of the most dramatic high-tension “F1 car races” ever will start. Though, it’s not only about sport, it will be about science, art, drift spatial aesthetics and psychology as well, … altogether taken to their very extreme. And, at the limit, it will end-up being about how two very different people and human characters behave while confronting each other trough puzzling millisecond brainwaves. While the hot race is on, I will be watching the board carefully, of course, but mainly – let me add – their faces. It’s their human side over an intensive battle, that ultimately interests me, and always pushes forward my focal attention.
For those who are not used to deal with high incommensurable pressure and stress while the clock is fast ticking, or ever educated themselves along their lives to perform with “grace under fire“, far behind their technical know-how something unique over an athlete, probably it will be hard to understand, among other things, why F1 and chess have so many things in common, and are in fact, so close to each other. Breathing in many sports are fundamental. In chess, it’s crucial.
It will be hard to imagine, for instance, that a regular chess player under enormous stress could loose up to 4Kg, just in one single important game, where everything is at stake. Not counting the increasing exponential adrenaline levels he must support (e.g. 772% on figure below), sometimes for long periods of time contrary to other – surprise, yourself – “soft” sports. It’s brutal: ” (…) It’s chess. Many don’t think of it as a sport, because nobody moves. But Chess Masters will tell you it can be more brutal than boxing (…)”, in CBS 60 minutes “Mozart of Chess” (YouTube link), CBS news entry piece on Magnus Carlsen, last year.
photo – Anand looking pensive to Gelfand at the end of the last 12th game, deciding for the final tiebreaks. [Allow me to add one of his possible thoughts: “It’s all about quick risky moves now, Boris. No more chicken play-to-draw games ” (Source: http://moscow2012.fide.com/en/ )].
The apparently illogical link between chess, F1 drivers and F16 jet pilots at war does not end here, however. Unfortunately, they also come from the dark side. Increasingly rumors state that all this areas might be related by the use of PED’s, by some cheaters. The answer again, comes from what this human-activity areas desperately need. They need fast strategic and tactic responses, as well as imagination to surprise the adversary, while maintaining extreme accuracy. All those three characteristics tied together, think of it … that’s something very hard and uncommonly rare to find in us, Humans. For curiosity, just have a look on what an UK steroids company states:
(….) There has been reports of performance enhancing drugs being used in the game of chess. Now anabolic steroids and a ripped physique will not increase your mental capacity, but some drugs can be used to control blood pressure and meditate heart beat allowing a more controlled and balanced state of mind. Testing in Formula One has even been taken to a new level. Since F1 brought its drug testing standards up to the level required by the World Doping Agency, drug testing has been more thorough and more frequent. (…) in (link).
Performance enhancing drugs (PED’s) have been reported, mainly by the use of beta-blockers. Beta-blockers are known to slow heart rate, as well as adrenaline, while maintaining the other brain functions on, and quick. At F1, on F16 fighters, on chess as well as in science, as in some of our regular daily digital software life (yes, Nasdaq High-frequency trading are targets now), digital doping is also possible. Injecting performance-enhancing code seems unfortunately to be a current trend. Just recently I have testimony this over an Iterated Prisoner’s Dilemma online contest my-self.
Allow me however to drag you onto the healthy positive side and draw your attention to one MSc thesis entitled “Practical Recommendations to Chess Players from Sports Science” (PDF link) which I recommend to friends for long years now. From coffee (pp. 9) to beta-blockers (pp. 13), Kevin O’Connell (University of Essex; MSc Sports Science Dissertation, 1997) discusses several important issues. Here are some brief excerpts from his thesis:
(…) In connection with which I find it interesting to recall remarks made to me by a couple of chess players, one who used to play as a striker for the Norwegian national soccer team before being forcibly retired by a cruciate ligament injury and by a Chilean tennis professional who made it into the world’s top 50 as a tennis player, that chess is a harder sport, physically, than either of their other occupations. (…) Andreassi (1995) reported evidence that brain activity is influenced by cardiac events, “for example, the decreased HR that occurs under instructions to detect signals leads to a decrease in the inhibitory influence of baroreceptors on cortical function, resulting in enhanced brain activity and improved performance.” (…)
(…) It is clear that fatigue is a major contributory cause of error in chess and that two of the five main metabolic causes of human fatigue (Newsholrne, 1995) are potentially relevant. These are the decrease of blood glucose concentration and an increase in the concentration ratio of the free tryptophan to branched chain amino acids in the bloodstream. (…) In brief, the central fatigue hypothesis (after Newsholme, 1995) runs as follows. During exercise there is an elevation in the blood adrenaline level and a decrease in that of insulin which results in fatty acid mobilization from adipose tissue, consequently increasing the level of fatty acids in plasma (formula one racing drivers, who experience similar adrenaline levels to chess players, have been noted for their ‘milky’ plasma). (…)
Figure – (…) The heart rates measured by Hollinsky‘s team included peaks in excess of 220/min and a single maximum of 223/min. Table 2 shows the HR, and blood pressure graph for a player 27 years old and rated 2064 over the course of one game, from six p.m. until its conclusion just after midnight. Not surprisingly, at least to chess players, the peak HR is reached in the time-pressure phase towards the end of the sixth hour of play (…) (from K. O’Connell MSc thesis, link above).
Today however, at the Tretyakov state art gallery in Moscow (link), all these will happen quite fast, in just tiny seconds, while the whole world will be watching live. The actual champion Viswanathan Anand (defending his title) will have to fight it out in rapid chess tiebreaker against challenger Boris Gelfand after a tied 6-6 result in the World Chess Championship match. Both, now arrive at a situation when the match cannot be prolonged any further. To start with, there will be four games under rapid chess rules with 25 minutes to each player and a ten seconds increment after every move is made. In case of a 2-2 result, the two will play two blitz games with five minutes each with a three seconds increment per move.
Between them, Anand and Gelfand have in the past played 28 times in rapid chess and the Indian has won eight, lost one and drawn the remaining. In blitz, they have played seven games with three wins for Anand and the rest being drawn. Today, there will be five such matches if the tie persists and finally an Armageddon game will be played with five minutes to white and four to black and white will be forced to win should this arise. The whole fast race could be followed live at http://moscow2012.fide.com/en/ while the board, analysis, chat, etc here at http://livechess.chessdom.com/site/ . Games will start at 10:00 AM CET. I would guess both players are having their “beauty sleep” right now.
Today, the world chess champion will be known. It’s about all of us, Humans. Taken to our creative limits. As Fangio, even if the pressure is considerably high, always take a look at the trees surrounding you. If you blink, you will just miss it.
Make yourself an exercise. Have a glimpse again on Klee‘s Super Schach. Starting from the bottom left corner, count 6 squares to the right. Then, look precisely above at the second row. What’s that?! See it?!