Friday 19 December 2008

The repeatability of ideas

I'm a creature of habit, and of Fridays I usually (a) catch the bus home from work and (b) read the Guardian Weekly while doing so. In this weeks edition was a story titled "A gift or hard graft?" It describes a theory by the psychologist K Anders Ericsson that hard work is more significant than natural talent. It even goes so far as to surmise that natural talent contributes very little to eventual success, and that the amount of study/practice is what ultimately decides your level of ability.
The article reports on a study done at the Berlin Academy of Music and says that all the students considered the most likely to become world class performers did more study than the lesser ranked students. Surprisingly it also said that the lesser ranked students all did lesser amounts of study. So while no-one made it to the top through 'natural talent' alone, no-one sunk to the bottom through lack of 'natural talent' either.
The amount of study required to reach the top was a reported 10,000 hours. The article then applied this across a number of other disciplines and found that this was fairly consistent figure. So if the results are to be believed it does provide hope to us hapless chess players, in that our lack of 'talent' can be overcome through hard work. Of course this amounts to approximately 4 hours of study a day over an 8 year period, so the real challenge may not be the study itself, but simply finding the time.
But to get you started here is a study from 1851, with White to play and win. The clue to solving it is in the title to this piece.

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