24 September 2019

ESPN article on chess training

From ESPN's "Why grandmasters like Magnus Carlsen and Fabiano Caruana lose weight playing chess"

This is an interesting article on the modern approach to chess training, which at the professional level means maximizing your energy level for playing. This in turn means keeping yourself in good physical shape. While it's necessary for professional players to maximize their performance, it's of course also a good idea for improving amateurs, and I would even attribute the majority of my own progress in gaining practical strength at the chessboard in recent years to better energy management.

Of course this isn't strictly a modern idea, although the science behind personal performance enhancement is now better known and more advanced. Viktor Korchnoi made a habit of long-distance walking over a lifetime. Bobby Fischer did the same and had an even broader and more strenuous training program. These are just two prominent examples.

It would be a mistake to equate chessplaying with weight loss, of course, although it's not surprising to see how extended periods of mental strain and the associated constant physical stress, especially during long matches at the top level, bring about that result. While younger players might be able to shrug off this type of strain relatively easily in a physical sense, I think that it's better to cultivate mental calmness and focus, which can mitigate the constant anxiety and stress-related pressure. Regular physical training does in fact help with this, through its effect on the brain's neurology, and other forms of mental preparation can also contribute to better results.

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