25 March 2023

"How Cal Newport rewrote the productivity gospel" - FT Weekend article

I would agree with this quote from "How Cal Newport rewrote the productivity gospel" from the March 9 edition of FT Weekend. It highlights the benefits of adopting chess as a serious pastime for our thinking process about life, not just the game.

Newport came up with the idea of “deep work” during his time at MIT, when he was surrounded by “these brilliant theoreticians”. The MacArthur Genius Grant winners around him, who had solved some of the world’s biggest mathematical theorems, had the ability to concentrate deeply on a single problem or project for an extended period, he observed. According to Newport, there are certain people who are naturally good at deep working. Top theoretical computer scientists, for instance. Chess players. Mathematicians. And then there are the rest of us who lament our inability to make progress on meaningful, long-term goals or difficult projects. We tend to look away from the task at hand, reflexively refreshing our email browser, Twitter or this website.



  1. If this refers to the ability of a chess player to focus for 3-4 hours during a chess game, I would agree whole-heartedly.

    I would even go so far as to say that this ability, along with determination, dynamism and agression in play, can even compensate for a rating difference.

    These days, I remain at the board during the entire game, if possible, and no longer walk around or look at other boards, but try to focus entirely on my own game.

    1. Thanks for the observation. Re: staying at the board, I've gone back and forth on this one over my chess career. There are also benefits from taking a quick break to refresh your perspective on the game, plus my body tends to appreciate me not being static for that long. I think being *able* to stay at the board for however long is necessary when you need to focus, however, is essential.


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