Sunday, May 04, 2008

Creativity in chess

And now for something completely different.
I belief it is obvious that the road I'm following isn't leading to creativity in chess. I break down everything untill there is nothing left of the whiff of magic or romanticism that surrounds chess. I plea quilty.

Yet creativity exists. But it is a difficult subject. Science is a form of superstition that often yields splendid practical results. Yet it doesn't feel itself qualified to do statements about the realm of that what is not direct or easy perceptable in a controlable way.
Those who do feel qualified to speak about such things though, often suffer from confirmation bias and sensationalism.

Speaking about creativity I must go beyond science. My only compass is what I have experienced myself.

My main day to day weapon is logic. Logic isn't creative, it is destructive. You can't use it to determine what is true with logic, but you can use it to destruct what is not true. By consequent applyance of logic you brush away everything that is false in due time. With a little luck you are left with what is true before you die. Usually life is way too short for such slow approach, though. It is as if you are polishing a very, very dirty mirror.

One thing the mirror reflects is creative ideas. Everytime you polish the mirror and clean a little piece of it, a grain of creativity is revealed. That is the micro-creativity which is shown in this blog, for instance. Of course there is no relation in content between the act of breaking down logically and the resulting mirrored creative idea. That's why I'm often as much surprised as you about what I write, dear reader. Of course I can't write the thus revealed creative ideas on my own conto (allthough I'm inclined to do so:)

Real creativity.
Usually I'm a very slow thinker. But in the right company I can be very ad rem. Which causes much laughter. Often the remarks I make are quite alien to me. Wow, where did that come from? In such cases it seems as if I'm tapping from a reservoir outside myself.
That is what I call real creativity.

It is not quite clear where that reservoir is located. But it is not in my personal mind. In the past I have tapped hundreds inventions from it. All of them are now existing. Invented by other people who tapped it from the same reservoir. If Margriet composes a piece, she simply listens to what is in the reservoir and writes it down.
The energies in the reservoir are quite subtle, volatile and quick. So I cannot make use of it when in my usual slow state of mind. People who are not as addicted to logic as me can dwell much easier in those places. But usually they have later a problem to talk logically and coherent about what they have seen. I'm sure DK knows what I'm talking about.

I guess there is no real difference between real creativity and micro-creativity, besides the standpoint of the observer. If your standpoint is personal, you get micro-creative ideas. If your standpoint is universal, you get real creative ideas.

Creativity in chess.
And maybe a bit of an anticlimax: it is the same in chess.
Of course there is much more to say. Feel free to do so. But I must stop now for this moment.


  1. yes, yes my friend, you got it all right...

    you sure 'have been on a tear' lately. you are the sun and we are the planets or some of us are more like tiny crumbly asteroids or 'space junk.'

    'gots' to run, final application to Saxion University to be finally writen today after months of preliminary discussions. who buys the beer? you, me, or Phaedrus? who drives the car after?

    warmest, dk

  2. Your last series of posts have been very thought provoking. Though you consider yourself very analytical, i think there is a very creative approach to how you are verbalizing the approach to the game.

    I've been reading all of this and feel in awe of your work. I feel a tad bit like space junk as I think about what I next will write upon. Does the chess blogosphere want to read another "Polly can't seem to get through all 4 rounds of a tournament without a bye" or perhaps can she finally come up with the plan that will make it so she wins enough to avoid the dreaded bye. *sigh*

  3. Polly,
    your posts have their own charm and I enjoy reading them. It's very clarifying to read how the chess scene in other countries is running. I run often out of words when I try to comment on your blog. I suspect the same happens when readers read my blog and try to comment.

  4. "Imagination in Chess" and "The Very Unusual Book About Chess" are supposed to help inspire one to be more creative and imaginative when they play chess. But I have enough about tactics, strategy, endgames, and openings to learn that I probably won't get around to reading them until my next life. ;)

  5. An etude is meant to refine your technique as pianoplayer, not to inspire you.

    I find the games of Kasparov very inspiring. Creativity at work!

  6. Creativity in chess seems a lot like creativity in other avenues. One key component, often overlooked, is motivation. The strong desire to solve some problem, using any means at one's disposal, not hemming oneself in by established means because you just want to get something done.

    I think the most important aspect of creativity is the willingness to say "what if" and not be all scared to look silly or be wrong. This ability, perhaps ironically given the view that creativity springs from a vacuum, depends on a core of experience/knowledge in an area (e.g., if you don't know how the pieces move you will not be creative in chess, no matter how brilliant and creative you are in general). But this willingness to be wrong/look silly is key, and something that is sadly often squashed in academic contexts.

    When in grad school, I was lucky to work with one of the most creative people I have ever met. He would walk around, looking at things, going to toy stores, reading strange hobby catalogues, just looking for any crazy source of inspiration or the catalyst for an idea. He would take walks every afternoon, just throwing out idea after idea, most of them utterly absurd, some of them brilliant. I learned a lot about how to be creative from him, became much more creative because of working with him (I mention this b/c there is a myth that creativity can't be learned).

    I just did a little lit search, and this paper seems to be the most reasonable. Most work on creativity in psychology seems to be backwater crap psychology done by Jungians and other weirdos who don't use the standard methods now used. They use more creative methods. :) This review article on the psychology of creativity is not great, but is cited by good papers, like the one above.

    This is surprising to me, it is such an obvious thing that deserves study. I wonder if anyone has looked at creativity and how it correlates with the big five personality traits. Searching "big five" and "creativity" revealed some interesting things, actually.