“Okay, Houston we’ve had a problem here.”
“This is Houston. Say again please.”
“Houston we’ve had a problem. We’ve had a main B bus undervolt.”

This was communication by which the Apollo 13 crew reported a major technical fault in one of the electrical systems to the Space Center Houston.

But who should we report our faulty education system, failing millions in math, physics, language acquisition, chess, or many other domains. Why is the failure rate so high? or why is the success rate so low across the board? What is the percentage of those becoming experts? Here in the States it is estimated that as high as 45 million people think they play chess of which roughly only miserable 2,500 are of expert level and beyond, rated 2000 or better.

Ian Campbell, Chaos

Is there really a system in the (early education) system? What are the key concepts to teach first in order to accelerate the learning curve? (Chaos, art Ian Campbell)

Dr. Lasker was right in his Manual of Chess, “Efforts in chess attain only a hundredth of one percent of their rightful result.”

“Almost every kid — and I mean virtually every kid — can learn math at a very high level, to the point where they could do university level math courses,” –John Mighton, the founder of Jump Math.

The same should be true in chess, almost everyone (Dr. Lasker claims even those with no talent) should be able to reach a very high level — read here (1), (2).

So what prevents us from achieving better results? What is to blame? Perhaps broken education system. Because of inadequate teaching, beginners struggle early with basics, they don’t find meaning in what they do, and they lose confidence; ultimately, we lose many, too many students who could be chess experts, or scientists and engineers if the early approach to teaching would be different going deeper into key concepts.

Looks we are still wandering in finding the key concepts to teach early.[1] We struggle to define a core that would prepare beginners for success later down the road. Is it really impossible to develop a system to show the beginner what and how to practice? A solid foundation that teaches what to do, so that many more beginners, not just hundredths of one percent, stay with chess, or math and reach their full potential? In contrast to what may be situation now whereby we limit the student’s long-term development.[2]

Junko Tochigi, Game H-13-4

art Junko Tochigi, Game H-13-4

Chess of ice hockey

Recently I ran across an article in The Atlantic magazine proving that situation is not any different in… ice hockey. It is interesting to see how ice hockey has its own nightmares in defining the basics, as we do in chess.

Upi Ylönen has developed a national goalie-coaching system for the Finnish Ice Hockey Association which helped create a rich pool of elite chess goalies. Now, one-sixth of the NHL starting goalies, the most important players on the ice, are coming from Finland.

This shows that even Canada, the birthplace of ice hockey with its youth hockey leagues has been failing to bring out the best in its goalies. They are pretty much alone out there with no system and right instruction. Their practices “typically start with blistering point-blank slap shots, blasted in rapid succession from every angle at a goalie who had just stepped onto the ice. The dominant element in the goaltender’s arsenal becomes dropping down in the butterfly, before they can even skate properly.”

In contrast, the Finish teach them to learn how to skate first. Not a fancy butterfly by which the goalie loses mobility and his form unable to react to second, or third attacking attempt. Their practices start with deliberately slow shots from the outside to let the goalie feel the puck. They try catching the puck, or at least redirecting it away from attackers, not just blocking it, like over here in NA. When asked about his system, Ylönen insisted it was just the basics. What he teaches, most of all, is a mind-set. Whatever it is, Ylönen is transforming a global sport. Can we do the same in chess?

So what is that absolute core to be taught? Does the US Chess Federation, or Georgia Chess Association, or any other chess entity in this country have a true system, I mean an effective one à la Ylönen to produce more than 2500 expert/master players, or five thousandths percent of chess population here? A system to help learn the true basics of chess that will not set undervolt, a low voltage learning mode and low brain clock frequencies for inefficient chess processing…

“Okay, Houston we’ve had a problem here.”
“This is Houston. Say again please.”
“Houston we’ve had a problem. We’ve had a main B bus undervolt.”


1. Our first experiences in a domain are of enormous importance. In chess we should set the stage for quick development of board vision, because “Initial visual capacities tend to remain central to our experience of the visual world. Moreover, those initial capacities will set boundaries on what we are capable of learning, limiting the states of the world that we are able to perceive or understand,”  Dr. Elizabeth Spelke, Origins of Visual Knowledge.

2. “Many of us hit an invisible wall, we reach a plateau, 1200, 1500, or 1800 rating” (GM Andrew Soltis, in What it takes to become a chess Master) and remain there as our inefficient thought process riddled with bad habits is keeping us from improving any further.

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