Decision Points

I have recently been listening to George W. Bush’s book “Decision Points” on CD in my car. I listen to a ton of audio books that I get from the library, mostly non-fiction. Listening to books in my car allows me to go through a new book about once every 2 weeks.

Bush’s new book is excellent for many reasons. For one he reads the book himself, which makes it seem like you are right there listening to him tell the story. The other reason I really like it is because it is not a biography where he shares every single microscopic detail about his life.

Instead he focuses on the major decisions that he had to make in his life both personally, and as President. Each one of these was a “Decision Point” and he does an analysis of why he made certain decisions, and does a critique of what he could have done differently, and how his actions were perceived.

The thing that really impresses me is how in the book Bush is never defensive of his actions, even when they were grossly misunderstood, such as when rapper Kayne West said on National Television “George Bush hates Black People”. He takes a surprisingly objective viewpoint on his own life and actions, which is something very few people can do.

Bush was a History major in college, so he has a really good understanding of how certain things often take the perspective of time, before they can fully be understood. He also understands how you can sometimes prevent an action, but you might not get any credit for this, because since it never happened, you can’t prove it would have happened if you had not taken action.  This idea is also discussed in the outstanding book “The Black Swan” by Nassim Taleb.

What does all this have to do with chess? Well I think that every chess game contains certain “Decision Points”, just like Bush describes in the book. They do not have the life or death consequences that some of his decisions made of course, but they are important to the outcome of the game. Tactics are often involved in these decision points.

I also think that it is very important to be able to look at your games objectively, and not get wrapped up in emotions, or biases that can cloud your judgement.

Another similarity is how in chess you are often preventing threats from happening.  One of the reasons that I like to look for tactics in the games of amateurs, is that higher rated players are so good at preventing threats in the first place, that you very rarely see the same kinds of tactics taking place in their games that you do in the games of class players.  You would only see the tactics in side variations, where one side makes a bad move.

To keep this non partisan, I also quite enjoyed Obama’s book, “The Audacity of Hope”. I think there are some good life lessons in there as well, which could also improve your chess game. In particular, I found Obama’s “Never give up” attitude to be very inspiring, and deciding to run for office again, even after losing the first time he ran.

It always amazes me how often you will see a person come to a chess club for the first time, get crushed in every game, and then never be seen again. Chess is a game where you have to be able to handle defeats, learn from your mistakes, and be willing to lose, which are some of the themes that Obama talks about.

If you enjoy biographies, I think you might enjoy both “Decision Points” and “The Audacity of Hope”. They probably will not add rating points to your chess game, but offer some excellent food for thought that might help with your “inner game”.

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