I've been reflecting lately on a little piece of human nature relative to progressing in any field of endeavor you so choose. Specifically the tendency most seem to have to ignore the advice of someone who has already achieved something that we ourselves strive to.
In my case the advice I seem to currently be ignoring is the advice of my first coach, Nolan Hendrickson, to solve endgame studies to help improve calculation.
Nolan is a student at Lindenwood University in St Louis and is a member of their chess team. When he was in high school he went from Class A to Master with almost no stop at Expert and he says that a huge part of his success was solving endgame studies which helped improve his calculating abilities.
Almost every lesson Nolan would tell me that learning to calculate better would pay better dividends than improving any other area of my game. He would then tell me that solving endgame studies is far and away the best way to learn to calculate better.
So then why is it that I don't seem to take that advice to heart too often? What is it that lies deep within the psyche of us all that makes us think that we can somehow ignore the advice that is given and still achieve the aim?
This isn't to say that Nolan's advice is the only way to reach my goal of becoming a master. After all, I'm sure that if you rounded up 10 Master's and put them all in a room together you'd get numerous answers to the "How did you improve" question. But it's not like I listened to the advice, carefully weighed the options, and then only after giving some careful thought decided to pursue other areas in order to improve.
To further add to the irony, the one point in time where I was solving endgame studies on a regular basis was at the end of last Summer when I finally stopped the bleeding. My rating had fallen from 1712 to 1560. I managed to get control of things and made it back over 1700 in just a few months.
So why then did I stop? That's the $64,000.00 question.
Speaking of $64,000.00, I'd like to add as an aside that I am truly rooting for Gata to continue his 4-0 start and win out at the US Championship. For a long time I have viewed that as Fischer's record and haven't wanted anyone to equal it. But I think that it would be great for my generation of US chess if one of us could finally tie that piece of history.