In some past years I had projections for other players but this year I think it’s the least I’ve ever known about other players so I’m going in partially blind.
But I know myself pretty well at this point so I figured maybe that’s an interesting topic for some people who want the latest gossip. And since I’ve got some of the best gossip on me- here is some personal gossip!
To start with I think this is the least seriously I am taking any world championship I have played in yet. This is mostly because after last year and a couple of other previous World Championships I realized how much it does ruin a lot of the fun of the world championship to take it super-seriously (duh). It ruined the fun even to the point where, even if I had won the WOC last year, I think I would have regretted having taken the tournament so seriously.
And don’t get me wrong, I still had a lot of fun in last year’s WOC, even with getting sick layered into my experience! But I realized I never wanted to have that experience again.
And last year was definitely the worst kind of year in which to take the WOC seriously and make a big cognitive investment in anything.
I had a concussion in August last year, and from what I learned from talking with a family member who is a sports medicine doctor, I really shouldn’t have been using my brain hard at all after the concussion. I should have mainly rested, and not done much to “push” my brain, which is apparently a real problem in recovery. Weirdly, it was only after I got fully sick right after the WOC, and was forced to do massive resting, that once I was through with that I suddenly felt the sharpness I had been missing for a long time before the WOC. I just hadn’t been able to put my finger on what was missing in my brain, until some of it came back to me.
Back on the topic of fun: I think the best WOC I had performance-wise since 2004 was in 2014 and before that tournament I didn’t take it very seriously at all- because I was in Thailand and having a lot of fun going to the beach, getting sunburned messing around in the hotel pool, going to a water park, etc.
LOL, I just noticed those were all ways to have fun with water. Maybe that is the secret to WOC success for me ~.~. But I did have other kinds of fun in Thailand, like going to ride an elephant with Marcus Fronmark, who was an awesome person to adventure with.
And I didn’t even get very much sleep before the 2014 WOC either, nor much sleep during the tournament, nor had I done much preparation, but I had a wonderful time during the tournament and I also played surprisingly well. I feel like being in the groove of having fun gave me more energy for the tournament.
So really, I would rather try to replicate that experience so that even if I bomb I will be pleased with my trip.
But this doesn’t mean I won’t do anything, or won’t make any effort at all for this WOC! It’s just that the only kind of preparation I will do this year is anything which I actually enjoy doing. And it remains to be seen how much effort that will turn out to be, but at least I have some new ideas to try. (This is one of my better features, I always have new ideas about things.)
But the good news is that I’ve recovered from the concussion and I’m getting the best sleep I’ve gotten in 20 years, so I think my baseline capacity to play well is better than last year, which could be worth a lot in and of itself.
And I think I’ve lost a fair amount of weight this year. And I went along with losing weight, partly because I noticed that it seems like almost all of the world champions are surprisingly skinny.
And to a certain extent I don’t even think I fully understand why that would be. Maybe it’s just that skinny people are usually younger people and younger brains are usually faster brains, which have more motivation and stamina.
And from what I understand body fat actually has a lot of health benefits, especially when it comes to the nervous system. Like- people who are overweight are less likely to get Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, and other neurological disorders. And overweight people are less likely to die of cancer and some other forms of stress. Fat can be a great resource, actually, especially for the nervous system! We should always have at least a little bit of body fat.
However, since losing weight I would swear that my brain seems a lot faster, and it seems easier to concentrate. And maybe it’s just as simple as the nervous system having less stuff to process when the body has less stuff in it, so it can focus more on Othello.
But anyway, my goal this year is to get third place or better. (Although if I get 4th place I think it will complete my collection of having at least once gotten all the places between 1st place and I think 7th place).
Of course I most want to win, but I think I should try being realistic and see what happens if I am more realistic.I don’t think I’ve been realistic for the World Championships since 2004, and I think the lack of realism mostly hurt my chances to do well.
And actually I think the biggest challenge I have is that I don’t have the advantages which the top Japanese players have.
-They can play in a lot of tournaments
-They have a tremendous amount of high quality Othello material to read
-And they are in a culture which motivates them to do their best in Othello, and the Japanese culture presents larger rewards for doing well, than any other country on Earth
And this ties into one of my theories about intelligence: I think that past a certain point of baseline intelligence, any appearance of increased intelligence is really just seeing the signs of stronger motivation.
I got this idea partly from personal experience, but also from this article I read about intelligence and about how difficult it is to increase intelligence. It’s a lot harder to increase intelligence than it is to increase any kind of athletic performance, and that is really interesting, isn’t it? (You can read the article here, which is interesting in all kinds of ways (I also recommend pretty much anything gwern writes on his website or elsewhere, he’s a very thorough researcher and a writer who definitely tries to be fair to the truth): https://www.gwern.net/Drug%20heuristics
I have never observed anything that made a significant long-term difference to my own intelligence, unless it affected a massive portion of my overall organism. Only things like significantly improved sleep, or a major chance in body composition, or significantly inceased physical exercise, etc., seem to make a noticeable long-term difference in my mental sharpness.
Anyways: so I think that the Japanese players have a large advantage over the rest of us, because of all the better resources and better sources of motivation which I think they have. I have to do a lot of things on my own (finding motivation, teaching myself, etc.), which they can get from their cultural environment.
And of course the top Japanese players would be amazing no matter what, but I’m frankly quite satisfied with my performance relative to theirs, given the fact that we can’t:
- Easily get a lot of tournament experience
- Nor do we have very much great raw Othello material to read (at least we have Brian Rose’s book!)
- Nor are there a huge number of top players that we can talk about Othello with in English, or our other non-Japanese language.
- Nor are there major cultural or financial rewards for us to play our best, to the level seen in Japan.
I even used to consider moving to Japan just so I could play in a lot of tournaments. And maybe I should have learned Japanese just so I could read a lot of the Othello resource materials which the Japanese have.
And I think it’s 100% to the credit of the Japanese Othello community that they have built up such a phenomenal Othello culture. They should be extremely proud of that.
I honestly think that basically every time a Japanese player has won the World Othello Championship in recent years, first and foremost they probably should have thanked all of the people who contributed to the strong Othello culture in Japan. Because all those people- who usually never win any major titles themselves- those other people made it easier for the people at the top to succeed.
Back to the topic of intelligence and motivation: I think my real talent is probably not so much some form of intelligence which is independent of motivation- I think it’s actually the talent of finding most aspects of competitive Othello to be interesting and naturally motivating.
And then once that baseline interest level and drive is there, it’s very easy for the rest of my brain to get aligned with doing a great job with Othello.
And if there’s enough baseline pleasure experienced, then it becomes very very easy to do a lot of things which *appear* to be a form of hard work, but they don’t feel hard at all because of how pleasurable they are.
So like, even when I say I’m “only going to do the training and preparation for the WOC which is fun for me”, I will almost certainly still end up doing a lot more “work” than most of the players who really are straining hard to improve their level of play. Because so much of it has always been fun for me!
And I think this principle is generally true in life as well. When someone has a knack for experiencing pleasure and motivation with something, they will very quickly appear to be talented and hard-working at it, even though in many cases it’s closer to a compulsion than an effort of will.
And actually the biggest thing that I would wish for, if I wanted to be a lot better at Othello, is that I would wish to be 15 years younger, because young men in particular are known for being much more motivated and obsessive about things. I certainly was, as a younger man!
I don’t think my fundamental cognitive capacity is any less than it was when I was younger, but my natural obsessive drive is definitely less than it was back then.