Hypercritical

International Master Jeremy Silman on how the perception of one of his best known chess books was altered in the age of strong chess computers:

Chess engines and databases weren’t around when I wrote that book (the same goes for the early editions of How to Reassess Your Chess), and I was using pen and paper, with a chess set on the table.

As a result, the Amateur’s Mind was filled with errors. And, of course, once chess engines were a dime a dozen, the know-it-alls not only gleefully pointed this out, they claimed the book was terrible due to those mistakes.

But, that’s completely wrong. The Amateur’s Mind is an exceptionally instructive book, and like all my work, it’s about concepts that will help most amateurs improve their chess understanding.

That potentially destructive urge to be “right” above all else, recently reared its head when a now infamous Harvard professor chose to relentlessly bully a small Chinese restaurant over a billing error.

A recent Wired article, “It’s Actually Smart to Be Mean Online”, attempts to explain:

… a psychologist at Central Michigan University, took a group of 117 students (about two-thirds female) and had them watch a short movie and write a review that they would then show to a partner. Gibson’s team told some of the reviewers to try to make their partner feel warmly toward them; others were told to try to appear smart. You guessed it: Those who were trying to seem brainy went significantly more negative than those trying to be endearing.

Why does this bias exist? No one really knows, though some theorists speculate it’s evolutionary. In the ancestral environment, focusing on bad news helped you survive.

So are all attempts to appear intelligent and nice doomed to failure? Against the odds, I’m determined to try!

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