Wednesday, March 07, 2007

What is a "Knight" anyway?

I personally have zero desire to moderate blogs, set rules for others, or even to type this post.
But after reading through DG’s blog I realized there are some serious misconceptions not only from folks outside the group but more importantly those identified as “Knights” themselves.

So I guess I could set the definition of a "Knight" and provide a list of rules, but I’m not going to do it. Because in doing so I would have to act like my opinion weighed more than another’s and in that I refuse.
It would be more beneficial to provide some history and let you make your own decision.

Part of me finds this laughable in the sense, for one to be identified as a “Knight” has always had more to do with an ideology than attaching one’s identity.
The name “Knights Errant” was started as a joke nothing more. It was just a way for two people to motivate each other through the long arduous process of the 7 Circles much like someone would call upon a workout partner. Don with his incredible sense of humor and penchant for names fired “Knights Errant” off the top of his head in keeping with the theme of Don Quixote.
There was no premeditated plan, no screening process, and certainly no set rules to live by, the whole group came to life on its own. I personally have never wanted rules, officers, or any sort of hierarchy, and consciously avoided setting precedent in order to make all feel welcome.

Anyone with an interest in chess and a desire to share what you have learned (regardless what path you are taking) in the hopes that it might become beneficial to some other person seeking to improve defines the term “Knight”.
Whether it is following something structured like the 7 circles, or creating your own way has never mattered. The only thing that matters in my opinion is that you have a helpful attitude, are willing to share your experience, and encourage others in their personal quest.
That is why I have never placed separate headers in my sidebar for “Knights” and “others”, for me anyone fitting the above is equally worthy to share their viewpoint and by providing as many links as possible maybe someone can find a blog that they can identify with while on their own personal quest.
Imagine if five people were asked to demonstrate how a knight moves, you of course would probably have five different answers. None of which would be any more or less valid than the next. The trick would be for you to filter through the demonstrations and choose the method that you can readily identify with or piece various segments together to form your own answer.

I just hope that people will figure out that we are all “Knights” in one form or fashion, and identify less with a name and more with helping each other.


katar said...

"Knight-errant" was borrowed from Don Quixote de la Mancha b/c that title is similar to the name of the demigod, Michael de la Maza.

See also "How to become a knight."

I separate myself from the "knights" only to be very clear that i don't endorse Maza's approach or his little yellow book, which i read in 20 minutes in a bookstore.

Some readers actually take my recommendations seriously, and if i can steer them away from Maza, then i think i'm doing them a big favor. So i am not a knight, just a patzer with a blog.

Blue Devil Knight said...

In the voice of Adam Sandler from Wedding Singer, "This is something you could have told me yesterday!"

You have created a monster. Buah ha ha ha!!!

Seriously, I think things are more open and flexible (in practice) than your post would suggest.

If there were a bunch of bloggers who loved to study the Blackmar-Diemer Gambit (BDG), and used sidebar partitions to keep track of each other, I'd think that was cool. It would also help new bloggers interested in the same crazy opening to keep track of all these folks. If they expected people who wanted to be part of this group to do the same (to facilitate general cohesion and knowledge of others whereabouts, to discourage link-leeching for people only interested in advertising) I would think this was pretty cool.

And I thought it was pretty cool when I discovered all these kooky Knights Errant on the web two years ago. The 'Knights Errant' are basically like this hypothetical BDG group, except with the common bond (from the start) that they are committed to working through a particular crazy Circles training program. The Knights Errant wouldn't exist if MDLM didn't exist. Of course different people use different methods, all valid in their own way. But it is sure helpful for a group using the same strange method to keep track of each other. If someone doesn't want to do this, they won't. Other than the sidebars and the Circles method, there is not much else the Knights have in common. The Knights have been very open and flexible to different paths. Some people use CT-Art, some use PCT, others have joined wanting to do Circles with master games. There is not even an explicit expectation that the Knights need to be partitioned from other blogs on the sidebar.

Whether the sidebar list should be a requirement for being a "member" of the Knights Errant (or whether we should use the language of membership, which can create an air of exclusivity and generally invoke in-group/out-group dynamics in the blogosphere) is an interesting question. Indeed, it is partly because of such concerns that when I update the 'How to be a Knight Errant' bit this weekend, I have been planning to trim down and tone down the language and number of requirements in Temposchlucker's original post on the topic, cited by Patrick. Perhaps you can comment on this when I put it up.

Overall, I don't think there is need for much concern. I don't see what caused your concern about DG's post that is particularly relevant about the Knights Errant. If it was the conflict between two bloggers, that seems to be an orthogonal issue to what you are talking about, as it was just a conflict between two people, something that happens all the time on the internet (both of them were Knights Errant, and one got so fed up that he realized he didn't want to be a Knight).

Perhaps I'm missing something...

Frank Sträter said...

Actually the criteria by Temposchlucker was the main reason for me to give up my right to call myself a Knight Errant. By not following my own structured program anymore (I already was not following my quest as diligently), I thought it better to leave. I joined by invitation by Tempo, already not sure if I would fit in, because I was not doing the 7 circles like most of the others.

Chess improvement is bigger than just doing the circles, so I agree with the intentions of BDK.

Blue Devil Knight said...

Another thing I like is the "Knights Victorious" list. When slogging through hundreds a day, it inspires me (first, cuz others have done it, and second, cuz I want to be there and not end up MIA).

I talked about some related issues in a recent post.

Sancho Pawnza said...

Thanks for the feedback!
The names Don Man de la Maza and Sancho Pawnza weren’t by accident.
I knew exactly where Randy aka Don got the name Knights Errant, I didn’t say he invented it, I said “...fired “Knights Errant” off the top of his head in keeping with the theme of Don Quixote”. He could have called us the “Tilting at Windmills Club” or “Dulcinea’s Ladies-In-Waiting” but neither would be quite as funny as the images I get thinking of the two idiots who set upon their own similar quest jousting 7,000 tactical problems.
Although… “Dulcinea’s Ladies-In-Waiting” does have a nice ring to it.
(In case someone is reading this comment and is unfamiliar with the history of the Knights Errant de la Maza, I’m one of the two original idiots. I happened to like one of Don’s posts about a sandwich (of at least FM strength) once owned and eaten by GM Jussupov and the rest as they say was history. While I get credited with co-founding the Knights my real role could be easily equated with the drunken buddy who says to his friend “It doesn’t look that far, I think we can make it!” If I remember correctly Don was the one drinking wine.)

Next time I will be more careful to cite my sources i.e. Don Quijote de la Mancha by
Don Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra now that I’m aware there is a lawyer present.
For the record Cervantes borrowed the term knight errant as well, but that is another story.

I’m not a big fan of “How to become a Knight”, requiring another to follow a prescribed plan (especially one that should have several disclaimers and a release form) so that you can be a member of the “club” is a little haughty in my opinion.
I did the circles because I felt like it, not because there was a gun to my head and I certainly don’t want anyone else to think I did them under such conditions.
I’d rather be exposed to variety of methods which led to my creation of The Society of Self Analysis, or ASS backwards. If you can’t laugh at yourself…

Now that there has been a changing of the guard I have taken this opportunity to voice my opinion as to what I like to see the Knights Errant become in the future by reestablishing the earlier camaraderie, self deprecating humor, humility, and open mindedness originally shared between two people. It has never been about one upping the next guy or drawing lines in the sand.

There came a point when I began to realize that while de la Maza’s plan was great for tactical immersion and a good cure in the prevention of dropping material it was only one piece of the puzzle.
And regardless of how silly you or I think de la Maza’s book/plan is for total improvement. It held a plus in that it introduced me to new forms of self-discipline and other ways of thinking. I learned that I should create my own study plans and apply them in a manner that best suits my particular needs. This I can confidently say to others from firsthand experience. The same experience that encourages me to finally heed the words of Lasker, Fischer, Keres, Botvinnik, and most recently Buckley :), words that I had ignored year after year “analyze your own games”. They wouldn’t hold the same meaning they hold for me now if it wasn’t for that silly “little yellow book”.
Nor would I have encountered such a diverse group of people, many of which are now friends.
In hindsight it hasn’t been a waste of time, but an adventure!

When a new player comes into the chess club I could honestly care less what got him interested in the game, be it a family member, neighbor, TV, internet, or perhaps even some silly little yellow book. The important thing is they play chess.

Sancho Pawnza said...

I fully expect you to be able to handle your new role.
All I ask is that you rule wisely and possibly humor an old "knight" with his simple request.
Keep things light.

What came to be known as the "Knights Errant" didn't start with a set of rules. More along the lines of a dare, and the idea of being helpful.
You are free to select any path of your choosing, and feel welcome.

If seeing that list motivates you to complete the circles by all means use it to your advantage. It's the journey not the destination that counts.

Blue Devil Knight said...

Sancho: I just posted the new 'FAQ' for the Knights, and your thoughts definitely helped guide me in its construction. I'd be curious to hear what you think.

I definitely agree that we need to not be too serious, have fun, and to always avoid an air of exclusivity.

Man, all this meta-blogging is getting tiring.

Sancho Pawnza said...


I will give it a thorough read in the morning, and respond on your blog once
It's late in the evening and I'm off to bed.

Pawnsensei said...

Hey Sancho!

Sorry I haven't been around much lately. I'm back at my apartment now. My Dad's doing fine. The usual "scans every three months" deal.

I think when the two of you first got together on the blogosphere neither of you could have seen how big the idea could get. I think that's why Don decided to step down. He saw the whole thing getting too serious for him. Most of his posts are light-hearted and meant to keep things fun. (I mean c'mon, his next blog was about being Sir Chubalot!) But then that's when the scientists step in and everything goes to h***......jk BDK!

It does dampen the spirit a little when people are pointing fingers and saying who is more dedicated than whom. Or if there is the pressure of "breaking one of the rules" or falling out of favor. In fairness I think we have to expect some structure to form when an organization grows.

However, the day the Knights file for non-profit status is the day I delete my blog =P


Sancho Pawnza said...

Hey Pawn Sensei!

Good to hear from you, and I'm glad all is well with your Dad!

Maintaining a blog can become time consuming if you let it. Sometimes people (Don) simply achieve their goal and move onto something else. Others feel the pressure of trying to maintain a high standard and realize they can't do so without a great deal of time invested so they pack it in, which is understandable.

The bottom line is to do what feels right and have fun. None of us rely on chess as a profession; it is just a hobby and should be treated as such.

Hopefully we can catch up on ICC.
Take care!

Tom Chivers said...

Perhaps wiki could do with a tidy, then?!

Sancho Pawnza said...

What's wiki? :)

Blue Devil Knight said...

I think the Wiki bullet is accurate. From the start, the Knights were a silly group of people doing the Circles, inspired by de la Maza. I guess I don't see the Knights as being all that serious and gloomy and stringent about requirements. Hopefully the FAQ is clear on this. The only real request is the sidebar thing, and I know I was more than happy to do it, given the benefits I got due to the reciprocity displayed by the more seasoned bloggers. I guess the 'post once a month or so' thing is kind of harsh, but I personally get sick of wasting clicks on dead blogs, and usually when someone starts posting again they are back into the swing rightaway.

This hubub started because of a little flame war over on one person's blog. The tenor of that discussion was not representative of the posts by the Knights, and really has nothing to do with the Knights Errant and has a lot to do with a few strong personalities.

I also think PMD is right that once a group grows, it will begin to take on a life of its own to some degree. I frankly think we have done pretty well keeping ourselves open to many paths, but maintaining the minimal originating focus on MDLM inspired methods.

Blue Devil Knight said...

Despite what I said, I just updated that inconsequential wiki disambiguation page and posted a link to the FAQ.

Unknown said...

Goddamn knight elitists. Am I right? ;)

Temposchlucker said...

Haven't you heard from the Blackmar Diemer Gemeinde?

As you can read in my sidebar here is my slogan:
Life is just a play. Problems arise when people start to take themselves seriously.

Chess knight said...

What's a knight anyway... That's an original question for a philosophical discussion :)