Blogging, Chess, and the Sunk Cost Fallacy

Since the summer began, I have again fallen into an inconsistent posting schedule, one of the things I was trying hardest to avoid. One of the reasons is that I still have retained a perfectionist attitude, that to write something, it needs somehow to be interesting or insightful, and in addition, written well. Otherwise, I thought, someone else would have just written something that is strictly better.

But as a result, I end up scrapping many of my drafts and never following up on them, and I rarely actually publish anything. Of course, this relates to other areas of life as well. I often try very hard to avoid situations where I could make mistakes, rather than just making mistakes and learning from them.

This summer I have been getting back into chess, and a few weeks ago I noticed something that I had never noticed before. It was in a game of blitz chess, or speed chess, where the clock is as much the enemy as the person seated across is. In general I played moves fast, but the moment I made an error, I froze up and wasted a lot of time. Quite fittingly, we had earlier in the day a lecture about illusions and cognitive biases, including the sunk cost fallacy. The rational thing would have been to keep playing fast, reasonable moves to keep a time advantage. However, after making the blunder, which was losing a Knight if I recall correctly, I kept thinking about how to recover the piece instead of just playing reasonable moves. My teammate, who was also the person who gave the talk, rightfully yelled at me to keep playing quickly when I froze up.

This story is a lesson in thinking rationally even in unfamiliar or just downright messy situations. In general I catch my mistakes quickly, thus it is rarely an issue in everyday activity or even in an interview. But in chess (and in trading), there is no taking back a mistake, only continuing on making good moves even with a bad position.

Perfectionism, while sometimes useful, is something I am trying to shake off. I will post on a regular schedule (it really is like the fifth time I’ve said that), perhaps put up a few chess games, and try to make some mistakes. A weekly posting schedule, namely every Sunday, seemed to work well for a while, so I am bringing that back online. Enjoy!

(Edit: Don’t worry math people, I’ll try to resurrect the math blog too.)

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