The “10,000-hour rule” has become part of contemporary discourse since its treatment in the
best-selling book
The Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell.

The rule, based on a study by Anders Ericsson, says that violinists, composers, artists and even
criminals achieved success after an average of 10,000 hours of acquiring and practicing their
professional skills.

In 1926, chess legend Emanuel Lasker made a similar claim:

“Take any boy, any boy fairly intelligent and fairly healthy, and you can make a chess prodigy
of him – or any other sort of prodigy.

“Such accomplishment is a function of mental growth, which is … greatest in years of

Did this anti-elitist notion apply as well to Lasker – a gifted mathematician and philosopher
who reigned as world champion for 26 years?

It’s inspiring to remember that, like his friend Albert Einstein, Lasker’s efforts at
understanding and mastery focused on discovering essential truths.

As Lasker said:

“On the chessboard, lies and hypocrisy do not survive long. The creative combination lays bare
the presumption of a lie; the merciless fact, culminating in the checkmate, contradicts the

Shelby Lyman is a Basic Chess Features columnist.