In college, I played chess recreationally. When I tried to improve my skills by reading about the game, all I found were volumes of openings to memorize, historic games to study, and endgame theories to ponder. I felt overwhelmed, and I wasn't sure all those things would help me. Then I found a book called Winning Chess: How To See Three Moves Ahead, by Irving Chernev and Fred Reinfeld. This book elevated my play with a simple, specific focus. It didn’t discuss openings or endgame, which are elements of strategy. Instead this book taught tactics: how to use the pieces to greatest effect, regardless of (or in service to) my strategy. I thought knowing how each piece moves was sufficient to play, but this little book taught me the forceful techniques that lay between the basic rules and the complex theories—moves with names like the "pin," the "discovered attack," and the "skewer," and concepts like "the overworked piece." Suddenly I saw the game more deeply, and my every move had meaning and purpose. But I hadn't learned any new rules, only how to use the rules that I already knew to greater effect. Text analysis does the same for the actor. Rather than strategies for accessing emotion or developing character, which are also essential, it teaches acting tactics: choice, action, and adaptation. Knowing what the text means is a basic requirement. Knowing how to use that knowledge to greatest effect is a skill.


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