Volume IV: A Much Needed Booster Shot for My Live Game

September 18, 2012 Leave a comment

(Author’s Note: This article was originally posted on my old blogspot blog, “Bathtub Gin“, on January 15, 2012.  It is the fifth of 10 articles in a series that I named “The Patzer Chronicles”.  I plan to move the rest of the articles to this blog before continuing the series here.)

An interesting week for me in chess.  I played two live games and added another correspondence game to my list.  For those keeping score at home, I am now playing 5 correspondence games, all with the black pieces.  Four of the games are on chessworld.net and the other is on chess.com.

In addition to playing games when I can, I am also continuing chess study.  I work tactical puzzles almost daily.  Some online at different sites, such as chesstempo.com, others from a book I own titled, Chess: 5334 Problems, Combinations and Games, by Lazlo Polgar, father of the famous Polgar Sisters.  This is a massive tome containing over 5000 tactical puzzles and games.  I have been working on this book for years (off and on) and still haven’t reached 1500 puzzles yet.  I highly recommend this book for beginning and intermediate players.  It will develop your tactics and keep them sharp.

Also this week, in the area of study, I obtained a public library card.  I used to love going to the library, but it’s been over a year since I have had a card.  A little over a year ago, we moved from Mckinney back to Dallas.  Since then, I haven’t bothered to get a card, until now.  But I digress.  Anyway, I checked out the book How to Reassess Your Chess, by Jeremy Silman.  I have the expanded third edition, but there appears to be a fourth edition published now.  I have heard great things about this book, so I decided to give it a try.  I love learning things from books.  So, I will see how it goes and, of course, report my reaction.

But enough of that, let’s get to the games!

Live Chess

 

My first game this week was a blitz game (5 minutes/game) on FICS.  My opponent was Drawitz, a 1120 rated player.  My blitz rating was 1011.  Now, I suck at blitz.  I know it, you know it, everybody knows it.  So why do I keep playing it?  Well, I want to try to get better at calculating quickly.  I think playing at the faster time controls will help with this.  If I can calculate and analyze more quickly at the lower time controls, then when I have more time I can calculate deeper in the positons and make the better moves.  So I want to keep trying blitz as well as playing standard chess.

So, it was a 5 minute game and I had the white pieces for a change.  I played 1. e4 and he responded with 1. ..c5, the Sicilian defense.  I like playing against the Sicilian as White because it can be very sharp tactically.  I haven’t tried it much as black, though, due to a lack of understanding.  After 2. Nf3 Nc6, 3. d4 cxd4, 4. Nxd4, he played 4. ..e5, threatening my knight. Now, the recommended move here is probably 5. Nb6, but I like to do things a little different.  I played 5. Nxc6.  Why?  I don’t know.  It seemed more ambitious.  Besides, if he takes back with his d-pawn, I can play 6. Qxd8, forcing him to take back with the king, forfeiting his right to castle.  Chess theory states that this is not the best move, but sometimes you can get away with unusual moves in blitz.

He took back with his b-pawn.  I continued developing my pieces, queen knight to c3 and queen bishop to g5.  The latter move pinning his king knight, on f6, to his queen.  He played 7. ..Bb4, pinning my knight to my king.  I played 8. Be2 preparing to castle and he played 8. ..d5.  The game continued 9. Bxf6 Qxf6, 10. exd5 Qd6?!.  This loses a pawn (although 10. ..cxd5 appears to as well) and gives me (after 11. dxc6) the opportunity of a queen exchange that will give me the initiative and a rook on the open d-file.

I took his pawn on c6 and he traded queens with 11. ..Qxd1, 12. Rxd1.  He then castled king side and I played c7.  Here, I really expected Bb7.  It is a developing move and puts pressure on my g-pawn, pinning it to my rook.  But instead, he played 13. ..Re8?.  This allowed me to play 14. Rd8, threatening mate..  Again, moving the bishop was probably good here.  But he moved his king to f8, guarding his rook.  I played Bb5, attacking the rook again and threatening mate.  Now, he plays 15. ..Bd7.

Practically any move I make here I am winning at least a minor piece.  And I do end up winning one.  But, with the right move, I knew I could possibly checkmate, or queen my pawn, or be up a rook and a minor piece.  But I couldn’t seem to figure it out.  There were so many good moves that I had trouble picking one and ran into time trouble.  I ended up playing 16. c8=Q, which was not the best move.  Rxa8 looks like the best move.  It would have left me up a rook, knight, and pawn.  Instead, I was merely up a knight and scrambling to keep from losing on time.  His rook was more active than mine (I still had not castled) and I just ran out of time.  But it was good game for me.  I took advantage of my opponent’s blunders and had a winning attack.

With the loss, my blitz rating on FICS dropped to an abysmal 957.  But I have a feeling it is going to get better.

My second game was played at Chess.com with a 15 minute time limit for a change of space as well as a change of pace.  My opponent was a 1038 rated player named Tural2b.  Again I had the white pieces (two in a row! shock!  horror!).  The game started 1. e4 e5, 2. Nf3 Nf6.  This is known as the Petrov, or Russian, defense.  It has a reputation as a timid, drawish opening.  I believe the main line is for white to play 3. Nxe5.  But I don’t know why, or how to continue from there, so I just played 3. Nc3, protecting my pawn.  The game continued 3. ..d6, 4. d3 h6, 5. Be2 a6, 6. 0-0 Be6, 7. b3 Nc6, 8. d4.  Here, my opponent made a dubious move that may have cost him the game.  He played Qd7.  This allowed me to play 9. d5, forking his knight on c6 and bishop on e6.  He decided to sacrifice the bishop with 9. ..Bxd5, although he might have created some counterplay with 9. ..Bh3!?.  I am not sure.  I will have to analyze that to see if there is anything there.

The game continued 10. exd5 e4, 11. dxc6.  I thought this move won me a second piece.  But after he played Qxc6, I saw that if I saved the f3 knight, his queen simply grabbed the c3 knight, also threatening my queen rook.  So I played 12. Bb2, protecting the knight.  It continued 12. ..exf3, 13. Bxf3 (threatening the queen) d5?.  A blunder.  After 14. Nxd5 Nxd5, 15. Bxd5, the queen must move and both my bishops are on the long diagonals pointed at his rooks and his king is still on the open e-file.

The game went on 14. Nxd5 Nxd5, 15. Bxd5 Qc5, 16. Re1+ Be7, 17. Bxg7 Rh7, 18. Bf6!.  This wins either a piece or the exchange (queen for rook).  But the next couple of moves were the killer.  18. ..Rd8, 19. Bxe7 Rxd5??, 20. Bxc5 with discovered check, losing the queen, and black resigned.

I win!  I win! (yay, me!)  OK, I don’t want to sprain my arm patting myself on the back.  But it is nice to get a win in against a human opponent after 6 straight losses.  This was my first standard game on Chess.com, so my initial rating of 1200 jumped to 1318 with the win.

Overall, I would say I am pleased with my live play this week.  I had good chances to win both games and managed to pull one of them out.  Hopefully, things are looking up.

Correspondence Chess

 

First, we’ll discuss the new game that I added.  Yeah, I know, I was just complaining about spending too much time on correspondence and not enough on live chess.  But, I like correspondence and I wanted to try out the French defense.  Besides, who’s bloody quest is this anyway?  Just kidding.  I love you all like family.  Maybe even more.  But I digress.

The new game I started is against my “welcomer” on Chessworld.net, Joe Wurdak.  He is rated 1892 and has many awards and honors on the site, so I am a little intimidated.  Plus, this is my first rated game on chessworld.net.  If you recall, last week I wasn’t sure if one had to be a full (paying) member to have rated games or not.  The game is just starting.  I am playing the French defense, but there’s nothing to report yet.

My game against Dodger is going well.  I am up a rook and bishop in this game and he appears to be in real trouble.  He cannot castle his king.and his pieces are not very active.  I cannot see any compensation for his lost pieces.  This may be over soon.

In the game against Kootenays, I am still up a pawn and the queen side is really starting to open up.  The position still looks very dangerous for both sides.  I am waiting now to see if he wants to trade bishops, trade rooks or perhaps some other nefarious doings.

The game against Mukanya is anyone’s guess.  I have a feeling I am about to go down in flames, but I just can’t see how.  I think my position is solid.

My game on Chess.com, against Xadrezenico is still up in the air through 19 moves.  I am up a pawn and I have created a passed pawn.  He has also made a couple of questionable moves, giving me the initiative.  Not that I know what to do with it.  But I am about to get the rest of my pieces developed, connect my rooks and, hopefully, begin a successful attack.  I think I have played well in this game.  Here is the current position:

I am black.  It is white to move.  My last move was 19. f6.  Depending on what he does, I plan to develop the knight on the next move and possibly bring the queen rook over to threaten the backward pawn at d3.  We shall see.

Alright, that’s enough chess for one week.  Sorry I got so wordy in the Live section.  But I was just happy to finally win a game and play well enough to win the other one (damn time pressure!).  I’ll try to be a bit less verbose in the future.  And now that I have figured out a way to post board graphics, maybe that will be possible.

Until next time, happy mating!

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Volume III: A Losing Battle (Two, even)

September 17, 2012 Leave a comment

(Author’s Note: This article was originally posted on my old blogspot blog, “Bathtub Gin“, on January 7, 2012.  It is the fourth of 10 articles in a series that I named “The Patzer Chronicles”.  I plan to move the rest of the articles to this blog before continuing the series here.)

I had intended to post once in week in my Quest for 2000, but we all know about good intentions.  Somehow, despite having the entire week from Christmas to New Year’s Day off from work, I couldn’t seem to manage much time to devote to chess.  Well, live chess anyway.  I still spend an inordinate amount of time on correspondence chess (more about that later).  But my live chess activity is almost non-existent.  Here’s how the last two weeks have laid out:

Live Chess

 

Only two games played in the last two weeks, both on FICS.  Both were also losses.  I have now lost 4 straight games on FICS and 5 out of 6 games since I began my quest.  A very inauspicious beginning indeed.  However, these last two games were the first played at a standard time control (15min./game) and were both against higher rated opponents.  And, in one of them, I had created a very formidable attack that left me one move from mating my opponent had he not played correctly and had I not blundered (big surprise).  Let’s discuss that game first.

I played the black pieces against a player named jmnovff, rated 1591.  I played a Scandinavian defense (1.e4 d5).  I went down a piece early, but had a good attack with doubled rooks on the h-file.  Unfortunately, I missed a tactic and allowed my opponent to trap my queen.  On the 21st move, I missed a tactic of my own that would have allowed me to get the queens off and be up the exchange (2 rooks and a knight vs. a rook and 2 bishops) in the endgame.  The move I did make cost me my queen and the game.  My standard rating dropped from 1583 to 1475.  Still, despite losing and missing some tactical shots, I did manage to garner an attack against my opponent’s king in one of my favorite king pawn openings.

I played the next game on the same day about 30 minutes after the end of the first one.  It was also standard time control of 15 minutes per game and my opponent was named Tornek, rated 1714.  I, again, had the black pieces.

  • A quick rant:  Am I the only player on the internet that doesn’t choose “white” as their color of choice when seeking a game?  Am I ever going to play chess online, be it live or correspondence, with the white pieces?  I mean, really.  Can it really just be coincidence that out of 11 games started, I have gotten the white pieces once?  And that was against a computer opponent.  It’s not that I don’t enjoy playing the black pieces.  Actually, I often prefer it.  It gives me the opportunity to stifle the opponent’s attack and counter with my own.  But 10 out of 11 games???  This is ridiculous.  I know, I know.  I could ask for white when seeking a game, but I don’t like that.  I feel it should be random.  That is part of the fun.  If I did that, I would be no better than all the others.  I guess I should just shut up and play black.  This rant hasn’t turned out to be so quick after all, has it?  Well, maybe if you read it really fast…

Okay, back to the game.  This started out as a Guioco Piano, or Italian game (1.e4 e5, 2. Nf3 Nc6, 3. Bc5).  For some reason, I went a little nutty and played 3. ..b5?.  While this move attacks white’s bishop on c4, all it really does is blunder away a pawn for no compensation.  After he took my pawn, I then played 4. ..a6, allowing him to play 5. Bxc3, completely destroying my queen side pawn structure.  He then took my e-pawn as well.  Before I knew it, I was 4 pawns down and couldn’t stop his marauding band of pawns from storming my queenside.  So, I resigned.  On the plus side, since he was rated 1714, I didn’t lose many rating points for this loss.

As of now, my standard rating on FICS is 1438.  My blitz rating, with no activity, remains the same at 1011.

Correspondence Chess

 

I am back up to 4 games of correspondence chess.  Quite by accident, really.  On Chessworld.net, I clicked a link looking for information about their Pyramid Chess.  Basically, this is a ladder-style challenge system where one can challenge (as white) a player on the same level or one level up on the “pyramid.”  But apparently, the link automatically signs you up for play.  I wasn’t sure if I wanted to add another game yet, so I abstained from challenging anyone.  Of course, that doesn’t stop other players from challenging me, which is what happened.  So I am playing another correspondence game, as black of course.  This brings me up to 4 games, all with black (Must…fight…urge…to…rant!).

The first game is the only one I am presently playing on Chess.com.  It is against xadrezenico, rated 1210, and I am not sure how I stand so far.  On move 10, I checked with my queen.  He blocked with his queen, offering a trade.  I decided to take it because the continuation, while very sharp, looked dangerous for me.  So, for once I took the safe route.  Now I don’t know.  The position seems equal.  I am not sure how to proceed now.

My first game on Chessworld is against Dodger, rated 1400.  In this game, I am a pawn down, but I am about to at least win the exchange, or possibly win a whole rook, by forking his king and rook with my knight.  Unless, of course, I have missed something.  Anyway, the queens are off and if I can go up a rook or the exchange, I feel I have a good chance to win this.  Plus, he will lose castling privileges, thereby leaving his king vulnerable in the middle. Things are looking up here.

In game two, I am playing Kootenays, rated 1794.  I am up a pawn through 13 moves, but I have doubled pawns on the c-file and he has a strong looking pawn storm on the queen side.  My position is cramped a bit and my light squared bishop is blocked in.  I need to find a way to neutralize the pressure and open up the position to provide counterattacking opportunities.

My last game on Chessworld.net is against Mukanya, rated 1320.  The position here is a bit strange.  My opponent has his light-squared bishop (LSB) blocking his d-pawn.  I have tried to develop normally, but I am just not sure of the position.  But, we are only on move 6, so there is still a ways to go (hopefully).

One other thing about Chessworld:  all the games I am playing are unrated.  I am not sure, but I think you have to be a paying member to have rated games.  I will have to find out.

So that’s it for this week.  I’ll try to get back to posting an update every week now that the holidays are over.  I’ll also try to play more live chess.  I am also studying when I can.  I do several tactical problems almost every day.  I am also working through the tutorials and drills in Chessmaster 9000.  But I think I really need to play more games and perform analysis on them to learn where I am making mistakes and where I can improve.

After all, that’s what this quest is really about.  Improving my chess game, not increasing my rating.  Although, being successful in the former will, without a doubt, affect the latter.

Until next week (or two), happy mating!

Volume II: One Step Forward, Two Steps Back

September 17, 2012 Leave a comment

(Author’s Note: This article was originally posted on my old blogspot blog, “Bathtub Gin“, on December 23, 2011.  It is the third of 10 articles that I named “The Patzer Chronicles”.  I plan to move the rest of the articles to this blog before continuing the series here.)

This was a sobering week in my quest for 2000.  I played 3 live games online while also continuing with my correspondence games.  Here’s how things panned out:

First, correspondence.  One of the four games I am involved in got aborted by my opponent.  A player can abort a game within the first 10 moves without affecting the ratings of either player.  The other 3 games are still in progress, all in the opening phase.  I think I have an advantage in one of them.  My opponent appears to have blundered with a bishop move.  He now has had to move the bishop back to avoid losing it.  That has given me, as black, a tempo and a lead in development.  I also have a stronger pawn center.  I haven’t found any tactical combinations that he could use to hurt me, so I think I may be alright.  Still, I can’t help thinking it’s a trap.  Yes, I’m paranoid, but is it paranoia if they really are out to get you?

In the other two games, things are looking very dicey.  I am black in both the games and I think my position is solid, but any inaccurate play could doom me.

Which brings me to the next aspect of correspondence play.  I seem to be spending a considerable amount of time evaluating my next move.  Is that normal?  How much time does the average player spend?  I’m not talking about how quickly I make my move.  I mean the amount of time spent looking at the position and calculating variations.  Should I be spending that much time on it?

I am not really concerned (much) about spending too much time on it.  This is simply my curiosity about how I compare to other players in this aspect.  I am enjoying the time that I spend analyzing.  It stimulates my brain and, hopefully, increases my education in chess theory.  But I am still curious about the amount of time.  So any correspondence chess players out there, please comment on how long you spend (just guess if you have to) on calculating your next move, especially in the opening phase of the game.

Now for live chess.  I played one 10 minute game, with black, on FICS and was unceremoniously crushed.  This dropped my blitz rating to 1011.  The other two games were played on Chess.com.  The first game I played, a win with white, was against a computer opponent rated 1188.  It was a 5 minute game, which I won in 29 moves and achieved a rating of 1361.  However, that was short lived.  My next game was with black against a human player in a 10 minute time control.  I lost in 27 moves and my rating plummeted to 1180.  So now I have a record of 1 win and 1 loss on Chess.com.

The losses have really started to hurt my confidence.  And the one win this week really doesn’t help much because it was against a low rated computer opponent.  At this rate, the quest for 2000 could run into my retirement years.  Oh well, if it was easy everyone would do it.

I have the entire week between Christmas and New Year’s day off from work.  So I am going to try to play more chess, especially at longer time controls.  I would like to play a minimum of 15 minutes/game and see what I can do with my standard rating.  I may also get in on some tournaments.  They have several every day at Chess.com.  The time controls vary from 1 minute up to 15 minutes per game.  The tournaments run from 3 to 7 rounds.  Most likely, they are Swiss system or round robin type of tournaments.  I think it will be a good way to test my skills and get some seasoning in the online chess world.  Plus, it will be fun!

So until next time, happy mating!

Volume I: I Become a Modern Day Postal Pest (sort of)

September 14, 2012 Leave a comment

(Author’s Note: This article was originally posted on my old blogspot blog, “Bathtub Gin“, on December 17, 2011.  It is part of a series of 10 articles that I called “The Patzer Chronicles”.  I plan to move the rest of the articles to this blog before continuing the series here.)

If you didn’t already know by reading my previous post, Quest for 2000, I am on a quest to improve my chess game and, hopefully, reach a rating online of 2000 ELO.  Now that is a lofty goal, and will take a great deal of study and focus.  2000 is expert status as chess goes.  Not easy to attain.  But, if it was easy, everyone would do it.

So anyway, this is the first of a series of posts that will chronicle my journey.  Enjoy!

Well, this week I only managed to play one live game online, a 5 minute game, with the black pieces, against a 1174 rated opponent.  I lost.  I tend not to play games with time controls less than 10 minutes (though I prefer 15) because it doesn’t seem to give me enough time to think and I end up losing on time, which I did in this game.  Although, chances are I would have lost anyway.

I blundered away a knight early in the game.  Although I did manage to get some counterplay on the king side and eventually won the piece back.  But my queen side was a shambles and my opponent managed a passed pawn that, due to time pressure, I couldn’t figure out a way to stop from promoting.

However, this wasn’t the only chess I played this week.  I reaquainted myself with two websites that I had registered at a couple of years ago, but had forgotten about.  Chess.com and chessworld.net.  Here, you can not only play live, but correspondence chess as well.  Correspondence chess, also known as Postal chess, was once played through the mail service.  Players would mail moves back and forth to each other.  Today, with the internet, play is done online or through e-mail.  It is a very interesting way to play.  There is no real time pressure to speak of.  Time controls run anywhere from 1 to 5 days per move, or more.  Also, depending on the rules of the web host, you can use reference materials, such as opening books to plan your strategy and help analyze the position.  You can also set up the position on a board and move the pieces around to try different combinations.  In this sense, correspondence chess is more of a learning experience than a competition.

Some web sites allow the use of computer chess engines to analyze positions.  But I don’t think I will use one even if it is allowed.  I want to learn to analyze and calculate on my own.  I don’t want to depend on an engine to find my moves, even if I lose without it.  The idea, for me, is to improve my chess skills.  Using a machine to evaluate a move or position won’t help much with that.

So, I am now a correspondence player.  This is my first foray into this style of chess.  I currently have 4 games in progress, 2 at each of the sites above.  That is another advantage of correspondence chess.  With the long time between moves, one can manage to play several games at one time.  It is very early in my games, but so far I am enjoying correspondence.  I wasn’t sure that I would.  I didn’t think I had the patience to wait several days for my opponent to move or spend extra time evaluating the position.  But it has been rather pleasant.

By the way, I highly recommend both Chess.com and Chessworld.net.  They both have great features and massive resources for chess lovers to enjoy, both novice and master.

Chessworld.net is run by Tryfon Gavriel, better known as Kingscrusher to chess enthusiasts.  Tryfon is a FIDE Candidate master and a British regional master who produces youtube videos analyzing chess games and teaching chess principles.  He even does commentary on his own live games while he’s playing them!  I highly recommend subscribing to his channel.

One more shameless plug.  If you are looking for a chess forum and game database, look no further than chessgames.com.  Chessgames has a database of over 600,000 games, each with it’s own “kibitzing” page.  It is free to register and post on the many forums, but I would recommend becoming a premium member.  It opens up a world of wonderful features, all for the very reasonable price of $29US per year.  The members and visitors of this site are very friendly, knowledgeable and helpful.  Many professional chess players, including grandmasters comment on the forum.  As a premium member, you can even have your own personal forum!  The wealth of  features available is too long to list here.  Check it out!

That’s all for now.  I am going to try to post once a week to update my progress and define my goals and plans.  This week, I will try to play more live games online.  If anyone is interested in playing against me, I usually play at FICS, or you can try chess.com or chessworld.net.

Until next time, happy mating!

The Quest for 2000 (but I’ll settle for 1500)

Note: This is the first in a series of posts that became “The Patzer Chronicles”.  The first 10 posts were originally published at my other blog, Nothing N’ Nobody over at blogger.com.  The rest of the series will follow as soon as I can get off my lazy ass and copy them over here.  This post, the first, was published on December 10, 2011.

I am a chess player.  It is a game that I find both enjoyable and perplexing.  The vast amount of opening theory alone is enough to fill a bank of super computers.  But I suppose that is what I love about it.  It is a game of unlimited challenge.  It is practically unsolvable (though the computer engines are hard at work trying to prove otherwise).

I don’t get much of a chance to play chess.  When I do, it is usually against one of the personalities in Chessmaster 9000, the computer game.  Practically no one I know in real life plays chess.  So when I grow weary of silicon-based opponents, I turn to the internet.

My favorite place to play (read: the only place I play) is the Free Internet Chess Server, or FICS.  As the name implies, it is free to play here and it is always easy to find a game, no matter what your skill level or time control preference.  And, if you don’t want to use the web interface on FICS, they offer several graphical interfaces that are powerful and easy to use.  I use Babaschess which is the most popular of the interfaces, but there are lots of choices.  There are even ones for mobile phones.

To play chess on FICS, you don’t even have to register, you can play as a guest.  However, if you want to play rated games, and thereby earn a rating, and play tournaments, then registration is required.  I play under the handle of DissidentAggresor.  Although I have been a member at FICS since 2007, I have only managed to play 8 games (7 rated).  That’s not exactly an accelerated pace.  As I said, I rarely manage to find time for chess, especially against living, breathing opponents.  I think that’s why I play so much against my computer.  Time is not as much of a factor.  I can pause the game or start and stop whenever I want.

Anyway, my rating on FICS is presently 1282 for blitz (5 games) and 1583 for standard (2 games).  My record for blitz (any game less than 15 minutes per player) is 3 wins, 1 loss, 1 draw.  The 3 wins came in two 10-minute games and one 12-minute game.  In standard time controls, I managed 1 win and 1 loss (both 15 minute games).  I prefer standard time controls to blitz because I’m a slow thinker.  But it is easier to find opponents at the shorter time controls.  Still I try to play a mix of game lengths.

So, why am I telling you all this?  Because I have decided to play more chess online.  I want to improve my chess.  I want to achieve a rating of 2000 in either blitz or standard or both.  Now a rating of 2000 is a lofty goal in chess, even on an online chess server.  So I threw in the caveat that I will settle for 1500.  Now, my current standard rating is 1583, but because I have played so few games, it most likely isn’t very accurate.  My ratings would be what FIDE, the World Chess Federation, calls provisional.  FIDE requires that you play at least 20 rated games before your rating becomes standard.  So I have a ways to go.

So let the quest begin!  I will continue to post updates as I go along.  My goal is to play at least one game every week, hopefully more.  I guess you could say it’s my move.

PARD and Me (or, How I became a Chess Player)

Note: This essay is a draft of a post to my profile on Chessgames.com  (user: BishopofBlunder ), originally published around the 2006-2007 time frame.  It was inspired by another user on the site, Richard Taylor, who asked in one of the forums to hear members’ stories on  how they started playing chess.  This is my story.

When I was a boy in Garland, Texas (USA), a municipal organization called PARD (Parks And Recreation Department) used to run a recreation center during the summer months in the gymnasium of the junior high school located a half of a block from my house. They offered activities to children who were out of school for the summer months (June, July, and August). It had a ping pong table, basketballs, and a few board games, but most kids, myself included, went there to play wiffle ball. Basically, wiffle ball is baseball played with a hollow plastic ball, usually with some holes in it for aerodynamic purposes, and a plastic bat.  I wiled away many a hot summer day here.

Sometimes the older boys wouldn’t let the younger ones play wiffle ball with them. On one such occasion, when I was one of the younger boys, a friend of mine and I were looking through the board games when we came across a chess set. Oddly, there was no checkers available. My friend asked if I knew how to play chess and I said no, but I think it is similar to checkers only you don’t jump the pieces, you land on their square and capture them. I had seen chess on TV, but didn’t know the first thing about it. Having no idea how to set up the board properly, we put the pieces down at random using the same type of set up used for checkers. We started playing, just moving one square at a time, regardless of the piece, and capturing as we went along. One of the older boys saw this and asked what we were playing. “Chess”, we replied.  He laughed and said, “that is not how chess is played.”

He asked if we wanted to learn how to play chess properly and, always being a very curious young man, I said yes. My friend didn’t seem interested and excused himself. So this 16 or 17 year old boy, who looked all grown up to me, and whose name I cannot recall, started teaching me the game of chess. He taught me the starting position, the names of the pieces and their movements. I was fascinated by the complexity of the game and the characteristics of the different pieces.  They were like characters in a fantasy, each with their own strengths and weaknesses.  My favorite piece was the Bishop. I liked the way it moved diagonally, slashing its way, serpentine-like, across the board.

We played a few games and he trounced me completely, of course. I even fell victim to the dreaded “Fool’s Mate”. This was not long after the Fischer-Spassky World Championship Match, and he would tell me about Fischer and how he was the first, and only, American ever to be World Champion. I continued to play at the gym occasionally with my “teacher” or one of the few others who played chess. Or I would watch one of their games and try to soak up some knowledge.

That Christmas my parents bought me a small table that had a chess board and some plastic pieces. The table was particle board with a cheap veneer finish and the pieces were cheap molded plastic, but I thought it was the most beautiful thing in the world. They also bought me a copy of “Bobby Fischer Teaches Chess”. I read that book a dozen times, working all the problems over and over.

The main problem I had was finding someone to play chess with. None of my friends were interested in chess. They were only concerned with “normal” sports like football, basketball, and baseball. I talked my sister into playing with me. But after I beat her 3 or 4 times she lost interest and started to avoid the subject. Eventually, the table got broken (from playing ball in the house) and we got rid of it.

I gave up chess until 11 years later in 1984, I shared a room with a friend of mine in Fort Worth, named “Truck”, who played some chess. We both worked nights and when we would get home from work, we would stay up all night playing chess and listening to Pink Floyd. Neither of us had any clue about opening principles or tactical combinations. We simply moved the pieces and tried to gain material. It wasn’t great chess but it was a load of fun! We were pretty evenly matched but I came out on top more often than not.

The next year, I moved back to Garland and lost touch with Truck. I didn’t play, or even think, about chess again until 1988, shortly after I got married. Late that year, my wife’s stepfather passed away. I was helping my mother-in-law move some stuff, that she was going to sell, out of her house. In the stuff, I found a beautiful ceramic chess board with ceramic pieces. The board was very large, bout 2-1/2 feet square, and separated into four square sections. I commented to my mother-in-law on how much I liked the chess set and she gave it to me.

We had a large square coffee table with a glass top that the board fit on perfectly. Once again, though, I was without an opponent.

Not long after this, I went to work for Domino’s Pizza and met a man, Scott, who knew how to play. He had played in some tournaments before and knew some traps. When we first started playing, he beat me consistently. As I said, my favorite piece is the Bishop. I could use them well. But the knights were a different story. I had no idea how to use them effectively. Scott was the opposite. He was brilliant playing with his knights, but he hated the bishops. He would trade his bishop for a knight every time, but would hold on to his knights like they were gold.

I am a very competitive person. I don’t like to lose at anything. So, in order to compete with Scott, I knew I had to do something. I went to the library and found some books on chess. I studied some opening principles and simple tactical combinations.

It took a while, but eventually I managed to draw a few games with him and even win a couple. I learned the secret to beating him was to get those darn knights of his off the board as soon as possible. Knights were to Scott like hair was to Samson. We spent many enjoyable hours hunched over the board.

Then Scott went and joined the Army, so I lost my partner again. I went on another hiatus from chess for a while, though I would still play an occasional game against my computer (Chessmaster 2100, baby!).

I became interested in playing chess again a few years ago, updated my chess program to Chessmaster 9000 and began studying again. Thanks to the users on Chessgames.com and some other internet advisors, I am now learning the game of chess backwards, so to speak. I have begun with simple checkmates and tactics and will work my way up (back?) to opening theory.

My chessmaster rating just reached 1000, so I have a long way to go. Looks like it is going to be a fun ride.

And that is how I became a chessplayer. 

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