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A Year in the Making

January 27, 2013 Leave a comment

I have just completed the longest chess game of my life.  The game lasted 360 days, a mere 6 days short of an entire year (2012 being a leap year and all).  Why did it take a year to complete a game of chess, you ask?  Well, obviously, this was a correspondence game.  But even at that, the time control, at 10 days/move, was a rather lengthy one.  And both Kingscrusher (my opponent) and I used a good portion of that time in making our moves.  The game lasted 33 moves before Kingscrusher, playing as white, resigned.

I am very excited about this win.  Mostly, because of who it was against.  Kingscrusher (a.k.a, Tryfon Gavriel) is a British Candidate Master who is one of the webmasters of Chessworld, the site where this game was played, and a youtube videographer featuring many instructive chess videos including running commentary on live blitz games!  So, of course, I am thrilled to win a game against a titled player.  Now, I don’t mean to imply that I am as good, or better, at chess than Kingscrusher.  Not at all.  This is a person who probably plays 100 or more correspondence games simultaneously.  While I might play 6 or 8 at the most.  Presently, I am down to 3 current games on Chessworld (it was 4 before I won this game) and 1 on Gameknot.  Therefore, I have much more time to spend on calculating my next move.  And I am certain I spend much more time than Kingscrusher.  He probably spends no more than a minute or two making each move, while I will regularly spend 10 to 20 minutes or more on a move.  But still, beating a titled player, with a rating of 2200 or more is still a worthy accomplishment for someone of my humble chess skills, regardless of the circumstances.  So quit raining on my parade, man!

But let’s talk about the game.  I, as black, played an unusual opening, the Robatsch Defense, in response to 1.e4.  The Robatsch is a hypermodern opening, similar to the Pirc, that usually starts out 1…g6, attempting to control or attack white’s center from the flanks using pieces instead of directly from the center using pawns.

Since the game began almost a year ago, I don’t know why I chose the Robatsch as my opening.  I guess I wanted to try something different.  All the time we were playing, I just knew I was going to be beaten badly.  Yet it was so fun to be able to play against such an accomplished player.  But I digress, back to the game.  Here is the game in a replayer frame so you can follow along (it should open in a separate tab/window):

http://www.chessvideos.tv/chess-game-replayer.php?id=75709

We followed the main line through 3.Nc3.  Then I played 3…c5, which is the third most popular move in this opening, according to the Chessgames database.  I think I chose it because it seemed to lead to the most interesting positions.  Kingscrusher played 4.d5, eschewing the pawn gambit.  My move 5…a6 was the initial novelty, according to Chessgames database.  I played it because I didn’t like the idea of 6.Bb5+.  It seemed rather annoying.  I also considered Nf6, preparing to castle king side.  But I thought ridding myself of the check threat was better.

I offered a pawn exchange with 8…e6.  After he declined, I exchanged pawns with 9…exd5 10.exd5.  I decided to reposition my f6 knight to e1, then c7.  After 14.Be3, I saw a tactic where I could win the exchange for a couple of pawns and open up the position a bit.  I decided to try it.  The combination went 14…b5, 15.axb5 axb5, 16.Rxa8 Nxa8, 17.Nxb5 Ba6 (skewering knight and rook).  At this point, he could either play 18.Nxd6, allowing me to win the exchange with 18…Bxf1, or he could play c4, protecting the knight.  If he did that, I calculated the following: 18…Qb6, 19.Qa4 Bxb5, 20.cxb5 Bxb2, 21.Rb1 Bd4, 22.Bxd4 cxd4, with an unclear position.

However, he played 18.Nxd6 and play continued 18…Bxf1, 19.Qxf1 Qb6, 20.Nc4 Qa6.  At this point, I felt fairly good about my position.  I was up the exchange, though down two pawns.  I was concerned about his pawn majority on the queen side and his dangerous passed pawn on d5.  I thought I could make use of the open a-file and put some pressure on his queen side pawns.  My queen was on the open a-file and my dark square bishop was bearing down on his b2 pawn along the a1-h8 diagonal.  So my position had some merits.  However, my knight was poorly placed on a8 and my rook was inactive,  while his bishops were both very active on good diagonals.

With 23…Nc7, I finally got my knight out of the corner, hoping to bring my rook over to a8 to form a battery with the queen.  He responded with 24. h5.  I felt that trading pawns on h5 would affect the safety of my king.  So, I played 24…g5.  This still opened my king’s position a bit, but allowed me to maintain a more solid pawn structure on the king side.  He played 25. d6, threatening my knight on c7 and moving his dangerous passed pawn one step closer to promotion.  I played the knight to e6, eyeing the f4 square.  He played 26. Nf5, threatening to take my well placed bishop on g7.  I considered a couple of different moves here, but couldn’t save the bishop without losing material.  So, I went with 26…Nf4, threatening a fork of his king and queen with Ne2.  Faced with that, he took my knight with 27. Bxf4.  I took back with the g5 pawn which was followed by 28. Nxg7 Kxg7.

I expected 29. Qxf4 which would have given him 3 extra pawns plus what looked to me to be a very good attack.  I guess he might have been a little worried about his king, but there didn’t seem to be much I could do to threaten anything.  Instead, he played 29. Qd2?.  I think this was the mistake that cost him the game.  It allowed me a tempo with 29…Qa1+, followed by 30…Qf6.  Now, my advanced pawn on f4 was protected (by the queen), my king had another defender, and my queen was poised to check again at h4, which would fork his g4 pawn.  I thought he would play something a little more aggressive here, such as Bc6 or Qd5, but he must have been concerned with protecting the g4 pawn and instead played 31. Bf3.  I think f3 was the better move here, but Bf3 doesn’t block the bishop on the h1-a8 diagonal.

I considered an immediate 31…Qh4+, but that didn’t seem to lead anywhere.  So I went with 31…Re8.  My reasoning was that it took control of the open e-file, activated my up to now very inactive rook, and if he abandoned  the back rank it gave me the opportunity to invade with another piece.  And the opportunity came immediately with 32. Qd5??.  I am not sure why he made this move, but looking at the position, I couldn’t find much better.  The finish came quickly:

32…Qh4+, 33. Kg2 Re1, and white resigned as there is now way to prevent 34…Qh1# without giving massive material.

So I obtain my first scalp in chess!  Even though it was in a correspondence game and took almost a year, I am still proud of the accomplishment.  This will always be special to me since it is my first win against a master class player.  What a way to begin the reboot of my quest for 2000!

Until next time, happy mating!

Phoenix Rising: A Warm Boot

This is my first “new” post in my WordPress blog.  As I noted in the “Author’s Note” before each of my previous posts in this blog, they were copies of posts that originated in my Blogger blog, Bathtub Gin.  Finally, after months of copying, pasting, and editing, plus trying (and failing) to get iframes to work in WordPress (turns out they are not supported, bummer!), I have caught up to myself and now must generate original material.  Let’s just hope I am up to the task.

My WordPress readers may not realize it, but it has been a while since I have written a “real” post.  My last post at Bathtub Gin was on March 12, 2012, some 9+ months ago.  What have I been doing all that time?  Well, not writing, obviously.  Nothing, really.  I mean, nothing worth mentioning.  Reality has just squeezed the life out of my virtual chess/blog world to the point where it hardly exists.  But hopefully, that’s over now and I can continue regaling my readers with stories of my Caissic adventures.

Of course, I would have to actually play some chess in order to generate adventures to regale one with.  Hopefully, I can find time to do that as well.  It’s time I rebooted my chess career (such as it is).  A new year is upon us, and now is the time to continue the fight for better chess.  But first, a quick recap of what’s happened over the last 9 months or so since I last posted.

As you recall from Episode IX, I was in the middle of a 4-player guest tournament of correspondence chess at Chessworld.  By some strange stroke of luck, I won that tournament with a score of 5.5/6.0!  (Yea, me!)  I was so enamored with my great skill that I immediately entered another guest tournament.  Unfortunately, I didn’t fare so well in this one, although I did finish second with 4.0/6.0.  I finished several other correspondence games as well.

So far I have done much better than I could ever expected.  My record on Chessworld is 16 wins, 2 draws, 2 losses.  On Gameknot, I have won 4, lost 1.  And I also won the single correspondence game played at Chess.com.  But lately, like the other areas of chess, I have cut back severely on correspondence.  I am down to 3 games presently, all against Kingscrusher on Chessworld.  Partly because I just haven’t been spending much time on chess, and partly because I wanted to free up some more time for live chess.  I need to work more on my over-theboard(OTB)/live game.  I need the action of calculating under time pressure.  I want to figure out where my weaknesses are and live chess is the best way to do that.

The one area where I have continued to work on at least a semi-regular basis is chess tactics puzzles.  I have been working them as often as possible on Chess.com, Gameknot, and Chesstempo.  Just for the sake of laying a foundation for my great return, I present my ratings for all chess sites and formats:

The Rating Game

Chessworld:  2201

Chess.com

Live: Blitz: 1141, Standard: 1268

Correspondence: 1362

Tactics: 1588

Gameknot

Tactics: 1836

Correspondence: 1200 (provisional)

Chesstempo

Blitz: 1505, Standard: 1729.5

FICS

Blitz: 1019, Standard: 1398

Chesscube

General: 1488, Tournament: 1488

As for the future, since the Mayan apocalypse was a colossal failure, I figure I should get back to basics, put my shoulder to the wheel, my nose to the grindstone, get back on the horse, and any other stupid cliche one can think of, and start playing some damn chess.  That’s right.  And in that spirit, and in the spirit of Christmas, I have given myself the gift of chess by finally renewing my premium membership to Chessgames.  My user name is BishopofBlunder.  Stop by my profile and post in my personal forum.  Let me know that I am not the only one reading this crappy blog.  Join the site while you are at it.  Basic membership is free.  With it, one can search a huge database of chess games and kibitz in the game forums, or even the player or member forums.  It’s great fun!

That’s all for now.  If I can remember how to play this silly game, I am going to go play some chess!

Until next time, happy mating!

Volume VII: A Lot of Work, But Few Results

October 28, 2012 Leave a comment

(Author’s Note: This article was originally posted on my old blogspot blog, “Bathtub Gin“, on February 17, 2012.  It is the eighth 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.)

Author’s Note (the Sequel): I cannot insert the game replayer in my wordpress blog because they apparently don’t support iframes.  So, instead, I am just placing a link to the replayer at chessvideos.tv or chessworld.net.  It will open in a new window/tab so you can follow along with my commentary while you play through the game.)

Prologue

It has been 11 days since my last post (02/02/2012) and chess has just about taken over my entire life.  Well, other than working, eating, drinking, making exciting underwear, etc.  But I am spending time every day on chess.  I am checking in on all my correspondence games, of which I had as many as 9 going at one time.  I also am playing more live chess online.  I played 12 games (11 rated, 1 unrated), all rated games being blitz time controls, by participating in 2 tournaments on chess.com.  I won’t be discussing the one unrated game, partly because it was unrated and partly because I was rather drunk when I played.  Fortunately, I wasn’t drunk enough to play a rated game.

Anyway, chess has become a big part of my life.  This is something I should have realized would happen when I took on my quest for 2000.  I guess I did know that focusing on chess would take more of my time.  But I thought more time would be spent on studying and improving than playing.  Whereas, just the opposite seems to be true.  Little of the time spent on chess is spent studying.  More time is spent playing but I think that’s because I have found a lot of enjoyment playing in tournaments on chess.com.

So, without further ado, let’s see what this episode brings.

Study

As I stated, little of my chess time is spent studying.  I still have “How to Reassess Your Chess” from my local library.  But I have hardly progressed on it at all.  I would put analyzing my games under the category of study, but the majority of the time I do that either immediately after the game is played or when I am examining it for my commentary here.  I work tactical puzzles on chesstempo.com, chessgames.com, and chess.com. But I don’t do that every day or spend a set amount of time on it.  I also watch videos by kingscrusher on youtube that he does live commentary on his games.  But that is mostly for enjoyment.  I am not sure how much I actually learn from them.

What does this mean?  I don’t know.  Should I spend more time studying?  Probably.  But, until my rating stabilizes, how will I know where to focus my study?  I realize tactics are always a good thing to study and that is where I spend most of my study time.  But where else does my game need help?  I won’t really know until I see where my rating is and analyze my games for weaknesses.  So for now I am just going to stick with studying tactical puzzles and using my correspondence games to study opening theory and positional strategy.

Live Chess

Eleven rated games played this week, all of them blitz time controls.  There were seven, 5-minute games: two single games and five played in a tournament.  The other 4 games occurred in a tournament with a 10-minute time control.  All games were considered blitz and affected my blitz rating.

In the first game, against sriniav, rated 1243, I had black and played the Dutch Defense, Leningrad Variation.  This is an opening I haven’t played much, but I enjoy because it can give plenty of counterplay for black.  It can also be a death sentence if you make a mistake.  I won a piece early on but let my king get exposed and couldn’t stop his attack.  I resigned after 27 moves.

The next game was against Martin81, rated 1106.  I had the white pieces.  This started strangely.  The game began 1.e4 e5, 2. Nc3 Qf6!? 3.Qf3[figuring trading queens wouldn’t be bad] Qc6.  I then went on a queen hunt as I chased his queen around the board.  I sacrificed a bishop to keep the attack going.  After 9 moves, though, I don’t know what happened.  I don’t know if he got disconnected, or if his house caught on fire, or if he just remembered an important date he had, but he stopped moving and his clock ran out.  So I won on time.  Here is the final position:

Martin81

Me

The next 5 games were part of a 5-minute blitz tournament for players rated 1200 to 1500.  I didn’t particularly play well.  I lost the first 4 games.  The first with the black pieces against bubjas, rated 1440.  I played a Scandinavian and was two pieces up with a strong attack.  Unfortunately, I used too much of my time achieving this advantage and lost on time in 26 moves.

The second game was against sujikp, rated 1225.  I had white.  I lost this game in 26 moves as well, but not because of time.  I was down two rooks.  I played a Vienna gambit, but didn’t play it very well.

In the third game I had black against carchi, rated 1309.  I played a Two Knights Defense  against his king pawn opening.  And I lost in 9 moves.  Yes, really.  Here is the game for your replaying pleasure.  Try not to laugh too hard:

http://www.chessvideos.tv/chess-game-replayer.php?id=71562

Yeah, I fell right into his trap.  Oh well, live and learn.

I then lost my next game in 35 moves.  I played white against PRAMODPAHADI70, rated 1472.  Once again, I was ahead in material but lost on time.  I was up a knight and two pawns, but the clock ran out on me again.  I guess I could look on the bright side that I achieved an advantage in a couple of the games I lost.  I just need to work on my time management if I am going to continue to play in short blitz time controls.

My last game in the tournament was against makatozi, rated 1474.  I had white and, with nothing to lose, I decided to play the dreaded Danish Gambit.  Here is the game:

He opened up a pretty good attack on my kingside.  On move 17, I sacrificed the exchange to help squelch the attack.  He blundered on move 26 by pawn munching with Qxd4?.  This allowed me to take his pawn on h3 with check, setting up the king and queen fork with 29.Nf6+.  He resigned shortly after.

The moral of this story?  Play those speculative openings!  It’s fun and educational.  If nothing else, you can learn a little about how to defend a losing position.  So I might lose a few games.  Rating, shmating.  I may have to try the Danish again.

I also played  a 10 minute tournament which consisted of 5 rounds also.  One round was a bye due to an odd number of players, so I was guaranteed at least one point.  I gained another point by winning my first game, playing as black, against Fiurex, rated 1314.  After 19 moves, my opponent abandoned the game.  I was ahead a rook in the game and had an easy win.  I lost the other 3 games in the tournament and finished in 6th place with a score of 2/5.  I had an opportunity in the game against chesshole, rated 1459.  We got down to a king and pawn endgame.  I offered a draw, but he refused.  Unfortunately, I showed how poor my endgame skill is and resigned when he was about to queen a pawn.

After these games, my blitz rating on chess.com is now 1216.  My standard rating remained unchanged at 1268.

Correspondence Chess

Another good episode on the correspondence front.  I added two more wins to my total since my last post.  I won my game against Kootenays.  He resigned after 35 moves when I was about to win a knight, which would put me a rook up.   This was another unrated game, so there was no effect on my rating.  Here is the entire game for your viewing pleasure:

I also recorded a win against Joe Wurdak.   I feel I was lucky to win this game.  He blundered away his queen when he had a vicious looking attack going on the king side.  This was a rated game, my first, and the win jumped me all the way up to 2120.  It looks really good to see that high number by my name.  Of course, it won’t last.  It’ll come back down to my actual rating, whatever that may be, eventually.  But it makes me dream of the day when I will reach the goal of this quest: a rating of 2000+.  It is nice to dream.  But until then I have a lot of work to do.  Here is my game against Joe:

joe wurdak vs. DissidentAggressor

He graciously allowed me to play it all the way to checkmate, which is unnecessary, but fun nonetheless.

My game against kingscrusher is still in the opening stages, so nothing to report from there.  I have added 6 games to my total by entering a 4 player guest double round robin tournament.  I am playing two games each (one as black, one as white) against Artsyhimself (rated 1635), keepin on (rated 1795), and tolasaria (unrated, set at 1400).  Actually, only 4 of the games are still active.  I claimed a win on time in both games against tolasaria, as he/she never made a move.  A shame, really.

I also added one more game by putting in a pyramid challenge.  After my first win raised me to level two, I decided to challenge a level 3 player, the preposterously named mr. booze (rated 1496).  This game is unrated, while the tournament games are rated.  I don’t think that any games that I initiate on chessworld.net are rated.  It seems that only games initiated by members or tournament games are rated.

My game on chess.com against xadrezenico is going swimmingly.  I promoted two of the three past pawns I had.  Although one of them was sacrificed to win a knight.  I also won the exchange, winning a rook for a knight.  I now have a queen, rook and knight against a knight and bishop.  This game should be over shortly.

Epilogue

 

Not a very good week, results-wise at least, in live chess.  But I didn’t really play all that badly.  I won a couple of games and had a material advantage in a couple more before losing on time.  So, some good moves, just bad time management.

The episode was better in correspondence, where I recorded two more wins (four if you count the wins claimed on time) and my first rated game success.  Of course, with the tournament adding 6 games to my load, I have to spend more time on correspondence chess (or less time on each move).  This doesn’t leave as much time for live chess, or study for that matter.  I think I need to play more live chess.  It will help my tactical and positional experience, as well as my time management.  I should probably stick to longer time controls (standard 15 minutes), but I like playing in the live tournaments and the shorter time controls are easier to fit into my schedule.

That’s all for now.  So, until the next episode, 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!

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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