Thursday, August 30, 2012

Mark Crowther of The Week In Chess Stepping Down

Mark Crowther. Photo © No permission given, but damn it, I love the guy.

Major news at bottom, and I am not being facetious. But first, usual preamble to rambles:

This really has to be short and sweet, for I have endeavored over the years NOT to, like the ever attention seeking Susan Polgar's blog, to be a news about news site.

I deliberately say her blog and not her specifically, since she deserves every respect as a person.  She does a lot for chess, and her intellect, upbringing and family of origin, and accomplishmens cannot be questioned.  But her blog, to me is silly.

Those who read the news don't need a blog of blogs to tell you to read stories.  If you care about such things, by virtue of activity and interest, stay connected.  That's a no-brainer.  Before Google was metacrawler, which aggregated the various search engines, such as Yahoo, Excite, AltaVista.  My god, those were the days.  Seems now like the internet equivalent of the early 80's or late 70's, playing Bachman-Turner Overdrive:

This write neither supports nor condemns this music
Sh-T.  Ok.  Lets get real.  I don't like it, but was the era.

Now instead of, Expedia, Travelocity, Hotwire, Orbitz, Kayak,,, Car, you have the travelsite aggregator Trabago (sp) [1, 2]?

Anyway, I am off track, carried away again.  I have never done that before... OK.  Mark Crowther is leaving The Week In Chess, which has been integral to Malcolm Pein's London Chess Center.  This is huge.  To those of you who do not use TWIC, which has tirelessly and consistently collected, and distributed, massive amounts of chess games, and accurately at that (for free), this can hardly matter.  But for all the computer and web related aspects of chess, this is the temple upon whom all chess cognistenti worship.  May god bless him.

I honestly was stunned when I read this, nearly gasping for air, felt my chest tighten, seriously.  Mark and I have corresponded off and on for years, never at any length (except once, about the wisdom of his deserving a beer--or two, in one large and heavy rout of work), and both their privately and in print, I have never, ever heard him utter one single disparaging remark about anyone.  This man is goodness.  And if but once he did so, then whole non-unjustly.  Thank you Mark from all of chess.

[1] As though it were not obvious, I now work in this industry.  I am expressedly NOT a traveler, rather being happy to sit at home forever (true), as the Buddhists say, the body is a sack of flesh with nine orifices.

[2] This is embaressing--hard as I try, I cannot find it on the web.  I see them advertise on the web.  Latter!

[3] I unabashedly copy in full, but also linked here:

'The Week in Chess and the London Chess Centre end their 14 year sponsorship agreement.

'Mark Crowther - Wednesday 29th August 2012 The Week in Chess website and weekly on-line magazine and game file collecting together the leading games and results is created and edited by Mark Crowther. The London Chess Centre particularly through Malcolm Pein has sponsored and encouraged its production since 1998. This agreement has now come to an end although both sides will continue to cooperate for some time.

'"14 years is a very long time in the life of the internet and chess has seen many positive changes. I have been working incredibly hard on the TWIC website and updating the way that the magazine has been compiled since 2009. Whilst I've very much enjoyed increasing the amount of reporting on chess I've been doing, the additional work has also become unsustainable in the long term. I've managed to keep the weekly TWIC magazine games service free for all these years but in this economic climate I've got to look to make the best living I can. I think perhaps there has been the perception that TWIC was a bigger and better financed website than it actually was. A few thousand subscribers would enable TWIC to continue and become better, I will no doubt soon see if there is an appetite for that. It has been frustrating to see the London Chess Centre and myself get relatively little benefit from the production of the magazine while various commercial services have used it as a starting point for their paid for products. 

'In the end I decided that I needed to take stock and see what direction my working life should take which could even be away from chess and more towards other types of internet site. It could be that I work on many different smaller projects. TWIC will continue in some form at a new address shortly. I must place on record my gratitude to Malcolm Pein for his support over the years and I think I learned quite a bit from him too." Mark Crowther 29th August 2012' 

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Climbing on and Off Olympus: Big Swiss Cheese

The way large team tournaments operate in Swiss format fascinates me.  Its kind of like a gigantic fractal, and for me quite honestly and vividly and literally is a kind of mini-model of, if not the cosmos, complex systems [1], whereby things grow, collapse, achieve stability, migrate, or disappear.  My oft repeated phrase, the refrain 'I thought this was supposed to be about chess?'  Well, I am just getting to that.

What is so beautiful and elegant is how very rapidity with which a set of complex elements, ranked according to values, gets shuffled and sorted then assigned values according to an evaluation.  The accuracy in the first and second passes necessarily has limitations, but again, in large team tournaments, this is very fast, and becomes very, very highly articulated.

This is how it works.  One hundred-fifty six teams were seeded, of which, one hundred and fifty actually started.  Of those, forty-five scored 4.0, and eighteen scored 3.5.  Due to top seeds playing very weak teams to start, whether a team scored 4.0 or 3.5 cannot be especially statistically significant, since while the board by board teams are highly assymetric, but may contain top boards less disparate than the other boards.  That is to say, 'stands a fighting chance', as we say in English.

For example, Russia scored 3.5 and we can from that hardly say that they are more accurately assigned forty-sixth place after round one.  To continue here: in an individual competition, after round one, you would have a lot of +1.0's, some 1/2-1/2's, and of course 0.0's.  But here we start out with 4.0, 3.5. 3.0, etc, all the way down to 0.5 and 0.0, seven sets.  This is not where the magic starts.  But after round two, you can have a full FIFTEEN sets.

It gets much tougher, very fast as you go, so that now at the end of the second round, you have five teams at the top:  one with 8.0 (Slovakia, if I view this right), and five with 7.5, and five with 7.0.  Things happen pretty fast.  Of course, if you take a closer look, linked here, and here, and here, things are not so simple, but whatever it is, to me this is very fascinating.  Not sure if this is the term, in mathematics, relates to what is called a run-away analysis [2].  See you all soon. 

[1] Notably biologic, chemical, physical, social, cultural, artifactual, heuristic.  Shall I go on?  Lets see,lets do one or two more: spiritual, governmental, sexual.  Do these go together or just the luck of the draw. 

Double click image to enlarge

[2] This term is not right, but I am close.  For example, see 'Jeff Sagarin's Computer Rankings', for sports at USA Today.  Don't be thrown off by the popular rag [3] part, this smart F'r is a mere MIT graduate, smarter than sh_t.  He not only ranks opponents, but the opponents opponents, etc.  You get the idea.  The permutations are infinite.

[3] Popular rag:  colloqueal for cheap newspaper,.

Off Olympus: Be Sure Not to Miss the Big Deal

Yesterday The 40th 2012 World Chess Olympiad started, in Istanbul Turkey.  In case you didn't know, this gigantic event occurs every two years, and is made all the more special this particular time round, since the host country's chess federation is super strong.

Believe me, I have tried to find out how many persons are in it, how many members they have, and boy, have I ever tried, but whatever it is, is gigantic.  Anecdotally this is put at 300,000, but whether it is, 190k, 305k, the nation has scholastic programs for chess in school put in place, and the message is clear.

Short and sweet--of the top 100 FIDE rated chess players in the world (2837 to 2652 ELO), a full 67 of them are participating (be sure to page down, for hidden table).  This is a team event, country by country, Russia versus France, Germany versus China, etc.  Four persons per team play, with a fifth in reserve, which can rotate in and out to give members well timed rest.

I don't want to get stuck on saying this is the single largest concentration of chess firepower that one can see, a super concentrated, twenty ounce grass fed protean monster of beef, but is certainly among the very fewest, most selective handful of heavy weight competitions.

The other big event is, of course, the FIDE Grandprix, when it was 128 games, pairing down to 64, 32, etc.  But that event quickly converges the data, reducing the competitors, whereas most if not all of the strong players go on to play the 11 round swiss format tournament.

Thus, by rounds three or four, you can pretty much count on one heavyweight playing another.  Proof of the pudding, Russia's team is so utterly strong, that Dmitry Jakovenko at fifth board merely ranks 20th among the 774 participants (156 teams, with Congo duly last), weighing in at a shamefully ridiculous 25th in the world.  Pugilistic combust.

And before I go, as large as this is, it is not the largest team tournament in the world.  I know, because I was in it, in Febuary of this year, which I wrote about in, in April, in my essay 'What Goes Around Comes Around:A Grandmaster Morality Tale'.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Finding Charm and Enrichment or Wasting Away and Dissociated?

A great little article I stumbled upon last night, 'On Chess: Club fever can lead to stalemated rut', by Shelby Lyman [1] This is pretty much what it is all about:

'For some people, a chess club or chess cafe becomes a dead end.

'The chess club of my teenage years was a vibrant place frequented by exceptional people who had rich lives outside of the venue. But a few were there from opening to closing, month after month, year after year'.

Full article continues, linked here.  It hits straight on. While not long, it does capture the essence of the dilemma.  We as chess players experience entire worlds, yet nevertheless abstract, but we also can land in a place that not only leads nowhere, but downright harmful to our careers, relationships, and overall health if not very corporeal bodies--flesh and blood, guts and soul.

This can charm us with aesthetics and enrich a sense of connection to an intellectual milieu connecting round the world.  It can teach us how to use databases, broaden our social horizons by giving us strong access to what are called communities of knowledge, do things we never expected to learn, such as program in html when we blog, or instead it can serve to deflect and divert our life trajectory, postponing or outright subverting progress in parts of life of far greater consequence.

Or, a little bit of both?  With me, lots of both.  Chess fills me.  Chess is an intellectual romance of the highest order.  Chess is escape.  But left unchecked, preoccupation with chess will rob you of other things.  You can bet on it.

I always said, 'Smart people, they come a dime a dozen.  But smart people with heart, those are rare'.  So here:  chess players devoted to the art of chess, stepped in its culture and history and near tireless in pursuit of hard to distinguish nuances of improvement--there are a great many of them.  But deeply committed chess players who are either physically fit or take time to be in nature, mindful of nutrition, and balance with love or family or work or god (pick any two [2]), show someone like that.

[1] For those of you too young to know, but to those of us back in the day, say now about age fifty-four and over is probably well known, Shelby Lyman was the chess expert (one below master) who as a college professor but whom could communicate clearly, and in a very engaging way, he was the guy who grabbed America with his live commentary on the epic 1972 Fischer-Spassky World Chess Championship match, in Reykjavik Iceland.  It was wonderful.   Black and white magic.  

It was the Beatles on The Ed Sullivan Show, first JFK then MLK shot, the man on the moon, Tiny-Tim, trust me, I saw all of them, live.  Add to that Lyman.  Think of it--Beatles, man on the moon, JFK, MLK, The Sixties, the Vietnam war on television EVERY SINGLE NIGHT, and, gosh, who but what else?  Fischer.  Fischer on TV.  Genius.  Disturbing.  Disruptive.  Iconoclastic.  Supreme.  Singular.  Epic.  Those of us who saw it, began to play chess.  Some or many of us till this very day.

I stumbled upon it, and like so many others, promptly and immediately became a regular chess player, completely infatuated by the game, and remain so to this day [3].  He--Lyman--knew more than enough of the game to come across to nearly all viewers,  but as a great communicator who knew chess, not as a chess player who could communicate.  

A lovely man, and dear he was.  Thank you Mr. Lyman (After posting this, I wasn't sure if I had mentioned that Lyman was a college professor and had to go back and reread what wrote, to make sure, or if having mentioned it, had not fact checked it.  You know, you heard it in 1972, and thirty years latter still have it wrong.  But he was a lecturer and what a teacher he must have been, notes here [4]). 

Oh, and lest I forget maybe one of the single most important facts, it was ON PBS, Public Broadcasting.  Can you imagine.  What has become of our world?  Dancing with Stars, Survivor, American Idol, ESPN Sports Center... The ascension of the trivial, rule by the tank top, bleach blond, cheap boob jobs, jokes written by entire teams, demographic marketing, Nelson rating points, Britney Spears, the total vacuity of Justin Beaver, Jessica Simpson, KIM Kardashian, Paris Hilton, all that jazz.  

Fast forward, the internet, when not just eyeballs, but verily key-strokes get measured.  The end of essence, but now the begining of pathos.  Depth goes to shallow.  Craft goes to profit.  Connection goes to dissociation and isolation.  Don't get me started.  My favorite line.

Careful searches, most unfortunately, do not turn up even partial video clips of Lyman on PBS, a gigantic loss to chess history.  Mentions at Forums here (actually, while some there is a bit on the way too thin side, sometimes information there can be really helpful, a matter of digging it out), and New York Times, here.  

I like the core of  But in the comments, its something of the quality of fourteen year old boys talking about women.  Yikes.  Nevertheless, repeat, some stuff there is great, just not usually.  On the other hand, the moral conduct of the users is A+.  I get like two rude comments every six weeks.  This cannot be an accident, and I credit the owner-operators.  Thank you.

[2] In project management:  'Speed, quality, cost.  Pick two'.  Or in structural engineering:  'Give me enough time, money, or headroom, and I can do anything'.  Speaking of threes:  'Do you know what made the richest man in the world, software entrepreneur Bill Gates, so great?--he had three things:  

He had brilliance (that one is obvious).  

He was ruthless (cut a tough deal, as but a spanking lad, with IBM for the DOS-code or whatever it was.  Shit, his dad was a lawyer.  You don't think that as a boy they ever had talks?  No way they didn't.  Of course they did.).  

But he had a third things--he had good stars (some of the greatest things on earth, can only be done with a bit of luck, against all odds (Phelps winning in Beijing by, what was it, 0.003 of a second, Lance Armstrong darn near going over, catching his handlebar on someone's plastic bag on a fast climb in the Pyrenees or French Alps, but goes on to win or near win when he could have gone completely down.  Such things cannot be calculated).

[3] Of course, as I have said often, I had to quit in 1973, and except for something like one or two games played every ten years after that (I mean it literally, and painfully found I had lost all of my chess), did not play again till 2001, after leaving the Wall Street world, Morgan Stanley in particular, rotten bastards :-).  It gave me refuge if not comfort.  It allowed me to forget, if but for moments.  Forgetting is hard to do, and as we age, far more to remember than to look forward to.  So much I wish that I could close my eyes and totally erase!

[4] Addendum, Mon 27Aug2012 22:38 pst: Of all the places to find a nice summary, from Google:

People Magazine, October 06, 1986, Vol. 26, No. 14, full and very heart warming article linked here: 'Knightly Newsman Shelby Lyman Makes Chess a TV Spectator Sport'.  Here is a clip:

'Growing up in Boston's Dorchester section, Lyman started playing chess at 9 with his uncle, Harry Lyman, a New England Champion. He went on to become a social-relations major and the top player at Harvard, and represented the U.S. at the 1956 Students Chess Olympiad. 

'Later, while a lecturer at City College, he won New York's prestigious Marshall Chess Club championship and became the 18th-ranked U.S. player. In 1972, a public TV producer in a chess class Lyman was teaching agreed with Lyman's suggestion to put the Fischer-Spassky match on the tube, and Lyman became the proverbial overnight celebrity. "In 1972, I would walk down a city block and 50 people would come up to me," he says. "I was the hottest thing in town." '  

Friday, August 24, 2012

Fifteen, Seventeen, Nineteen and Counting, Part One

I am proud.

Well, we all know that, some would say vain, a braggart someone once said.  That's OK to say, too.

Its true that I am self promoting.  We all adapt to our environment, genetics, family, work history, and social milieu.  Since this is a list, why not add diet, sleep, and housing, as well as top down larger regional, cultural, ethnic, and social-economic constructs?  And why stop there, what species are you, geological era, climate, historic epoch, IQ, personality type, engram, Meyers-Briggs personality type, Braverman Assessment according to the major four neurotransmitters [1].  Oh, one last thing--cosmic rays, and angelic diffusion.  The picture can always be made bigger.

What does this have to do with my recent major attainment or benchmark accomplished yesterday, at  Well, I am getting to that.  This is not a straitlaced chess blog, and if you didn't like this sort of thing, you wouldn't be here.  Well OK then.  Lets continue:

If you had my life, you might be like me too... Basically I grew up with a mother who lived by attack and condemnation, nested with an absent father.  Renowned Gestalt Psychologist Fritz Perls once said 'The neurotic lacks the means of self support'.  Well, that's me alright.  I compensate by at once being highly independent, I create all my own things, my own food, my own concepts, my own CRM, my balance sheets, my own tax returns, my own cognitive maps of Japanese Kanji (Chinese Characters [2]), my own methodologies.  I do it all from scratch.  I live to create, and I do.  Someone once called what I do, Korns cornucopia.  The same guy called me a disjunctive genius.  Well, that's true too.  Don't get me started.

Double Click Image to Enlarge. Sorry, half the rest of the content that makes this table sing, is hidden in the black. Shown as legible half tone thus.

So with no one to guide me or support me, I developed an exaggerated sense of self, and have, now that I have completely embarassed myself by being too honest, too real, and called myself out with this doubly exaggerated impersonation of myself, can just simply say, got this way by learning to be my own cheering squad.  I hate that.  I have had to and am still learning not to do that.

But I cannot escape, that in the world, I move with a lot of confidence, always the one to walk in off the street and ask to talk to a CEO of a $300M corporation and do so (I did this in Seattle, took me about 75 seconds, they put him on the phone.  All true).  I called Warrren Buffet's partner, Charlie Munger and he called me back.  True.

Once I did call George Soros, and what a shock, did not manage to get through, but did get to hear the voice of his, *ahem* very upper class London accent receptionist, how erotic.  The one to ask to talk to corporate HR about an issue of mistreatment, an ethical matter of benign neglect by management (I did this last night, asked to see the visiting Regional HR visiting heavyweight, if I did not succeed, I did surely entertain him, smiles).

So there we are.  My confession.   I always like to say, I am the most insecure confident person you will ever know.  Now chess.

Last night I hit =>1700 at at blitz.  Big deal you say?  No.  But if you look around you, or what is the saying, look closely, as I have, ask yourself if you ever noticed how many 1800's at standard chess you know who have a hard time topping 1600 at blitz?  It is common.  Same with 1900's.  I know a 2200 USCF ELO who is a real chess player, Juan Tica, is about 1895at at blitz--dude is a freaking Doctor in Peru and has to work as a physicians assistant in NJ, there is a reason the USA--much as I hate to say it--is so strong.  Is it our morals?   Probably not.  Our landscape, we venture to guess, might have a little bit to do with it.  Well, you might be onto something!

My friend Bryan Cohan flirted 1920 USCF, and similarly finds 1600 difficult, maybe 1590.  Damon T. Garrett USCF 1826 similarly.

So there it is.  Now that I did 1500 bullet, and 1700 blitz, I plan to shift to standard online, which I have never done.  And I do mean never.  I don't want to sit for an hour or forty five minutes, so plan to play 15 0 or 15 10 at  We shall see.  Surely a lot higher.  Time to play a new game.  I am proud of my 17 handle[3].

In our next post or shortly thereafter, I will discuss the blood and glory of blitz on line specifically, straight chess talk. Sudden death, speed, pre-move, psychology, stages of unfoldment.

[1] Highly recommended:  This is so cool.  Helped me a lot.  The Braverman Assessment Document,  this works.

[2] 'Kanji (漢字; Japanese pronunciation: kandʑi) are the adopted logographic Chinese characters (hanzi) that are used in the modern Japanese writing system along with hiragana (ひらがな, 平仮名), katakana (カタカナ, 片仮名), Hindu numerals, and the occasional use of the Latin alphabet. The Japanese term kanji (漢字) for the Chinese characters literally means "Han characters" and is the same written term in the Chinese language to refer to the character writing system hanzi (simplified Chinese: 汉字; traditional Chinese: 漢字).'  Elaborated citation, as often the case, from Wikipedia.

[3] Handle is a nice Wall Street term: "I really am glad to see Microsoft at a 30 handle"--moved from 29.65 to 30.06. Or think Apple goes from 586 to 577, then breaks through to 601. This is called resistance and support, aka breakouts. I am simplifying the idea, but you get it. Other terms are accumulation and distribution, or in integrative systems, chaos theory, complex adaptive systems: dissipation and accumulation may be other terms.  Chemical systems can buffer, social systems form hierarchies.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Open to the Open, Part Two

Double Click above image to enlarge.   Phrase at right says 'musicals'

[a.  Up and coming post: '400 Points in 4,000 Days:  Not so rapid chess improvement for the adult class player: A five-year program (Part I).

b.  Update:  Friday, 24 August, I still plan to write this, but one among three or four others in next, say, three weeks.]

When back east for a year or so, I had the very good fortune to not only find a chess club that was very strong while also being extremely friendly, as well as doubly blessed with a great location with fabulous amenities at almost zero cost, BUT--and this is key--while also afforded rated tournaments spread out over many weeks, played on the same weeknight.

From this I discovered that even a SINGLE rated game took me sometimes three days to get over.  I found that with the level of tension and effort that I put into a chess game, this exhausted me more than most people.

And from this club, I also had the opportunity to compete in the World Team Amateur in nearby Parsippany New Jersey (about an hour outside one of the greatest cities in the world, New York).  This gigantic tournament has over one thousand contestants in the east coast part alone, and is the largest team tournament in the world.

Its not that I just drove down the street and somehow wound up there.  Not that.  People travel from all over the east coast just to compete there--from Boston, Philadelphia, all over, and my mother's house, where I was living for a year or so ago, was a thirty-five minute drive.  Patience, I am getting to my point:

In the 2011 41st USATE (US Team Amateur) I played six rated games spread out over three days.  I was tired for an entire week afterwards.  It was a though I had competed in The Ironman Triathlon.

It was then that I understood the wisdom, of for example, my friend Damon T. Garrett [1], who while living about an hour away, still stayed at the feature hotel, The Hilton.  Pricy?  Yes.  Is it worth it?  Yes.  It was then that I realized the need to consolidate my energy, if I was to do this.  The next year, in 2012, I also stayed at the Hilton.

I vowed to myself, that I would never again compete in a chess tournament, spread out over several days, unless I was accommodated on-site, with lodgings.  Its just too harsh to play two rated games per day, driving to the tournament, being held over with nowhere to go between rounds if not nowhere to take a short nap, then drive home, sleep, drive to the tournament, compete, go home, etc.  Terrible.

So when I heard that the 2012 US Open Blitz Tournament was being held on a Saturday at nearby Vancouver Washington [2] [3] [4], near the end of its long nine round competition, I jumped on it.  Thus I could get in a lot of chess, without this need to lodge (read great cost, as well as time expenditure).  I could get lots of chess in, get in, and get out.  One day.  One trip there, one trip home.

I can get myself up physically and mentally up for a single, even if very long, day of competition, without fear of getting killed.

Chess is, for me, very taxing.  It exhausts me.  And it is a great cost, in terms of life energy.  I cannot spend it that often.  I say this all as a man who runs for two hours every Saturday, then go back the next day, and do it again, about four hours running across a 25 hour period.  Its not like I am some weakling!

So there it is:  give me a tournament where I have a bed and shower three minutes away, if not two, with no travel, or god please, let it be for no more than one long day.  That I can do.

Chess is mental torture.  No point making it worse with additional physical torture!  Which it also is.

[1] I long since dispensed with my middle initial, the vestigial trace of childhood, which I gave up after my freshman year, at The Cooper Union. I was once David A. Korn, and how I loved it. Err!

But somehow, I had the good sense, when reestablishing my USCF membership in early 2011, to call myself David Allan Korn, after checking and seeing that there was another David Korn's.

It can get confusing out there. So for all of you who might consider taking the plunge--check first, and use a middle initial or name if you have one! Kudo's to Damon for the T. in Garrett. Smart man in more ways than one.

[2] For those unaware, Vancouver WA is just across the mighty Columbia River, from Portland Oregon. It is barely ten miles from downtown Portland, an area far bigger than most know, some 2.2M people: Wiki: 'The Portland–Vancouver–Hillsboro Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA), the 23rd largest in the United States,[3][4] has a population of 2,226,009 (2010 Census). Of them, 1,789,580 live in Oregon (46.7% of the state's population) while the remaining 436,429 live in Washington (6.7% of state's population).' 

{Kind readers, second link is worth a glance, MSA defined.  This is important.  This is what the planet is really comprised of now, as far as key factors goes.  So goes the MSA's, so goes earth!  Image linked here.  Fantastically cogent list, here.

[3] I had moved to Portland in late May 2012. I left Seattle, twenty years to THE week, at the end of October 2010, seeking refuge back at my childhood home, in West Caldwell, NJ. The last place outside New York where there is a farm. True. Running in the woods, I saw many dear. 55 minutes from NY. Just imagine.

[4]. I did get to see my dear old friend GM Yasser Seirawan (USCF Elo 2674), in the lobby of the Hilton for about ten minutes. Got to hug his wife Yvette, who I last saw over teriyaki with Yaz in, what was in, about 2007? I asked Yasser what she thought of me, shamelessly asking. She said that 'you have interesting friends'. Very nice lady. Very modest, like Yasser, unlike me. He and I could not arrange social time, and how did I try!

In the past I had always succeeded. He did, however, much to my surprise, honor his promise to watch me play in the Blitz Tournament. What round(s), I do not know. I cringe. He did write me the day after the tournament, where he placed 2nd, out of about 505 persons, so I was not totally out of the loop. Talk about tired. As Ron Daws once said, in his article in Playbook, what was it, some 1973 or so (I am that old), about how he felt after a marathon, 'I feel like a bag of smashed assholes'.

Not exactly sure about that, but if I played nine rounds against 2000, 2100's, and garden variety 2400's, I would be tired. Watched his round eight, till one in the morning. What did he do, after? Go to the mensroom. Are you kidding. No. Went straight to the skittles room, with his opponent, to do a post mortem. Gave him a hug, intrusive, from behind, almost grabbing him, 'I have to go. I probably won't see you for a few years'.

The last time, was 2.5 years ago, with my girlfriend C. at Starbux. Ouch. Let me forget this woman. He told us about his match at the Olympiad with Tal, recounted in his book Duals, My Games With The World Chess Champions. Don't get me started. Its too late now. 12:50 am. Ran for three hours yesterday, 1:35 today, about 4:35 in a 26 hour period. Not even tired this second.

One can of cheap malt liqueur under my belt now. Two Mexican Taco stand taco's, with tons of cilantro and raw onion, and as much not sauce as I could bear after. Tons of water. One chocolate almond cluster after grocery shopping, in the last hour. Not low fat. Terrible. I am a bad person. I am not pure.

Saturday, August 04, 2012

Open to the Open, Part One

I really wish to advance in USCF rated chess.  This is particularly affected by my having starting back at a provisional rating of--this is not a typo--1452 for eleven games about a year and a half ago.  Don't worry.  That was my rating from back in the year 1973, after which I HAD to give up chess.  I was too OCD about it.  My family forbade it.

Had this not happened, I probably would have gone on to do far more in chess.  I really had the mind for it, but coming from a decidedly poor family (we were educated, but my father left my mother when I was ten), in their better wisdom and probably rightly so, accessed that with the way I was going would not get into a proper college without good grades, staying up ALL night with a chessboard, and staring into space in class (guess what I did in my head).

I came home one day, all the books were gone, the board.  In due time I figured out where they were, but understood it, and was TOLD.

Well, not only did I get into a good college, but a very good college, The Cooper Union.  Like the United States Naval Academy, West Point [1], The Air Force Academy, and in the private realm, The Webb Institute was free.  I concentrated myself to get in, was told how utterly hard it would be, not to expect too much, and be prepared for disappointment.  Why?  It had tougher admission rates than institutions of higher education no less than MIT, Harvard, CalTech, etc.  Hardly a laughing matter.

Who says so?  U.S. New World Report, Rankings of Colleges and Universities, or whatever it was called, you know the drill, had a side bar in many editions, listing the usual and expected top ten would highlight Cooper in a sidebar on the same page, headlined, 'In a class by itself'.  True.  The only bright kids?  Hardly.  Cooper consisted of three separate schools.  Let me explain:

Whereas its College of Engineering based its admissions entirely upon the SAT's [2], the Art and Architecture schools each administered their own home exams which figured largely in their evaluation.  It was a thirty day home exam, copious and difficult.  Its like the well known practice of Microsoft and Google which give applicants intractably difficult questions in qualifying interviews, but in the visual area, 'Draw a pair of sneakers inside out' (I did); 'draw a hand holding an egg (not that year, but I practiced it for half a year before).  The other biggie was 'draw your vision of the world'.  I even redesigned NY City as an independent study, in my senior year, to fortify my submittable, all very tactical... That's the first part of the story.

What does this have to do with The 2012 U.S. Open Blitz Chess Championship in nearby Vancouver Washington in three weeks, well, I am getting to that.

* * *

I really don't enjoy rated chess, or what is it called, real chess.  Its not like I started back a year or so ago.   No.  I started back in 2002 when I found Yahoo Chess after the epic Kasparov-Kramnik 2002 WCC, and I was hooked again.  No one to tell me I couldn't play.  I lost my ass getting tossed out of Wall Street.  I can still remember what my mother said back in 1973, 'you can do that when you are an old man'.  Well, not that old, but more or less earned hegemony on the earth, paying your dues as it were.  The rest is history.

35,000+ internet games, many 2 12 for a few years, then 3 8, then 0 4, quite a few 5 0's, then 3 0 now, and many an hour has gone by.  That's the second part of the story.

* * *

Fast forward.  After twenty years to the week in Seattle, I went back east seeking refuge from a all too harsh job market (the Washington Mutual bank meltdown, the largest bank bust in US history, flooded the market with thousands of extremely well qualified persons willing to do much work for a lot less money.  Ouch.) and to help take care of my eighty-five year old mother.  Almost two or three days after arriving, I set out to find a chess club.  Realize, this is thirty-seven years latter.  Thirty seven.  I am age fifty four.  Right away I not only had the good fortune to find one of the best clubs if not THE best chess club in New Jersey, The West Orange Chess Club, but it was a twelve minute drive from my mothers house.

Kennilworth, Rahway, and Westfield cannot be counted as any less if not, in some ways as more, but The WOCC had a long history, a very, very friendly and relaxed atmosphere, and most of all, had secured for the foreseeable future a lovely club house in a community center, in a lovely setting. It consisted of a large playing hall (air conditioned in the summer, heated in the winter, clean bathrooms), a side skittles room for blitz, many experts and masters, all set on a small lake with a dock out front in a green suburban setting, easy access off of a major highway (the 280 Interstate), and--shall I go on?--safe and easy and well lit parking.  That's the third part of my story.

What am I getting to?  They met weekly.  And in retrospect, for me in particular this proved to be a real life saver in getting back into rated chess.  That is where we will pick up the next part of my story.

[1] For readers outside The USA:  West Point, aka as The United States Military Academy at West Point, and formally The United States Air Force Academy.

[2] Other readers:  The Student Aptitude Exams