Saturday, November 27, 2010

Chess Improvement and the HYPER-busy man.

While my chess board gently weeps, I am reminded of how similar chess improvement can be to keeping up with your musical instrument. I play bass guitar ( and some 6 string as well). I find that after I lift this beautiful curved instrument out of its coffin after several months have passed, I play the familiar riffs and songs that were most engrained in my motor muscles of my fingers. I know how to “play” the guitar. I still recall the fingering for some of “the old standards” but the rust does show. I may have to create new calluses on my finger tips if I plan on “getting back into it”. But if I don’t set goals, I’ll pick her up, play it for an afternoon and put her back in the “coffin”. But recently, I’ve been playing it more and finding opportunities to play with others. I’m teaching my daughter as well and I have musical interests I am now pursuing. I need goals to stay motivated.

Chess is very similar. I pull the 32 pieces out of my rucksack and look at the familiar friendship I have had. Since it’s been several months since my last serious game, I play the familiar riffs in the form of tactical exercises or reviewing old familiar games. As I spar with silicon, I pull out my tried and true openings not daring to venture out of the comfort of my rote recall. I’ve offered to teach the neighbor girls who are just getting into scholastic chess. If I want to get back “into it” I need to form the calluses again by stretching beyond the comfort of rote memory.

My part time classes I teach are starting to wind down and I want to “join the band” again during the break. Like playing an instrument, playing chess regularly with the same people gives you a chance to tighten up your repertoire and build those calluses and get out of the comfortable rut.

Having been out of the tournaments for a little while gives me a chance to see how much I’ve lost. Right before I took a break, I had recently done a study in d-pawn openings. I want to see how much has stuck in terms of understanding the concepts. Sure, some of the ideas will have to be relearned, but I am also hoping some of the other misinterpretations and thought processes will be obvious and more made more clear. I am approaching this with new eyes.

So, given that I am still busy with life, jobs, my guitar and stuff, how do set goals for the next couple months and feel like I am going in the right direction?

I am going to make the best use of my previous encounter with Dan Heisman when I posted here :

My intent is that I need to keep this simple yet challenging enough to pull me out of the comfortable rote zone.

1) Thought Process: I need to keep the thought process simple and follow the AST method. ( Activity, Safety and Time management). I plan on playing practice games and look at where I failed in these simple ideas.

2) Criticality Assessment: This is the holy grail for me. The best way to do this is to play Blitz games and review my mistakes and understand them. This will also help me identify when I need to spend time on critical moves. I can check my openings with the book but I want to develop a sense on where I need to spend time on critical positions in these openings. Going over annotated games ( a lot of games) will form a good foundation. So I will probably blog about this study.

3) Tactics: need I say more.

I may dust myself off and play in the Harry Nelson Pillsbury Memorial … I haven’t missed it for a couple years and my chess pieces are gently weeping.

Though my time machine may be under construction, I may have found the right flux capacitor and soon will have a MAJOR announcement that will rock the chess world after the new year.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Larry Evans: 1932-2010, America’s Chess Teacher

It’s been a while since I posted due to a serious reprioritization of life challenges. However, Today’s news rocked my foundations and I felt compelled to do a quick Blunderpost on this GM who was very influential in my chess career. Sorry, no game's reflected upon, just admiration for an influential chess teacher.

I first heard of GM Evans during the days of Fischer vs Spassky, when he acted as Fischer’s Second. However, his contributions and milestones in the world of chess spans the decades of when this game was being dominated by Russians in the late 1940’s and Early fifties through present day. That is up until yesterday, November 15, 2010, when he passed away after surgical complications.

Arthur Bisguier and Larry Evans were both tied for first place in 1949 in the U.S. Junior Championships. He went to win his first U.S Championship in 1951 ahead of Sam Reshevsky. The following year, FIDE awarded him with the title of IM and later in 1957 he became GM Larry Evans. By the time I had heard of him in 1972, he had 3 national Championships under his belt and four U.S. Open Championships tying with Walter Browne in 1971 ( another up and comer). He Won the Lone Pine 1971 that same year.

So you see , his resume was very full nationally as well as internationally where he represented the U.S. in several Chess Olympiads winning gold and silver medals for his play.

I knew him through his books. One of my first books I had was Chess Catechism, a tongue in cheek look at the lighter side of the game. I liked it because it removed any stuffy images one might have around chess players. He had a sense of humor. I also had the landmark “ How to Open a Chess Game” where he co-authored with seven other GMs of the 1970’s.

I found out that Larry’s first books were published before he turned 18 with the two books; David Bornstein’s Best Games of Chess, 1944-1949 and the Vienna International Tournament of 1922. He has written over 50 books in a career that spans 6 decades!

As you may recall, when I was doing my series on Lone Pine 1975, I tried to reach Larry. I did through a third party who informed me to read the book. That’s Ok by me, I understand the busy life and finding balance these days. May he rest in peace.

Not sure when I’ll come up for air again. I am still in need of a new flux capacitor for my broken time machine. It’s going to take a little time to rebuild.