Tuesday, July 17, 2012

People-Watching Observations and Thoughts on Chess

This post is a mish-mash of people observations as well as some thoughts on chess - particularly chess as it pertains to me (I had a lot of time for both when I lost that round 2 game so quickly.)

First off - the picture.  That board that no one is sitting at (w/ the oj bottle) is where I lost the round 3 game.  There are several people in the picture, who I've played.  Most of them are really nice folks and easy to talk to.

Also in this picture is the kid, with the use of his dad and his dad's computer, got a bit of help in the 2010 Class Championships (see this post).  Another father and son duo were playing in this tournament.  I played the kid in a side-game and he was a really well-behaved kid.  I mention this because I wish one of my kids would get addicted to chess and we could go to tournaments on the weekend.  Right now, they all like playing checkers with me - it's all about fun.

And now a few random observations in the form of a question to the people I observed.

"Why do you have to wear your PJs to the tournament?  Have you really given up that much on life?"

"Sunglasses?!  Are you freaking kidding me?  Maybe if you were playing for $10,000 stakes and for some weird reason your thinking-threads could be seen streaming across your eyes, it might be a good idea to wear shades.  But at a tournament like this?!"

"Have you people heard of Kleenex?  Clearing your nose by snorting - not once, not twice, but several times - is not the way to clean house."

"I love the Asians - Buddha bless them!  Sometimes I wonder what kind of person I would have turned out to be under the tutelage of a Tiger Mom."

Anyway ... chess.  I need to figure out why I'm playing it.  I hit on some reasons in my post "I Play Hope Chess".  To get good and decent at chess requires a tremendous amount of time and effort.  It's a game of "inches" ... sometimes you win or lose by an inch  Several hours or even years of studying and practice yields only a few inches in progress.

Is it a worthwhile endeavor?  Or should it be considered a pastime?  Relatively speaking ... compared to watching TV, chess is better.  Compared to video games, in my opinion, chess is better.  Compared to playing in sports leagues such as basketball or football, chess is not better.

And to go off on a tangent - how many calories does one burn in a 3-4 hour game of chess?  Does the brain really burn that many calories?  I just googled that ... it does burn calories, but not much when compared to physical exercise.

Off tangent - back to message ... Better than reading?  Maybe better than reading a comic book.  Maybe not better than reading a book like Carnage & Culture.

I love doing tactics at ChessTempo.  I love playing long games.  I love playing blitz.  Studying can be fun at times too.  But I don't think I'm prepared to pour more than a max of 7 hours a week into the game.  And then when I do pour time into the game, it must be consecutive hours - especially for a game.  10 minutes here, 10 minutes there doesn't really work too well.

So that leaves me at just calling it a pastime and simply enjoying the game - realizing that I should work to improve, but that the gains will be small and that I should focus on enjoyment more than results.

I'm ok with that.  Life is about balance and spending time on worthwhile efforts.  Chess certainly has its utility, but it is not a big rock.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Game 41

Round 3 wasn't too pretty either.  I was paired with an 1810 player.  When the games began, my opponent was not there and I didn't have a clock (at least one w/ 5 second delay capability).  So I scrambled to borrow one and then got it ticking.

He showed up about 10 minutes later.

Then half way though the game, the power/lights went out for about 30 seconds.  That brought some excitement to the place.

So, I lost this game at about the same number of moves of that previous game, only in this game, I was able to last to just over 50 moves.  I did a bit better at using more of my clock ... had about 10 minutes left when I resigned.  He only used about 20 or 30 minutes on his clock.  I could tell he was bored.

I had the white pieces and tried the same sctick as last game.

I didn't play on Sunday, so I ended up going 1-2.

Closing thoughts on this tournament to come ...

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Game 40

With my win in round 1, I was "lucky" enough to be paired with player rated 1820 in round 2.  He is a chess coach out of Brownsville.  It wasn't too pretty.  Of course, my sloppy play didn't help much either - nor did the fact that he set the clock for 1 hour 20 minutes (thinking he had set it for 120 minutes).  About a half hour in the game, when I noticed I only had 53 minutes left to play, we stopped the game and sorted out the clock issues.

Anyway ... here's the ugly game.  I played the white pieces ...

In the post-mortem, he was at least gracious enough to give me a few tips.  But his comments made me chuckle ... after going over the first 8 moves or so, he said flat out the game was over for me.

After that, two of his students were sitting around, so we played a bit of blitz - I was smoked easily.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Game 39

Four weeks left in the 52-game quest ... I've got until August 10 to finish up 13 games.

Game 39 is from Round 1 of the NAS-NAJ Open at the Hobby Marriott in Houston.  As I said before, I'm a bit doubtful my real USCF rating is 1617.  But as it is, I had no other option but to play in the U2000 division - missing the U1600 division by 18 points.

These tournaments are typically at the Hobby Hilton.  I think the Marriott is much, much nicer.  The place was nicer, newer and cleaner.  There is also much more lobby room at the Marriott for people to hang out and play chess.

Before going into the hall, I was able to talk to Dan.  He and I were in the Unrated section of the Class Championships a couple of years ago.  It was good chatting w/ him again!

We played Round 1 in the same room as the scholastic kids.  I showed up w/ no board or clock.  So when my opponent didn't show up immediately, I had to borrow a clock so I could get the time moving.  He showed up about 5 minutes later and we played.

Here is the game - I had the black pieces ...

The guy I was playing is rated 1749.

After I went up two rooks to one bishop, he decided to resign on move 24.  We both had about 44 minutes left on our clocks (G/120 5 delay).

So this was a pretty good win for me - my 2nd best win in my USCF career!

Round 2 and 3 are tomorrow.  I'll be taking byes for rounds 4 and 5 on Sunday.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Game 38

Game 38 was another loss.  This was the 2nd of 4 games w/ Jabari.  You can catch the replay here.  I made some whispers during the game.

Move 30 was where I dropped the ball.  You can see it to the left, along w/ the times left on our clocks.

Bd7 or b7 would not have been good and there was no where else to put him.

Instead of pushing the pawn, I should have pulled the knight back to g7 and then on to e8 to defend the pawn at d6.  I don't know ... I'll have to look at that a bit more.

But once I pushed that pawn, Jabari jumped all over it and then I realized I would lose a pawn.  His clock was under a minute, but he played really cool under pressure.  I had a bit of counterplay and had some threats, but once the queens came off, it was over.

Anyway - my head's splitting open, it's almost midnight and I have round 1 of an OTB tournament tomorrow night - got to get some sleep.

Pre-game Rituals and Routines for Chess

In my Game 37 post, I made a comment about my goal to be consistent.  Later on, a light bulb went on in my head ... I need a warm-up; a pre-game routine or ritual, that I would do every single time I play a long game.

I also had some other ideas come to me, which I'll talk about in a later post.  Those ideas are to the effect of making a set of KPIs for myself with regard to the quality of my play.  I would commit to doing several things (every time I play a game) and then I would grade myself post-game.

But for now, I just need a simple routine.

A couple of google hits spurred some ideas.  This one from tanc and this one from Joshua Specht at chessvideos.tv.  I like Joshua's approach a bit more ... meaning warming up from a chessboard perspective and not so much from a bowl movement perspective :-).  Also, one thing Joshua said stood out: "I've played in many tournaments where I've woken up within minutes of the start of the round. The usual result is that I groggily stumble into the playing room, having lost valuable time on the clock. Worse yet, it takes me another 20-30 minutes before I'm calculating clearly."  The 20-30 minutes before calculating correctly ... that has happened to me so many times ... I start a game (spur of the moment on-line, or even a 45 45 game and I just sputter along and my mind goes blank.  It takes time to get that brain to churn sometimes.

So here goes a 'draft' version of my pre-game routine:

Immediately Before the Game (30-60 minutes before)

1) Drink some OJ.

2) Solve at least 20 tactics at ChessTempo.  First 10 will be from my "missed list" and the other 10 will be from blitz mode.

3) Play a few 5 3 blitz games.

4) Do some physical activity - brisk walking, push-ups and sit-ups, etc - about 10 minutes before game.

5) Review my commitments/KPIs and thought process (to be discussed in a later post).

Day Before / Day of Game Prep

* Get at least 8 hours sleep the night (or few nights) before
* None to very little carb-laden or starch-laden foods
* Eat lightly from 4 hours before game
* Manage the caffeine intake
* Take vitamin D a bit later in the morning or mid-day if game is in afternoon or night (produces wakefulness for me)
* Bobby Fisher is said to eat a big steak for his pre-meal.  I think steak is good a few hours before the game.

Repost: The Will to Win

ukchessblogger has some really good stuff.  I particularly enjoyed his recent post The Will to Win.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Game 37

Not much to see here ... just more crappy chess.  I'm really good at making fast blunders (2.9 seconds in this game).  This was solid hope chess at its best.  The only redeeming feature of this game was that I even played.

Tuesday, July 03, 2012

Repost: Intimidation At the Board

I just read this post over at The Chess Improver.  I've not heard this one before.

Click on the Chess Violence label at the bottom to see other instances of intimidation over the board.

Monday, July 02, 2012

A Race to the Finish (Games 35 & 36 including one w/ Ralph)

We left on vacation several days ago.  Knowing that we'd pass through Columbia, SC, I contacted Ralph to see if he'd be up for a game.  He could not the first weekend we passed through, but his schedule was open the 2nd weekend.

The game was played on Friday June 29 - right in the middle of the massive heatwave that gripped the East. It was 108 at the time of the game and the motel we were staying at did not have great AC.

Ralph posted the game, as well as his annotations, here.

The game was full of errors on both sides and Ralph does a great job of breaking them down.

Although the play wasn't spectacular, it was great to see a fellow blogger in person and play a game.

While in Myrtle Beach, I played my nephew a game of chess.  That one turned out to be a win for me.  I would have liked to play lots more games w/ him, but we were busy building sand castles and having fun with the rest of the family.

I did play a lot of 5 3 unrated games at night while trying to fall asleep at night on vacation.  A few weeks earlier, I found a nice Droid app called Yafi. It worked great for the dozen or so games I played.  I was only disconnected once - which is why I was playing unrated games.

So the race to the finish of the quest begins.  I have 5 weeks left to play 16 games.  I may not be able to get a whole lot of 75 15 games in during that time, so I will be working to find some G/60 games at FICS at night.