Thursday, June 28, 2007


I'm playing around with the blog format--this isn't a final product, but it's lively!

Any feedback in the comments on what readers like (and, especially, don't like) is much appreciated.

UPDATE 07/02/07: Still futzing around. Actual posts of substance instead of this sort of thing, coming soon.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

A Quick Health-Related Note

A few days ago I posted about a little health problem I was having--the great news is that it turns out this is just some viral infection of the thyroid and my immune system will eventually kick its ass--it will just take awhile. No pills, no worries! So it should gradually get better and better, and I can resume my upward path through the Reno CC, then the world.

Also--the title "The Best Excuse for a Loss, EVER" was meant to be a little joke, but I firmly believe the theory that taking total responsibility for your losses is the only way to have less of them.

Therefore, any excuses, express or implied in that post are officially WITHDRAWN.

Monday, June 25, 2007

A Delightful Sample from the Recent Chess Blogosphere

Excellence is everywhere:

Blue Devil Knight points us to this scientific paper on chess training, and provides some highlights so that we don't necessarily have to read the whole thing. Being the geek I am, I'm reading it all anyway.

Grandpatzer has an excellent piece on preparing an opening repertoire--and it's only the prelude! This guy can pack more useful, concise information into a few well-written paragraphs than some people put in a book.

David at Chess Improvement has commenced a series on chess bloggers--he's got one post and just keeps adding entries to it. He's already profiled BDK and Grandpatzer and uh-oh, it looks as if I may be next!

Mark Weeks at Chess for All Ages is doing a series of posts on Smyslov, who I admire greatly. Mark seems to have found some interesting discrepancies and differences in the annotations of the games he's covering, and you might find these of interest. The games are fascinating and beautiful, in any case.

You know, there are many other great bloggers and posts I could mention but my stage training taught me an important point:

Always leave 'em wanting more.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Chess Images II

Jennifer Shahade is doing some good blogging over at the USCF site--you have to be a member to see the majority of it, though. Meanwhile, here's the interview from where this photo was retrieved.

The image, however, speaks for itself.

The Best Excuse for a Loss, EVER

Well, I lost my game at the Reno CC Summer Swiss last night to Ricardo Arteaga (1543) but at least it was quite exciting--he played the Philidor Defense (look Ma, I'm a king pawn player now!) and I sacrificed a bishop at f7 on move 6! It was all very tricky as I won an exchange, but would the knight escape (we've all been there before)? And every move was tactics, tactics without a break until move 31, when I blundered a piece. And in the interest of full disclosure I must report that my opponent used about 30 minutes for the entire game. He looked like he was a fish in water, while I agonized and calculated away.

Anyhow, just a few hours before the game my Dr. called with the news that a series of blood tests have revealed that I'm suffering from a pretty big deficit in thyroid function--which may go a long way toward explaining why I haven't had any stamina lately, and after about 20 well-played moves I begin to make so many errors. In a couple of days they're going to try me on some pills, which are expected to boost my functioning.

Seriously, I don't think I can blame all my losses on this--last night's game only lasted two hours! Eighty minutes used for me, 30 for him. Anyway, I'm probably going to take two or three weeks away from the grind of tournament play and just study, do some internet chess and have fun. Then we'll see how it's going, and I expect to get back into the serious "chess for blood."

Meanwhile, the blog will be more interesting because readers won't have to wade through my mediocre tournament efforts--after I post the three that haven't made it up here yet...(and just when will that be? ed.)

I'm pretty excited about the future, plus I have the best excuse ever for any recent errors in the past! Talk about the best of both worlds...

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Chess Images I

dk has the best illustrated posts in the chess blogosphere. Since I'm about to go play a tournament game, I've no time to waste on any blathering now, so I'll go straight to the inspiring chess image.

Read more here, to find out what any of this has to do with chess.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Let's Add Some More Great Chess Blogs!

I'm going to reorganize the links and other sidebar stuff soon, but right now I'm just going to correct some omissions by adding links that I should have gotten to some time ago.

Patzer's Corner (Wang) is a fine blog by a hardworking blogger who is working hard to improve. Also, he was recommended by chessloser. With all of this going for him, he MUST be on the blogroll. Now.

The Back Rank (Loomis) is by a Knight who offers many interesting games and positions for your consideration.

Finally, I don't know how I missed adding the excellent and well-known Temposchlucker (since I've linked to him before in posts). You can find out a great deal by reading dk's new essay.

There are a number of other fine blogs that will be added during the remodel coming soon. I think I'll categorize the links, as well, and add some other playing sites, puzzle sites, etc. Watch This Space!

Monday, June 18, 2007

Clifford-Pearson, Reno CC Summer Swiss Rd. 2, 1-0

Finally found the time to get this game up--the first impressions were here. Looking through it again, I played a little fast and loose throughout the game; 31. ... Be3 is a visually spectacular move, but since it didn't dent his calm whatsoever, it wasn't so effective. Overall, a good effort by my opponent, a rather loose one by me, with some good ideas but too much drifting and strings of second-best moves...

Friday, June 15, 2007

Quick Note on a Win

Back in the win column last night in the Reno CC Summer Swiss vs. Hadi Soltani (1646). With the black pieces I went back to the King's Indian and when he played an unusual fifth move (Bd2) I was able to get some advantage, eventually winning a pawn; but the play remained very complicated and I let most of my advantage slip, though he was still a little tied up. A few moves after the first time control (30/90, G/60) however, he made a mistake that led to him getting suddenly mated by my Rook and Knight.

So a good result against a fellow B-player, but on at least two occasions I didn't see a reply of his to one of my moves and that's not so good...if I'm not seeing these kinds of moves I'm not playing Real Chess at the level I'm looking for.

Now I've got a three-game backlog to post; sorry about that, but I'll get around to it SOON (yeah sure--ed.).

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

My Strange Conversation With Zed

I noticed from the referrer log on my sitemeter that this little blog is now listed on the French-language link page Nouveaux liens and discovered a whole world of new (to me) chess sites there.

While I haven't had time to really explore this extensive list, I randomly clicked a few including Zed the Chessbot, which sounded like a hoot. From the entry on Nouveaux liens page:

Est un robot d'échecs hébergé, qui est capable de communiquer sur les échecs. J'ai posé la question provocatrice "nulle?" à Zed, qui a répondu "ce que vous avez dit était trop complexe ou trop simple pour moi", une réponse presque digne de l'oracle de Delphes.

Ha, that's a good one! My experience was similar, and here's a bit of give and take that just cracked me up:

You: What is V. Kramnik's current rating?
Zed: Do you have any conditions I should know about?

You: I have an aversion to the Open Game as black.
Zed: Where did you get it ?

You: I caught it from Fischer.
Zed: I hope it is not contagious. Also I hope you get well soon.

You: I will, with a steady diet of the Sicilian Defense.
Zed: I lost my train of thought.

You: Your train of thought seems to have left the tracks a long time ago.
Zed: it left the station with out me.

Note to programmer--BACK TO THE DRAWING(KEY)BOARD!

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Comings and Goings

Some of our very favorite blogs are more or less on hiatus right now:

Chess Improvement (dk-transformation) is pushing hard on his work with Chess Tactics Server, CT-Art 3.0, 1001 Sacrifices and Combinations, and the rest of his amazing, focused and productive life.

hardcore pawnography (chessloser) is off to sunny Spain; "i'll be back hopefully in july." Watch out my friend, other men have gone to Spain and never returned to their humdrum bourgeois lives back in the States...

Dread Pirate Josh stopped posting back in December, right around the time I put him on the sidebar--I seem to have that effect on people :); the same thing happened with Hungarian Knight (, for as soon as I put up a link his site crashed--but at least he has the coolest "blog under repair" photo ever.

Qxh7 is back on a fairly regular basis after a long hiatus.

Grandpatzer had wrist surgery, but implies "back soon" so we can look forward to more of his excellent work.

I'm sorry I never took the time to link to chessdad64's The 64 Square Jungle, and now, well:

For the time being, this is all I have to say.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Youth Chess, Parents and Coaches

Awhile back I linked to chessloser's report on his first tournament, highlighting this part:

outside, i thank him. i tell his mom and coach he played really well, i got lucky. his mom is angry at him, his coach is angry at him. his mom says “you didn’t get lucky, he played bad and let you get lucky.” i thank her and quickly back away. poor kid.

Great stuff, sure to make a lifelong chess lover out of the kid, no doubt! I also recently reviewed Josh Waitzkin's The Art of Learning and though I didn't mention it there, Waitzkin writes in a couple of places about how many of his opponents in grade school and junior high tournaments had a similar chess background, with most of their study devoted to sharp openings and attack, and almost nothing devoted to other aspects of the game. He says the pressure on the coaches is to produce winners, now, and forget about long-term development of overall chess skill, or lifelong love of chess. Once the kids leave the school, they're of no use, and every year there's a new crop of first-graders to be molded...much of Waitzkin's success, he says, was based on the training he got from Bruce Pandolfini in the endgame; if the other kid's attack didn't win quickly, they tended to get discouraged, and they didn't play the endgame well.

Put these two things together and I think you have a pretty good idea of one reason why so many American youth players don't become adult members of the USCF (some interesting discussion of other aspects of that that problem here); if winning is the only pleasure associated with chess, one is going to be disappointed at some point, as one plays stronger opposition, and the same with the certain long-term failure that awaits the student of the sharp-opening quick-attack school of instruction.

I doubt my little blog post is going to change the youth chess scene in America much but if you're going to get your child into chess, as I plan to do, teach the beauty and enjoyment of chess, and the study of the broader areas of the game. Young chess players are not disposable parts, to be berated and dropped when they don't live up to parent's or coach's expectations.

One's success as a chess teacher, or parent, lies not in wins and losses, but in the child's lifetime enjoyment of the game.

Reno CC Summer Swiss June 7, 2007, R. Pearson-G. Fischer 0-1

Well I'm certainly falling a little behind in keeping the promise I made (to myself) to post all of my tournament games here; but to get started I can at least report that last Thursday I went down to defeat against George Fischer(1947), the Class A Champion of the Reno CC. Since George got edged out of qualifying for the Club Championship matches he's playing in the Swiss.

Losing to a player rated over 300 points above you is no disgrace, but when I post the score you'll see why I wasn't satisfied with my effort; as White the opening went 1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 d6 3. Bb5+ Bb7, and while my opening play was okay I just wasn't present enough in the moment of the game, if you know what I mean, I wasn't playing tough, fighting chess, and it was over in 30 moves.

I don't mind losing, really, but I do mind not being able to shut out the distractions, the non-chess things, and get down to playing Real Chess. Two weeks in a row I've, to some extent, just gone through the motions. And that's no formula for success in chess, or anything else.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Thoughts on Chess Improvement from the Pale Rider

Fellow Reno, NV chess blogger Eric Shoemaker (Pale Rider) has some thoughts on improvement, and I particularly liked this:

5) Do not ever underestimate the value of the subconscious!! Ever!! Whatever you do study has a mysterious tendency to come up in your games. As a tournament player, you should be aware of this idea/fact!

And...if you have a problem that you want to solve in a position and can't get it solved right away, try taking a nap or sleeping on it. You might be surprised at what your subconscious comes up with upon wakening.

You should also look at Grandmaster Games, with notation or without, because the subconscious will pick up some of the ideas represented there. Your game will start to look a lot different before too long.

and this...

12) Have Ambition! You should want the World Championship! You probably won't make it as that title belongs to a really elite group: The Greats of Chess. But look at it this way, if you fall short, you'll be higher than if your goal was a paltry 100 points above your current rating.

A point well taken. Check out some of his other posts for an interesting and unconventional take on various chess-related subjects.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Belated Game Report: Reno CC Summer Swiss, Rd. 2: Clifford-Pearson 1-0

In the spirit of full disclosure...

I lost last Thursday's tournament game to John Clifford (1593) at the Reno CC Summer Swiss. Since I'm posting every game I play as an exercise in consistency and self-criticism, I don't want to skip this rather painful loss.

As Black in the Ruy Lopez I got the feeling of a bull seeing a red flag when he played 5. a3. So I got very aggressive throughout the opening, got into one of those "messy" positions where I had a lot of pawn weaknesses but had compensation, and then was gradually outplayed in a long tough game. Good for my opponent, who played well; bad for me, because I didn't have the stamina and gumption that's needed when one isn't feeling tip-top and frisky. Seems to me that one of the important separators between the excellent and the average is the ability to come through when you're having an "off night."

Well, back at it again tomorrow night. I'm motivated by last week's game to do better! I'll post the moves as soon as I get a chance.

Sunday, June 03, 2007

Book Review: The Art of Learning

The Art of Learning By Josh Waitzkin. 265 pp. Free Press. $25.

After the release of the movie Searching for Bobby Fischer in 1993, Josh Waitzkin was sixteen years old and the most famous chess master in America—except for Bobby Fischer himself. Fischer, however, was moving around Eastern Europe, unable to return to the U.S. without risking arrest after violating the sanctions against Yugoslavia the previous year by playing a match there with Boris Spassky.

Waitzkin was the “Next Great Hope” of American chess. As the movie (based on the book of the same title by his father, Fred Waitzkin) describes, after Fischer’s spectacular victory in the “Match of the Century” over Spassky in 1972 and subsequent retirement, American chess organizations and players longed for a new homegrown challenger for the supreme title. Josh Waitzkin’s results until Searching for Bobby Fischer showed the potential to enter the elite of world chess, perhaps even become World Champion.

As he explains in his new book, The Art of Learning, the movie changed the whole direction of his life:

While I adjusted to the glare of the media spotlight, my relationship to chess was slowly becoming less organic. I found myself playing to live up to Hollywood expectations instead of for love of the game.

In October 1998 Waitzkin walked into a Tai Chi class in Manhattan. Within months he had left competitive chess and in November 2000, after just two years of Tai Chi study, he won an American National Championship in Push Hands, the competitive form of Tai Chi. In 2002 he won a bronze medal at the World Championships in Taiwan, and in 2004 he reached the pinnacle of the sport with two World Championships.

When a man performs at a world level in not one, but two forms of competition, he gains the right to have his ideas on learning, training and performance psychology given careful consideration. The problem is that some champions are either unable or unwilling to communicate their methods and techniques to others.

Thankfully, Josh Waitzkin has both the ability and willingness to share what he has learned and developed during his life and competitive pursuits. The result is The Art of Learning, a superb book that can help anyone who reads it and acts on its recommendation to compete, succeed, and more importantly, enjoy life to the fullest.

The book is an almost seamless blend of autobiography and training and performance insight and technique. Starting with the day that a six-year-old boy played his first game of chess in New York’s Washington Square Park, we move sequentially with Waitzkin through the years of his chess career and his subsequent pursuit of excellence in Tai Chi and Push Hands competition.

While there is nothing startling or completely original about the book’s insights into sports, the mind and the pursuit of excellence, it manages to both entertain and instruct in a wonderful, upbeat way. Most other books on sports psychology and mental training are dull and didactic by comparison. When Waitzkin, for example, explains and demystifies how use an opponent’s blink to gain the advantage, make a move and drop him to the ground, one realizes how much hooey many books on the martial arts contain.

For this reviewer the most personally rewarding insight in the book was how to use opponent’s attempts to intimidate you or downright break the rules and cheat to your own advantage, turning the natural outrage one feels in this situation into energy and will to win. This mindset will serve you well at work, in sports, even on the daily commute!

The climax of the book is Waitzkin’s trip to Taiwan in 2004, where he encounters last-minute rule changes, blatant failure to award points that he’s won and even not ending a round on time because he’s ahead. Fortunately, he’d encountered this at previous Championships and had planned and trained to use these things to power him toward the performance of his life.

In the final analysis no training technique or sports psychology principle results in real performance gains if not consistently, diligently applied over a long period of time. Waitzkin’s great gift to the reader in this book is to emphasize that reality of hard, sustained effort, while sharing a sense of joy in the process of becoming the best that one is capable of—a process that continues every day of our lives.

The Art of Learning delivers even more than the title promises, and I highly recommend it.

(Cross-posted at Eternity Road and Illumination, Inc.)