Thursday, July 12, 2007

Not That I Intend to Go Out of Order ...

But I'm willing to play. Here goes.

1. How long have you been playing chess? Have you played it consistently since you started, or were there lulls in your play? How did these lulls affect your performance?

My chess life has lived itself through a series of endless starts and stops.

I learned the moves young, around five. I played in high school, and my first rating was around 1200. I played as much as I could until I worked my way up to about 1650. I then made a big jump (300 points in one rating supplement) by playing in the US Open in San Francisco. I rose to 1975, but then took almost a decade off.

I picked up the game a few years ago, and was able to make expert, but then again took a break. I have been playing now again since January and am just under 2100.

I don't think this pattern has had too much impact on my performance, which has been dictated more by my personal maturity.

I just don't take myself as seriously as I used to.

2. Aside from playing games, what is your primary mode of training?

I play as much as I can and have fun. I do my best to not get caught up in results.

In terms of study, I look at my own games without computer assistance, and do the hardest tactics problems I can find. Lately I have been doing some Informator problems with Lawyer, and really like those.

3. What is the single most helpful method of improvement that you have ever used?

More than anything, I have been helped by simply getting out of my own way. When I was younger, I tried to be perfect. If I didn't know every line, or have perfect concentration at the board I felt guilty. What I didn't realize is that it was those very expectations - and my attachment to some imaginary chess identity - that was preventing me from moving forward.

Now, my perspective is different. I enjoy myself and focus on finding good moves. If I am in a tough position, I try to find good moves. If I am in a objectively won position, I try to find good moves.

This approach allows my chess to be self-sustaining. I keep doing it because I enjoy it.

4. What is your favorite opening to play as white? As black against e4? As black against d4?

Openings? Hah! I probably know less about openings than anyone of equal strength in the club. A friend of mine, who happens to be a strong player, told me recently that adopting new openings is like buying new fancy clothes. They might make you feel good, but underneath the person doesn't change.

5. Who are your favorite chess players and why?

I wouldn't say I have favorite players. Or perhaps my favorite players are my friends at the club: Lawyer Times, Charles Riordan, Charlie Mays, and Chris Chase to name a few. I admire the games Chris Williams has played recently. He is becoming tremendously strong.

6. What is your favorite chess book?

"Positional Play" by Dvoretsky. (Not the Reshevsky book by the same name.) Also, the "Inner Game of Tennis." I also have to mention Rowson's books, even though I have a bunch of truly awful games in Chess for Zebras.

7. What book would you recommend for a friend who knows only the rules of chess?

"Bobby Fischer Teaches Chess"

8. Do you play in in-person tournaments? What is your favorite tournament experience?

I play OTB tournaments as much as I can. Nothing beats the US Open experience.

9. Please give us a link to what you consider your best two blog posts.

I'm sorry, I don't have a good answer for this one. I'm a blognovice.

10. What proportion of total chess time should be spent studying openings for someone at your level?

I realize that this view might be contrary to most of the strong players in our club, but I believe that openings are relatively irrelevant until about GM level.

Obviously, you have to be able to survive the opening stage of the game. I do work on my openings for this purpose. Other than that, I believe that openings for many players hurt their game as much as help. Players will reach a position they are familiar with and stop looking for good moves. I am more interested in improving my skill.

Before I end, I want to thank DG for his work on this blog. It is great to have a local community of friends to share my enjoyment of this strange game.


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