Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Paul Winkle paradox: defending the ladder

Ruben Fine said "Chess is a difficult game." Obviously more difficult for some than others.

The experience of raising two kids with dyslexia gives me unique insight having watched with the utmost respect, pride, and love while my two dragged their butts into school every day, year after year, and fought the good scholastic fight to obtain terrific learning skills in spite of a huge starting disadvantage. In contrast to their situation was my oldest son, the "normal" one (800 SAT verbal), who was the master of his educational dojo. On one side school a place full of rewards and adulation, on the other incredibly hard work and uncertainty. Fortunately they all have turned out great, are all successful, despite of having to deal with defective genes donated to them from their crazy old man.

Love of the game of chess takes many forms; you can understand why Captains of Chess, the masters, arrive to play OTB with enthusiasm, confidence, and anticipation. But you have to ask why do people who are stuck on the bottom rung of the chess ladder show up to play? Many of them just as happy and excited to play as the ones on the top?!

The late Paul Winkle [This is an illustration of Rip van Winkle which I found looking for an image of Paul Winkle, but to me it is evocative of what I remember of Paul Winkle's look...oresick]

stands paramount, given his record in the 1990's. Paul noted for his cantankerous demeanor, displays of unhappiness in losing, and impeccable Bruins sweatshirts. Paul never gave up his passion of playing OTB chess until his health failed.

If you go into the USCF cross tables you will see that from August 1993 until May 2000 Paul's rating began at 1012 and ended at 766 having played in 108 tournaments (he was a common BCF houseman), in an estimated 200+ games of the period he had 13 wins and 1 draw.

Paul had a power that would make Bobby Fischer envious, Paul's defeats crushed chess ego's: most people Paul defeated left tournament chess very quickly.

There’s a certain Je ne sais quoi about Paul's paradox, and I feel players like Paul have an equal right to play and should be given respect as it always takes two people to play OTB chess. As demographics show, adults and teens are dropping out of OTB chess at accelerating rates. Will there be a day when no one arrives to a chess tournament?

I do feel that with ever expanding entertainment options of these modern times chess seems dated to many outsiders. Somehow we have to find a way to communicate with the public the sublime joy of the inner journey every player makes in their personal quest in trying to master this infinite game.

Comrades! We who love this form of the game, we need every opponent willing to play, better yet we have to involve all who love the game. Each should find their way to donate and invest some time and effort to promote chess: in order to make OTB chess better known and more available.

What do you see in the future of OTB chess? Do you have any ideas to improve OTB participation? Please Comment 03/11/2008 Mike Griffin

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