Monday, August 01, 2011

Doc Kinne's Story, Part I

I Was a Child Chess Player...

Hi Folks!

I'm Doc Kinne, one of the newest members of the Boylston Chess Club. I'm a member of what I think might be a pretty big group of middle-aged resurrected woodpushers. What I'd like to do is blog about my return to competitive chess every so often. As I write this right now, I'm a Class E player with my rating being the worst that its been since I started chess 33 years ago. The BCC July $10 Open on the 30th were the first rated games I'd played in almost exactly 11 years. I'll be writing about my tournaments, progress, and what I'm doing in order to try to improve my game, as well as some of the interesting differences I see between the chess world of the 1980s when I started and the new world I'm reintroducing myself to. I think that it could be perhaps inspiring to the other lower mid-class (rating-wise, that is!) folks trying to battle up, or at least semi-entertaining.

I started playing when I was 13 back in 1978. Burger King was giving out paper Chess/Checker sets to kids under 12 at that point. I'm a very small guy and at age 13 I looked like I was around 9. They gave me a set as a matter of course. I learned the rules on the way home, taught my Mom, and we played our first game that night. Due to several medical problems as a kid, I never really participated in sports (although I truly enjoy telling the truth that my High School letter is in, yes, basketball! I just never quite mention I was the team manager). Here, in chess, I saw something where size didn't matter.

I joined the United States Chess Federation and went to my first rated tournament later that year, a four round Swiss, the monthly Onondaga County Open in Syracuse, NY.

I was utterly slaughtered.

Interestingly enough at the same site a scholastic tournament was going on. As the day ended and I'd lost 0-4 my Dad came to pick me up. As we were leaving, the Tournament Director of the scholastic tournament, Joe Ball, came up to us and said, "Listen, he entered the wrong tournament. He's got some potential, I think. After every game that he lost he sat down and went over it, and then he tried again, all day. But he was outclassed. Have him come back next month to the scholastic tournament. He'll do better." He was right. I gained a friend and a mentor. Over the next five years I slowly climbed from a rating of 1215 to a high of 1419, about average for US tournament players of that day. At one point I won the Onondaga County Championship for my age group.

Joe taught me how to direct tournaments and I was his Assistant Director for a number of monthly tournaments.

Some of my best memories as a kid involve going into a "training week" before a tournament where I would play 1 game against the chess computer per day under tournament conditions (clocked, keeping score, etc). It's those sessions, I think, that inched my rating up.

What really harmed my progress as a player I could no longer get to tournaments, and I had other things to do. That continued after I got my first job, although I was active during 1992-1993. I competed in one Syracuse tournament in 1996. Then I was finally active again between August-November of 1999 where my rating crashed from 1262-1179, the lowest it had ever been. While in my last tournament I came in dead last, I was able to do interestingly well every once in a while, such as coming in 6th out of a field of 21 in the NYS Amateur Team Tournament in the Open Section in 1999, my second-to-last tournament. Why did I quit after a bad tournament after doing reasonably well in the NYS Amateur Team? I seem to remember a strong problem with getting beat by people smaller than I was. :-)

Although its been three years since Bobby Fisher left us (some may successfully argue he left us 36 years ago...) he's still bringing people to chess, myself included. Last month I found myself reading Brady's new book, Endgame and something sparked in me.

I found myself installing chess engines on my computers, rejoining the USCF after years, and yes, investigating the Boyslton Chess Club. I was amazed to find that BCC was about as active as the Marshall in NYC and had a wide range of members. I'd been used to one tournament a month in Syracuse. BCC seems to offer more than one per week at times!

So, is it possible for a busy, middle-aged boy to reclaim a measure of the glory he had as a high schooler? Come find out as I try to step back into a world I'd known years ago and see both how I've changed, how its changed, and how we might be able to meet in the middle.

--Doc Kinne, USCF: 12186200

Stay tuned for parts 2 and 3 later this week.


Ken Ho said...

Welcome aboard, Doc! Good to read your tale, I look forward to the next installments...

Doc_Kinne said...

Thanks, Ken! As I said, I'm hoping to make this sort of a semi-regular "feature." This first post was just an introduction for everyone. Coming up you'll see some impressions I had regarding the $10 Open, and then how Tournament Direction has changed since I started playing in the 80s.

Future installments will go into how I'm trying to study up, what books I'm reading, what I see as valuable and why. And I'll appreciate comments from the club! Hopefully we can get into some meaningful discussions.

Tudor said...

Thanks to Boylston I was able to complete my blogpost on Bobby Fischer with a wonderful image from your archives. which I gratefully acknowledge.

As you can see, the great B.F. was a chess hero of mine (the film focusses on the dark side of his personal life not the joy he brought countless chess players.

Best wishes to BCC (BTW: BCF is also, of course the British Chess federation..)