What Happens at Chess Club

I attended the Chess club Thursday night at the local Barnes & Noble bookstore. Because of my age and having only recently sufficiently recovered from illness I informed the TD I would be willing to act as a “filler” in the event there were an odd number of players and would only play in the first two rounds.

Having attended the previous week, the first time I had made it in some time, a few new players were noticed, which the gentleman who runs the club attributed to the recently finished match for the Human World Chess Championship. Most, if not all, of the players who attend are so hungry for a game they play “skittles” games before the G/15 event begins. There was a “newby” who caught my eye because he was wearing sandals during winter. He looked as though he would have fit in at Woodstock in 1969, so I spoke to the young man, saying, “You gotta like a guy who refuses to give in to winter.” His name was Dawson and he was ready to play, someone…anyone, so we sat down for a game after introductions. I had the white pieces and opened with 1 e4. He responded with the French move of 1…e6. After playing the standard 2 d4 he answered with 2…d5, whereupon I advanced my pawn to e5 on my third move. My opponent stopped to cogitate a few moments before playing 3…Nc6 with obvious trepidation, which showed when he kept his finger on the Knight after placing it gingerly on the square. As he did so I took a good look at him while thinking he appeared about the same age as I was when first visiting an official Chess club. He finally removed his finger from the Knight. I continued looking at the young man, wondering if I should say anything…Before speaking a particular scene from one of my favorite movies flashed in my mind:

When he looked up from the board I said, “At the Chess Club we do not, ever, hold our finger on a piece. When you decide upon your move, make it like you mean it and place it firmly on the square with deliberation, and immediately remove your fingers from the piece.”

The young fellow was somewhat taken aback, but gathered himself quickly and nodded in assent. I continued, “Are you playing in the tournament?” He said he was not. “Then I suggest you spend some time watching these gentlemen play, paying particular attention to how they move their pieces.” Again, he nodded. I did not have to mention it again.

Granted, I am no longer the player I was earlier in my life, and having played over many of the games from the recent World Senior Chess Championship,
(http://www.wscc2018.european-chessacademy.com/index.php/en/) I realize how much of a decline there is for an old(er) player, especially in the 65+ section, which is now my category. That said, the young fellow played a decent game, developing his pieces in the opening without any extraneous pawn moves or outright blunders. We arrived at about an even position in the early middle game, before he made a mistake, moving his a-pawn aggressively, but weakening his b-pawn in the process. I secured my b-pawn by playing a3, then picked off his undefended b-pawn. A few moves later there was a tactical skirmish in which I came out a piece ahead, and he sort of went downhill from there. The game ended in mate by my newly minted Queen protected by a lone Knight.

“You played very well, young man,” I said. There were a couple of players watching the game and they seconded my remark. He said graciously, “I appreciate your saying that, sir.” We talked and I learned he was twenty years old, the same age as was I when I first went to the Atlanta Chess club. He mentioned coming because he was beating the players with whom he had been playing and wanted better competition. Wondering how he could play such a decent game I asked if he read any Chess books. “Not really,” he said. “But I’ve been on Chess.com and watched many YouTube videos.”

The tournament began and I was not needed, fortunately. This gave me an opportunity to watch some of the action, talk with some of those who come and play without playing in the tourney, and those who come to simply “hang-out.” It was immensely enjoyable. I watched Dawson play one of the young players who is not a member of the USCF (“It costs $30!”) but comes to play skittles. Dawson was a piece down but came back to win the game.

After becoming a Senior I began staying home at night for a reason. Although exhausted after being at the Chess Club I was unable to sleep soundly and the next day, Friday, was not one of my better days, so I took it easy and relaxed, spending much time reading, and listening to programs via the internet.

Fortunately, Saturday was a totally different story. I read while having my first cuppa joe. After breakfast the web was surfed. Chess is usually saved for last and one of the sites I visit every day is GM Kevin Spraggett’s

website (http://www.spraggettonchess.com/). He has a “Chess News” scroll, “What is Happening Today?” I clicked on the ones new to me and began reading. I read every article and there were many on AlphaZero. I even read an editorial by Garry Kasparov

in Science magazine. (http://science.sciencemag.org/content/362/6419/1087) Then I clicked on to read Mastering board games, by Murray Campbell.

I had intended on watching several videos by GM Matthew Sadler concerning the recent World Human Chess Championship games, but discovered videos at Chess24 in the article, AlphaZero really is that good (https://chess24.com/en/read/news/alphazero-really-is-that-good). I watched every video contained in the article superbly elucidated by GM Sadler. I was had by hook, line and sinker, after watching the first one, All-in Defence, “A true Najdorf brawl.”

The Najdorf was my first love. Like many others I played it because Bobby Fischer played the opening. With Bobby the Najdorf was an offensive defense.

While watching the Najdorf “brawl” I noticed another Sadler video over on the right and it looked like the position could have emanated from the Leningrad Dutch, my “second love.” I clicked on and, sure enough, it was a Leningrad! I was compelled to watch.

As if that were not enough I noticed a video by GM Ben Finegold, who married a woman in my home city of Atlanta and they opened the new Atlanta Chess Club & Scholastic Center. (https://atlchessclub.com/) The video is Capablanca Endgames with GM Ben Finegold.

I enjoyed Ben’s commentary while thinking, “I wish the internet existed in 1970.” How can young players, and even older players, not be far superior to those of my generation with tools like this, and the best players giving great advice away for practically nothing? Why would anyone pay someone to teach Chess?

In an email to Karen I wrote, “I did surf over to Twitch the other day to listen to the lonely Ben comment on the game. I was thinking it must be very difficult to do it alone for a long period of time…Ben the Maytag repairman…”

Karen replied, ” I don’t think he gets lonely streaming …. he seems to enjoy it and likes to talk a lot so it works out.” Ben talks a lot because he has something useful to say. He is like the old EF Hutton TV commercial. “When EF Hutton talks, people listen.”

Other articles read:

AlphaZero: Shedding new light on the grand games of chess, shogi and Go
https://deepmind.com/blog/alphazero-shedding-new-light-grand-games-chess-shogi-and-go/

Updated AlphaZero Crushes Stockfish In New 1,000-Game Match
https://www.chess.com/news/view/updated-alphazero-crushes-stockfish-in-new-1-000-game-match

Inside the (deep) mind of AlphaZero
by Albert Silver
https://en.chessbase.com/post/the-full-alphazero-paper-is-published-at-long-last

Three new articles were found before writing this post at Spaggett On Chess and I intend on reading them later today, even the one by discredited economist and former GM Ken Rogoff:

Commentary: Where is the fun of playing chess against a robot? by Kenneth Rogoff
https://www.channelnewsasia.com/news/commentary/why-human-classic-chess-survives-even-with-technology-chess-ai-10980248

Saudi Arabia calls Israel’s bluff
If Saudis do not feel like welcoming Israelis on their lands, they are perfectly right


Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman Image Credit: AFP

Published: December 08, 2018 16:39 Tariq A. Al Maeena, Special to Gulf News
https://gulfnews.com/opinion/op-eds/saudi-arabia-calls-israels-bluff-1.60805086

Chess Is An Important Part Of Russian Soft Power
by Joseph Hammond December 3, 2018

https://tsarizm.com/analysis/2018/12/03/chess-part-russia-soft-power/

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