The Sensational Second Edition!
This column is going to be packed with all kinds of little goodies. I wanted to have a personal game of mine to include here to begin my official “record keeping” within this column, but the two games (and soon to be third) that I am involved in are nowhere near complete, so I’ll go ahead and include that for the next one… hopefully.
I will be releasing a column per week and with any luck, I should be getting on some sort of schedule with it. Right now, as long as the week (beginning on Sundays) is different than the previously released column week, I’m going to go ahead and write and release. That just makes things simpler. So, let’s get this thing started.
The Tata Steel 2012 event, which happened at Wijk aan Zee, was one by Levon Aronian. Magnus Carlsen, the number one rated chess player in the world, was second place (and was joined with eight points by Teimour Radjabov and Fabiano Caruna). Why this event was called Tata Steel instead of just carrying the Wijk aan Zee name it’s used for however long it’s been running, I don’t know, but the event was won by someone whom I’ve not heard of.
Before you get all indignant on me, I haven’t followed chess competitions really closely since Anand won the World Championship match against Veselin Topalov back in 2010. Sue me.
Anyway, Carlsen was the one that I believe should have won the event and the fact that Aronian fared so well made me realize that Carlsen’s impending reign as World Champion (shoosh, it’s going to happen) isn’t as likely to last the length I previously would have believed. Aronian is the second ranked player on the FIDE ratings list right now, 30 points behind Carlsen, and that means he’s liable to become the World Champion as well. Where’s the World Champion on this list? Viswanathan Anand is currently rated at 2799, fourth on the list. Carlsen bowed out of the championship qualification cycle this time in protest for FIDE weighting the qualification of other event winners higher than they should have been.
Magnus, my boy, the way to protest that isn’t to bow out of the cycle… it’s to win the candidacy for the World Chess Championship, walk into the WCC later this year, and wipe the floor with Anand… then lording over FIDE as the World Chess Champion, the strongest player in the world, and getting FIDE to pull their head out of their ass.
Kasparov tried, sure, but I’m sure that it wouldn’t take FIDE 23 years to realize that they have made ANOTHER mistake in how they run things.
But, I digress. Congratulations to Levon Aronian and I look forward to seeing Aronian and Carlsen lock horns in the near future!
I’ve written about this in the past but it isn’t anywhere online, so I’m going to write about it again. I’m going to write about how I came to learn chess and why I think chess has a future in a different direction than what FIDE is currently presenting.
Let’s hop in the way back machine and go to 1987 (when I would have been in the sixth grade). There were plenty of chances to do all kinds of things when not actively studying because of the large number of breaks that we took back then. (Side Note: if you told me I could have finished my schooling 2 years earlier by not taking so many breaks I probably would have gone for it.) Living in North Dakota, the weather sometimes prevented us from going out to recess, which meant we needed to figure out something to do INSIDE from time to time.
A couple of my classmates would head over to the chessboard, set it up, and knock out a few games while they had time. That couple turned into a few and that few turned into a group. By the time I joined, interested in learning the game (because I was honestly fascinated by it), I became one of about 12 people involved in the creation of what I’ve been calling the Beulah Chess Club. That was about half the class, in case you were wondering.
Considering who was involved (12 children who were almost all avid professional wrestling fans), I am not surprised that we modeled ourselves after the World Wrestling Federation a little by creating two championships and setting up mini-competitions to become a champion. We had a World Championship and an Intercontinental Championship, the two top championships in the World Wrestling Federation at the time. The Intercontinental Championship was, as it was for the WWF, the “intermediate” championship… for those of us who weren’t the strongest players.
Throughout the entire 87-88 school year, we’d established that there were really only two “strong” players and the rest of us were not as good. We’d gained and lost up to eight other players over the course of the year, and a couple of us rose in playing strength to be able to compete with the “big two.” Thankfully, I was one of them and a former three time Intercontinental Champion (the final reign vacated as I wanted to “move up” against some stronger players).
We were all very interested in playing games against one another, making the competition more interesting than anything else we could think of, and really got better over the course of playing the school year. If I had to guess, I’d say that the best four or five of us at the end of the year were probably rated (Elo) around 700 to 750. You think that may be low but we were a small pool of players not studying the game and only learning through play.
Towards the end of the school year, I’d say the entire month of March in 1988 (I say that because it was close to the end but far enough from the end to allow for regular competition to resume after what I’m about to explain) became a giant class-wide tournament. The teacher (her name was Mrs. White and only our class was involved in the tournament) felt that some of the girls were being excluded from being able to learn and play chess with the rest of us. We honestly weren’t preventing anyone from playing but I can understand that testosterone filled boys pretending chess was akin to professional wrestling might have been a bit intimidating. Mrs. White declared that the class would be seeded into a giant knockout tournament and the winner would be given the prize of a passing grade on a specific assignment (I don’t remember what it was but it was worth the playing for it).
I don’t remember the particulars of the tournament as a whole or how many of the 24 or 25 of my classmates were involved, but I know that it took us nearly a full month to get a final winner. To add to the prize, the World Champion at the time (a kid named Justin, who was damn tough to beat) declared that the winner would get a shot at his championship. Even the girls who were playing for the first time were excited that we were including them in the regular cycle of things.
For the players who had absolutely no exposure to chess before the tournament began, they were weeded out in the early rounds. In fact, only two or three “new” players made it into the middle of the month, about the halfway point of the tourney. Almost all of the originals were involved and the World Champion Justin wasn’t one of them… he’d been taken out by his chief rival (a kid named Travis). My toughest game was against Travis. I beat him, soundly, and brought some well deserved attention to my own skills. I was eliminated in the very next round by one of the new players after making a monumental error… I can’t tell you what it was, I just know that when it happened that I realized it immediately.
Travis was stunned at being eliminated by me so soundly and we agreed to a three game series (winner to choose their color for each game, starting with me choosing black first). Travis won the first game and I won the next two… Justin was so impressed (and had easily dispatched the tournament winner, the guy who knocked me out) that he gave me a shot at the World Championship. Guess who won? ME!
I was a fighting champion and defended the championship twice before the school year ended. The championship remained with me and I figured that we’d pick back up next year, so we all let summer come and go… the Beulah Chess Club never played another game.
That isn’t the end of the story… but it’s the end of this part of the story. You’ll see this one continue in the future… I don’t want to put it all out there right now.
As I stated before, I wanted to include one of my recent (and well documented) games to include in this section but none of the ones I’m monitoring are complete, yet. So, let me explain what this section is going to be doing and why I’ll be doing it.
I do not belong to the USCF or to FIDE. That means that I do not have an officially established rating but I do have a general idea about my playing strength through the numerous outlets online that offer me such a thing for free. I am currently playing at about 1009, according to GameKnot.com (which is my primary source for games at the moment). Since these games are pseudo-real time and I’m actively reestablishing my presence on the site, I believe that the rating is fairly accurate of my current playing strength.
I’ve been a member of both the IECG (International Email Chess Group) and the IECC (International Email Chess Club). The IECG has closed its doors, conceding to the fact that people are playing chess less through email and more through online services like Game Knot. The IECC is still kicking but since they were born out of the IECG, I’m actively wondering how long they’ll be around before they come to the same conclusion (or adapt).
My rating when I stopped playing in the IECG was at 1512. Yes, I was playing at a 1500 strength at one point… in 2000 and 2001. The rating I had in the IECC when I stopped playing was just a hair over 1400 (I played longer there, had to cut back on my playing). After an almost full decade of not playing chess, I came back to Game Knot to see my rating was at 996 (due to several abandoned games that added up). I’ve fought back up to 1009 but I notice that I’m nowhere near as good as I was… so this is a perfect chance to rebuild myself in a public forum.
This section will contain my declared “official” games and will be thoroughly reviewed and kibitzed to improve my play. Almost all of the games will be via Game Knot (though I am actively trying to find local players to play against) and I will put down what I was thinking, what I was aiming to accomplish, and what I think should have been my course of action. Being rated at 1009, I think I have a lot of improving to do.
If anyone out there has an official rating that is higher than mine (I’m speaking of 2000 or better) that wants to jump in with suggestions, I’d love to have them.
Thanks for reading.