Thursday, July 28, 2011

On Courage

When we speak of courage, we often focus on the great courage of those that risk life and limb: Soldiers, Firemen, Police, and individual acts of heroism to save others in risky conditions, but courage is displayed more often in smaller ways.  Anytime we behave well in the face of fear, we are courageous. Maybe the quality of courage is less than those that jump out of airplanes to fight fires, but courage none the less.

Losing at chess hurts, not just because we want to win, but because chess is a contest of thought. Thought is core to being human. Even mistakes we make in victories are troubling. Examining our mistakes hurts again, because we relive the damage to our self-esteem. It takes courage to face the fear of the pain, and to examine our mistakes.

We must examine our mistakes if we are to improve. We must not just quickly look at our mistakes, excuse them (I was tired or time was short) and move on, but really understand where the mistake came from. Excuses relieve the pain, but those conditions will recur, and if we do not root out the causes of error, we will continue to make mistakes.

Improving at chess takes courage. We must face our mistakes to learn. We must delve into them deeply to understand fully the lessons they hold.

In the following position, my opponent(white) and I(black) were both short on time. I saw that with ...Nd3 I could prevent white from winning, but ...Nxb3 had better winning chances, but allowed his king and bishop freedom to enter my position. I was concerned with the problem of protecting my f and d pawns if his bishop gains the a4 to e8 diagonal. I did not notice that ...d4 for me would force a passed pawn.
I could have excused the draw the short time I had left, but time pressure will happen. I could have excused the draw on not recognizing the passed pawn creation motif ...d4, but there will always be things we don't know.

The root cause of my making the inferior move ...Nd3+, was because I was afraid of a loss. I needed the courage to face the fact that I had given in to fear.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011


I am teaching a chess class this week, so I have been focused on preparing material for that. I have done a first pass on my games from the Columbus Open, and two may make good videos.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Columbus Open 2011

I got 3.5 out of 5 for sole possession of the under 1900 prize. I was lucky, there were lots of under 1900 players at 3.0 points to share the 2nd place under 1900 prize. It may be the last under 1900 prize I will be eligible for.

I reentered after I lost my Friday night game to a National Master, who ended up taking 3 place. My reentry was not fortuitous. I thought I might get lucky and get paired down. Close, if one less higher rated player had entered, I would have been at the bottom of the top half, ...but... I ended up at the top of the bottom half and got to lose to Grandmaster Sergei Kudrin. Highlights of the tournament were my last round draw with a National Master, and my Saturday night win that that went till 78 moves and ended after 1:00am.

No one that I knew from 35 years ago was there.