Archive for the ‘Life beyond the chess board’ Category

Hi there readers (and hi to me). I regret to tell you I am in a rather odd mood.

I did want to raise the issue of identity. How do you define the sort of player you’ve become? Which year in your life stands out and why? Who was a big influence and why? How did you develop? What’s happened since then? What type of player are you and how do you know? Has an overload of theory got the better of you?

Today, we are caught up in so many things that we forget the most basic, like what we are. You should be able to define yourself. You should be able to know what you became, how and why? But then modernity asks so much of us that simple things can become lost in the midst of time.

For me, well 1993 was the year I became much more solid as a player and pretty tough to beat. That was the definitive year as far as I am concerned. I’m still pretty solid and that’s how I like to keep it.

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Life Offline: ‘England will always be my home and has a special place in my heart’ although for tax reasons, I will always stay here in the desert and steer clear of Rip-Off Britain the place as much as possible.

Life Online ‘Yes I am British‘ and when surfing the web I do gravitate towards all things British, and chess is no exception.

Life istelf: we do have a our own great forum, which can be found here:

In addition to this, the hard work John Saunders is putting into Britbase, really is starting to show. Britbase is a well ordered site listing past results and tournaments. Should you want to look at tournaments in the uk from a bygone era, this is the site for you. It’s well put together and is a treasure trove of info:

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Dear Ken, your on line agony uncle for troubled chess players.

John, Leighton Buzzard Dear Ken, I am the president of my club and recently members are pressuring me to ban a member. I also want to ban him but I don’t know what to say to him. He comes into the chess club walking very slowly and with a white bishop in his mouth and a big grin. He brings his dogs too and forces them to watch him play. The problem is that he isn’t very good at chess and always loses but when that happens his dogs start growling at you and on one occasion they attacked his opponent and wouldn’t let go, just before he was about to deliver checkmate also! Now I don’t know how good his dogs are but they seem to be able to follow the game because if he blunders, they bark at him and tug on his clothes! What should I say to him? You can come but don’t bring those dogs? They are big dogs as well, and this makes many in the club uneasy as they should be playing fetch the stick and not chess.

Ken: Well if his dogs can play, why not put them in the team and make up the numbers? But give them some treats and tell them to stop growling during the game, and not to bark also, that should do it.

John Leighton Buzzard: but when they get excited they start wagging their tale and running about. It puts people off, me included. They never stay at the table, and like to chew their opponent’s shoes also! What should I do?

Ken: well you could put a muzzle on them and tell them to be good boys. Put them in the team and see how they get on, probably they will play paw-to-king-four!

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So it’s ten years and counting before I rise up to the challenge (if I live that long). I think my state of mind will be ‘I’m running the club because I want to, and whether or not anyone wants to is another matter’

Says Mark, future club and league president.

Not exactly the first time. I’ve handed out a trophy.

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If the room is dark, it’s late at night, and the AC is on, you can bet on it that I am up writing. If not then perhaps an early night was had instead. So what is it I have to tell this time -not much. I’m not doing much during the day, and I have only just started playing on-line again. So there’s nothing current to talk about it seems. Enough has been said over the GM Niemann saga already I think. The sooner that’s forgotten the better. And yes I have seen this week’s videos of Kasparov being himself -which is one good reason not to link them.

In the still of the night, I don’t hear a wolf howl. I sit in total silence…it’s as if I were playing chess. But I do purposely insert lyrics from songs that are relevant to the post. And that aside, sit quietly, well aware that silence is golden. We insist on it for competitive OTB chess, and we seek it when we want to sleep. Indeed it is a wonderful thing which is there to be taken advantage of. But what we don’t want is rock music in the background, accompanied by a somewhat cheesy video -that we can do without.

What constitutes noise pollution in tournaments around the world depends on the country and the people organising it. Talking in the playing hall is rarely allowed but it happens. Burping is out but some do it. Farts, yes there’s plenty of them, silent mode is the preferred with that one. With sleep its different and often not a necessity. For if you are tired, you are tired and will sleep. Personally I don’t know what to say as my life is quiet at all times. The life of an economic migrant usually is because we change our location to work. Then we work when we get there and don’t usually do much else.

I suppose I have to factor in my age. Teenagers are into stuff and often make a hullabaloo about it. I’m way past that, several decades and a bit more on top. I don’t need to be doing stuff or making something. You could argue the older you get, the quieter the life you lead being generally true. So with that said its more of the same for me, and then even more after that. What does constitute noise pollution and sleep, well as said there are different factors that need to be taken into consideration but even if they aren’t noise is something we can get used to if we have to. Speaking of noise, here’s Whitesnake with Still of the Night

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Lest we not forget how we got to where we are. Oftentimes the journey is arduous and full of pitfalls, some of which we fall into. For some just being alive is an achievement, and I should know. If you try to characterise the type of player you will run into something which stops you. Not the ‘why’ but the ‘how’ and also the ‘when’. You may be able to pen a few words here and there if asked to define the type of player you are but establishing how you came to be what you are and construct time frames for what was absorbed into you is much harder if not downright impossible. After a while everything becomes a blur, after that it fades…then you are left with nothing.

Our very own histories are too complex to be straightened out and our paths cross with so many others. It never ends. So at best you may be able to describe the sort of player you are but not the process of becoming. This is not something I am an expert in so let’s just leave it there for now. I don’t try to define myself. I know I’ve always been better positionally than tactically but I can’t say much else. I just classify myself as a club or county player and leave it at that.

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After five or six weeks of no chess on any level, I’ve started playing games on line again.

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Solitude it is then. I don’t go out at all partly because I don’t want to and partly because there isn’t really anywhere to go. I could be forgiven for thinking my life doesn’t differ greatly from that of a prisoner. I am paid for what I do but that aside there are similarities yes.

Of course there is so much more to life than how much you stay in, and some of us are better at entertaining ourselves than others. But that said, the number of hours I am clocking up not by doing anything much is on the rise, that’s for sure.

Of course there is always the bigger picture to consider, and that is fine.

What isn’t so fine is that its too bloody hot to go anywhere by foot also, which if you prefer to avoid taxis is a bit of a problem. No buses. No trains. No nothing on the transportation scene. And so what does that mean? It means I should have transport of my own and here lies the problem. My transport is back in England because I didn’t bring it here. All I can do is wait for it to cool down. Which will start happening next month.

Things could far worse and normally are. The fundamentals are firmly in place. Minor issues here and there I can live with, and just maybe I will bring my bike over…well maybe.

And what’s this you hear about me being in a country whose entire Olympiad team I could beat quite easily? Yeah well, thems the brakes.

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Do you know that you change as you age? Your whole being from top to bottom does. Everything does. Everyone does. It seems to me that each decade is different to the last and I am different. The extent of change depends on many things, most of all who you are, and so simplifying it here just won’t do. This is the fifth decade in which I have played chess but how, when, how often and what for are variables. I’ve got better as I get older because I become more efficient at unlearning all those things that hindered my progress in my youth. I enjoy more aspects of the beautiful game and am engaged in chess activity much more so than used to be.

I don’t think it gets harder as you get older although certain qualities, such as calculation and memorisation take a hit but not much of one. And certainly not anything to be worried about. And it doesn’t get harder because you have greater autonomy over your whole being, and so are less likely to make mistakes in terms of theory input.

When I was in my teens, I went wrong quite often by pressuring myself into decisions that weren’t thought through enough. But those mistakes don’t repeat themselves. I’m not led astray by a trend or a book or bad advice by a club member. Sometimes the past is best forgotten, and with regards to how I used to play when young, perhaps that time is now. We all make mistakes but I was knocked off centre all too often and never did quite find my feet. Depression most certainly did not help.

So here writes something of a free bird. No longer under pressure. Free to play whenever. I maintain that the fear factor commonly associated with growing old needn’t be anything to worry about, and with maturity its much easier to organise your time and work more effectively. Just perhaps when I hit my 60s I may think differently but the bottom line is I will find playing chess with old age much easier than playing chess in my youth -which was a bit of a mess.It’s always possible to go from not knowing what you are doing to knowing what you are doing as the wheel of time rolls on. Old age is only a nightmare to those who made it a nightmare. Or those who became less and less active throughout their life and end up like some beached whale.

I think I might have a couple of games.

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As mentioned in the previous post, a short essay on the benefits of chess proved to be an insightful addition to the lesson I taught today, which was ‘How to write an essay’ It was a case of mission accomplished with the work handed in of better quality than I was expecting. Now just in case you don’t believe me for whatever reason, I have attached some photos from today’s class. You can see me in action.

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