Easter Twist

Where do I start?  Yvonne’s parents were in a car accident on their way to West Georgia which is about a 45 minute accident-free drive. Thankfully we were sitting down to Easter lunch only two hours later – all passengers accounted for along with a car load of delicious food.  Everyone meets at Yvonne’s grandparent’s house for most holidays. Arriving late is one of the family traditions began by none other than Yvonne’s family. Yvonne and I have taken the #1 spot on the “will arrive late” list, so we normally arrive late in the 3rd quarter.

I’ll manage to weave a chess story in here.  The excitement is just beginning…

I’m new around here – to the area and to the family. I think I’m doing OK. My new aunt does not think of me as a “nephew in-law”, nor does an estranged brother I’ve been lucky to see a couple of times. I told him last week he did a fantastic job power washing his grandparents deck. I thought it had been rebuilt from scratch.

I’m doing great as a matter of fact! Yvonne and I opened our swimming pool on Saturday to kick off the season. I’m turning 40 next month, so we invited everyone we saw on Easter – which was “everyone” to stop by. I didn’t mention the lack of patio furniture, but news travels fast 😉

My new aunt invited Yvonne and me to go camping this weekend with a large group of teenagers. I haven’t done this since I was one myself. These kids are supposed to fend for themselves. They’re not allowed to ask us for any camping supplies over the weekend. We’ll also be riding horses in the Talladega National Forest. I never really learned to ride horses well and have always been a little scared of horses from a young age. My first experience was at age 7 in the mountains at Circle K Ranch outside Durango, Colorado. I did go back the following year – for the trout fishing and tug-of-war on the river that ran through our campground.

Safe & sound at our grandparent’s house in West Georgia.

Back to Easter weekend.  We eventually made our way to my wife’s parents house to enjoy the rest of time we had.  Her family lives near us throughout Atlanta and beyond. Traditions have been set down especially around the holidays.  Traditions include a “friendly” game of family poker around a large table.  If you consider a single lottery ticket I bought for my sister in 1992 when the lottery came to Texas, I could say that I’ve been lucky with games of chance – which chess is not.

Chess for the first time has given me the confidence to participate in the family fun.  Aside from a “meeting of the minds” about everyday life, the game has also offered me one-on-one interaction with my father in-law – not an easy task with so much going on.

I wish I could say I let him triumph during our game.  Anyone who knows me knows better…

wordpress statistics

National Chess Meetup Day

Warren and I are always looking for local chess events that we can attend.  To our surprise there really aren’t too many!  There was a group that met at Barnes & Noble in Roswell.  That group stopped a year ago.  We noticed chess.com has partnered with meetup.com to create a national chess meetup day.  We are excited to find an event located in our area!

Starbucks is only 10 minutes from our house.  The sun was shining early, so we had all the makings for a good morning!  It was a little cool.  We shivered through it and enjoyed a few hours of playing chess.  At one point we had as many as five games being played at once!  I had the pleasure of playing Henry, Dave, and Krish and losing to each of them.  I did have one victorious rematch.  I noticed that everyone was sure to acknowledge they were beginners before starting a game.  You could slowly start to see who has been playing chess for years!  Chess tournaments can be extremely competitive.  This relaxed atmosphere of casual chess games was a lot more enjoyable for me.

I personally enjoyed meeting local chess enthusiasts and would love to keep this group going.  Does anyone have ideas of locations in the Kennesaw/Marietta area that might allow 10 – 20 players to play chess comfortably for a few hours?  It sounds like we missed a few people unable to make it in the morning.  Maybe we can meet one Saturday morning each month and one weekday evening a month to accommodate all schedules.  Warren and I created a Chess Made Fun Facebook page.  We will post chess events in our area.  Be sure to click on the link and “Like” our page.  We will send you invitations to all events so you do not miss out on an opportunity to get your brain workout!

Astrophysicist planning his next move!
For those of you who don’t remember that cool April morning at Starbucks in 2011, take a close look at the pictures.

wordpress statistics

Riding the Wave

Birds-view21-300x199Does chess have a stadium scoreboard?  Who’s leading?  Who’s catching up?  Yvonne let us know last week about her first experience participating in an actual chess tournament.  This got me thinking about her opponents who stood with her toe to toe.  Shoe sizes will grow of course and egos will shrink as young players gain experience.

Technology has a bigger and bigger role in tournament play with the advent of computerized chess boards.  Whether playing speed chess or positional chess, these computers track each players move in real-time.  I’ve connected with folks on Twitter who are pushing for more meaningful technology in schools.  This raises another thought – can opponents “breathe the same air” during a tournament as a computer decides who walks away champion?  I’ll do some research.

In the meantime here’s what I’m talking about.  Have you seen those chess magicians who play 20 games at once?  Why not in a tournament setting?  While tracking moves the computer knows the best move to make.  The computer also knows the worst move to make – somewhere in the middle is the player’s next move.  The player whose total score is highest wins!  Better make a lot of good moves…

Keep the competitive spirit alive!

wordpress statistics

A Mixed Bag

My wife’s a chess coach.  I told her the other day that I have some free time to help her out.  We ended up in a huge game of team chess at one of her schools.  This was my first interaction with more experienced kids in her after school programs.  This was also the first time I’ve played chess outside on a large patio chess board.  It was a lot of fun.

One of the coolest things about the experience was that the squares on the board were not notated.  Every time the black team or white tea

m had to make a move they had to call each move out in correct notation.  The time it took for twenty excited kids to shout  “King captures E4” actually had a calming effect on them.  This process made the game one of great precision and quality because it gave them time to think about their next move.

Communication skills developed from playing team chess outdoors are unmatched. The solace of a video game said one of our kids is a great escape however as the pressure builds.  Even with wonderful weather it’s great to rotate the kids indoors when the game “gets interesting” to keep the competitive spirit intact.  Team leaders always make themselves known.  It’s good to assign someone else to call the next move.  This has been my experience so far.

I’ve helped Yvonne on Friday afternoons with some of the younger kids in her developmental classes.  I have a little more experience than Yvonne playing kids in tournaments though.  This doesn’t mean I’ve had better results beating them.  She played in her first tournament last Friday.  I told her I would support her from the sidelines this time.  A pitcher of margaritas before a tournament is not the kind of fun I need.  It’s not what this blog is about.

Back to the other kids at school.  School is out for two weeks.  I wrote down all twenty-eight moves have been played so far.  We’ll finish the game on a demonstration board when the kids return from their break.  We can figure out what the losing team can do to have the advantage in the next outdoor game.

I’ll also follow-up with the results here in my next blog entry.

wordpress statistics

Chillin… on a Saturday afternoon! Warren and Yvonne in Marietta, GA grabbin’ some grub!

Tough Competition

Since Warren taught me how to play chess, he decided it was finally time for me to play in my first rated Chess Tournament.  We traveled to the North Georgia Chess Center that is run by Joe Couvillion and his wife.  They have a rated tournament every Friday night.

Upon first walking in the center I noticed lots of young chess prodigies waiting patiently to see who will be walking away with the bragging rights of the night!

Although I have most of them beat in age alone I know much better to think that my wisdom will help me conquer their young chess minds!

My first opponent which I will with hold the age to help save my “pride” was a 1400+ rated player. Not being an expert in the rating system I wasn’t quite sure what that meant.  Then 20 minutes later I had a much better idea. 1400+ means she could checkmate me in less than 20 moves, beautifully use opening moves that not only threaten pieces with a single attack but also double and triple attacks while keeping each of her pieces carefully protected.

Wow the game left me speechless especially to find out later that she has only been playing for a year and is not even out of middle school! I shook her hand congratulating her on a great game. To her I was just another pawn helping her achieve a better rating.

I had plenty of time before my next match would start seeing how my first opponent didn’t need her full hour to bet me.

Round two I found out that I would be playing a 1000+ rated player and this girl was still in elementary school.  She was tough competition and when I made one blunder I knew it was the end of the game for me under 50 moves and 40 minutes later she made her final move with this look of determination and a slight smile as she said “checkmate”!

Wow… I can’t even express the amount of pride that I felt for both of the girls that claimed their victory.

My final match was against a young boy who was only five years old.  He was the youngest player in the center that evening,  but that didn’t keep him from making clean opening moves activating his pieces, while he also notated each move he made on his own score pad, and concentrated on each move he made.

He resigned the game after I captured his queen and I was able to walk away with one victory that night.  Secretly I know he was beyond tired and was just not interested in finishing the game but it does make me wonder if he had not resigned what the actual outcome would have been:)

All in all I had a great evening and enjoyed meeting new players of all ages.  I also have a lot more perspective of what I need to do to help better my overall chess game.

IMG_0240wordpress statistics

The Early Days

I remember when Warren and I were dating he would talk about this chess center that he enjoyed going to.  He mentioned a few tournaments he played where a younger kid might come close to beating him, so this is when he decided he was going to become a stronger player, take lessons and practice a lot more.

The first thing he decided he could do to play more chess was recruit me! To this day I am so glad he did.

One of the reasons I think we both LOVE to play chess is because you can literally play a game anywhere.  We have a travel Chess set that we leave in his truck.  If we are at a park on a nice day, or camping for the weekend we will pull out the set and play a few games.

I think one of the coolest games we have played was in the bed of his truck inside of Atlanta Motor speedway during the “Middle” two hundred laps of a NASCAR race.

At home we play a few games throughout the week as well as work on tactics and puzzles to help our game.  Typically we will start a game make 10-20 moves and then leave the game for a few days and come back with a fresh strategy   (doesn’t always help the endgame).

I attended a FIDE Workshop in Atlanta to become certified as a developmental instructor. I now work as a chess coach with multiple schools teaching kids from ages 5-12.

One of the first schools I worked for started a new program last fall.  It was amazing to watch 22 kids, more then half who have never even played chess before in just ten weeks playing and checkmating their opponent.   It would be hard to find a game that you can teach your children that provides as many lasting benefits as chess does!

Where is the most adventurous place you have played a game of chess?

Alexandra Kosteniuk 2009 FIDE Womens Workshop with “The Chess Queen” Alexandra Kosteniuk