Jul 112012

This week our patron goddess has explained to me why beauty will always play second fiddle to pragmatism over the chess board. Listen and learn ye hapless amateurs.

Jonasson vs. Angantysson, Reykjavik 1984. Black to play.

#6: No Beauty Without Truth

“Without error there can be no brilliancy”
— Emanuel Lasker

There are no prizes for artistic merit in chess. Not last time I looked any way. A pretty combination that doesn’t work isn’t really pretty. It’s just wrong and you shouldn’t have played it. Don’t try to convince yourself otherwise.

For example look at this position which Christian Hesse brings to our attention in his luminary book “The Joys of Chess”. Black now perceived that he could give up his queen by playing 26…e2 and after 27.fxe7 Bd4+ White resigned in dismay.

So was Black’s concept beautiful? Some would say so. However, had White not been an imbecile he would have noticed that after 28.Ne3 it would have been he who was winning. In the end Black won with an incorrect idea that his opponent didn’t have the talent to exploit. That’s not beautiful it’s just a mistake going unpunished and that is what really wins chess games.

Jul 052012

Bobby Fischer hated losing. So should you!

Once more our patron goddess has visited with me in peaceful sleep and honoured me by bidding me pass down her sage words for chess amateurs across the globe. On this occasion she asks that you to adopt the right attitudes. Listen well.

#4: Winning really matters…

“Winning isn’t everything… but losing is nothing”
— Edmar Mednis

However aesthetic and artful the game of chess can be, it is still, in essence, a fight. Winning is the aim and therefore winning matters. If you are one of those players who says; “I just enjoy playing really. I don’t mind whether I win or not”, then you are either lying or you’re a wimpy, pathetic loser. You clearly need to:

a.)   “get some nuts!” and;
b.)   learn from the attitude of one of the game’s most illustrious titans

Don’t even mention losing to me. I can’t stand to think of it”
— Bobby Fischer

 #5: …but losing is an opportunity

“Don’t be afraid of losing, be afraid of playing a game and not learning something”
— Dan Heisman

You lose a game of chess because you’re weak — period. Accept it. Maybe you lost concentration or you miscalculated a variation. Perhaps the game was a bit dull for your taste, or far too complicated. Maybe you were over ambitious, or too cautious. There are so many ways to lose a game of chess. Learning how to respond to defeat first requires that you accept your weakness, not make excuses and understand how and where you can improve for the next game. Losing is tolerable if it leads to improvement.

Jun 182012

Wilhelm Steinitz knew what it took. Needless to say having a massive beard was an important factor.

#3 – What it Takes 

“The stomach is an essential part of the chessmaster.”  –  Bent Larsen

Of course the great Dane is not implying that eating a lot will help you to be good at chess! He is suggesting that having the stomach for a fight is a critical factor to success.

Lets not mince words. Being good at chess demands scrupulous intellectual rigor, iron-willed discipline and indefatigable fighting spirit. There is no short cut. Talent and hard work won’t make up for a lack of these attributes. Fight for every game like your life depends upon it but in the knowledge that often, even this won’t be enough.

The first World Champion knew what it took better than anyone.

Chess is not for the faint-hearted; it absorbs a person entirely. To get to the bottom of this game, he has to give himself up into slavery. Chess is difficult, it demands work, serious reflection and zealous research.”
–  Wilhelm Steinitz

May 242012

In the elysium of sleep a new missive has come to me from our patron goddess:

#2: Spouse Rules

Far from dropping rating points when he married Aruna, Vishy Anand became World Champion!

“In 1996, the players at the VSB tournament in Amsterdam sent me a card for my wedding with this dedication, ‘Anand congrats on your wedding. You were a great player, now be ready to lose 50 points.’” — Viswanathan Anand 

If you are in a long term relationship or have tied the knot it’s particularly important to observe the Golden Rule . Unless you’ve taken the highly practical, but most unusual step, of marrying another chess addict your partner will not want to be regaled about the subtleties of last night’s rook and pawn ending over coffee and Cornflakes the next morning. Once you are in a relationship it can be particularly hard to establish and maintain suitable boundaries between your relationship and your chess addiction. Learn from the tragi-comic story of Marcel Duchamp and set your boundaries appropriately.

Chess mania is certainly capable of causing marital disharmony. No cautionary tale is more graphic than that of artist and chess player Marcel Duchamp who, having already succumbed completely to his own chess addiction, made the rather naive decision to get hitched to a lady called Lydie Sarrazin-Levassor in 1927. On their honeymoon in the south of France he immediately proceeded to commit a heinous infidelity by spending most of his time playing games at the Nice Chess Club and studying problems (“self mates” I imagine!) in their hotel suite. Finally, his irate bride decided that enough was enough and glued his chess pieces to their board whilst he was asleep! The marriage only lasted three months after which Duchamp was able, once again, to devote himself entirely to his jealous and demanding “mistress” — 23/09/10

May 132012

Caissa, as she appears to me in my sleep

Throughout the course of history a steady stream of religious fanatics claim to have been in communion with their deities during the course of their slumbers. Surprisingly the patron goddess of chess players has thus far chosen to hold her peace. Now however I can reveal to you that she has lifted her head from the great chess board of life and has chosen to whisper her divine words into the ears of her prophet, yours truly. As Caïssa’s humble oracle I am directed to use these web pages to relay her guidance to the global amateur chess community. I must warn you that some of her instructions may be uncomfortable to read so painfully do they expose the general malaise in attitudes and standards that now prevails in amateur chess. I charge you to heed her words, look to yourselves, change your ways… and don’t shoot the messenger!

#1: The Golden Rule

The first rule of chess club is, of course: “Don’t talk about chess club!” The reason for this should be fairly obvious to anyone who wants to maintain relations with their non-chess-playing friends and acquaintances. No one is interested in what happens at chess club except your fellow members and if you tell anyone about your chess activities they will most likely believe you to be mentally unwell. Remember that the stigma all chess players must bare is for their passtime to be misunderstood, under-valued and ignored. This is the price we pay for our addiction. It is also why, throughout history, all of the misguided attempts to make the game popular amongst the masses have failed miserably. Our game has a natural appeal to the intellectual elite. Let’s keep it that way.

I will be issuing further proclaimations on behalf of the goddess Caïssa on a regular basis.