Sunday, August 10, 2008

Chess surfers need to know how to catch a wave!!

Since attending a National K-12 or Scholastic event at least once a year since 1989, my motivational stories have grown in metaphoric range. This year at the US Open, I'm once again reminded - as I watch so many player slipping and sliding result-wise - of my favorite surfer analogy.
Throughout a tournament, players try to establish respect for themselves by 'standing up' to their opposition, not unlike a surfer popping up on his board under adverse conditions... The best players in an event remain steady - untoppled, dominant, and certain to take away not only respect but perhaps even a check for their tournament expenses and perhaps even the rent!
Other players on the other hand have a hard time even getting into the water, getting knocked down by forces of strength beyond comprehension. Those lucky enough to pop up and ride a wave may find it lasting for only one round.
Success in a chess tournament requires tremendous stamina and perserverance. This doesn't come without practice and many, many unsuccessful outings. If your attention falters for even a moment, you'll be toppled.
A good chess player needs character, discipline, and good nerves in order to triumph. These are not developed in isolation.
-John MacArthur

A good memory, or attention to detail?

One thing I find interesting in all of my lessons - is the fact that I have to repeat myself so often. As a result I use many metaphors and analogies for students based on sports, movies, common experiences and such to convey strategic chess understanding ...
Never-the-less, I end up again repeating myself.

My strongest student to date, Marc Arnold (now about 2430), has either a great memory or disciplined attention to detail - as far as his game is concerned.
While trying to get him to study for himself seemed nearly impossible, the countless hours we spent together were always rewarded. Often he would question a principle or motif as I would point it out in a master game, that it was not what I had told him previously. Curiously, I would quiz him on the circumstances of our previous encounter with the motif and he would mention the name of the player (i.e. Paul Keres) or the opening to jar my memory ... and I would then simply explain what happened then, what's happening now, and how the current position is an exception or a clarification to the motif of our experience. Marc always seemed to get what I told him the first time it was said - and he would categorize it correctly, with nearly all of the details in order.

If something is important to you, pay attention to detail, whether or not you have such an excellent memory.
-John MacArthur

Monday, July 21, 2008

Playing what the position will allow...

In 1988, through 1989, I played perhaps my best chess ever. I gave up my favorite openings, which were based on my early enthusiasm for Bobby Fischer, for a seriously classical approach inspired by the study of Tigran Petrosian's games. As white it was simply the Torre Attack and as black I relied on the Caro-Kann and the Queen's Gambit Declined to bore players to death. Simply put, there were many uncompromising players like Kamran Shirazi running around trying to inflict their will on the position and I no longer wanted a part of it.
Petrosian understood that rules within the position could not easily be broken and players who wished to throw the rules aside would soon find their position going with it. I was very lucky that many higher rated players, including Shirazi and Dzindzichashvili, would stick their necks out to try to beat me in equal/even positions and allow me to win. Unfortunately, players even with me or with lower ratings were harder to take care of - but my approach prevailed in earning the master title nearly 20 years ago.
Playing good, solid chess is far more important than any result. Thinking about results, rating points or even prizes will only serve to distract from the greater goal - putting forth your best possible game, reaching new tiers of strength, and earning respect as a good player.
-John MacArthur

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Simply moving the pieces, is NOT playing chess?!

Just yesterday, my brother-in-law Victor and I were discussing the problem of how chess can be taught. Although we hashed out many of the problems and used metaphors from other sports - I decided that some of the major concepts should be high-lighted and the less major at least outlined. Many, many people in the world know how to move the pieces - yet so few are actually good at playing chess. So why is this?

Two players before school hashing out a 5-min game when young Tristan, walking by to go to his classroom, stops to look. Tiger is an now advanced group student, but at this time he was just following in his older brothers footsteps.
Player A, on move after a series of exchanges has taken place, stops to consider her next move for 20 seconds or so...
Tristan, who can't contain himself, exclaims: "It's your turn, why aren't you moving!"

Knowing how to move the pieces doesn't realy mean you know HOW to play chess. An idea, good or bad, and the exchange of ideas with an opponent is the essence of chess.
-John MacArthur

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Chess Dojo Blogging Day One!?

After testing and testing - I've (for the time being) decided to give one of the best internet services around the starring role as the chess Dojo Blog.

I'm hoping to give some assignments and have students blogging as well. Everyone's opinion counts and there will be little (but certain) censorship!!

Let's get this blog under way.