23 July 2020

Who is a Chess 'Coach'?

During a chess tournament in Greece in 2008, I and a German GM had a fun conversation with two young jolly blokes from Turkey who were sure it was no comfortable career being Chess players in their country.

"But then, how do you hope to lead a good life?"

"You know, we can become Chess coaches. There's good money in coaching".

"But aren't you playing serious tournaments here?"

"You know, we want to become Grandmasters, and then become costly coaches!!"

(A Grandmaster coach and a regular coach)

I was chuckling for days on that, but the German wasn't impressed. He was distraught with the notion that anyone can choose to be a teacher, without having any passion and qualities for the role.

5 July 2020

Let them play!

Recently, someone unknown to me told someone else known to me, "Why do you allow your son to play Chess?! It's a complete waste of time! It will take all his mental space. He is not going to become a world champion! He is not going get jobs like a couple of decades ago! Make him study well at school. Let him learn his academics. Send him to IIT*! Let him get a professional degree. He will earn well!"

The future IIT-ian in question is about 10 years old. Of course.

The parent in question asked for advice. "What do I do? Chess does take up all the mental space with my son. He has lost interest in everything else indeed. He had finished all the volumes of Harry Potter just a few months ago. He doesn't touch any fiction anymore. He had an interest in music, but we have to force him to practice his scales now. He used to show a little aptitude for Badminton, but this wretched lockdown has ended all that. We had thrown out our Television a few years ago, hoping to turn ours into a 'Model Home'. Where all of us (a Grandparent included) would talk to each other, improve our reading range, play board games before bed time... you see, just live our lives better! But the tragedy is, all that free time is now occupied with chess.com videos, chess24 live commentaries, LiChess tournaments, and reading chess books! HELP!"

(The forgotten Hero)

I was, of course, overjoyed. But the guy's last word was a cry for assistance, making it clear which way the wind was blowing in his mind. But I didn't want this conversation to end short. After all, we chess players know how to reason with, aren't we?! We trainers are good at explaining, aren't we?!

17 November 2015

Love for wise men

I bought my first chess books in 1986. Chess Informant 38, the wrapper designed in a depressing shade of brown, and Batsford Chess Openings, written by Garry Kasparov and Raymond Keene, whose cover too I remember very well, a white background with squares of blue and pink. Pink!

[Both of them are not with me anymore - I gifted away most of my Informants to a chess-lover friend collecting old chess books, and gifted away the BCO once I had made that important graduation from BCO & MCO (Modern Chess Openings) to ECO (Encyclopaedia of Chess Openings). No one will believe me now, but a local hero of a chess player had smugly advised a bunch of us wide-eyed fans, "ECO is for you, BCO is for your opponents!", emphasising the difference in class. No one will believe me now if I say the local hero is still around!]

Of course, all I dreamt of becoming was an opening theoretician, firmly believing that it was pointless to study endgames. After all, I was going to play flawless opening theory in every game, checkmate my opponents bamboozling them in daring attacks following flawless opening theory. Just like every other kid who plays competitive chess, whether they admit it or not.

30 March 2014

Courage and Roaring

By GM Jonathan Rowson [Twitter @Jonathan_Rowson] published at his weekly column at the Herald Scotland Newspaper

Winston Churchill famously said that courage was the one virtue that made possible all the others, but I think it is easier to valorise courage than it is to understand it, and we often don’t recognise it in ourselves and others.

It is widely quoted that courage is not the absence of fear but the judgment that there’s something more important than fear. That sounds right, but there’s a great deal of complexity in how judgments relate to fears that gets lost in our main cultural symbols of courage; soldiers valiantly risking their lives to safeguard the wounded, firefighters braving the flames to rescue the forgotten.

Most images of courage relate to people doing something where fear for safety might advise you to do otherwise. In addition to such heroic courage there is also a different kind of courage based on trust, and that may be even more important.

23 April 2013

Maharashtra Chess League 2013

Cometh April, our TV is full of the Indian Premier League of cricket, that great Indian entertainment juggernaut. You ask, did I say `entertainment’? Of course! You see, in India, e.v.e.r.y.o.n.e watches cricket. Period. It doesn’t matter whether you know any basics of the sport, or for that matter any sport, but you are definitely a Chennai Super Kings fan or a Mumbai Indian sympathizer. After all, how can you be an Indian and not follow the contemporary Gods <sic> Sachin Tendulkar and Mahendra Singh Dhoni!? Unpatriotic. Unsporting.

22 May 2012

Impressions of the World Championship in Moscow

You have arrived at the press center an hour before the start of the game. You make small talk, you get your stuff out, plug in the connections, switch on the notebook and settle down. As the time for the game approaches, about fifteen minutes before the start, you go and wait for the players to arrive, at the entrance to the State Tretyakov Gallery.

20 May 2012

A great place to be...

There is a huge countdown clock on the screen, flashing the number of minutes remaining for the start of the game. Switching the clock on and getting ready for business, the Arbiters start fussing over the last minute details.