Chess Side Hustle

I made this tweet in early 2017…

…and yesterday (April of 2018), I had the great opportunity to be featured on the Side Hustle School podcast.

Since we’re on the Chess^Summit journey, let’s compare the process of building a side hustle and chess improvements in the following three bullet points.

  1. The Journey is a Marathon
  2. Find a way to Get Started
  3. Appreciate How Far You’ve Gone

The Journey is a Marathon

Whenever you start a new adventure, there is a certain amount of excitement.

But after a period of extended work with little or no reward, a tiny voice of ‘why bother’ frequently starts to cloud our minds.

This is the moment to see how much energy you have for the LONG RUN, and it feels like the mile-10 mark of a full 26-mile marathon.

No one can build a sustainable side hustle in one weekend, and no one can improve 500 rating points in one weekend.

There will be many ups and even more downs, but it’s always about the process of getting back our energy and excitement when the moments are tough to get through.

Whether it’s teaching chess or improving chess yourself. As Jack Ma said: Don’t give up ‘tomorrow evening’.

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Get Started

In teaching chess side hustle: there is the website, then you have to talk customers, and there are contents you’ll need to create. These are just 10 percent of the efforts to build the business.

It’s not different in improving chess: you have to keep up-to-date in opening preparations, the endgame to study again, and your recent games to review.

One word describes both scenarios: Overwhelming.

The way to overcome is to START one thing. Immerse your mind to that task and not worry about all the other to-dos. Get started and continue to build momentum.

Appreciate How Far You’ve Gone

 

No matter how far we go, we often only look forward to the next goals. And we will always find a more challenging problem to keep us busy but giving us headaches.

In chess improvement, you surpassed the goal of reaching 1500, now you start to look for 2000. And in chess teaching, you have one student, you’ll start to look for 5.

It’s good to have the desire to continue improve. However, find ways to remind yourself to turn your head backward once in a while and appreciate how far you have gone.

Remind yourself of the work you have accomplished will give you more confidence to go forward.


Wherever is your journey – learn to look for small improvements to help you go forward.

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Confidence and Patience

Teaching chess takes a set of skills. Teaching chess to kids takes a completely different set of skills.

When kids 6-10 years old first picks up chess, two typical scenarios are:

Group A: ‘Oh Oh Oh Oh, I know this’. They’ll react instantly, want to get to the answers immediately, and keep going forward with the argument until there is not much left.

Group B: think, search, think, search, and think for more to get to the right answers, and still not sure how to respond.

We’ll call A Confidence, and B Patience.

Both wants to win or solve the puzzle, but they go from different routes.

Strength

Group A are willing to try things, and they are not afraid to be wrong.  They have 10 ideas in their head within 5 seconds.

This will help them become more creative as their chess vision expands.

For the patience Group B: they are detail orientated, they want to check all the possibilities.

Their meticulous calculations will help them analyze both deep variations and broadly as more than one variation is possible.

Weakness

On the flip side, these same strengths are often what give parents the most headaches.

Group A misses many opportunities. They often choose second best options, or worse, completely irrelevant ideas.

Group B becomes very indecisive that it feels paralyzing. And the thought of playing chess with a clock is unbearable.

How to improve

The best way is to have both. Telling Group A to slowdown is probably unfruitful. Try ask them to calculate the variations deeper or ask if there are other possibilities instead.

Similarly, telling Group B ‘just make a decision’ will introduce more anxiety.

Instead, ask what you have calculated, and what outcomes did you see in your calculations. Did you make the decision faster than last time?

In the end, we want to have both, confident but also patient. It will take practice, but learning chess will be more fun.

Over the Board with Dan Schultz – Michael Gladis

Welcome to the second episode of Over the Board! This week I have the privilege of interviewing my good friend, one who I’ve lost MANY a game to, Michael Gladis. While most recognized for his performance as Paul Kinsey in Mad Men, Mike has also made appearances on Law and Order, House, Eagleheart, and many…MANY more shows. Mike has also showcased his acting skills on stage and in blockbusters such as K-19 and Terminator Genisys. In short, you have certainly seen him somewhere, even a chess catalog! As if that’s not enough, Mike makes time to play guitar, work on projects with his fiancée (actress Beth Behrs), and continue to play a damn good chess game! I’ve been looking forward to this interview for some time and I’m happy to share it.

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I know you started playing chess around the age of 5 or 6, but what passion came first, acting or chess?

Definitely Chess. I didn’t start acting until I was in High School.

I also learned how to play from my dad when I was about 6, I think that’s one of the reasons why I love the game so much. Your goal was initially to beat your dad at chess, which you did around 15 years old. Do you two still play from time to time or talk about the game?

Yes, we still play occasionally, either online or when I’m at home. He gave me a beautiful wooden board and set when I first beat him, and bought me a USCF membership, which he still renews for me to this day!

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That’s and awesome dad! In an interview you said chess isn’t just a game but “THE game,” a sentiment our readers and I can’t agree enough with. What do you think makes chess so great?

One of the things I love about the game is that it’s a conversation in the abstract- a language of its own. Whenever I travel abroad I look for chess players- whether it be people playing on a large lawn-type chess set in Amsterdam, a little old man with a board in front of him at a café in Paris at 2am, or some guys playing in the bitter cold and snow while drinking vodka on Arbat Street in Moscow- It’s always so satisfying to play a few games with someone who comes from a completely different culture, who might not speak the same language as you, but after a few games of chess you can look up at each other and feel like you just had a genuine interaction- a conversation- a debate. There are arguments, rebuttals, and even jokes on the board. You get a sense of that person’s personality from their play. I love that.

I love that explanation! Maybe not as deep a topic as the unspoken language of chess, but would you mind telling the story of how you modeled for the Chess Life catalog?

One time at a party in college, I got to talking to a woman my friend had brought with her and asked her what she did. She replied that she was the head graphic designer for a magazine, and when I asked which one she replied, “Oh, you’ve probably never heard of it.” I pressed, and she replied, “Chess Life.” Well, of course I flipped and start gushing about how much I love playing chess, and how my dad bought me my USCF membership when I first beat him, and how he still renews it to this day, and on and on and on… and she tells me that she sometimes pays some of the other actors in the Theater Department (like her friend who brought her to the party) to model for the Chess Life catalogue, and that it doesn’t pay much but if I’m interested she’d love to have me come down. Well, $100 bucks buys a lot of beer when you’re a poor college student, plus it was a chance to go check out the USCF headquarters (which was in Newburgh, NY back then).
So I arrive at the photo shoot (I did a few)- and I had a plan in mind. The pics in the USCF catalog of people at chess sets always bugged me because they looked SO phony- the “player” was always sitting ramrod straight at the board, with a goofy smile on their face, holding a chest piece just-so above the board with one hand, and it looked so fake. So I wanted to bring some veritas to the photo shoot- some gravitas, even! I wanted to be hunched over, face twisted into agonized concentration, fingers tearing out my hair, they wouldn’t let me smoke but I would have if they had- etc.

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So the photo shoot goes on and I’m modeling a Chess tie or some bullsh*t, and finally they bring up the board. This is my chance! So I set up a position from a famous game (I don’t remember which one) just in case there are fellow nerds out there who might appreciate that, and I summon all of my young acting abilities and scrunch myself up into position, face twisting and hair pulling galore, and the photographer says, “Michael, could you straighten up a little bit? And smile? But not raise your eyebrows too much? And pick up a piece? And hold it up just a little bit? And slide your elbow over?” and SNAP! The picture’s taken and it’s the same bullsh*t photo that I had been trying to avoid taking. You gotta laugh.
There was one photo they took of me at a board with my friend Laura sitting on my lap- y’know, how chess players always play chess, and I heard later they had to pull it from future catalogs because people were complaining it was too risqué!
That graphic designer, Jamie, became a good friend, though. She was always very kind, and I got to play some GM’s at the USCF because of her. I once brought Arthur Bisguier a bottle of Dewar’s and he played me all afternoon. I don’t think I ever gave him anything resembling a challenge. Eventually he was spotting me a rook and still crushing me so badly it seemed like a magic trick. Jamie later gave me the board and the House Of Staunton set we played on that afternoon- I still have it to this day.

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Outstanding! So, why do you think chess has stuck with you for so long?

I love it because it never gets boring, it’s always a challenge, and I’m just good enough to want to get better, but never nearly as good at it as I want to be.

You and I play chess on just about a daily basis and I know you’re quite busy with your career and plenty of travel, so how does chess fit into your daily routine?

I recently started using one of those apps that tracks your phone usage, and I’m pretty much spending most of my phone time either on chess.com or twitter. I’m gonna try to wean myself off of twitter, but I consider Chess to be calisthenics for my brain. I play a lot of 3 min blitz, and then usually have a few longer daily games going. I play like everyone else. If I’m in the waiting room of an audition, or the dentist, sitting on the couch watching TV and a commercial comes on, or (sorry) at a long red light, I’ll pick up the phone and make a move.

I have the same habit, you’re not alone. What does your fiancée think of your chess obsession? Does she play?

I think she thinks it’s a healthy mental exercise. It’s a better way to spend phone-time than social media or candy crush (which I’ve never played). I was really flattered to learn that when we first started dating she made a stab at learning the game, without telling me, in hopes of being able to play with me, but it didn’t take and she let it go.

mike.beth

That’s awesome! My wife picked up the game when she saw how passionate I was for it. It really meant a lot to me as well. Now, thanks to you’ve I’ve fallen in love with Yasser Seirawan’s Play Winning Chess; it’s pretty much become my Catcher in the Rye and the number one book I recommend to all players I talk to or work with. Are there any other books or content you would recommend for players looking to improve?

That’s the chess book I’ve recommended to (and bought for) SO many people looking to learn the game. Yasser’s writing style is so accessible, and so readable, and his love for the game is evident on every page- so I’d go on to recommend all the rest of his books in that series (Winning Chess Tactics, Winning Chess Strategies, etc.) How To Reassess Your Chess by Silman is another great book.

So you had the opportunity to play with and learn from the renowned hustler “Russian Paul” in Washington Sq, NYC. What was that experience like and how do you think learning the game from a player of that caliber effects your own playing style?

I played with Paul every day in the summer of 2001, just after shooting my first big Hollywood film- so I had money and time. I’d make my way to the park almost every afternoon and sit with him for a while. I also played him and on and off the whole time I lived in NYC. I would pay him $10 for 3 5min blitz games, but eventually he’d ignore the clock and start analyzing positions as they came up, showing me possible moves/lines etc. He’s a really strong player- and very Russian about it. Very matter-of-fact, usually smoking a cigarette. I don’t know that it affected my style that much, I probably wasn’t that great a student. But I do quote some of the hustlers I used to play in Washington Sq. back in the day once in a while: “The pin wins!”
I still find Paul up in Union Sq. when I travel back to NYC, and pay him for a few games. He still slaughters me. He says I’m not as good as I used to be – which is probably true. I used to play over the board every day when I lived in NYC. Now it’s only on the phone, so when I play on a real board in person I make a lot of mistakes I probably shouldn’t.

I know we talked about it but I’ll be headed to NYC this summer to do a chess tour of the town. Where do you think people should stop in the city to get a game or learn more about the history of chess there?

There are still players in Washington Square Park, so go there just because it’s a pretty place to play, and a part of NYC chess history. Unfortunately a lot of the good hustlers (like Paul) all moved up to Union Square and play on milk crates and folding tables because there’s so much more foot traffic (and business) for them there – so go there, as well. Bryant Sq. has some strong hustlers, and that’s right near the NY Public Library, which you should also check out (not for chess, just because it’s cool). I also like to go up to the Chess & Checkers pavilion in Central Park, but it can be a little tough to get a game there. The same old crusty dudes have been meeting up to play each other there for decades, and they’re not always eager to include strangers, but you can ask. It’s a great place to play if you already have a partner. You can even rent boards/pieces there I believe. There’s some chess tables in the park area in the center of Stuyvesant Town- there are some surprisingly strong players in there (I used to play on one of their BAL chess teams). Also, definitely try to make it to the Marshall Chess club. It’s a beautiful, historical place. Play in a tourney there if they’re having one!

Any interesting chess stories?

I was living in NYC on 9-11, and, like everyone, woke up to a world in chaos. I had seen the 2nd plane hit the Towers on TV, and I was living just outside Times Sq. at the time, so I thought to myself “Where would I hit next if I was them?” and decided it wasn’t safe to stay in my apartment. I walked down 9th Avenue, saw the Towers fall, stood with groups of strangers around pickup trucks with radios blaring trying to get information, bought water for and tries to comfort the people covered in ash, covered my face with my t-shirt when the air got too bad to breathe… eventually I made my way to my best friend’s father’s apartment. Donald lived on Washington Place in the West Village. He was a dear friend himself, so it was the place I felt safest in the city. After 4 or 5 hours of staring at the TV, I had to get out and take a walk, get some air, clear my head and try to process what the hell was happening. Washington Place borders Washington Square Park, so, almost instinctively, I walked over to the SW corner of the park where the chess tables are. All the hustlers were there. Paul was drinking vodka, and I think I actually asked him if he wanted a game. He said no, but one of the other hustlers piped up and said “I’ll play.” So, I remember sitting down and playing this guy- playing a game of chess during the apocalypse- and of course we were playing badly and making all sorts of stupid mistakes and eventually we looked up at each other, and I think I actually said out loud “What the hell are we doing??” and we both stood up and abandoned the game and I took a swig of Paul’s vodka and went on my way, out into a different world.

Wow…that’s a powerful story. I really appreciate you sharing that with us. So, what’s your next chess goal?

I’d like to start playing in tournaments this year. Someday I want to do what you’re doing – actually take lessons from a Master or GM and really buckle down and study and try for a title.

I’ve also thought about competing in a Chess Boxing match (I like to work out at boxing gyms), but I’m a way better chess player than I am a boxer, and my face is so pretty, and I’m not in the best shape, and I just hit 40 so… sanity will probably prevail and I won’t.

Well, if you do take up Chess Boxing I’ll be right there in the front row! If you need a cutman, I’m your guy! So, outside of acting, chess, and playing guitar, any other hobbies or passions?

I recently acquired an old Toyota Land Cruiser that I’m working to fix up and using to explore SoCal and the South West- I love camping and getting off road. I also like to take photos, so those two hobbies go hand in hand.

Are you working on any projects presently that you’re really excited about?
Working with my fiancée on producing our own projects, which is very exciting, and potentially a lot more fulfilling than waiting around for acting auditions. I’m also starting to write, which is challenging, to say the least.

Mike, thank you so much for your time! We’ll definitely be looking forward to what comes next, on and off the board. I’ve had the honor losing many a match to Mike, but I always learn something and we always have a laugh – the whole point of the game.

 

Happy New Year from Chess^Summit: Looking Back

Happy New Year Chess^Summit Readers!

As 2018 begins, our family of writers here at Chess^Summit celebrate an amazing 2017 campaign. This past year, we published over 175 instructive (and free!) articles for over 21,000 Chess^Summit visitors from across the globe. What made 2017 so special? Here’s a quick review of the crazy year we had at Chess^Summit:

Accomplishments

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David at the 2017 NY State Championships

After earning a Grandmaster norm, David Brodsky shared his journey to the International Master title with humorous insights in each of his games. In April, he picked up his third and final norm, and just a couple of months crossed 2400 to earn the title. To top it all off, David tied for first at the New York State Championships last September! At just 15 years old, David is now one of the top 100 players in the United States, and is Chess^Summit’s youngest ever author!

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Beilin at the USATE (PC: Vanessa Sun)

In February, Vishal Kobla was the first of our original team of writers to earn the National Master title. The high school junior crossed 2200 at the Baltimore Open and finished 2017 tied for 5th in the 11th grade section of the National Grade Championships in Orlando, Florida. Joining Vishal in April would be Beilin Li, as he earned the National Master title in a Pittsburgh Chess League fixture.

Special guest accomplishments included a strong performance in the US Women’s Championships by Jennifer Yu, and a 2nd place result by Maggie Feng in the US Junior Girls’ Chess Championships. Daniel Johnston earned the National Master title in March, and IM Kostya Kavutskiy crushed the Reykjavik Open, providing fun analysis videos along the way!

Travels

Chess and travel are practically synonymous, so Chess^Summit went on the road in 2017.

Isaac Steincamp kicked off the year with a three month expedition to Europe, visiting seven different countries and boosting his FIDE rating nearly 200 points! In his strongest performance of the trip, he drew his first International Master and finished second in the FM group of the First Saturday tournament in Budapest.

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Isaac with Hikaru Nakamura in St. Louis (PC: Eric Rosen)

In August, Isaac took Chess^Summit to its first Grand Chess Tour event for the St. Louis Rapid and Blitz to cover Garry Kasparov’s brief return to tournament chess.

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Vanessa Sun and Carissa Yip

Vanessa Sun covered major chess tournaments across the United States: the Collegiate Final Four, the US Chess Championships, the New York International, and the US Open. The 2016 U1200 Millionaire Chess semi-finalist had a pretty big year, becoming the first Chess^Summit author to write for ChessBase.

GM Eugene Perelshteyn talked about playing Anish Giri in Iceland. Before the end of the year, he would get to play Magnus Carlsen at the Isle of Man International in October. Kostya joined Isaac in Reykjavik, but special guest IM Eric Rosen ventured eastern Europe, defeating Magnus’ former coach GM Simen Agdestein along the way. Paul Swaney stayed stateside, traveling to Nashville, Tennessee for SuperNationals VI, giving us a behind-the-scenes look into one of the biggest tournaments in the world.

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GM Eugene Perelshteyn in Iceland prior to the Reykjavik Open

Favorite Articles

With so many articles in 2017, its hard to pick favorites. Here are some of our authors’ top picks for the year:

David Brodsky: David enjoyed writing about making the International Master title, but he also really likes playing in the US Amateur Team East! He also picked Beilin’s performance and article on the tournament as one of the best Chess^Summit articles of 2017.

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David receiving his final IM norm earlier this year

Beilin Li: “Basically anything by David is exceptionally good. I especially liked the series about material imbalances.” Beilin also pointed to Akira Nakada’s article on blunders as particularly instructive. It’s worth noting that Beilin beat his first International Master this year, and did so twice in the same tournament – an article he had a lot of fun writing for Chess^Summit.

Vishal Kobla: Vishal found his interview with US Junior Girl’s Champion Akshita Gorti particularly memorable. He enjoyed writing “Out of Book, [Out of] Luck” on some of his particularly memorable games where his opponent deviate from mainline theory.

Isaac Steincamp: Isaac points to Jennifer Yu’s posts as some of the most entertaining and instructive of 2017. Somehow finding a way to reach 5.5/9 in the Liberec Open, Isaac enjoyed writing about his (lucky) performance in the Czech Republic alongside Pitt teammate John Ahlborg.

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Beilin, Alice, and Isaac at the 2016 World Open

Alice Dong: While Alice no longer writes for Chess^Summmit, she’s still a reader and avid fan of the site. She picked Isaac’s posts about slumps as her favorite for 2017.

Vanessa Sun: While Vanessa travels a lot, she still works a lot on her chess too! Her post about tough tournaments helped her learn the most about herself and her play in 2017.

Dan Schultz: Dan is one of our newest Chess^Summit team members, and as a fan of the Perpetual Chess Podcast enjoyed the two posts featuring Ben Johnson: Isaac’s and David’s.

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Dan writes for both chess.com and Chess^Summit!

Chess^Summit Readers picked Isaac’s performance at the Columbus Open as the most popular article of 2017. Isaac’s first triumph over a 2400+ rated opponent was the most read post in 2017, followed by Jennifer’s post on her secrets about chess improvement. Through our partnership with ChessOpeningsExplained.com, Isaac’s analysis of the London System was Chess^Summit’s most popular video in 2017, hitting over 4000 views on Youtube.

Chess^Summit Merchandise

In one of our biggest stories of 2017, Chess^Summit finally started selling merchandise! We’ve got a couple of designs uploaded already on TeeSpring, with different shirts, hoodies, and mugs on sale! We’ll be adding new designs throughout 2018, but for now, snag a shirt – all the proceeds benefit Chess^Summit projects!

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Check out our first design on TeeSpring!

Pittsburgh Pawngrabbers

You know what starts in just a couple of weeks? The PRO Chess League! Once again, Chess^Summit will be the Pittsburgh Pawngrabbers’ secondary media sponsor, as the Black and Gold prepare to take on a tough division in the Atlantic. Beilin and Isaac, as well as other team members, will be streaming the matches each week, so be on the look out for updates!

Isaac’s inaugural Pittsburgh Pawngrabbers recap from the 2017 season!

Closing Remarks

Here’s to hoping 2018 is as much fun (and even more) as 2017! As we work towards our chess goals, let us know how you’re doing by tweeting at us @chesssummit and send us your games to chess.summit@gmail.com and get them analyzed by our team of writers.

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Isaac and Beilin in their apartment last May

As 2017 comes to a close, we owe a big thanks to everyone who contributed to Chess^Summit in 2017. Team and guest writers alike are what makes Chess^Summit one of the most fun chess projects to be a part of. We also want to thank all of our readers and fans from 2017 for following all of our writers’ accomplishments over the past year. Without our readers, Chess^Summit’s mission of making chess accessible for everyone would not be possible. With over 50,000 article reads in 2017, we’re really excited to bring even more to 2018!

Role of a Chess Coach

How to find a chess coach?

This is one of the most popular questions from chess parents.

The short answer:

A coach should provide

  1. Knowledge Transfer (KT) – Showing a new player from basic tactics (fork, pins, etc.) to advanced strategies (prophylactics, piece activity, etc.).
  2. Habit Transfer (HT) – Ask students what s/he does to study and improve in chess, then make further suggestions.
  3. Psychological Preparation – Help students to acquaint the ups and downs of winning and losing.

Now the longer version.

1) Knowledge Transfer (KT)

In the old days, this is a chess coach’s main job. But that has changed in our information-world today. What Bobby Fischer had to search in Soviet-language chess books can be found online in a couple of mouse clicks today.

If you want to learn Knight and Bishop checkmate 20 years ago, your coach will need to setup a specialized training session. Then you and other students will practice for half a day until it is mastered.

In today’s world, a five-years old student can open Google Chrome and type in Knight and Bishop mate and watch the video. Then launch Stockfish, play against the the engine for a few games, and practice until s/he becomes very confident.

Chess coach can still help for (KT), as there are 100s or more chess concepts. The coach’s role for KT is to point out specific focus based on each student’s need, so students are not drown into the sea of information.


Pure Knowledge Transfer is being commoditized. Technology such as AI may one day organize all the themes in chess. Hence, coaches need to provide value in two other aspects.

2) Habit Transfer (HT)

In most of our work-place or schools, we have heard of KT, however, rarely had I hear about HT.

I believe that needs to be changed. Google can provide 80%+ of KT today, but it is not ready (or at least not as competent) in telling you what you should work on yet.

HT is a quest for a student to become a life-long learner. And a coach is the ‘tour guide’ to provide encouragement, focus, and support to help the student build and maintain the desire to learn more in chess.

3) Psychology Preparation

Experience and feelings of playing chess. A coach has stories based on his/her experiences from playing chess.

Psychology preparation is  the furthest from being automated by a machine.

A coach will LISTEN to a student describe his/her feeling and thinking from a game or a tournament. Then discuss together and tell stories from previous experiences or encounters to help student build psychological muscles for chess.

I hope this helps. Feel free to provide comments, I’m always happy to have an informative discussion on this broad topic.


Happy Thanksgiving week to everyone in the U.S!

Hi, I’m Xiao

Hello Chess^Summit fans!

My name is Xiao, and I’m glad you’re joining me on my first article with the team.

In this post, I’ll chat with you on my chess stories and how chess shaped me in many aspects outside of the game. Without further ado, let’s get started.

My Chess Beginnings

I learned chess in China when my mom brought home a chess board from work. And then I joined a chess club in kindergarten to get started in chess training.

My memories are fuzzy about the details of these chess days, but I do remember chess always brought more fun for me.

Losing in chess were not painful at all for me during this period.

One thing led to another, while in China, I joined a chess school, where my foundation was build.

I played in many tournaments in and out of my hometown Tianjin. Around third grade, I also worked with a chess trainer, who helped me further improve my chess fundamentals.

Losing now started to become annoying, but not much more than that.

Continuation of Chess in the U.S

In 2001, I came to U.S with my parents. And without much break, my parents found the Atlanta Chess Center after a month in Atlanta. My chess days in the U.S. started there. When you go thru my rating history, about 80% of my tournaments were played in the Atlanta Chess Center.

From 2001 to 2007, I played chess intensely, and really worked towards improving my game and rating.

2005 to 2006 were my highlight years, but for some reason, the painful lost games were always more memorable. I suppose this is human psychology at work.

I will talk about more about one of the painful games in my next post.

Going to College. Stopped Playing Chess

Before my senior year in high school, I decided to take a break from chess. Academics was a driver, my SAT was not good, and I haven’t taken any AP classes yet.

Another reason was my lack of tool set in terms of running the chess marathon. My psychology was reactive. I was chasing the destination instead of the journey.

The initial one year break, turned out to be over 7 years. I followed chess sparingly. However, my mind was unconsciously connecting the dots between chess emotions with everything outside of the game.

This period is when I started to think about psychology in and out of chess, and today it is still an interesting topic for me to pander.

My psychology to losing in anything become more robust. And I started to enjoy the process of running a marathon than crossing the finishing line.

Came Back to Teach Chess

I started working in 2014 and I learned the concept of side hustle during this time. I immediately found it enticing. Teaching chess was an easy choice, and it didn’t take long for me to get started.

When I teach chess classes, talking about chess concepts is certainly important, but I try to constantly relate to student’s chess emotions.

The vast amount of chess knowledge online has made information much easier to acquire. Simply type ‘chess’ in Google and you can get started.

However, building a strong emotional foundation in and out of chess is a more intense process. I’m still trying to figure out the route for myself, and I hope to share with the readers.

Chess^Summit Journey

I’ll write about chess analysis from time to time. But I’d want to talk more about chess psychology in my posts at Chess^Summit.

Welcome to my Chess^Summit journey, and I hope you had enjoyed the first run so far!

See you in the next post!

P.s: I’m always happy to chat on Twitter (simplerxiao). Say hi next time you’re there or to the Chess^Summit team.

 

Welcome to Chess^Summit!

Hi everyone, welcome to the newest edition of Chess^Summit! As I mentioned in my last few posts prior to the US Junior Open, I’ll be adding three ambitious players to the site who you’ll get to know very well in the upcoming weeks. While the four of us may have somewhat similar goals, our unique perspectives and understandings of chess will make each of our journeys to the next level vastly different. I’m really excited to continue sharing my own experiences here on Chess^Summit, but with the added twist that I too will now get to learn from this site that I created two years ago.

Chess^Summit Handout
A great line-up for our opening two weeks. Our first two guest authors will be my coach, Grandmaster Eugene Perelshteyn, and International Master Alexander Katz. Don’t miss out!

With the US Junior fully behind me, I’ve had some time to assess my play and consider new goals for the remainder of the summer and beyond. Knowing from personal experience that setting a goal to win a tournament is perhaps not the greatest idea, it would seem as if setting a rating goal would be rather appropriate. However, even this has its flaws. When looking back on my tournaments in NYC, Washington DC, Charlotte, and New Orleans from earlier this summer, I think it’s clear that I’ve made progress in various aspects of my game, yet the mere 13 rating points I’ve tacked on seem to speak against that. So worrying about the number and not my own play seems a little silly. But the question still remains, what will my goal be for the upcoming months? As of today, my goal is to become a National Master.

Of course, there is the inherent flaw that this specifically means breaking 2200. In order to work around this, I’m going to purposely avoid checking my rating, calculating my performance at the conclusion of a tournament, and looking at my opponent’s rating before the start of each round. My dad has agreed to notify me when I break 2200. I think this will be very difficult for me at first, but hopefully, it will mean that all that matters is the quality of chess that’s being played over the board.

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Photo from the US Junior Open. I actually got a couple mentions in Chess Life Online here!

So what specifically am I going to work on to become a National Master? Personally, I think it would be a grave error to not focus on improving my calculation skills. While positionally I have matched reasonably well with stronger opponents this summer, in several key moments my own short-sightedness has proven itself toxic to getting the satisfying result I desired. While improving my tactical skills will help me become more precise, improving my mental fortitude will help me achieve the state of mind I need going into each game. Keeping a clear mind throughout each tournament will help me remain relaxed and focused on playing my best. By eliminating outside distractions such as ratings or performance, I hope I can directly improve my concentration at the board.

So enough abstract – let’s talk chess! I’ve got a gruesome double-header coming up in Philadelphia, as I’ll be competing in the Open section of the World Open, followed by a tough Philadelphia International. I’m going to take some half point byes, but I believe it will still be the most number of rated games I have ever played in an eleven day period. I will be sharing my overall performance in my next post on  July 12th (two weeks). Meanwhile, I decided to dig up a past game I’ve played that I thought was worth sharing.

Senft – Steincamp (Kingstowne Chess Festival, 2013)

1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 g6 3. Nc3 Bg7 4. e4 d6 5. f4 O-O 6. Nf3 c5 7. d5 Bg4

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A Four Pawns Attack, which if I’m not mistaken was Sean’s (and still is) pet line against the King’s Indian Defence. I believe I briefly mentioned this game when I first launched Chess^Summit back in 2014, but without any analysis or diagrams – what a disservice to what might have been the best game I played in all of 2013!

Here I chose 7… Bg4, with the idea of trading on f3 and setting up a Benoni structure with queenside pressure. At the time, I didn’t really understand the nuances of move order, and had I fully recalled my then future coach’s video series, would have instead chosen 7… e6, keeping my options open for my bishop following the trade on d5. With the way my opponent handled the opening, this slight difference didn’t matter in the end. 8. Bd3 e6 9. O-O exd5 10. cxd5 Ne8

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A backwards knight move? Again, I think 10… Nbd7 makes a little more sense, but with the pin on f3, the position will transpose. This move serves a few functions. First, my g7 bishop now covers the e5 square. In these Benoni positions, it’s absolutely critical to not allow White to break open the position with an e4-e5 push. With the pin on f3 and a knight coming to d7, White cannot hope to immediately take advantage of my lack of development. Next, my knight on e8 will reroute itself to c7 to help support a …b7-b5 thrust. By bringing my knights to the queenside, my goal is to take advantage of some of White’s dark squared weaknesses such as the d4 square or the b2 pawn. 11. Be3 Nd7 12. h3 Bxf3 13. Qxf3 a6 14. a4 Nc7 15. Qg3?!

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Up until this point, both sides have played rather coherently, each attaining their ideal set-up. White is nicely developed and possess a nice space advantage, while Black has counterplay coming with …b7-b5. With his last move, 15. Qg3, White has made a move that is rather reminiscent of sub-2000 rated play. The only reason for the queen to be on g3 would be to attack g6, but as you can see, f4-f5 isn’t realistic, as the e5 square become an outpost for my d7 knight. This means White now would need two tempi to push the h-pawn to h5 to execute this idea, but already it’s not clear what he’s achieved. With these fianchetto structures, generally, the g6 pawn is the strongest point in the formation. With White failing to improve his position, I continued with my plan. 15…Rb8 16. a5 b5 17. axb6 Rxb6

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With this trade on b6, the structure has changed. Rather than pushing a pawn storm down the queenside, I now have a half open b-file for my rook to target the b2 pawn. While the position is roughly even, Black holds more strategic trumps – the g7 bishop is menacingly cutting through the position, my queen can enter the game through b8, and White can’t push e4-e5, even with the help of his misplaced queen. While White can probably hold this position with best play, it’s not easy, and already we can see how White can regret his choice of 15. Qg3 just a few moves ago.  18. Ra2 Qb8 19. Qf2

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Admitting the mistake. This is a hard thing to do, even for much stronger players, but unfortunately this it just too passive given the nature of the position. I remember thinking that White could have been better off here playing 19. Rfa1 during the game, ditching the b2 pawn for the a6 pawn, but after 19…Rxb2, the c3 knight is hanging, giving me some nice discovered attack potential on a1 once the knight moves. With my more experienced eyes, I have a strong feeling that this bishop on e3 is misplaced, as it means a rook on e1 cannot support a future e-pawn push. One mentality when playing against the Benoni is to avoid opening the queenside structure, surrendering space for the sake of time elsewhere. Thanks to some of my research with National Master Franklin Chen prior to the US Junior Open, I’ve found that in similar main line Benoni positions (1 d4 Nf6 2. c4 c5 3. d5 e6), sometimes it’s best to omit a2-a4 and ask Black what his intentions are. With some deeper analysis, I’ve found that while 14. a4 was perfectly fine, perhaps the insertion of 16. a5 hurts White strategically more than it hinders Black’s expansion. 19…Rb3 20. Bxa6?

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White’s had some small inaccuracies up to this point, but simply trading the material weaknesses does not rid White of the positional weaknesses his position holds. This is probably one of the biggest distinctions between amateurs and experts, as positional considerations matter much more when assessing the position. With this trade on a6, White’s rook will become inactive while mine will have VIP access to the second rank. 20…Nxa6 21. Rxa6 Rxb2 22. Ne2 Qb5 -+

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White’s position is now beyond repair, and as a result, will now cost him an entire piece. I like to show this game to my students because I think it shows what happens if you memorize opening theory but don’t seek its strategic elements. Once White completed his development, he made slow moves in a dynamic position, and quickly found himself too passive when the position required him to attack. That’s not to say White played a terrible game, I think I had surprised him with this set-up, and after 17…Rxb6, it’s very difficult to provide answers in this position without prior research. Unfortunately for him, that meant reaching a lost position in five moves. 23. Rxd6 Rxe2 24. Qf3 Rxe3 0-1

Screen Shot 2016-06-26 at 19.17.16A cute finish for a game that had long since been over (…Bg7-d4 is coming if the queen recaptures). If I played a game like this now, I think I would label it as nothing special, but as an 1800 picking up my then career-best win, I remember this game being a huge confidence booster for me at the time. With proper opening play, strategy always prevails!

 

For today’s game, I decided to choose a three-year-old game to celebrate the beginning of what I hope will become a fun project here at Chess^Summit. One of my motivations to invite new authors to this site was to present you with some elements of chess that are lost in the near perfect play of grandmasters. To become a strong player, you must have a full working understanding of positional and strategic imbalances, and here on Chess^Summit, we hope to present you with new ideas through the lens of our own improving understandings of chess. While we won’t be showcasing every great moment of the careers of Karpov, Kasparov, or Carlsen, we will be sharing instructive (and hopefully proud) moments from our own tournaments – even if that means going back a little in time.

I hope you all enjoy the weeks to come here on Chess^Summit! These next two weeks should be a fun ride!