Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Fun and Seriousness

The current Monday night tournament at the MCC is the City of Melbourne Open, and last Monday was round 3. The tournament is beginning to take shape with Jack Puccini, Dean Hogg and Paul Kovacevic leading the tournament on 3/3, followed by Simon Schmidt and Thai Ly on 2.5, with the rest of the field sprawled behind. I must say that Jack and Dean are looking pretty confident in their play, while Paul has definitely taken a leap forward in his play, and continues his good form from earlier in the year. Thai Ly is always a dangerous player, and an opponent who is prepared to wait as long as it takes to convert any chance that comes his way. Simon is perhaps the least known of the group, but he has been playing  a lot of chess this year at quite a high level, starting with the Australian Reserves in January, and currently is playing in the Box Hill Championship as well as at the MCC. Such intense effort can only improve ones play especially with players who are quite young.

In fact, I found out the hard way how good Simon has become, as I lost to him on Monday. Funnily enough, as I was walking to my car, I phoned my wife to tell her I was on my way home and when she asked how my game went I said "I lost the game, but really enjoyed it. It was an amazingly interesting game and my opponent played better than me to beat me". Caroline replied something to the effect of: "I don't get it. Why do you seem to enjoy the games that you lose more than those you win?" It was a difficult question to answer, but she has a point. I guess that I like playing, and I enjoy a good interesting game whatever the result, rather than a prosaic win, or a poor loss (lifeless draws are gradually disappearing from my play). I'm glad to say that I'm not the only player who feels this way (and I'm sure there are many at the MCC who can relate to what I'm saying here).

Dutch GM Jan Hein Donner wrote a chess column for a Dutch newspaper and in 1958 one of his articles was entitled "Fun and Seriousness". This article touched on his result in a zonal tournament where he tied with Bent Larsen for equal third. Donner makes some interesting observations about chess in general and about Larsen in particular, who he needed to play off against to progress further in the World Championship cycle. "Character, staying power, self-confidence and aggression decide who will be the greatest among grandmasters" and don't forget that he wrote this before Spassky, Fischer, Karpov or Kasparov became World Champions! As for Larsen, Donner singled out one significant quality that set him apart from other grandmasters: "He derives great pleasure from playing chess. He is one of the very few players I know to whom winning is less important than playing the game". Of course, Donner was aware of how great a player Larsen was, and adds that for Larsen "it is the 'fun' that makes him take the game so seriously".

Collected writings of GM Donner
Now don't get me wrong here. I'm not claiming to be anything like Larsen as a chess player. I am, however, able to say that my philosophy of the game is similar. I love playing, and not necessarily to win. Against Simon for instance, instead of choosing to play a solid Maroczy system against his Sicilian Taimanov, the thing that I would normally do, I sat looking at 4..Nc6 for about 5 minutes before choosing to try the English Attack which I've never used against the Taimanov before, and rarely played against any Sicilian. Impetuous? Probably. Foolish? Probably. Did I have a fun and enjoyable game? Definitely!

Good luck to everyone in the tournament, and again due to work, I will have to take another bye next week which will leave me on 2/4 and with some catching up to do if I'm going to finish in a high position in this tournament. Then again, if I end up playing games like this one against Simon throughout the event, I'll have an enjoyable tournament whatever the results. Enjoy the game I played against Simon, which he played excellently and with more feel for the opposite castling than I did.

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