Monday, October 20, 2014

Chess Thoughts

Student vs International Master at Glen Eira Chess Club

After my birthday a couple of days back, and a head clearing trip to New Zealand, I've been thinking about my life, where it has got to and where I want it to go. As I get nearer to the age of 50, it seems to me more important to be using my time as productively as possible, and so with this in mind, I've tried to make some chess decisions. In this respect I've had to look at my different roles as a player, writer, administrator and coach.

I suppose the main changes that have come about are a shift from a player to other activities within the game. In fact, this year I've had a pretty average year. After a lay off from the long game, I haven't really found form at the 90 - 30 level of chess and as a result, both my results and rating have suffered. Especially bad was my performance at Doeberl at Easter, where I was sick for 2 of the 4 days but played badly even by those standards. I have had the odd good result, but I feel less strong now than I have for about 10 years. So will I do anything about this? Probably not! I intend to keep playing, but I'm currently getting as much enjoyment from seeing the improvement of my students than from my own good results. It was always my ambition to get to 2200 FIDE (back in the 1980's when I had some ambition, getting to 2200 and seeing your name published in the back of an Informator was a little more special than getting to 2200 nowadays!) when I was younger which is something I've done, so I find myself without a driving ambition. I guess I could aim for FM level, and I've thought about it over the years, but it seems like a lot of work which I'm not sure I'm prepared to make at the moment. I think getting back to 2200 will be a big enough task for me, and perhaps one that I might not be prepared to make.

Since coming to Australia, I've found that I've enjoyed helping out with chess administration. I've taken part as a club official, an arbiter, a tournament organiser, a fund raiser and general dogsbody helping clean and set up at various clubs and events. Over the past 12 months my efforts have been directed at a new club in my local area. Glen Eira Chess Club has filled a need for a chess club in the inner south east suburbs of Melbourne since Elwood chess club dwindled and finally ceased to exist a few years ago. To me, club chess is vitally important as a social hub for the game and as a place where young players can develop their game. When I arrived in Australia, I was shocked by the lack of chess clubs, and I'm happy to say that his is the second club I've helped to bring into existence. Glen Eira Chess Club doesn't have a formal structure yet. It has a tournament schedule and a core membership but the only leadership and organisation comes from me and the few people that want to see it succeed. So a big goal of mine this year will be to establish Glen Eira Chess Club as a fully functioning entity with a structure, and personnel to ensure it maintains itself into the future.

Coaching has become the biggest part of my life in chess. Mostly, this has been done at the very basic level, working with very young kids and teaching them how to play the game. Then perhaps introducing them to some basic ideas and patterns and engaging them in chess activities to try to excite them. The result has been that I've worked with thousands of kids, mostly around Melbourne, and that some break through to a level when they can start playing in adult competitions. To some extent, it was a group of these kids that gave me the impetus to start Glen Eira Chess Club. A bunch of relatively strong kids needed a place to play near home, so we started the chess club in the area. My role at my work is changing, and although I will still be coaching I'll be doing considerably less than before. So I want to use the coaching I'm doing to ensure that I strive for the very highest quality of teaching. I want to work with all levels of student, from absolute beginners to strong players, and help develop strategies for working with these different levels.

I've always enjoyed writing, and this blog has helped me to express myself in both chess, and non chess subjects. I have written sporadically for some publications as well. This past year I have written less than previously, and I want to turn this around. I was very surprised to see this blog highly placed on a google search for 'chess blog' when I was looking for some other blogs to read. I've never really tried to reach out with it, it is more something that I enjoy doing and I emphasise a local aspect to it. This year I want to write more, and perhaps even explore some areas that I've been unwilling to look at before, such as chess theory. I intend to write weekly articles about Glen Eira Chess Club, and at least one other chess article per week.

And seeing this is a chess post, I'd better put a chess game into it! Congratulations to Russian Aleksandra Goryachkina for successfully defending her World Junior Girls title with an impressive 11/13, a full 1.5 points clear of the field. I'll be using some positions from her games this week to show to my students and as kids love miniatures, I'll be talking about the shortest win of the event.

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