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Thursday, January 27, 2011

I Just Dropped a Piece!

Last night, something surreal happened to me, and it reminded me of Josh Waitzkin’s lecture in the Chessmaster series where his opponent moved a rook to threaten his queen, and Josh thought for something like 35 minutes about where to move her. Trouble was, the rook was unguarded and completely hanging! Finally, Josh actually moved his queen to another square, and did not realize that he’d missed a rook for the entire game. I thought to myself, Wow, haha, not a chance! What was he thinking? Well, it happened to me and let me tell you, it was weird.

I was playing on World Chess Live (www.worldchesslive.com), competing in their nightly Titanium King Challenge (TKC) tournament, a 4-round 25/0 that sometimes has a pretty strong field. I had done some tactical exercises and watched a video lecture, so I felt ready to go. I managed to beat my arch-rival on the site, a player rated almost exactly what I am, and then got pitted against a 2124, a rating I have yet to achieve. Just play the game, I thought, forget about the rating. Focus.

And focus I did. So much, in fact, that by move ten I had lost a piece and had no clue whatsoever that I had done so! I thought we were even material and my weak tactical maneuver had actually worked. What really happened is I ended up getting both his center pawns for a knight. Had I realized what I’d done I would likely have freaked-out a little and blundered further, sending my game into oblivion.

As it happens, I went on to smoothly and methodically win the game, never realizing at any time that I was down a whole piece. After the game, my opponent told me, “When I played g5 you just hung a piece. Why?” I was baffled, and hadn’t a clue what he was saying. We reviewed the game together, and I had more than a good laugh.

The point? Chess is not only learning, memory, strategy and calculating. It is also attitude. In fact, a big part of it is attitude. I remained “in the zone” after I dropped a piece and played as hard as I could because I didn’t know any better. Mentally and emotionally, I was still in the game, whereas if I’d realized my blunder I might quickly have lost focus. What Josh Waitzkin says in those Chessmaster lectures is absolutely true: Get in the moment. Sink into the position. Try to win, with every move. After all, sometimes the only loser is the one who stops fighting.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Hikaru Nakamura: Going for it.

Could Hikaru Nakamura be the next world champion? It sure seems that way.

In the Tata Steel tournament being held in the Netherlands, Hikaru Nakamura is showing he is worth every bit of his 2751 rating. Of course, Magnus Carlsen (2814), who is rated #1 in the world isn’t going to just sit idly and watch Nakamura climb the ranks, and neither will the world champion, Viswanathan Anand, whom Nakamura is tied with in the tournament. I believe some exciting chess is coming our way in 2011.

Now, I’m not one to speculate normally, and 2700+ level chess is so far beyond my comprehension that it may as well be quantum physics, but the new article in the NYT chess blog (http://gambit.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/01/25/four-tied-for-the-lead-of-tata-steel-chess-tournament)is suggesting that Hikaru Nakamura definitely has what it takes to be a top contender when he sets his mind to it.

On the Internet Chess Club (ICC – www.chessclub.com) Hikaru Nakamura is consistently one of the highest rated players on, batting GMs around in 1/0 while kibitzing his thoughts and playing with his music mix at the same time. In my view, Nakamura is like a baby rattlesnake; although their bite is vicious, they are still a little out of control and need some honing in order to become a full-blown predator.

I think we can expect some very good things from Hikaru Nakamura this year, and that he is quickly becoming more goal-oriented in the overall picture. Sure, he can sit down with the best GMs in the world and give them a game anytime, day or night, but consistency is the key that is going to propel him into a major part of chess history, in my opinion. I have high hopes for him, not only because he is American but because his brutal chess style and unbelievable vision could easily become legendary.