Friday, July 25, 2008

The Scariest 1300 versus The 10th Rule

Introduction: This is almost a week's worth of thoughts and ramblings rolled up into one very long post. It was not supposed to be this long, but thoughts kept coming up and I couldn't bring myself to throw them away or figure out how split them up. I started it on Tuesday and finally finished today. If you only want to see a crazy game of chess scroll to the bottom. If you want to read about what was on my mind this week grab a cup of coffee and pull up a chair.

As everyone knows in the past year I have taken up Tae Kwon Do. I just got my green belt this week! Woo hoo! Only took me a month instead of two to three months it has been taking to move up. Maybe it's starting to sink into my thick skull.

For people who have read Josh Waitzkin's The Art of Learning or do one of the martial arts recognize that it goes beyond simply doing a sport. Tae Kwon Do is rich in its' history and culture. A very important part of the culture is what is sometimes refered to as the 10 Commandments of Tae Kwon Do. There are variations on the wording. This is how they're stated at my dojang.

  1. Be loyal to your country.

  2. Be loving and show fidelity to your parents.

  3. Be loving between Husband and wife.
  4. Be cooperative between brothers and sisters.

  5. Be faithful to your friends.

  6. Be respectful to your elders.
  7. Establish trust between teacher and student.
  8. Use good judgment before killing any living thing.
  9. Never retreat in battle.
  10. Always finish what you start.

In my dojang these are called the 10 Rules of Mental Education and we recite them at the end of class. I didn't need to take Tae Kwon Do to learn these things. Growing up my parents expected us to behave accordingly. You can bet that I caught hell if I didn't follow numbers 2, 4, 5, and 7 in particular. They didn't necessarily state it in these words, but lessons were there.

As a kid with attention issues, number 10 was always a problem for me. I was one of these kids who constantly started new things and would jump to something else when I got bored or frustrated with the old thing. My summer camp counselors sent home reports at the end of the summer. A typical report from the arts and craft counselor would be, "Polly is very creative, but she never finishes a project before moving onto something else." I was a multi-tasker before there was such a thing as multi-tasking.

Studying Tae Kwon Do forces you to see something to the end if you want to progress to the next belt level. There's no such thing as "I'm bored with the yellow belt poomse (form), I think I'll learn the orange belt poomse now." You learn all the requirements for your belt color, and when the masters think you've learned it then you promote to the next belt level. Only then can you learn the new techniques for your next belt.

Sometimes I think chess needs this type of system of advancement. Some chess classes and school do try to impose such structure, but because the chess culture in this country doesn't have such a rich history of tradition and structure it doesn't always work. Too often a parent thinks they know what is best for their child's chess education. Instead of trusting the instinct and experience of a chess teacher who worked for many years with students of varying abilities and learning styles they figure they know what opening their kid should play or what tactics to work on.. There are times where the parent may even be higher rated then their child's coach, but lacking the experience in how to direct a young player in the right they may steer them in the wrong direction.

What I've noticed in Tae Kwon Do that parents seem to put more faith in their child's instructors and tend to butt out in terms of saying stuff like "Don't you think my son should be doing this, not that?" I met a father and son at our June black belt test weekend. The 13 year old son was testing for his first degree black belt. The father had very impressive credentials as a national level Tae Kwon Do coach, and yet he has chosen not to interfere with how his son is being trained at our school. He has some philosophical differences with our grandmaster in terms of some of the training and of the business model aspects of the school. However he feels that it's important for his son's development as a young martial artist to follow the course laid out for him as he has made his way through the color belt levels to reach his first degree black belt. Compared with overbearing little league parents, soccer moms from hell, and insane chess parents the Tae Kwon Do parent seems a lot more rational. I think it also helps when after a few months of watching their kids, they decide they will give it a try. How many chess parents will try to learn chess and go play in a tournament?

Note: Oops went off on a tangent there with those last 2 paragraphs. They probably deserve their own post, but having enough trouble finishing this post on finishing what you start.

I still have difficulty finishing certain types of tasks. This week's Wacky Wednesday post was a result of not finishing my filing before looking at the game and writing a post about it. In fact the folders are still sitting on the floor next to the filing cabinet. I will get back to it, eventually.

My attitude about finishing things changes drastically when it comes to competive activities. If I start a race, I'm going to finish it unless I'm yanked off the course because I'm too slow or something catastrophic happens. I'm not one to say, "My time sucks, I'm going to come in last, or I don't want people to see how lousy I did." In triathlon we have an expression "DFL is better then DNF which is better then DNS" The G rated translation is "Dead Freaking Last is better then Did Not Finish, which is better then Did Not Start."

I've always had the same attitude about chess tournaments. I don't like dropping out just because my score sucks or I've played like crap. I can count on one hand the number of times I've dropped out of a chess tournament. Most of the time it's had nothing to do with how I'm doing in the tournament. One tournament I actually had to drop out for the last round after going 3-0 to start. Back then there were no 1/2 byes, so not much I could do.

Dropping out because I have a lousy score doesn't cut it for me. Others do it frequently. Often I don't understand the person's logic, but its a personal choice that players make themselves. For myself I just feel that if I'm telling my students to pick themselves up after a horrible loss, and not let a bad tournament get them down then I'm being a bit hypocritical by dropping out because I'm 0-3.

End of my rambling introduction. - The tournament in question:

Sunday I played in The Marshall Chess Club July Grand Prix. I hit a milestone in the first round when I played my 3900th game of USCF rated chess. Quick synopsis of the events leading to my dilemma of the 10th Rule. Rounds one and two I got paired up against a 2060 and 1890. I played decently, but lost both games. In fact my second round game against Ben G. (the original King Kong kid) was one of my best games against him. Round three I get paired "down" against a 1526. Except that he wasn't really 1526 because of this and this. Even though I didn't know about those results at the time, somehow I knew he was way better then his rating indicated. A few errors on my part added up and I lost that game too.

Now I had three hours until the last round. I wasn't dwelling on pairings and possible byes, but just a quick look at the wall chart and pairings made it abudantly clear what the last round would bring. Either I'd get the bye since the other zero was taking a 1/2 point bye, or I'd get paired against the scariest 1300 I've played. Since he had two blacks in a row I'd have to play black against him. What's so scary about a guy that I out rate by 400 points and I have a winning record against? He's insane. He plays crazy stuff, gets really good positions, but often can't pull the trigger at the end.

Knowing that I had three hours to kill while waiting see if I would get a bye or play Ken made it very tempting to break the 10th rule and not finish what I had started. I'm sure some people are reading this and saying to themselves "What? Is she insane? Why in earth would she hang around for three hours to see if she's going to play a 1300 or get a bye? Doesn't she have anything better to do on a Sunday afternoon?" All good questions. The short answers are "Yes, because, and no."

Actually the answers aren't really that simple. Despite my lousy score I was actually enjoying myself. I spent a lot of time just hanging out talking to people, going over my third round game, playing blitz, and not having to rush home. My husband was in Chicago. What was I going to do? Rush home to an empty house and watch TV all night? Work on my filing? Study chess at home? Nah, hanging out at the air conditioned Marshall Chess Club on a hot Sunday was a nice alternative to all of the above.

What would happen if I got the bye? Would I have sat there for 3 hours just to get sent home early anyway? No. The day manager, Leif who was directing the tournament would be relieved by Nick at 6 PM. He offered to be the house player and play me in round four if another suitable house player could not be found. Either way I knew I had a game. As much as I hate byes I almost would rather get a bye and the opportunity to play a strong house player then to play crazy Ken. What's the worst that could happen? I would lose to Leif rated 2100 and go 0-4? Actually the worst, worst thing that would happen is I'd lose to Ken. It has happened before.

It should have happened again. He played some strange stuff and I think it threw me off my game. Also I don't think it helps having three hours to think about what possibly could go wrong. Here's the game.


When he offered the draw I think he still had some decent chances to shift play to the queen side and try coming in that way. I didn't hear him at first because I was listening to my ipod during the game. It's funny how many times I changed what I was listening to. The music was either getting me down because it was too somber, or too amped up because it was overly energetic. Not having music was even worse. The only reason I suspected he said something to me was because his facial expression said "Well? Do want the draw or not?" I gladly accepted. I was too drained and there was too much time left to wait and see if he'd implode.


tony said...


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If you are interested I will add you to the blogroll on my homepage.

Chessaholic said...

3,900 rated games! That is one heck of a number. Congrats!

tanc(happyhippo) said...

Hello Polly,

Wow. Congratulations on hitting the 3900th (!!) milestone.

You've stated many things that certainly required a lot of thoughts.

You're not the only one who has a tendency to start things that they don't want to finish. I've got quite a bit of chess materials that I know I need to read but due to inertia (aka. laziness -cough cough-). The same goes for my front yard which is starting to show signs of weed during these cold months in Oz that needs removing and remulching etc.

I can perfectly understand what you mean. In chess, if you feel like, dah... this is boring. I'll switch to another opening. duh... this is boring... I'll switch to another opening... ad infinitum, resulting in my chess skills forever staying stagnant.

Kudos for sticking around for 3 hours to wait for your opponent.

Btw, you can listen to an iPod while playing? This is a strict no-no here in Oz because there's no use of electronic devices (what if someone complained that your ipod contained chess -related messages or confidence improving talks).


likesforests said...

"DFL is better then DNF which is better then DNS" - Nice, I'll have to borrow that one! I suppose I also have a touch of ADHD. I never read a chess book from start to finish before 2-3 months ago, and now I've completed several. The small accomplishment feels good. It doesn't mean that I've absorbed all the wisdom from each book, but I'm a bit closer than I was before. :)

likesforests said...

Oh, and congratulations on 3900! :)

Polly said...

Chess & Like: Unfortunately the milestone of playing 3900 has another milestone attached that I'm rapidly closing in on. 2100 losses. I'm sitting at 2096 losses and 1196 wins. Which one will I hit first?

Tanc: Only big money tournaments have restrictions regarding the use of ipods. Those restrictions only apply to players with a score of 80% after 5 rounds or something like that.

Personally I don't think having chess related material on your ipod is necessarily that useful. I suppose I could have some voice tell me the moves what ever opening I'm playing, but there would have to be different "songs" for each variation. I think the opponent might get a little suspicious if I was constantly looking at the thing and changing songs every few moves.

I wonder if a song that gives me a mental pick me up would be considered outside help? Nobody has ever complained about me using it. Then again if I'm losing all my games nobody has reason to complain. LOL

Anonymous said...

Polly, I have played Ken 5 times. I won all the games but I was losing in 3 of them despite outrating him by about 500 points! I can say he has very good opening knowledge, but he is not too good in the middlegame or the endgame. So don't feel bad about your game! Congrats on the milestone!

RT Solo said...

Hi Polly, I'm at work so I couldn't read your entire post (yet), but I went over the game. Listening to music while playing is a great idea, I will try that!

Looking at the ending position I'm not quite sure why he offered a draw? Was it because the position just seemed really locked down? As a novice it's sometimes difficult for me to pick up on positional subtleties that higher rated players see more easily.

I think those ten commandments from your dojang are really beautiful.

thanks for your wonderful posts :-)

BlunderProne said...

3900 is impressive. Imagine, Blackburne was recorded with a lifetime 100,000 games played in tournaments!

Polly said...

Anon: That's why I call him the scariest 1300 player. He plays the opening very well, and at shorter time controls I've gotten myself in deep time trouble because of his unorthodox, but solid play. I don't feel bad about how I did. I've known him for many years, and I've seen what he is capable of doing.

RT: I think he offered the draw because I had blocked him out on the king side. As long as I don't move the bishop off the h3-c8 diagonal he can't break through there. I felt he could have tried to shift the play over to the queen side trying to push the b pawn and come in on that file. It's double edged because I may also be able to get some counter play n his a & c pawns which will become weak after pushing b4.

If I had the white pieces in that final position I don't think I would have offered a draw. I would tried for queen side play and see what developed.

Blunder: 100,000 games! That's utterly amazing. I'm not sure if I added up all my blitz games, regular games, internet games, and casual games it would add up to that many.

denopac said...

13. Nd5 -- the dreaded Marco Hop.

wang said...

Krazy Ken indeed. nice game and congratulations on the milestone. Quite impressive.

Glenn Wilson said...

3900 games! Wow!

Polly said...

3900 games is nothing compared to Jay Bonin. Since they started compiling MSA data from 1991 he has 2870 EVENTS recorded. Multiply 2870 by 3 and THAT IS alot of chess! I used 3, but I'm sure the numberof rounds played per event is more then 3.

Anonymous said...

Incredible ! 3900 rated chess games played ! when do you have time for church, or do you pray to the goddess of chess ?

Seriously, life is too short , get over it, chess is just a game, not an art.

Polly said...

anon: 3900 games over a 36 year period really isn't that many games per year. I started playing in tournaments in 1972.

Chess is only a part of a busy and active life. I just got through walking a 1/2 marathon today, and was checking my email and noticed your comment. :-)