Friday, May 28, 2010

An Unsual Oppponent

I've played in tournaments for many years, and have met some interesting people over the years.  My opponents have ranged in age from 5 up to 90.  I've played men and women though obviously the number of men I've played far out number the women I've played.  Last Thursday I played a woman who was visiting from out of town.  This was her first tournament.  I mentioned that she sure picked a tough tournament to make her chess debut.  Even Steve had suggested that she might want to wait until Saturday and play in the Under 1600 tournament.  She would be heading back home before then so 10 Grand Prix Points Tonight! was her only option on this visit.

Even though this was a Grand Prix event the overall field was not as strong as the previous week's event where I got my head handed to me for 4 rounds.  In this event I just made the break and got paired down against the lone unrated player in the tournament.  When unrated players I never know quite what to expect.  Sometimes they're totally clueless, and other times I discover later they have a 2100 rating in their home country.  Carol was of neither extreme.  She played a nice solid opening.  I finally won material when I created a discovered attack situation where I won a piece.  As it turned out, it wasn't even forced.  There was a move that would hold the position.  It wasn't until later when I analyzed with Fritz that I found the defense.

Here's the game.


Afterward we spoke for a awhile and I found out that she was an aerialist, and performed in different places.  Check out this link on YouTube of one of her performances.  I was intrigued by how she got into playing chess so I emailed her a few questions.  Here is our "interview".

PW: How long have you been playing chess?

CK: I actually first learned about chess as a child but I only became avid about getting good at it in the last few months.

PW: Are you taking lessons with anyone?

CK: I have never taken chess lessons with anyone.  I learned the general rules, and concept, of the game by watching other people play.  I was reading Tarrasch's book, "The Game of Chess."  

PW: You mentioned that you're studying "My System".  With all the basic chess books out there, how did you decide on that particular one?  When I asked you which book you were using, I was expecting you to say you were using Lev Alburt's Comprehensive Chess Course, or one of Dan Heisman's books. 

CK: Recently, during a night of chess games at the Chess Forum, someone suggested I read "My System."   I am now going back and forth between the two.

PW: What made you decide you wanted to play in tournaments? 

CK: One of the attractions of tournaments, for me, is that I enjoy being put on the spot.  I enjoy the pressure of the moment: that sense of walking a tight rope over a pit of crocodiles.   Do you know Federico Garcia Lorca's writing about "The Duende"? Well, I read about Duende when I was performing with a Flamenco troupe and Duende is a capricious goblin who shows up whenever there is that moment of tension when a fast, yet intelligent, decision must be made in a life and death situation.  Duende is there during the Flamenco dance, as during the bullfight when the matador plays the game of death with the bull... well, Duende is there for any performer and is the moment of tension you must meet with the right "move" so that the dance does not die.  If you lose the tension, the performance falls flat, the passion is gone, the moment is lost and the audience is bored: this equals death on the stage.  Well, a chess tournament, it seems to me, is full of Duende !  You must meet the tension with the best "move," or die...lose.

PW: Do you see a relationship between the skills needed for chess versus the skills needed to perform your aerial acts?

CK: I like chess because it has the tension, the sense of danger, the need to think fast and move, that dance and acrobatics have.  Chess, Dance and Aerials share the need for intense concentration, movement and the exigency of the moment.

PW: How long have you been performing?

CK: I have been performing for most of my life, over 20 years.  I started as a ballet dancer performing in regional companies from NYC to Alaska, went on to perform Flamenco and am now an Aerialist at Sea World and a San Francisco circus.

It was really interesting talking with her after the tournament and via our email interview.  I can't say I've met many people who have a career like hers.  Check out her website if you want to see more of her stuff.  Her score matched mine of the previous week, but she was genuinely excited about playing in her first tournament.

As for me I bounced back from last weeks disaster by scoring 2 points.  I lost in round three and then got paired up in round four and beat an 1900 in the last round.  That was an interesting game, especially with some of the body language that was occurring during the game.  I will post that game in separate piece.

My next tournament will be the Capablanca Memorial in Santa Clara, CA.  I'm playing the 3 day schedule with no fast games, and since I've been out here in California for almost a week, jet lag should not be a factor..


es_trick said...

Fantastic Interview!

Rocky said...

Wow! That is really neat Polly! That was a fascinating interview. Her quote about 'tension' really struck a chord with me. What a really accurate way to describe why chess is compelling - tension. And her analogy was spot on.

Thanks for sharing!

Polly said...

Sometimes it takes a "newbie" to remind us what it's all about. Though I'd rather be in severe time control then hang off those ropes. :-)

Dennis said...


Nice interview. I always enjoy reading your posts. What I like most about you is your positive attitude even when the games don't go your way.

chesstiger said...

Always nice to meet new people. I must say that for a beginning chess player she didn't play that badly. Guess she has to start to study tactics now to improve.

Good luck with your upcoming tournament!

Bill Brock said...