The other source of my angst is my taekwondo training and preparation for my black belt test in the fall. This was something that originally was supposed to be done by now. Unfortunately an unplanned trip down the stairs changed my entire schedule. The original plan was to be training during the winter and test in the spring. That would have put all of this behind me and then I could have spent the summer actually enjoying my chess travels. Instead I find myself in the midst of a serious panic attack as I think to myself, "Ack!!! I'm going to be missing all those days of classes while I'm out in California! Why did I decide to take this trip? I should be staying home, and training."
So why did I take this trip when conventional wisdom says I should be home working on my taekwondo? There are several reasons. Some of them are valid, some perhaps not so valid.
Reasons to make this trip.
1. It's the US Open. I love going to the US Open. Okay, okay I admit I hate the extreme pairings of playing a 2600 one round and a 1000 the next round, or visa versa. Yes and I hate getting the string of under rated little kids that I tend to play after I get upset in an early round. Other then that I love the tournament. Maybe one year I should just go hang out, socialize and play in side events only.
2. It's the Jerry Hanken Memorial. How could I miss it? Where ever he is, he would be saying "Polly how could you not be there?" My trip to last year's American Open was a small tribute to a good friend. This is the big tribute. Besides they're using one of my photographs of him. The one they had in the advertisement was pretty bad. They asked me if I had a better one. The answer was yes.
Here's Jerry being Jerry at the 2006 US Open.
Hand him a mike and he comes alive!
3. It's California in summer. I'm going to San Diego for a few days after the tournament to see my nieces who live there. San Diego is one of my favorite US cities. If I could afford it, I'd move there in a heart beat.
Those are good reasons to go. I have to wonder if I still would have gone if I realized just how difficult it was going to be to prepare for my black belt test in the fall. In May I got to see what the test was like. I even did much of it along with the candidates. The difference was, the testers weren't paying much attention to how well or poorly I was doing on various components of the test. This time around they will be paying attention. What I'm discovering since getting back from Korea is that I don't know as much as I thought I did, and I've forgotten more then I realized.
Progressing through the various color belts in taekwondo is much like progressing through various levels of chess. I discussed this topic back in April 2009 when I did my promotion test to red belt. In some ways I find learning new forms is similar to learning new variations of a opening. There are similarities in the sequence of steps in each form, but there are also distinct differences. It's possible one is doing the same block, but the stance is different from one form to another. At times I find it difficult to remember the differences between the various forms. Sometimes I will start doing one form and then find I have transposed into a different form because a stance was the same in both forms, but I went into the other form. It may not be as bad as reversing moves in an opening and giving away a crucial tempo, but when you're being judged on how well you know the form, and how cleanly you're performing it then it can seem as devastating as messing up the move order in a chess game.
What I'm experiencing right now is the feeling that everything is getting jumbled up in my mind, and I'm having trouble coping with it. I have to find a way that's going to help me keep one form straight from another. It's not only important for the test, but I'm also starting to assist in the peewee and children's classes. A few weeks ago I had to show a purple belt the first eight steps of his form. I was having one of those mushy mind moments when I was having trouble remembering the form. I think I confused the kid, and confused myself. However I think there is wonderful benefit from doing this type of instruction. It forces me to make sure I really have a handle on the forms I'm having to teach. It doesn't matter whether I'm dealing with a 5 year old or 12 year old, I better know what I'm showing them or helping them with.
When I'm teaching chess to beginners or inexperienced players I don't find a benefit that carries over to my own game. I'm not going to be showing them the openings I play so it doesn't really carry over in my own game. The running joke amongst chess teachers and scholastic tournament floor directors is that every time they watch kids leave their queens hanging for moves on end or miss a simple mate on move that their own ability drops another 50 rating points. I've met very few chess teachers whose rating goes up when they start teaching. Most of them have their ratings go down. I will say I've gotten really good at executing the king and queen checkmate with 2 seconds on my clock due to the number I've times I've shown it to classes.
Why is teaching Tae Kwon Do different? I think it's because I'm doing the moves in front of the students which reinforces them for me. The question is can I make my Black Belt testing preparations and teaching translate into something I can use in chess? I don't know. All I know is I have my hands full with Tae Kwon Do at the moment so chess study is not on the menu. (Not that it's been on the menu much anyway.) I will see if I can find ways to make it translate from the one to the other.
Signing off. It's almost time to board. BTW Dallas seems to have its own alphabet order. I figured taking the Sky Train from Terminal C to Terminal D would only take a stop or two. Nope in the Dallas alphabet the order is C, E, D. Oh well at least I had plenty of time between connections despite the delay out of New York. See you in California!!