Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Earning Money in Chess

As I have said before, chess is a sport. It is easy to think that chess is merely a game or a means to while away the time as the players barely move. For the serious chess player however, it is actually a ruthless sport. The pain and agony of losing a chess game is not entirely different to what is felt by athletes in a boxing or a tennis match. The challenge of the competition and the effort to subdue an opponent qualifies chess as a sport and not just a game. It is about time that we go beyond "physical exertion" as a means to identify an activity into either a sport or a game. Consider these "ten reasons why chess is a sport".

But, whether or not chess is a sport or a just a game, is there a way to earn money in chess? Since chess is not a spectator sport, we all know that it is very difficult to find sponsors for tournaments unlike in boxing, basketball or tennis. The Internet however is slowly changing this perception. With the Internet, more and more people can view chess games in real time even with computer analysis. In the comfort of their own home or in a coffee shop, anyone can watch a World Chess Championship Match. With more people watching chess games or becoming interested in chess, it would become much easier to find sponsors for chess tournaments.  Similarly, the Internet has provided  more avenues to make a living, or at the very least, earn money at chess. Take this from Grandmaster Maurice Ashley - 

"The reason why my pro career was so short was because I wasn't good enough," he said. "I mean that. I was a grandmaster, but I wasn't one of the top 20 players in the world. And for those of us who are the lower tier of grandmasters, you're not making any money playing the game. So it was wise for me to move into other things, which included coaching and commentating. Organizing my own events, writing books, doing apps. For bringing all those together, somehow I've cobbled together a living off the game. And now it's not a bad career."

Making money is one great motivation in anything. There is really nothing wrong about that. Most people however play chess simply for the love of the game. There are a great number or participants in chess tournaments who are there simply to play and enjoy chess. The meager prize money is not their primary motivation in joining chess tournaments. I hope however that in the future there would be more professionals who can making a living in chess similar to other spectator sports.

Tuesday, June 06, 2017

Where Are The Chess Books?

Are chess books going into extinction? Try to visit any leading bookstore today and it is getting more difficult to find a chess book. Maybe it is due to the "real versus e-book" battle. In this day and age where technology is changing everything, it is becoming more apparent that "real" chess books are slowly going extinct

I am not the only one to notice this fact. If we are to carry all the chess books we have, it would amount to a full luggage. While chess appears to be simple enough, there are countless chess books on every aspect of the game. There are thousands of chess books about the opening, middle game and the endgame.  There are also thousands of books on strategy and tactics. 

Technology has changed everything. Why carry loads of chess books when you can all put them in a single gadget? With the Internet, chess games can now be accessed and studied anywhere. Chess games compiled in "real" books have become obsolete. There is no more practical use of "real" books that merely compiled the games of Capablanca or Fischer without the necessary annotations. If you like a complete file of the games of any famous chess player, you can download it in just a matter of seconds.

Given the convenience brought about by technology, should we ready ourselves in saying goodbye to our beloved chess books in paper form? Is it really about time to throw away those chess books piled up in our cabinets? Despite whatever convenience brought about by the e-book, real chess books still has that allure justifying its continued existence. A "real" chess book guarantees stability.  It is always there! It is readily accessible with or without the Internet. Just seeing a chess book on display in your cabinet is a constant reminder of the "happy days" playing chess. Throwing that book away is like throwing those happy memories where you would browse into the pages of your book to find the right antidote to the "Queen's Gambit".

Chess in Barangays

I am happy to observe that there is a growing interest in chess tournaments in Barangays (the smallest political unit in the Philippines). There is also resurgence of private companies willing to sponsor chess tournaments for developing chess players. This is indeed great news for chess. With more chess tournaments being held and sponsors coming in to support the endeavor, the popularity of chess among the youth is  assured.

The Philippines has a very promising future in international chess. Wesley So (originally from Bacoor, Cavite and now represents the United States) is currently Ranked  No. 2 in the World! His winning the recent US Chess Championship is ominous of his clear potential of becoming a World Chess Champion. Of course, when we talk about Philippine chess we cannot fail to mention the legendary Eugene Torre -  Asia's first Grandmaster.

To produce another Chess Grandmaster, we need to focus on the youth and provide  them with all the needed support to further improve their skills. Grassroots programs in chess must be supported and encouraged by the government. We should never forget that chess is a game that we can excel internationally as there is no physical boundaries in this game. Unlike in basketball, height is not might in chess. There is nothing that can prevent anyone from playing great chess and becoming a future World Champion.

To enjoy chess it is of course not necessary to have a "master title". Love the game first and the title will definitely follow. What is more important is to simply enjoy the game and reap the various benefits from playing chess

Monday, May 22, 2017

Chess (Guadalupe Commercial Complex, Makati City)

There is a place in Makati where chess players can meet, play and interact. Try checking out the "Tarrasch Knight Chess Club" in Guadalupe Commercial Complex (GCC Mall).  This mall sits besides the famous Pasig River from where the beautiful ladies during Spanish times prettify themselves. Can you imagine the Pasig River was once clear and pristine?

Thankful that I have survived the blockbuster lines and overcrowded MRT from Trinoma Mall, the sight of the Pasig River below is indeed a relief! I have no choice, the MRT is the only realistic option to beat the notorious Edsa traffic. If you look at the cars on standstill, you have absolutely made the right decision to take the MRT in traveling to GCC Mall.

Just like in Colonnade Mall in Cebu City, players  can be seen here pondering the best move against their opponent. Just like in any chess game, there is always an intense struggle on the chessboard. But, games here usually end in a friendly manner. Once and a while, you can sense a "misunderstanding" on the other board, but organizers are quick to settle the issue.

Since the playing hall is located inside a mall, it is relatively safe to play. GCC Mall is strategically located and is accessible to all forms of transportation. With a very limited parking at the basement, it is a good idea to leave your car in traveling to this mall. Consider further the traffic in Edsa and it is definitely much better to take your chance in the MRT. 

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Enjoy Chess and Learn

Chess is a game that is easy to learn but difficult to master. The very first step to learn how to play chess is knowing the proper placement of pieces and thereafter the specific moves of each piece. Learn the rules on "castling" and how "checkmate" is achieved. After learning these steps, you are set to play your very first chess game. But, winning your games consistently or beating "better" players is another story. It is not easy to consistently win chess games or attain master level. It takes time and a lot of practice. Gladwell says that to "master" anything (including chess) would take at least ten thousand (10,000) hours. Imagine that great amount of time! Who really has that amount of time to invest in chess?

The good news however is that enjoying chess does not mean you got to be in the likes of "masters" or officially earn a "master's title". What is more important (aside from winning) is to simply enjoy chess and learn from it. Chess is more than the rudiments of attack and defense, strategy and tactics, it is simply "enjoying" this very short life of ours. With only the chessboard and the pieces, life becomes simple and less complicated. Time seems inadequate and for once in your life, you are in absolute control. Suddenly, "life becomes too short for chess".
If you are a student or a working professional, finding time for chess becomes more difficult. Thanks to the internet that radically changed the way chess is played and watched. Chess can now be played and watched online. With the internet, you can play chess anywhere with anyone around the world. Chess tournaments held in other parts of the world can now be viewed in real time. There are also tons of tutorials and lectures about the game of chess in google and in YouTube. There is practically an overload of materials for studying and enjoying chess! With the internet, it has now become much easier to squeeze into chess during your free time. Join chess.com or any online chess playing app. With your cellphone, tablet or any other gadget, you can instantly enjoy playing chess. Gone are the days where you have to wait for your chess buddy to play. 

Chess provides lots of benefits. One of which is it "improves decision making". It is not difficult to comprehend how this game can improve our decision making skills. Every move made at the chessboard requires a decision. In chess, just like in life, one move or decision can make or unmake us. We reap the consequences of every decision we make. Chess provides a great avenue to test the soundness of our decisions given existing circumstances.

Wherever you may be, it is about time to enjoy chess and learn!

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

What To Do When Under Attack

One of the most difficult situation in a chess game is being under attack. When your king is in peril and your opponent"s pieces are poised for a kill, what is the best thing to do? Being attacked in  a chess game is a common experience. It is something that is part of the game and is very difficult, if not impossible, to avoid. No matter how skillful you are (in the opening or in the middle game), there would always be a situation where you would be in the defensive.  An attack or counter-attack is often launched by your opponent when you least expect it. After several moves, you just realized that your opponent's pieces are now concentrated in a particular focal point in your position and there are threats everywhere -  in this kind of situation, putting on a poker face is a great help. Do not look at the clock! Keep calm whatever fire is there on the chessboard.

Fischer vs. Bernstein (after 15___Bh2)
How to properly handle an attack from your adversary is one skill every chess player should learn. But being calm and composed despite how inferior your position is should be a primordial skill of every chess player. By being calm, there is greater chance of finding that one single resource that can bail you out from your predicament. Resorting into a "panic mode" will just make the situation worse. Always remember that a "chess game is not won until it is won". Even in seemingly innocuous positions there can be a chance to save your position and the game - try to find, at the very least, "drawing chances". A half point is better than none at all. 

Your opponent may be a very strong player but he is still human bound to commit mistakes. If move after move, your reply to your opponent's attack builds a defensive wall that frustrates him, chances are your opponent can commit a mistake. To err is always a human attribute.  What is important is to concentrate and simply focus on your defensive resources. Just think about it - if you are already in a lost position, what do you have lose anyway? Instead of prematurely resigning, it is better to play on for a few more moves until you are convinced that there is no other option left but to raise the white flag. 

This game between Fischer and Bernstein demonstrates how to properly handle an attack. Fischer was on the defense but played actively in the Queenside frustrating the attack and eventually winning the game.

Thursday, March 09, 2017

The Importance of Counter-Attack

Matov vs. Fischer (after 16. Na4)
There are very long games in chess or games that went to a hundred (100) moves or more. But, there are also chess games that are done in twenty five (25) moves or less. The number of moves however is not always and indication of the intensity of the struggle on the chessboard. More often than not however, chess games in twenty five (25) moves or less is a result of a "blunder" or plain oversight. In games between titled players, short games are often a result of a brilliant reply in a seemingly innocuous position.

If we look at the above position, Matov just played (16. Na4) attacking Black's Queen. Fischer, instead of moving his Queen replied (16.___Nc4) counter-attacking White's Queen. If Black's Knight is taken by the Bishop; then  Black's Queen will retake the Bishop attacking both the Rook at f1 and the Knight at a4. Fischer, eventually won a piece in this position and the game.

Ayala Triangle Gardens (Makati City)

Ayala Triangle Gardens
Paseo Corner Makati Avenue
Corner Ayala, Makati City

After a good night rest, I walked from my hotel to Ayala Triangle Gardens for some exercise. I aim to be physically fit despite a very hectic schedule. Being physically fit is essential to our health and it is necessary to play competitive chess. It is said that part of Bobby Fischer's preparation in chess tournaments is to isolate himself and exercise. It is not ironic that the game of chess requires not only a healthy mind but a fit body as well. If we look at the players in a chess game, they hardly move. The mental exertion however is extremely exhausting and takes a toll on the body.

Ayala Triangle Gardens is the site of the Annual Festival of Lights during the Christmas Season. At the start and at the end of the day, this area is a joggers' haven, pet paradise, food alley, picnic area, nature preserve or simply an open and breathing space amidst all the concrete that is Makati. If literally lost in the heart of this country's financial district, just head here to find your way. Ayala Triangle Gardens is where the major arteries of Makati City converge - Ayala Avenue, Paseo de Roxas and  Makati Avenue. If yearning for fresh air, a place to relax and unwind,eat or have coffee, be with nature or simply to escape the concrete jungle - this is the place to be.

I really appreciate development that takes into account open spaces and integrating the idea of preserving or re-creating nature. Having more trees, plants and greens in open spaces is rejuvenating! It lightens the stress and provides a wider perspective about life as if saying that life is not just a big air-conditioned box. There are greens outside! This is what I like here and UP Town Center - both are designed in such a way that there is fusion of the natural environment and man made concrete. 

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