Sunday, February 1, 2009

How to Become a Good Chess Player

So you've probably figured about by now that chess is hard. You've also probably figured out by now there are a lot of good chess players out there. Too many in fact. That makes becoming a world class player a very daunting task. Let's be honest, it would be great to win the admiration of your peers with your chess prowess wouldn't it? It would be great for them to look at you and say "hey what do you think about this position?" As far as I'm concerned there are really only two ways to do that.

A. Obtain a rating higher than 2000.
B. Fake it.

Achieving number 1 can take a lifetime of reading books, playing games, studying, analysis, dedication, effort, sacrifice. However, achieving number 2 can be done by the time you finish reading this article. Since one of these two goals is achievable in the next five minutes I suggest we go with that one.

I'm lazy. No, really, I am. I will probably never get to 2000. I can accept that fact. What I cannot accept is people thinking I'm an idiot. So in order to circumvent looking foolish, I have created a ten step program that I am willing to share with you out of the goodness of my heart. Best of luck in your chess faking endeavors.

Ten Ways to Make Yourself Look Like a Chess Genius

1. "Yeah but that creates a backward pawn on an open file." This statement is a winner! Make sure you throw this out at least 4 times in a given night, regardless of the situation being discussed.

2. Change your last name to something that's impossible to spell and speak with any kind of an accent, make one up if you have to. I'm telling you, when you walk around and talk with an accent people automatically bump you a class rating.

3. If someone is showing an endgame puzzle or something, make up a famous game that it's from. Like several weeks back I was at an out of town tournament and I proudly announced the position they were studying was from Morphy versus Lasker in 1799. Everyone was so amazed by my brilliance they just starred at me in silence.

4. "I played Joel Benjamin in an online simul the other night, he was putting some pressure on me, so I traded into a bishops of opposite color endgame and forced a draw." Proudly announce this in chess club, but make sure you act like it's no big deal. Use your accent.

5. Walk by someone playing a game and just kind of snicker. When they look up at you say "oh, sorry, I just spotted a forced win. Look for it, it's there."

6. When confronted with a puzzle make sure to put on your best concentration face. Sink your eyebrows. A hand gesture of some sort over your mouth is mandatory. Then all at once say, "Wow! That's clever. I don't want to ruin it for everyone else so I'm not going to say anything." Walk away before someone gets a chance to call you out on it.

7. Convince people you are Garry Kasparov.

8. Reference a ficticious book you helped a Grandmaster author. Sound smarmy. "If you're having trouble converting endgames check out 'Endgame for total Morons' that I co-authored with Bobby Fischer in '97"

9. Make casual references to your 'students' and 'understudies'. For example, "Yeah a student of mine made a similar mistake in his game the other night that you just made, it cost him the Class B tournament prize."

10. This is by far the most important rule so pay attention. Never, ever, ever play a game over the board.

That's it! Master these ten rules and you are well on your way to fake chess mastery!

Moral of the story:
This article is, of course, tongue-in-cheek. But it's not so far off base. We do not take these extreme measures in faking our chess prowess but I think the average player does tend to do this in other ways. The most common way for novices to do this is by booking up in obscure opening traps and focusing energy on winning with trickery. Nothing wrong with doing this. Just like there is nothing wrong with having a little ice cream now and then. However, if you eat half a gallon of ice cream every day you're going to be fat, like my sister. Point is, over indulgence in these quick fixes are detrimental. The energy you spend on traps and tricks could be better invested in studying tactics and endgames.

Slow and steady wins the race. As Americans we want quick results with as little work as possible. Chess does not allow this. So while you may be able to effectively fool people into thinking you are a good player, the board does not lie my friends.

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