Saturday, December 27, 2008

Real Life gets in the way of Chess

The time, effort, dedication and discipline it takes to actually become a grandmaster is remarkable. Unfortunately for most people that annoying little thing called real life continuously gets in the way. This past Christmas holiday break I was looking forward to several hours of endgame study along with several over the board games. As it usually occurs, my time devoted to chess was reduced to falling asleep to endgame problems at 1 a.m. after constructing my little girl's play kitchen on Christmas Eve. Oh, also Christmas Eve is my birthday so I naturally I had zero time for chess on my birthday. About the only chess time I got on my birthday was being fortunate enough to have International Master Danny Kopec over for dinner on Christmas Eve night while he was traveling from New York on his way to Florida to see relatives. Believe it or not we spent more time talking about Checkers than my beloved chess!

Chess has a frustrating habit of always getting put on the back burner in lieu of more important things like family, friends, bills and work. I am convinced that is why most people who achieve grandmaster have an expert or master level rating by the time they graduate high school, because when you get to be an adult finding the time to devote to becoming a world class chess player is nigh impossible. I believe adults are capable of going from zero chess playing experience to grandmaster in their adult lives but I believe for 99% of adults finding the time to devote to it is the real challenge, not the subject matter itself.

On rare occasions my wife's business will take her out of town and I will find myself with a Saturday with nothing to do, no responsibilities and I will look forward all week long to an entire day of intense chess study and focus. This is usually how that day ends up.
Saturday Devoted to Chess Schedule:

7:45 am- Wake up and frantically get ready for work at 8:00 because I'm going to be late.
8:05 am- Return home realizing it's Saturday and I don't have to work.
9:55 am- Wake up again.
10:43 am- And again.
11:00 am- Watch Power Rangers
11:30 am- Start Reading Chess Books
11:45 am- Realize I'm hungry and stop reading to eat some Cap'n Crunch for breakfast
1:45 pm- Start Reading Chess Books again because I got a little sidetracked playing "Hello Kitty! Island Advenure" on the Wii.
2:05 pm- Fall asleep on the couch reading
3:15 pm- Wake up and decide it's time to get some lunch. It's looking like it's going to be a Spicy Meatball Sub from Firehouse.
4:02 pm- Get back from Firehouse. Start reading "My System" by Nimzowitsch so I can talk down to people who haven't read it.
4:09 pm- Good grief "My System" is tough. Start reading "How to Beat your Dad at Chess".
4:12 pm- I'm bored with this book. It's too simple. Call a friend and ask him if he wants to meet me to play some chess.
4:18 pm- Take my morning shower.
5:08 pm- Arrive at Barnes & Noble to play some over the board games.
7:01 pm- We finish talking about a hot new novelty in the Advance Two Knight Queen's Hyper Dragon Attack Defense Gambit over some Mocha Frappuccinos.
7:55 pm- We finish two quick games and decide to go get some Chinese.
9:02 pm- The Chinese was sub-par, that place really has gone downhill since the ownership changed hands. It used to be a really good value but now it's just an overpriced average Chinese place. Really disappointing. I mean they even charged me for green tea. Which I can understand every other place does but they USED to give you a pot of green tea with your meal, but now they charge you for it. I don't know, I'm probably just being selfish. Or maybe that place spoiled me when they did give you free tea with your meal. Whatever the case may be, I can get better Chinese for the same money somewhere else.
9:32 pm- Arrive at home. New Mexico State versus Tulsa is on ESPN2. I'll just leave that on in the background while I do some chess problems.
11:49 pm- Dude that was an awesome game! I was hanging on every moment. I got 2 chess problems done during that two and a half hour span.
11:56 pm- Turn in for the evening, decide to read some chess problems for an hour or two in bed.
12:04 am- Asleep.

So even though the motivation is there, usually the time is not there. The rare occasions the time is there, the time gets "slightly" under-utilized as in the example above. That leaves me with starring at problems for five minutes at a time between cat naps and eating combined with the weekly over-the-board game at the club which, is truly where my only real practice comes from.
However, I get reminded every Christmas season that chess is simply a means to enhance life, but chess is not life. We play chess so that we may live more fully, not live so that we may play chess. I read a quote several years ago that stuck with me, "Wealth is not measured by the amount of money that you have, but instead measured by the things you have for which you would not trade for money." Will I ever be a grandmaster? Probably not. Am I thankful that I have so many wonderful things that would prevent that from happening? Absolutely. I stand by my assertion "Real life does get in the way of chess" and for that I am so grateful.

Dr. Danny Kopec has a forthcoming book entitled "Champions of the New Millenium" in which Chapter 3 is entitled "Checkers is Solved" which is how we got on the conversation. You can pre-order it from his website

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