Chess – Then and now!

I recently joined a local chess club and am playing in the league. It’s great to be playing competitive chess after so many years. The biggest challenge is finding enough time to play a good long game of chess. There are plenty of tournaments but these are so draining and of course the competition is so stiff. In my last tournaments I had one of my my best starts, not losing a single game in the first 4 rounds. However, I lost 3 consecutive rounds after that. It was very tough to handle.

NO EASY WINS – In the past there were  so many easy games. It was not uncommon to play a game of chess and get free pieces from your opponent. Nowadays everyone seems to know at least the basics of the game and it takes so much just to win a game. It appears there are no more patzers in the game.  You hardly have a situation of snap mate arising in the games.

WHAT TO PLAY – Everyone seems to know the popular openings like the Sicilian Defense, Ruy Lopez and King Indian’s Defence.  These openings have been analysed in great detail and playing them one can easily walk into opening traps.  The big question before each game is, what do you play?

TACTICAL ALERTNESS, ENDGAME KNOWLEDGE- Thanks to chess programs such as Fritz, Rybka, the standard of tactical play has improved. Most players will not miss the easy tactics like the forks and simple combinations. However, the quality of endgame play still seems quite poor. Most chess players are not keen to study the endgames. As simple as the endgame may appear it is actually more difficult than other parts of the game and needs to be handled with greater precision.

HALF MY AGE – I have now played a good number of players, most of whom are less than half my age. It’s just unbelievable! These chaps play with the patience and maturity of grown-ups. I recently had to concede that a 16-year-old chap I played had excelled in all parts of the game and thoroughly outplayed me. He won because he played a superior game and not because I blundered or made a mistake. This is the cycle of life which we cannot run away from. Out with the old and in with the new! The young blood will be more energetic and take more risks.

NO PRESSURE – In the past I would be so nervous before a game that most of the time I would not eat. I would not talk to anyone before a game and just be so tense.  I forgot most of my opponents’ names  or where they were from because I just focussed on the game at hand. Now I try to make sure I eat before the games. I also try to find out as much as possible about my opponent, who they are , where they are from and what they do. Most shockingly I wish them luck in the game. I had no time for this in the past. I played to win at all times. I still hate losing but I don’t take it so badly. In fact when I win I try to point out where my opponent went wrong and wish him better luck next time. There is no pressure nowadays.

TOP TO MIDDLE – I was a contender to win many a tournament at some stage  but now  I am just content if I can finish the tournament with a plus score (win more games than I lose).  In the tournaments I have played so far, I have failed to make a top 10 finish. While I am still reasonably strong as a blitz or lightning chess player, I am much weaker in long games where my analysis and concentration are put under more scrutiny.

UNDERSTANDING! – In the past I was very uncomfortable getting into new positions on the chess board. I loved familiar positions, openings that I was used to and that I had studied. Now I am more than happy to play a completely unfamiliar opening and try and figure out the best moves from the word go.  I feel that in a way I am understand what chess is about, the ins and outs of a position, the pros and cons of a given position. I have a long way to go but it would appear there is hope.

MUCH MORE FUN – I seemed to have something to prove in the past, that I had to win. Now I just want to have a good game. I can’t wait to go over a game again and analyse it, find out which were the turning points and how things could be been improved upon.

PRIORITY – At some stage I played chess every single day of my life, literally lived and breathed chess. Now It has fallen down the list of priorities. I guess after high school life took over. I stopped playing chess for some years while focusing on other things. Chess is still a big part of my life but there are many other things that come before chess now. After all it’s just game, isn’t it?

COMPUTER AGE – When I started playing chess I had no ideas computers could even play chess. I remember being in awe at a chess called Cyrus 3D chess (mid 1990s). It was a wonderful program but I am sure much weaker than the Silicon Monsters we have nowadays. Today I browsed through a game I played using one of the chess programs on the market. It turned my evaluation of the game upside down. During the actual game I thought I was losing but the computer showed I had a good position throughout the game. The computer took seconds to evaluate the position while I had dwelt for hours on wrong conclusions.

COACHING -Perhaps the biggest change in my approach to chess is that I am much more passionate about coaching the game and analyzing others’ games than playing myself. I recently played an under 13 boys champion who put me under great pressure during the whole game but lost. I felt that he had so much potential and indeed he does. I think if he can continue to practice the world is the limit for him.

Chess, how it has changed since the old days! BTM

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Author: Bruce Mubayiwa

My key interests and passions are Chess, Technology and Writing. I am the founder and editor of Africa Chess Net. My goal is to get more people playing chess in Africa.

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