Ask the former state Class A chess champion

I’ve decided that I would like to discuss something that I think nobody hates. We were having some good discussions in a Great Debates hijack about Tigran Petrosian, a former world champion, so this seemed like a good idea.

Credentials: (Not much, but here they are…) I used to play tournament chess on a weekly basis, and I’ve actually won prize money and trophies. I was at one time the North Carolina Class A champion, and was twice invited to the North Carolina Closed Championship. I was once an elected officer of the NCCA (North Carolina Chess Association). When I stopped playing, my rating was 2180, which was 20 points shy of Master. My title was only “Expert” (2000 - 2199). But I have beaten masters in rated tournament games.

I’ve played against GM Yasser Seirawan, GM Lev Alburt, and former world champion, GM Victor Korchnoi. All of these grandmasters chewed me up and spat me out. I was involved in the 1980s effort to bring back Bobby Fischer so he could defend his crown in a match with Anatoly Karpov. We even corresponded with his personal secretary. (No, I don’t know where he is.)

There are probably better players here than I am, but this just seemed like fun. So if you have any questions, please feel free to ask. :slight_smile:

OK, I’ll get the ball rolling. How important is time control at that level? I guess you were playing something like 40 moves in 90 minutes. With say 10 moves to play, how much time in a fairly even middle game would make for a real advantage?

Do you agree with (IIRC) Shaw’s remark that chess is too serious to be played as a game, but not serious enough to be a calling?

Ok, I have a question, as I love the game but as for reading chess books, my brain cramps up, *what is the deal with the clock? *

Are the high rated players sponsored?

I’m way out of my league, but I’ll ask one as well.

I’m in my early thirties and learning chess for the first time in my life. Never played before. My new next door neighbor is a bit of a chess fiend, and we’re planning on meeting in the backyard every Saturday for a few games through spring and summer.

Being that I am very much a beginner, could you recomend any sites or programs where a newbie could get their feet wet? From my understanding (and please correct me if I’m wrong), chess computer programs have a tendency to play at beginer level until you start beating them, then they kick it up a notch mid-game and clean your clock.

Do you see the skills you’ve developed in planning and calculation crop up in other aspects of life/business?

Hawthorne asked:

It seems to have different importance to different people. I’ve seen one player sit for twenty minutes on his first move as White, and I’ve seen other players whip out the opening moves so fast together, their clocks sounded like castanets.

The only real difference that time control seems to make fairly universally is that it determines whether the game will be more tactical or strategic in nature. Faster time controls usually result in more tactical games while slower time controls result in more strategic games.


A significant time advantage can force one player to play tactically while the other gets to play more strategically. And that’s a pretty big advantage to the strategic player because his hurried opponent is basically just trying to make sure that his ass doesn’t get checkmated in four, or something.

If you’ve got 10 moves to play in a fairly even position, then if you have reserved 2-3 minutes per move remaining, you should be okay. But if you’re dipping down into the range of 2-3 moves per minute, you will almost certainly overlook something.

Not really. The game has a pretty rich history and is full of a lot of interesting characters, many of whom saw the game as a calling. There’s a science to it, but there’s also an art. Fischer’s famous Game of the Century against Donald Byrne is still one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever seen.

Shirley Ujest asked:

A chess clock has two clock faces, one for each player. They both are set with the exact same amount of time remaining (they usually count down from however many minutes). When the game begins, the person with the black pieces presses the button on his side of the clock. That starts White’s clock running, and the game is officially underway. When White makes his move, he presses the button on his side of the clock, and that stops his own clock while starting Black’s. They alternate back and forth this way, making a move and then hitting the clock. If your time runs out before you’ve made the alloted number of moves (40 moves in 90 minutes is pretty typical), you lose. One way to indicate that you resign the game is to reach over and stop the clocks without making a move.

Sort of, in a sense. They certainly have patrons, but I think that (or at least, it used to be that) commercial sponsorship is rare. Plus, they are usually paid to participate in local and regional tournaments because their presence adds to the prestige and can draw a lot of players.

In the former Soviet Union, grandmaster level players were sponsored by the state. They received generous stipends, special housing, and were the equivalent of our sports heros. I don’t know whether that still goes on in modern Russia.

Ich Bin’s asked:

Welcome to the game!

I’m not really that familiar with the newer chess programs. When I was playing semi-professionally, chess computers and chess programs were only just beginning to become serious competition. So, I’m not really familiar with the dynamic of learning that way.

I think it depends to some extent on what way you like to learn. I like getting very familiar with the underlying theory of something before I venture out into it. But other people prefer to sample something first, and then check out the basics.

Maybe a good place to start is the Beginner’s Area at the US Chess Federation website. There, you can get the official rules of the game and all kinds of advice and direction.

Whatever you do, learn chess notation and record all the games that you play. Going back over your own games, especially with the help of a tutor of computer, is a great way to learn. Best of luck!

Definitely. So much so that I couldn’t begin to tell you all the ways. A lot of people consider chess to be an excellent pastime for kids for exactly that reason. It teaches patience, concentration, and logical reasoning while at the same time being interesting, exciting, and dramatic.

Libertarian, I enjoy the game immensely and manage to get in a game 5 or 6 times against my computer per week. I am nowhere near your skill level, but again I find chess a wonderous game.

Here’s my question.
As white do you have a favorite opening that you use more than others?

As black do you like to see a particular opening being played against you, and is there one you hate to see?

Thanks in advance.

Happyjoelucky asked:

I tend to favor 1. e4, and I’m not afraid to play gambits. If my opponent plays 1… e5, I like to try to get into a classical Scotch Game. Of course, it can go all kinds of ways before that happens. If he plays 1… c5, I like the Smith-Morra Gambit. If he plays a French Defense, I like the aggressive variations. My greatest fear playing White is the Caro-Kann, 1… c6. In the right hands, it can be a vicious little defense.

As Black, I like to see White play an English Opening or else one of the tame 1. d4 variations. That gives me a lot wiggle room to equalize pretty quickly. What I most hate to see White play is a King’s Gambit.

Do you ever play on any of the online chess web sites? I’m thinking Yahoo Chess and the like. If so, what’s your rating? How well do you think the ratings on those things correspond to USCF ratings?

In the italian game (1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bc4 Bc5 – I hope I typed that right), how do you then proceed as white? Evans gambit? D4? c3? Nc3? Ng5? How do you hope white proceeds if you’re black?

Did you find that there were plateaus in your chess performance before you got your expert ranking? Or did you just steadily progress up to 2180?

Wanna play on Yahoo Chess?

How long had you been playing chess when you achieved your 2180 ranking?

How do you analyze the strength of a given move?

Any general rules of thumb that you follow just as a matter of course?

How often do you castle on the Queen’s side? Is it a bad idea in general in your opinion?


Mr. Hand asked:

Several years ago, I played some online chess, but it’s so easy to cheat with a computer that I just got tired of it. I mean, if I want to play a computer, I can just go ahead. I don’t recall there even being a rating involved, but that was in '98, and the whole interface was probably a lot more primitive than it is now. I’m not sure how the ratings correspond to USCF, but if they use the same convoluted formula, they should be very close. Still, it’s hard to tell whether that’s a guy’s rating or his computer’s.

It depends on my mood and my opponent, but I do like the Evans Gambit especially if Black plays 8… Qf6. The positions can get razor sharp. But sometimes I like the 4. c3 variations.

When I hit around 1900, I languished there for a couple of months. The competition was beginning to become a lot more difficult. And then I found the Latvian Gambit. :smiley:

I’d love to if I had the time. But thanks anyway. :slight_smile:

Grim_Beaker asked:

I had known how to play chess (more or less) for a long time, but I had been playing seriously for about three years.

By its effect on the position.

But for me, a move is much more than just weighing its strength. I like looking at my opponent’s face. I want to see where his eyes are focused. I want to know if he’s sweating, fidgeting, uncomfortable, or concentrating. That’s another reason I like humans better than computers. When I won my championship trophy, it was thanks to an expression on my opponent’s face!

I usually go down an itemized list in my head. First, I try to see whether I can discern my opponent’s plan. What he has in mind might weigh heavily on what I want to do, and might modify the plan I had. Then, I look for the move that best works toward my plan. Next, I analyze the tactical consequences using a technique that I learned a long time ago from a local master. Finally, I look at purely positional considerations — pawn islands, open files and diagonals, that sort of thing. Then I make a decision.

Oh, no, not at all. It depends on the game and how it plays out. There are a lot of positions where castling queen-side is preferable. It’s certainly usually better than not castling at all. Some of the real knock-down drag-out slug-fest gambits incorporate queen-side castling for fast marshalling of the rooks to e1 and d1.

With regard to computers playing chess…what do you think of this game? Specifically 10…Bxh2+ ? This game is, IMHO, the most exciting/interesting that we’ve seen since 2001.

Do you still follow chess, replaying tournament and exhibition games and so forth? If so, what games have you really enjoyed lately?

If someone, say an enterprising CS student with an interest in AI, were to ask you about creating an expert knowledge-based system*, would you entertain the notion?

How many moves ahead do you plan?

When playing, do you “see” the board and the possible moves, and choose the best one? Do you think to yourself in terms of what’s threatening what? Or is it THE SHINE?

  • Just kidding. I’m already on a different project, though if you had posted this seven weeks ago I may have felt differently.

I’ve dabbled in chess over the years, purely on a “fun” level just playing against my friends, some good and some bad.

What’s with all the defenses and attacks known by name when people talk about Chess? How can the same situation keep coming up in multiple games so that one can use these maneuvers? I perhaps am just not being so observant, I can recognize the same patterns in the opening 6-7 moves, sometimes a few similiar positionings in the middle rounds, but past that I’m not seeing it.

Perhaps what I really need is a good website or introductory book about this, to help me take my game past the “fun” stage. Any ideas, as a champ?

Taran asked:

Holy cow! :eek: I agree with you that it is exciting and interesting. It’s a shocker, especially on move 10. So, what’s the consensus? Is 10. a3 to be replaced by 10. h3 in the line from now on?

I do usually like a game with more “meat”, though, like Fischer’s Game of the Century against Donald Byrne. As I recall, Fischer was fifteen years old at the time.

No, not really. I guess Deep Blue/Kasparov was the last match I really followed.

BraheSilver wrote:


It depends. Naturally, in a book position, I just play by rote. In a king with pawns endgame, I might think ahead 10 moves or more. But in an ordinary middlegame, I probably average between 3 and 5.

I think in terms of the position, including initiative and that sort of thing. I’m a firm adherent to the basic Steinitz principles. If I have a positional advantage, I attack. If not, I wait. If my opponent attacks prematurely, I counter-attack. When I consider the moves in my head, I try to be mindful of the new nuances that each move opens up. I consider the immediate positional considerations first, then play out in my head the tactics, and then finally analyze that final position in terms of general positional considerations.