Poor Little Chess Boy
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I just want to have fun, he says. I ask him about the Gredine Open, which netted him the GM title. Prag had the norm in the bag but still had a round to play against the strong Dutch player Pruijssers Roeland. He just needed a draw. My mother said a draw was OK but I wanted to play, he says with a smile. When Roeland went wrong in the opening, he relentlessly applied pressure and snared him in a checkmating net. I ask him about his best game a win over GM Alex Bachmann two years ago, which shot him into the limelight. Prag had just turned 11 then.
He zips through the moves to show me, but gets stuck he cant remember the exact sequence. While Vaishali is looking up the moves in her phone, he simply goes to the final position which has him about to deliver checkmate to the beleaguered enemy king and works backward like a tape on rewind. What were his emotions during that final attack? I was calculating. Then he resigned, he laconically replies. The game is quite remarkable in that it shows Prags utter fearlessness. The opponent a super-grandmaster a term for those whose ratings are higher than on the Elo scale had gone for an ultra-aggressive approach right from the start, but Prag had replied with equal ferocity.
He doesnt remember how many countries he has travelled to.
Every journey means airport, venue and back to the airport. He is not much into sightseeing. In some countries you can manage with English. In Russia you have to speak Russian, is his response when I try to ask him about culture shock. I read books, he says. What's his favourite? He thinks for a moment. Gelfand's Positional Decision Making. What are his inclinations as a player?
I like to play e4,he says, referring to moving the king-pawn first, which generally leads to sharper positions. Does he prefer a tactical or a strategic approach? Tactics, but sometimes I like to go slow and crush them positionally,he says with a grin. I like to calculate. How many hours does he put in daily. Four-five hours is enough for me, he says. I remember the famous Pele quote: I train one hour a day, while the rest of the time I think about football.
I try to ask Prag about hobbies, but he is getting visibly bored. I suggest a blitz game.
His eyes light up. He brings out the chess clock an ingenious contrivance where two stop clocks are attached; with each move you stop your own clock and start your opponents. With the advent of digital clocks, increments can also be added, which means with each completed move, some extra time is added. We sit across the board. The pieces are all worn down the king without the cross, the bishop without the mitre testimony to a thousand battles.
He sets the clock: 11 seconds for the entire game, with 1 second increment. I look at him, there is no way I can play that fast.
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He reluctantly agrees and sets it to 1 minute, which to him is probably an eternity. When I demur again, he sets it to the regulation 3 2 3 minutes for the game, with 2 seconds added for each completed move.
This, for someone who plays as fast as him, will feel like forever and a day. I play black and he opens with the king pawn and follows it up with a bishop move. I can see where this is going he wants to set up his bishop and queen and deliver checkmate in about four moves approximately. I know how to counter this, though, and soon the play becomes fast and furious. We castle on opposing sides of the board he hurls his pawns towards my king, I snap up the sacrificed footsoldiers but now there is a blistering attack on my castled king position. He is playing almost instantaneously while I'm taking more and more time, trying to calculate my way out.
Finally, I counterattack in the centre my hope is to consolidate and then make my extra pawn pay. He reacts coolly, allowing my break, but now his queen and knight are descending onto my king a shot. A rook sacrifice blows open the position and I am in a situation perhaps familiar to his opponents imminent and inevitable checkmate.
He points to some improvements I could have made but seems satisfied with my play. I look at the clock thanks to increments, he has more time than he started off with, while Im down to my last few seconds. It can be odd talking to him sometimes he gives the air of a much older person, giving out variations, before slipping back into the mischievous boy.
When the interview is over, he runs off to play hide-and-seek in the car park. He had recently visited Anand at his home, We analysed some of my recent games, he says. How was it? He was too fast I have to improve, he says. Does he analyse with his rivals after a game? The postmortem is one of the hallowed traditions of chess. If I win, I don't, he says, because the opponent might be in a bad mood. Does he look at his own games?
If I lose, I analyse. If its bad I forget it. I can forget anything if I want to. As the true masters know, remembering is easy, but learning to forget is the hardest thing.
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As he runs off to play with the other kids, I try my best to fix the moves of the game we just played, but I know it will fade with time. Still I relish the encounter I might have just played a future world champion.
Poor Little Chess Boy
Unudurti is a Hyderabad-based writer. Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this column are that of the writer. The facts and opinions expressed here do not reflect the views of www. Read more on Grand Master.
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Magnus Carlsen. Sunday ET. Viswanathan Anand. And then there was the guy who didn't shower - EVER. I've seen this behavior again and again and again at tournaments and clubs. But then one day it hit me - I'm only seeing a tiny sliver of chess players represented. There are more than million people who know how to play chess. I was seeing just the handful that are not too socially busy to be somewhere else aside from chess club on Friday night. And of those, I was focused in on the more eccentric ones just because they are the most interesting.
There are just as many examples of amazingly social and charasmatic individuals as there are of oddballs - take Josh Waitzkin, Yasser Seirawan, and Judit Polgar as great examples. I've since met thousands of players at dozens of events, and even more since I launched Chess. Sure, we've all heard the phenomenal stories of the Grandmaster who can play 30 simultaneous games blindfolded and remember the positions in all of them. And yes, that is impressive. But the truth is that chess players do not have superior memorization skills, and it doesn't take superior memory skills to be a great chess player.
Chess players are just tremendously familiar with chunks of pieces, known positions, familiar pawn structures, etc. This quote says it well:. But his admiration is misplaced; he thinks that the chessplayer is remembering an enormous string of random patterns, for that is how the game appears to him, but in fact the chessplayer is merely speaking in the language of chess, a language with which he is familiar and whose patterns he has seen many times and knows by heart. In fact, another study has shown that while chess masters ARE much better at memorizing chess positions that occur in natural games, they are no better off than non-chess players are memorizing board positions where the pieces are placed randomly.
More here. We've all heard this stereotype, and Pixar didn't help any with their short film called Geri's game. First off, chess players are of all ages, from 7-year-old scholastic geniuses to middle-aged players to the senile. Third, more and more women are joining the game. Just click here for a view of some non-white women of all ages playing chess!
Though the recent world championship may circumstantially support this claim, chess players are no worse than anyone else in competitive gaming or sports. In fact, I would argue that chess players display greater sportsmanship than others because most smart chess players know that with a loss usually comes learning, and most chess players love learning the game more than they love winning the game. That said, the next time your opponent throws a pawn in your eye don't blame me for not warning you.
Try telling that to the guys in the picture who are competing for the World Championship Chess Boxing Title! Once again, chess appeals to athletes and non-athletes alike. If you look at a random sample of members on Chess. It is true that few grandmasters are top athletes, but that is a function of dedication, not ability. That would be like saying that athletes are not intelligent.
It's not true, it is just a matter of prioritization.