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Cover Story / The Struggle

In point of fact, I had wanted to stop for awhile. The struggle of chess is quite simple. If you were to put it into a

sentence, it may look something like this: you can work tirelessly for extensive periods of time, give all you have to give, and make only incremental progress, if that.

I spend a Tuesday night trying to convince Gopal of the merits of

playing in the 2015 Iowa Open, the 61st edition of the tournament. To help boost attendance, Mark Capron, the organizer, has offered me a room in exchange for me bringing another 2300+ player, but the accommodation isn’t the real selling point. I have coached chess for nearly 10 years and there is simply no way

around it, to improve, you must play tournaments. “It is good to play,” I tell Gopal over the phone. Chess is two parts: knowledge and playing tendencies. It is impos sible to improve one without the other, and playing habits can only truly be worked on within the confines and pressures of a tourna ment. I’ve given this speech a thousand times to a thousand students. Gopal has a habit of finding reasons not to participate in events—the

prize fund is too low, he should receive conditions, politics, time control. But Gopal is one of the few players I am willing to admit is simply better than I am at chess. Everyone else, I think I can beat, even Carlsen.

THREE TABLES CHESS T he idea for Three Tables Chess occurred to Michael Johnson

sometime over lunch in 2012, when he played his daily chess game with a FedEx delivery driver who handled the work load

for Interwood Forest Products (IFP). Michael had just picked up the game shortly before being hired on as an accountant with IFP in 2002 and the opportunity to hone his skills over a sandwich and chips felt

like the perfect perk. The invitational tournaments, however, were 10 years in the making. Ten years of lunches and chess and some nagging idea in the back of his head. In late 2012, Michael finally acted. He knocked down a wall in his

house to combine two rooms into one giant chess hall. As it happened, he had recently visited the World Chess Hall of Fame as well as the

c5! would put Black under some pressure and make sense of the placement of White’s rooks.)

22. ... Qc5

But Black corrects the earlier mistake and does not allow White a second chance. 23. Rd1 Rad8 24. Qd3 g5

An interesting move to gain space on the king- side, though perhaps not best.

25. Be2 Ne7 26. Nh2 f5 27. Bf3 f4 28. Bg4 Rf6!? 29. Kf1

“He’s just shuffling,” I say. “OK. Keep going.” “Alright,” I say. Gopal has this tendency

to always study chess. Sometimes, the night before a tournament I’ll do my best to con - vince him that it’s time for a rest, that you can have too much. And here we are Saturday night after the first three rounds. I have 3 and he has 21

⁄2 and he insists I see

this Tiviakov game through to it’s end but I just want to finish off the hummus, watch a little YouTube and go to sleep, do my best

Despite my computer’s evaluation of a slight edge for White after this move, I must disagree. The move 29. Kf1 and the subsequent moves

show that White is content to merely shuffle and force Black to demonstrate an idea. However, such an attitude will give Black the time they need to improve their position while White just sits. It was time to start playing more actively with 29. h4!? trying to probe for a weakness. Time and again I have noticed a typical trait amongst lower rated players is to sit tight and shuffle, as if to ask the higher rated player, “What now?”

or “how will you beat me?” Such an attitude is dangerous though from a pure chess perspective since the lack of pressure on the opponent will give them the time necessary to first improve and second realize their plan.

29. ... a5 30. Re2 Kg7 31. Ke1 Kg6 32. Qf3 Nc6??

A miscue which gives White the chance to

invade. 33. Bh5+?

As a chess player you have to think this way. But Gopal doesn’t play enough, he doesn’t hone his practical skill set. Over the phone, I say, “You have to find reasons to play, not reasons not to play.” Immediately, I know it’s the clincher. He already recognizes I’m right, now I have put it in a way he can’t ignore. We leave on a Friday. Iowa stays true to form and greets us with a pounding thunder storm and we arrive late, near the end of the Iowa Quick Championship. IM Angelo Young, who we both train with on occasion, is busy finishing off WCM Claudia Munoz, of Texas, to win the event. He wears his navy blue commander-in-chief baseball cap and all five-foot-four of him leans over the table so far he shadows half the position. Gopal turns to face me, “El presidente,” he whispers with a grin, “is mobilizing the troops.”

I have coached chess for nearly ten years and there is simply no way around it, to improve, you must play tournaments.

Missing a huge chance. 32. ... Nc6 with the 23

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