Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Don't Panic!

In the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, the unassuming Arthur Dent gets whisked away into space and finds himself on adventures with the President of the Galaxy, a two-headed alien named Zaphod Beeblebrox. The phrase “Don’t Panic!” is the instruction on the cover of the titular Guide which is the equivalent of today’s Wikipedia.

Not too long ago, one of my fellow bloggers bucked conventional wisdom and stated that studying your losses to improve is BS. I respectfully disagree. Learning from losses is like learning from your mistakes in life. Is your error one of blindness, inaccurate evaluation, defective/shallow calculation, insufficient knowledge, or hastiness? The first step to solving any problem is admitting you have a problem. Shying away from your losses seems like denial. What do you do if you have a streak of frequent losses, stop studying your games entirely? How do you improve quality without a root cause analysis? (Jeezus, I'm sounding like those managerial types that are lampooned in Office Space and Dilbert.)

A great game, lovingly annotated, is like a Shakespearean drama, born of antagonistic collaboration between you and a worthy opponent, turned into an epic with twists and turns and some fanciful alleyways not visited except in the postmortem. If you lose, it becomes one of your great tragedies. Wins become comedies, not because they are funny, but because the protagonist lives happily ever after..., well at least until the next game of chess. Chessloser blew through his wad in one post, while I’m going to savor each one in excruciating detail, driving away my last two readers with my tediousness. Maximum verbosity on.

Since I’m the webmaster for the Far West Open website, one of my duties is to maintain the list of people who have sent in advance entries. As the event got closer, I was curious how the Open section stacked up and I tried the first pass pairings out to see whom I would play in Round 1. Even though there were entries and cancellations affecting the lineup of the Open section, each of the three times I checked, I was paired against FM Daniel Naroditsky. Still with a likely infusion of last-minute entries, I expected there to be significant uncertainty about the pairing. Should I prepare specifically for him? Nah, it’ll never work out that way, right?

So I arrive for Round 1 and find that my opponent is the famous Daniel Naroditsky. To any chess player who hasn’t been living under a rock, Daniel Naroditsky should be well known. We in Reno watched him for years travel from the Bay Area and win all the top prizes in just about every section on his way up the ratings charts. Last year, at Western States Open 2007, I concluded my Games Bulletin recap by awarding my unofficial brilliancy prize to Langer-Naroditsky, a game in which Black turned the tables on White’s attack and won in fine style. A month later, around Thanksgiving, Danya won the title of 2007 World Under 12 Chess Champion in Kemer-Antalya, Turkey, automatically earning him the Fide Master title. For this, he was featured on the cover of the February 2008 issue of Chess Life.

Right before round 1, chief tournament director Jerry Weikel introduced the titled players which usually don't include Fide Masters. NM Michael Aigner prompted Jerry to introduce FM Daniel Naroditsky. I don't have any problem losing to talented kids as long as their ratings are reasonably high. Being the 256-point underdog, I really didn't feel any pressure to win the game. Sitting across from him before the round, however, I felt my shyness take over. I’m Arthur Dent, the nobody, playing a game of chess against the World Under 12 Champion, as famous as Zaphod Beeblebrox. And he’s probably got the power of two brains calculating positions. We spoke hardly at all.

Afterward, we shook hands. He had me sign his scorebook. I was still in a haze and forgot to get his autograph despite the perfect opportunity. Neither of us requested looking at it together in the skittles room and we went our separate ways. Someday, he may be playing for the World Championship and I forgot to get his autograph on my scoresheet. I kicked myself and made it a point to get the autograph from him before the next round. While Daniel was signing, somebody asked Daniel, "Did you make him pay?" Another wit who knew that I had given up the point replied, "He already did."


ChargingKing said...

You know you're in trouble when you don't realize your in check! That kid could be (regular) World Champion someday!

Wahrheit said...

Don't be shy in the opening against these kids, Soapstone! Attack, attack and sac! Probably the best chance against a player this strong no matter the age.

Of course it's easy to say that from the quiet of my study.

chessloser said...

the only thing i enjoy more than douglas adams is maximum verbosity. rock on soapstone!!!