ENYCA Player Spotlight: Phil Thomas

Welcome to ENYCA’s Player Spotlight on local expert and all around good guy Phil Thomas. Phil is a friendly up-and-coming local talent known for his sharp and accurate play, and stone-faced positional objectivity. A staple of the Capital District tournament circuit since 2006, each year has seen Phil improving his game, inspiring his comrades, and dispatching his opponents with sparkling play.

(Interview conducted by Rob Fusco)

Rob Fusco – Firstly, Phil, thanks for offering us some insight into you. Please tell us a little bit about where you come from, what you do, etc.

Phil Thomas – You’re welcome. Well I was born and raised in Albany, NY to a Nigerian father and American mother. I work locally for a distribution company.

RF – What brought you to chess to begin with, and what keeps you hungry to progress? Who inspires you? Favorite players? What about their games inspire you?

PT – When I was very young my aunt showed me how the pieces moved. Though I really fell in love with chess when I played some local chess hustlers (The late Daryl Perkins). It reminded me of something Former World Champ Mikhail Tal said in his book. I was infected with the chess microbes and didn’t even know it. What inspires me about chess is the constant ebb and flow. The ability at each turn to respond with an eximious rejoinder. The constant search for the truth. The look on an opponents face when you play a great move, and put them into difficult position. My favorite players are Mikhail Tal, Capablanca, Rashid Nezmetdinov, and Garry Kasparov just to mention a few. I love the the great attacking prowess of Tal, Nez and Kasparov. I also love the effortless positional masterpieces displayed by Capablanca.

RF – Congratulations on your performance at the NYS blitz championships, and congratulations on a very nice draw against GM Michael Rohde. Lets start with your impressions of that event and the participants.

PT – Thanks. I felt it was a great tournament with a strong field filled with plenty of masters. I felt very good going into this tournament. I was ready to play.

Phil puts the pressure on, GM or not.

RF – GM Rohde offered you a draw in a position which seemed equal or very slightly worse for him. You had over thirty seconds on your clock and he was well under the fifteen second mark. Why would a player known for his speed accept this offer?

PT – Yes he was very low on time. I knew I could [have] easily flagged him. In the moment though I choose to take the road of integrity and not flag a man of his stature in a seemingly drawn position. Who knows in the future if I’d do it again, or if he’d do it for me. In that moment though that’s how I felt.

RF – Your improvement over the board since you began in 2006 with an over the board rating of 1367 has been steady and consistent. As of this interview your last standard rating is 2028, and your blitz rating sits at 2069. Where do you see yourself both ratings wise and title wise over the next five years? Moreover, how important is your rating to you? Is it the be-all, end-all, or is it just a number that chases you around as you chase good moves?

PT – Well In the next 5 years I plan to be 2350 and a solid FM. Ratings are not super important to me. They are like batting averages.

RF – Let us in on the secrets to your success. How and how often do you study? Do you prefer books or computers? Favorite authors/coaches?

PT – Well I study tactics everyday. I like books and software. Some authors who helped me a ton are Aron Nimzowitch and Vladimir Vukovic.

RF – What do you consider to be the primary determinant of success in tournament chess and for a chess player?

PT – Patience.

Phil was focused and in top form.

RF – You adopted a very stringent physical training regimen in recent years and enjoyed a perhaps not-so-coincidental boost in chess performance. Do you think physical fitness is important to OTB play?

PT – Yes, I wholeheartedly believe that there is a direct correlation with being fit and a boost in chess performance. Fitness teaches me patience, discipline, concentration, and focus – which I directly apply when playing chess.

RF – Some players marvel for hours over endgame compositions, some are lit up by brilliant sacrificial tactics, and some are content to pore over reams of opening theory. What phase or aspect of chess excites you the most?

PT – I personally love the middle game. I feel it’s the phase of the game where I’m most creative. I think of it as your opponent with each move is challenging you with a math problem with difficulty ranging from simple addition and subtraction to advanced calculus. If you answer correctly you maintain the balance or get an advantage. With an incorrect answer you do the opposite.

RF – Share one or two of your favorite tournament stories or chess anecdotes.

PT – Two stories that resonate in my mind are Mikhail Tal when in deep calculation he randomly thought about a hippo in a pond. The other story is where Frank Marshall played an amazing move and people showered the table with gold coins.

RF – The tournament scene in Upstate NY is often hot and cold. What events would you like to see more of, and what might local promoters do to attract larger player numbers and keep people coming back consistently (besides double and triple booking OTB events on the same day)?

PT – I think it will take time to build up the local chess scene. I feel that activity is a must though.There has to be at least a monthly or bimonthly event. As the old saying goes. “Build it and they will come”.

RF – Any favorite local players we should keep our eyes on?

PT – Yes the local players I like are Martha, Patrick, and of course the swashbuckling, risk taking, attacker Michael Mockler.

RF – What are your five favorite chess books and why?

PT – My System, The Art of Attack, Think Like A Grandmaster, The Life and Games of Mikhail Tal, Forcing Chess Moves. These books all helped me greatly and caused me to look at chess differently.

RF – I’d like to end this interview with a game of your choice. Please give an example of one of your favorite games with light notation and impressions.

PT – Well not a game but a particular move stands out in my mind. It was a league game several years ago against Arthur Alowitz. I played the A-bomb of a move Rf6!!. I can remember the position. The move was actually published in Bill [Townsend]’s tactics section of the Schenectady Gazette. At this point I knew my chess game was improving.
Thanks for the interview. All the best and good chess.

Saratoga Staunton Chess Club – Annual Meeting and 2016 Club Championship Tournament

We are getting started a little bit earlier this year.  I suppose I should figure out how to edit the entry for the club at http://www.enyca.org/home/clubs/

The Saratoga Staunton Club’s annual meeting will be held Sunday September  18, 2016 at 7:30 PM. The championship is scheduled to start, one week later, on September 25. Combined membership/entry fee is $16. The club meets at the Saratoga Springs United Methodist Church, 175 Fifth Av. Saratoga Springs, NY. New members are welcome and encouraged.

Notes on the tournament: Most likely it will be a double round robin, depending on entries.  The past few years it has been a small tournament, and while I haven’t checked what the ratings of all the players were I would guess the average rating has been around 1900 the past few years. Also, it is run semi-informally, allowing for players to reschedule games as needed to accommodate the players. Most players have rescheduled games in the past. The length of the tournament will be determined by the entries and how many games have to be rescheduled. It is a great way to play one rated game a week.

There is no need to attend the annual meeting to play in the tournament, in the past entries have even been accepted after the tournament has started.

At the meeting, in addition to the details for the Club Championship Tournament we will also be discussing the possibility of the club hosting other events, such as a scholastic tournament, or one night blitz or quickchess tournaments.

Chess in and Beyond Albany N.Y.

The Albany Area Chess Club will host a thematic tournament this Wednesday, August 10. No fee for members. Non members wishing to participate are welcome to pay $10 for an annual membership that is prorated and good until October of 2016). The theme of the unrated tournament is playing the Marshall Attack against the Ruy Lopez and begins with Move 12 by white after both sides have entered the Marshall Attack. Located at the Hamilton Union Presbyterian Church on 2291 Western Ave, Guilderland, NY 12084.

Robb Stewart was kind enough to submit the following game from his visit to Albany, NY for the New York Open. Although he lost to a player nearly 400 rating points his lesser, he is willing to have it published with his comments and analysis. The game goes down the main line of the Bayonet attack in the Kings Indian Defense and can be seen or downloaded for your convenience and computer assisted analysis here.

The Bennington Open Chess Tournament in southwestern Vermont is happening Saturday August 20th, 2016. It takes place at the Bennington Free Library on 101 Silver St. 05201. It will be a 4 round, swiss in 2 sections. The open section will afford $200 for first place and $120 for second. The under 1650 section promises $120 for first and $80 for second. There are additional prizes for lower rated players. Time controls are Game in 60 minutes, with a 5 second delay. Rounds start at 10am, 1pm, 3:40pm and 6:15.  The entry fee for USCF rated players is $30 before Aug 18, and $35 at the door. You may contact Parker Montgomery in Meddlebury, Vt at vermonty64 (at) earthlink (dot) net. Or call “Monty” at 802.349.7739

The 7th Annual Hartford Open in Connecticut is September 23-25th at the Sheraton Hartford Hotel at Bradley Airport, Windsor Locks, Ct. 06096 There are sections for Open, Under 2010, Under 1610, and Under 1210. Entrance fee is $68 on line at Chessaction.com by 9/21. $80 on site. Under 1210 section is $48. There are 2 and 3 day schedules available. Saturday at 9:30 pm there will be a Blitz tournament.

 

Make The Right Move 2015-16 School Year At a Glance

Right1

Make The Right Move, in association with the ENYCA, has been offering opportunities for kids of all ages and levels of ability to enjoy chess, learning, and competition. This article gives a summary of the 2015-16 school year activities.

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Chess Tent at Madison Avenue Fair

2015-16 School Year has been a great success with more than 1700 total participants and 35+ schools participating, with 16+ tournaments organized in the Capital District area. The first tournament of the year started at the Albany Academy on October 10, 2015 and ended with the last tournament of the year on June 4, 2016 at LaSalle.

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National Chess Day Tournament at Albany Academy

Make the Right Move reached a major milestone during this school year with our 100th tournament being celebrated on January 16, 2016 at the Albany High School. Over this year, there was an increase in number of scholastic players participating and number of tournaments held, and has been regarded as a great place to learn chess, and most importantly, have fun.

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Cake from Right Move 100th Tournament Celebration

Following the organization’s tradition, the chess year ends with a grand picnic on Wednesday June 22, 2016 at the Christian Brothers Academy. At this picnic various schools and individuals were recognized for theirs efforts. Also, Coach of the year award to Mr. David Sterner and Hall of Fame award to Dr. Sreenivas Alampalli will be presented.  Below are details related to top schools and individuals honored for their achievements during this school year.

TOP SCHOOLS

During the 2015-2016 School year, more than 35 schools participated in the Right Move Tournaments. Below are the top 10 schools with highest total points.

top schools

All team scores are posted here. Consistent attendance at all tournaments with many players (at least four) is a key to be on the above list.

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Right Move Tournament at La Salle

SCHOLASTIC PLAYER OF THE YEAR

Right Move congratulates Karthik Narayan, 2015-16 Scholastic Player of the Year. Top Scholastic Players and Scholastic Player of the Year Award are based on “Top ten scores” in the tournaments hosted by the Right Move with both rated and unrated sections. Thus, TRM 96 through TRM 108, MLK 2016 Tournament in Kingston and Miller 2016 Tournament were used in calculating these scores. Right Move also congratulates Mr. William Matters with 35.5 points for his high score in the Adults Section. All individual scores are posted here.

TOP Scholastic Players

top players

COACH OF THE YEAR
Right Move presents its Coach of the Year Award to Mr. David Sterner. Mr. Sterner has been coaching and promoting chess at Albany High School. He has worked with AHS for the past three years on a volunteer basis. He provides weekly lessons, reviews games, attends tournaments, and has been a mentor and positive role model for AHS students. Mr. Sterner is an accomplished local chess player and knows a great deal about the history of the game. He is able to teach in a way that inspires beginners and motivates more advanced players. Congratulations Mr. Sterner.

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Sandeep Alampalli, Right Move President, with Coach of the Year Mr. David Sterner with Dr. Laurie Miroff, Right Move Vice President, in the background.

HALL OF FAME AWARD
Right Move presents its Hall of Fame Award to Dr. Sreenivas Alampalli in recognition for his past and continued commitment and efforts to the success of the Right Move. Sreenivas was the President of Right Move during 2011 – 2013. He is a USCF certified senior tournament director and instrumental in organizing the Right Move tournaments.

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Dr. Sreenivas Alampalli with Albany Academy team during an award ceremony.

2015-16 School Year Tournament Sponsors
Right Move thanks schools for hosting tournaments. It is not possible to organize these tournaments without schools and their teachers taking the lead. We also thank all sponsors of the 2015-16 school year tournaments. Their generous contributions make these scholastic tournaments possible. If interested in sponsoring one of the upcoming tournaments, please contact us at moc.l1495722400iamg@1495722400ssehc1495722400evomt1495722400hgir1495722400

Officers and Tournament Directors
Numerous volunteers make the Right Move chess tournaments possible and we thank all their efforts during the year. Nothing is possible without the dedication, direction and hard work of Brother John McManus, Executive Director of Right Move and all our appreciation goes to him for his dedicated service. We also thank all officers and tournament directors that worked hard to successfully plan and organize these events.
2015-16 School Year officers
President: Sandeep Alampalli
Vice president: Dr. Liz Gialanella
Secretary: Dr. Laurie Miroff
Treasurer: Santhosh Abraham
Tournament Directors: John McManus, Dr. Sreenivas Alampalli, Sandeep Alampalli, and Santhosh Abraham

2016-2017 School Year

Get the up-to-date information, tentative 2016-17 schedule, and
registration details at www.chestrm.org

Officers for the 2016-2017 School Year
President: Sandeep Alampalli
Vice president: Dr. Laurie Miroff
Secretary: Santhosh Abraham
Treasurer: Mahadevan Balasubramaniam

Right Move hopes you can join us for the 2016-2017 year.

By: Sandeep Alampalli, President, Right Move

A Little More Bill Little

Many thanks and Congratulations to everyone involved, even in spirit, to the First Annual Bill Little Memorial Chess Tournament at Siena College.

Pointless Image!

Here are the results of the tournament for those who wish to see wins, losses and therebetween.

Here are the Saturday Evening Blitz Results if you are curious?

Always exceptional Tournament Direction from the one and only Steve Immitt.

Steve Immitt, TD
Steve Immitt TD

Many thanks to Brian Niebanck, president of the Siena Chess Club. He is a Junior, a Religious Studies major, and a Philosophy minor. His ambition is to soon attend seminary school and become a Protestant minister.  In addition to Chess, Brian is also involved on campus with guided tours, Ultimate Frisbee, and Habitat for Humanity.  He is one of the elite few who has submitted a game, with annotations, for publication on ENYCA.org.

Brian Niebanck, Chess Club Prezident
Brian Niebanck, President of the Siena Chess Club

Congratulations Patrick Chi, first place winner of the Open Section and Blitz tournament. Mr. Chi turns 18 years of age this April. And so, Happy Birthday as well.

Deep Thinkers
Mr. Chi on the Right, Playing Black.

About the victor. 

Who and/or what helped you improve in chess along the way?

I need to thank my parents for everything they have done for me in terms of my chess “career.” From driving me to chess lessons to taking me to tournaments across the country, had they not sacrificed their own time I would be nowhere near where I am today. They also pushed to study, to work hard, and really just to love the game of chess.

My students. I honestly believe that they have helped me grow as a chess player and chess ambassador. Teaching chess to other kids is really just something new and something refreshing, and something that just gives great joy. It’s nice to give back to the community that has taught me everything that I know and love.

How old were you when you learned to play chess and who showed you how to play?

I think I first learned to play chess when I was six, when I went to the local Niskayuna Recreation Center to take lessons from Mr. Chu. Mr. Chu introduced me to the game of chess, and I immediately fell in love.

Has Chess helped you in any way outside of the chess world?

Yes, in so many ways. It has taught me how to celebrate victory and how to face defeat. It has taught me how to focus intensely and socialize gregariously (skittles blitz for example). It has taught me how to exercise self-control, handle immense pressure, and so much more.

Can you say something about chess and the Albany Chinese Sunday School in Latham?  

I remember that I took the Albany Chinese School extracurricular chess class, which I believe was very early in my life. Aside from that, I think the Albany Chinese School is a great program that not only offers a great language and cultural program in terms of Chinese itself, but also a wealth of extracurriculars, including chess!

Chess Fun at ACS
Chess Fun at ACS

Were you a student at Albany Chinese School, or always an instructor?

Yes, I was a student at Chinese School since I was seven. I started teaching at the Chinese School when I entered 9th grade, and I stopped attending the “normal” Chinese School in 10th grade.

How is going to the Chinese school different from school M-Friday?

Not much was really different, besides the fact that school only met two hours a week and that everyone was Chinese!

Is it only for Chinese students?

I know for sure that Chinese School isn’t just for Chinese students. I know there are many classes such as English as a Second Language (ESL) that are offered.

Again, Thank You – Mr. Patrick Chi.

AgevsYouth
William Wu Plays Black

Games to Follow.  

RIP Lemmy of Motorhead

 

In Remembrance of a Local Chess Legend

It was a warm summer day, 06 June 2014, in the late afternoon. I was sitting on a bench outside of the Hamilton Union Presbyterian Church in Guilderland, NY, waiting for someone to open the church doors for the Albany Chess Club. As typical for me, I had taken the bus to the church and would wait half an hour before anyone would show up. But at least it was a sunny day, I thought. And there was a bench to sit on.

Not long after I arrived, a car pulled into the parking lot. And out walked Mr. Bill Little. Donning his familiar green flat cap and spectacles, Bill noticed me sitting by myself and came by to join me. “Nice day isn’t it?” I recall him saying with a smile. I smiled too, and soon after we got to chatting. I told him about my recent visit home to Chicago, and immediately he spoke about his experiences in the “windy city”. Of playing chess ‘sharks’ in the park – hustlers who would play chess for money. And how he would take them on and win. We shared a good laugh, and eventually I asked him to tell me more about his life experiences. He talked about trips to Scotland, books he had read, and of course experiences in chess tournaments. It was all exciting and fascinating to me. Eventually another chess club member showed up and unlocked the church doors, and our conversation continued inside over some games of chess.

In the nine months that I had begun living in Albany and joined the club, this was the first time I had the chance to share a deep conversation with Bill. And I cherish it to this day. Nine months after that conversation, and exactly one year ago from today, Bill Little passed away at the age of 74.

Bill was a long-time fixture of chess in the Capital District, beginning to play in the Schenectady Club back in 1950. He had played in several local clubs, won several club championships, and was well known in the Capital District area. I had not known Bill for nearly as long as his close friends, but I nonetheless cherish the few memories I have of him. I recall my first participation in the Albany Club Championship in Fall of 2013, and how Bill would record all the games live during the rounds, walking from board to board and scribbling in his green notebook. He would stay till the final games late into the evening, watching in excitement after every move. Afterwards he would comment on the games in the ENYCA blog, mentioning not only the game score but also his analysis and his perspective on the participants’ play. He would do this for not only the Albany Club, but for all of the clubs in the area, driving out of his way several times a week. He truly made the Capital Region feel like a chess community, rather than several independent chess clubs.

I would smile and jump for joy whenever Bill mentioned me in this very ENYCA blog. His kind and thoughtful words in his posts were engaging and personable, even going so far as to talk about my chess style and my academic studies at SUNY Albany. He would treat everyone with respect, addressing people for example as “Mr. Berman,” and he would provide viewpoints from both sides of the chess board. It was a joy for me to see my name in print, and to see someone so interested in my games. It brought a sort of honor and good feeling to know that we as chess players didn’t just show up to the club to play pointless games; instead Bill made those games exciting battles of chess strategy, full of rich historical context and featuring clever feats of human intuition and creativity.

I know he made me proud to be a chess player. Proud to go out and play my games. Proud to talk about chess and share my experiences with the community. I wish I had more time to get to know Bill. More time to watch him engage in the community. And more time to play chess with him. I believe I share the feelings of most chess players in the community when I say that I miss Bill Little.

Yours Sincerely,
Jeremy

P.S. If you haven’t already done so, I encourage you to read Mr. Mockler’s post last year on Bill: Passing of a Chess Warrior. Bill’s obituary can be found here: William Little Tribute

“Till memory shall be no more.”

Philidor played two blindfold games simultaneously in 1783. This feat of human memory was touted as one of the greatest skills of memory ever displayed. “…it is a phenomenon in the history of man, so should be hoarded among the best samples of human memory, till memory shall be no more.”

Who then could so easily forget March 26th of 2015 when our local chess community was struck by the news of “Passing of a Chess Warrior“?

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Bill Little looks over the flock.

So as to not forget, our collective memory of Bill Little is being retained at the Bill Little Memorial Chess Tournament taking place in less than two weeks. Many cultures, sub cultures, and individuals have their own unique ways of dealing with loss and preserving the memory of those who once lived among us. Chess players in this case seem to find a healthy way to engage their denial, anger, bargaining and yes, grief, in part, by playing chess.

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Bill Little watches over the Chess.

Parmenidies made the case that “nihil fit ex nihilo”, Latin for “Nothing comes of nothing.” But in the case of Bill Little, who lives with us no more, we do have something. A person we have joining in on April 2nd at the Bill Little Memorial is Patrick Chi. This young man has submitted a number of games and other worthy materials for soon to be published articles.

Open u2300 1-3 Chi
Patrick Chi smiles at the NYS Championship.

If you din’t ever get to play Bill Little, it is your loss. If you don’t try to get a game in with Patrick before he goes off to College, that too will be an unfortunate loss.

World Championship in NYC, 2016

Recent note from contributor Phil Ferguson:

Just announced on March 1st: the next time Magnus Carlson plays a challenger for the title of World Champion, the match will be in New York City! The only information so far is that it will happen over November 11-30, 2016. How cool is that??!!

More to follow as information becomes available.

How Deep? Sandeep…

All of us wonder from time to time about the meaning of life, the universe and everything. Science fiction fans regale us with the story of how a super computer the size of a small city, named Deep Thought eventually arrived at THE answer. It took eons of profound calculation, but the ultimate truth turned out to be the prophetic number 42. And so the much older and wiser head scratching human race had to go back to the drawing board and propose a better question. Lesson learned, that while we might arrive at a final answer to some conundrum, it is the questions we ask along the way that often prove most important.

NYOpen
NYOpen

In the not so science fiction world of global commerce, International Business Machine invented Deep Blue, a highly specialized super computer to defeat world champion chess player Garry Kasparov.  The take away from that victory of machine over wo/man, is that the best computer could overcome human-kind’s elite champion in a highly specialized and complex task.

ChessKids with Sandeep

Now that we are collectively bested by machines in our chess endeavors, we can say to ourselves and the machines: “Your good at chess, better than me, but how good is your Kung-Fu?” Are your tactics and positional notions as good as Sandeep Alampalli is at debate? Could a computer or even a super computer draw a National Master in chess AND win first place in the NY State History Competition like Sandeep did? Can silicon based artificial intelligence also gain a Black Belt, attend Youth Court and remain the teenage President of Make the Right Move for two years? Can any hardware or software combination boast that it also serves as a regional Secretary of the American Society for Nondestructive Testing (ASNT)?

Brother John 2015
ChessTRM.ORG

The simple answer to the questions above is not 42, but NO. Sorry DeepMind, you may well be Google’s AI victory of software over humans in the game of GO, but you only do one thing really well. Sandeep Alampalli does many things exceptionally.

NY Open LGNY
NYOpen LGNY

Here is a game in which Sandeep, a growing and thriving student at Albany Academies, invested much thought facing Simon Yelsky, a National Master in the 4th round of the Parsippany, NJ World Amateur Team Championship. Can you follow his depth of thought?

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Chess Table at Albany Academies

Deep thought in NJ
Deep thought in NJ

 

 

 

 

MARTHA 1/2 GM 1/2

Grand Master Aleksandr Lenderman rated 2700+ faced WFM Martha Samadashvili rated 2000+ this 2016 at the Greater New Haven Winter Chess Tournament in Connecticut. In a remarkable game involving cunning, deep strategy and the tenacity of youth, Martha held her own against the NY GM to make a draw.

A week later, Martha faced a handful of students in a simultaneous chess exhibition to defeat all.

jan and feb 2016 martha simil 009jan and feb 2016 martha simil 003 (2)

The following interview was conducted after Martha’s simul by Robert Lupone, a Tony Award Nominated actor and Artistic Director.

Bob Lupone              Martha Chess Pix

Robert: Martha you are student at AAG, 6th grade. You are new at the school this year. How do you like your new school?

Martha: I like the Albany Academies very much. The kids here are smart and everyone is very nice. And the school really supports you in your achievements.

Robert: Do you have a favorite class?

Martha: I like all my teachers but I like History best as a subject. Learning about the past is so interesting. And I like Geography too. I won the GEOBee (Geographic Bee) this year and I might go to Middle School States. The GEOBee is a competition between all the schools in the state. I won the Middle School competition and became the School champion for our School and then I had to take a qualifying exam and if I pass I will go to the state championship.

Robert: You travel nationally and internationally for chess tournaments. Can you tell us where you have gone in the past few months?

Martha: I was in Greece in October. I was playing at the World Youth Championship and I tied for 4th place out of about 120 kids.

Robert: Wow, congratulations.

Martha: Thank you

Robert: You must spend a lot of time playing chess and analyzing chess games to improve your own playing. Can you tell us a bit about your routine? What does an average day look like for you?

Martha: I spend a lot of time on chess when I come home from school. First, when I come home from school I do my homework, and then after that I just do chess. I take lessons from a strong Grand Master, George Kacheishvili. He lives in New York City. So we either travel, on Sundays, to where he is, or we do lessons by Skype.

Robert: So, when you say you play chess after homework, how many hours of homework and of chess do you put in each day?

Martha: So after homework I play chess or study chess for probably 3 hours.

Robert: That is a lot of time. And as you get older you will be getting more homework. Do you ever end up going to bed at 1 in the morning because of all the work you do?

Martha: No not really. Well maybe sometimes.

Robert: Do you ever play your mom? Your dad?

Martha: Yes, sometimes my dad.

Robert: Does he ever get mad when you beat him at chess?

Martha: No, well, he does get upset a bit.

Robert: When did you decide to make chess such a big part of your life?

Martha: When I was seven, my Grandmother came from Georgia to the US and she decided to teach me to play chess. And at first she beat me easily but then she says she got the feeling that I really wasn’t playing as she would have expected that I was doing something special. So when I was 8 year old I was already going to the local chess tournaments organized by Make the Right Move. The first tournament I went to I won all my 4 games. I also used to go to the chess club at my old school and I would easily beat the teachers. And then we hired an International Master, Parmen Gelazonia, to be my coach. He helped me get from beginner to expert level in chess.

Robert: How long did that take?

Martha: About 3 years.

Robert: Do you have favorite players?

Martha: I like the World Champion Magnus Carlson. I also like former World Champions Garry Kasparov, Anatoly Karpov. I like the way they play and their style. I like the way they attack and how all their pieces are in harmony. I just love their games.

Robert: Has it been important to you to watch women chess players be successful?

Martha: I look at women chess players as role models, because they were once girls like me. So I want to be like them. And some of them are really good. They sometimes beat the men world champions. (Kosteniuk v. Carlsen)

Robert: Do you think there is a difference in how men and women play chess?

Martha: No. Chess is a game of equal rights. If your idea is a good one then it will win on the board. It doesn’t matter if you are a man or a woman.

Robert: How would you encourage someone who feels they are not good enough to be a chess player?

Martha: First of all to become a good chess player you need someone who guides you or coaches you. A good coach is someone who puts their time into you and teaches you everything he knows, the basics first and then little by little more complicated things. He should give homework weekly.

Robert: Does your coach give you homework?

Martha: Yes, he gives me homework every week. He explains chess strategy or positions and then he assigns something like looking at certain games between masters or playing certain positions from these games.

Robert: Do you play video-games?

Martha: No, I don’t play video-games.

Robert: Is Chess better than video-games?

Martha: I think so.

Robert: What is something chess teaches you that you think is an important skill?

Martha: With chess you really have to concentrate because if you lose your concentration you might make a bad move or miss something. People sometimes say that video-games also help you to concentrate but I think that with chess you have to be more unique and you have to find strategic solutions so it is a more thinking process than video games. It teaches you a better thinking process. I think that is valuable because it can help you with a lot of other things in life. Like when you take tests in school it is very valuable.

Robert: I am curious about the competitiveness of chess and how you handle it. For example, what do you do when you lose? How do you deal with that?

Martha: My coach teaches me not to get too upset about losing a game. You should just try to clear your mind, get a drink of water and try to stay calm and not dwell on the game you just lost. Because if you do chances are it will affect your playing in the next game and you won’t play as well. He also tells parents not to ask your child “why did you make that mistake?’  “What happened in your game?”. He tells parents to just ask the kid “did you learn something?”. And then you can go forward with a positive mindset.

Robert: That is very good advice. Is there any advice you can give to kids who want to try out chess but aren’t sure it’s the thing for them?

Martha: I would like everyone to try to play chess because it might help them in learning strategic thinking and concentration. They don’t have to be good but I think they should try it.

Robert: If each day was twice as long as it is what would you do with the added time?

(Here Martha pauses a bit and sits back in her seat)

Martha: I have to say…I wouldn’t study any more chess….. It gets a bit overwhelming. I would do other subjects like piano. I am really good at piano; I am currently at level 5 of 6. So piano is like my second main thing.

Robert: So do you also practice piano every day?

Martha: Yes, for one hour only.

Robert: So you do your homework for 2 hours a day, chess for 3 and piano for 1 hour? Wow. Your parents are too hard on you. You should talk to them.

(Here Martha gives a wry smile and the interviewer gets the impression she quite likes the way things are.)

Martha: Ok.

Robert: So what are you playing on the piano?

Martha: I am playing pieces by Chopin and Beethoven right now and some of the other great classics. I have an evaluation in March and I need to play two complicated pieces so I have to practice a lot.

Robert: When I was playing an instrument as a kid I went to these state assessments where you would get graded on your playing….

Martha: NYSSMA?

Robert: Yes, that’s it. Do you go to those?

Martha: Yes I do.

Robert: Does chess have the same kind of structure? A place you go to for an exam?

Martha: No not really. There is the US Chess Federation that gives you a rating based on your performance in tournaments. So you go to tournaments and play other people to get a rating.

Robert: So how often do you go to tournaments?

Martha: I go to a minimum of two tournaments a month. This month there aren’t that many tournaments so I am only playing in two in February. I went to one this past Sunday.

Robert: So you have to travel to them sometimes?

Martha: Yes, a lot of the time.

Robert: Well Martha, You work very hard at homework, chess and piano and you also have to travel to tournaments several times a month. And some of those tournaments are international ones as well. I am quite impressed. Thank you for taking the time to come and play our chess club. We really appreciate and enjoy having you here.

Martha: Thank you for having me.

jan and feb 2016 martha simil 012

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