Checkmating with Einstein

Posted: January 25, 2013 in Analysis, chess

One thing that makes chess unique among other competitive pursuits is the opportunity for an amateur to play against very highly rated opponents. Baseball fans can only dream about playing against Derek Jeter  and amateur guitarists might fantasize about jamming with Eric Clapton, unless they decide to shell out a lot of money to participate in a fantasy camp. Even then, they are not really competing against the athlete or creating with the artist, it’s more of a summer camp for adults.

But in chess, you can have the pleasure of getting thrashed by a grandmaster or pummelled by an up and coming child prodigy for the regular price of playing in a tournament! And once in a while, if the stars are aligned correctly, an amateur may draw or defeat a higher rated player.

Over the course of the past 10 years, I have played a variety of opponents. When I was feeling brave, or in need of some more variety, I ventured into the city where the big boys play. Invariably, I’ve run into some highly rated opponents.

Below is  a short list of those who I’ve faced off against and (usually) lost to:

  • Yuri Lapshun (2500) – A game 60 tournament at the Marshall Chess Club. I normally try not to be intimidated by a rating, but when I saw 2500! I looked him up and found a Wikipedia article. It was pretty even for 15 moves or so, but I eventually paid the price for being too passive.
  • Mikhail Zlotnikov (2373)– Another first round match, this time at the International Chess Academy in New Jersey. We played a symmetrical English and he punished me severely after my ill-advised 11. …b6? (see diagram at right). What followed (12. Nd5 Qd8?? 13. Nf6 Bf6 14. Bc6 Rb8) wasn’t pretty!
  • Marc Tyler Arnold (2676) – I don’t remember this game very well as it was at the Marshall back in 2003. Marc was rated 2043 at the time and he beat me pretty easily. Today he is a top player with an extremely strong rating of 2626. He’s ranked 27th in the country by USCF rating and recently finished 3rd in the World Open tournament in Philadelphia
  • Joshua Colas (2362)– To be honest, when I played him in at the Marshall in December of 2007, he was a 9-year-old boy with a rating of 1605. However, even then I could see that he was a nice kid who knew how to play the game. In fact, I was at a major disadvantage and was able to get lucky by desperately lashing out to try to gain some counterplay. If it were today, he would have calmly finished me off, but back then, he blinked and I was able to counterattack and gain a victory. In the diagrammed position on the left, I had the black pieces and tried 36. … Bg3. Joshua chose to take the pawn on d4 with his queen instead of accepting the free Bishop. After Be5 the match turned into a dogfight and pawn race and I was able to pull out a victory as we were both under time pressure.

Regarding the title of this article – it was inspired by the book Moonwalking with Einstein, which has nothing to do with chess, but is a great book about the world memory championships and contains some excellent tips on how to remember long lists of items in sequence.

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