Thursday, September 10, 2015

In Memory of a Good chess player and a Great Friend

This is going to be a hard blog to write; and perhaps uncommonly short. So bear with me.

My start in Chess….
It seems like such a long time since I learned how to play chess.   Interestingly I was taught chess during big experiment during the height of the Bobby fisher days,  A local academic wanted to study how teaching students chess at a local middleschool affected their academic performance.   He set up a local scholastic chess club (that survives to this day), did a chess tournament.   I don’t know whether I was part of the chess group of kids- but I can tell you this, it didn’t really take.

I had my own issues during of all school, and chess seemed pretty unimportant to me.  For a long time through my life; I liked chess – would play it if someone wanted to – even pretty strong compared to the many novice players that occasionally mentioned the game.  but without wanting to take it to a more serious level. 

Several years back a small chess group came into a temporary existence.  I was part of it and enjoyed it.  but all enthusiasm was limited.  Issues came up and we stopped meeting.
Richard was faithful part of the this group and spoke to me about chess whenever we had the chance to talk

Richard Howard and being a lot more serious…. 
Last summer however, I decide to be a lot more serious about the game.  I started buying books.  I studied tactics, I started a notebook.  I tried to restate the OTB chess club.  Only Richard and another guy was interested.   Richard was truly interested and we joined the USCF and did a tournament together.  Richards failing health made it hard; but in more than a year, we solidly played weekly OTB; even when he was in the nursing home.  Only in say the last month did his health deteriote to the point at which he could play no chess.  Still he wanted to hear me talk about it.   He was source of strength and very occasionally, he had a wry way of humbling me (Why did you put that peice there!?).  I would also add, that for many weeks he persevered playing me with all his wits and losing for week after week.  Not one to obsess on Tactics- his board awareness suffered.  It was magnficant to watch him tirelessly try week after week. I even mentioned his struggles in a blog. 

Richard was Here!
And that’s not the only time he got a role (and sometimes big) in my blog.  There’s my big discussion about stopping the opponent/versus understanding weaknesses.  His early middlegame was excellent and very thoughtprovoking.  His KIA against the French was a thought provoking retort to a very well practiced French opening.  He ended up failing to convert to some tactical issues… but I’ve struggled long and hard to understand the fundmental weaknesses he drove home- and that when he played that game when he was pretty sick.

Moving On without him.
So I suppose we must depart.  I’m a religious man and truly believe I will see and know him again.   Its amazing to me, how much we grew to know and appreciate each other in a year.   As a man, perhaps, he was old- but as a chess player; unfortunately we lost a passionate chess player who had a lot more good games to play.

Richard was a talented Queen side play- the kind of guy that found strong positional moves on the queen side that could sneak up on the Kingside attackers; and daunt those who’s quick attack was shallow and unsound.

I feel like, I need to try to carry on not only his memory, but also his chess.  In his way, I know one of his aspirations was to teach me to appreciate the positional possibilities of well posted pieces and carefully pushed pawns.  His intuition far exceeded his official rating.  I look forward to developing his strength in my game.

There’s so much I can’t say.
As I thought when I delivered part of eulogy; there’s so much about the guy that can’t easily be said in paragraph.  And a deep appreciation that might not be appreciated by family that have known and loved him for decades.  One year might not be long—but in a year we truly had a lifetime of good experiences.   I’ve had other friends before, but I don’t think I’ve had anyone so close and part of my life (that wasn’t my wife and my kids).

Most importantly, I have sought a good friend or true to have good times with and nearly everyone has said No.  the other guy in a chess club quit coming many months back.  People are SO busy! It’s a shame. The failure of the modern age is to make it so Easy to communicate with people (cue facebook), but so hard to share time with.  Even with chess, you can find a tense competitive blitz game in milliseconds, but seek someone locally to play a friendly OTB game with , and there’s no one around.

Lastly, Me and my friend have proved that conflict in chess, is indeed, with the pieces and not against the opponent.
I’ve heard it said, that you need to ‘beat’ the opponent and should mentally revile him for best competitive efforts in chess. I think such attitudes are sad and I strongly disagree that you need to have
any ill thoughts of your opponent.

I  much prefer the idea that you and your opponent are exploring the intricate patterns of chess.   I also know that there often a serious amount of frustration in chess; often failing to see the simplest of moves.  And that this frustration is entirely with yourself.  One knows that you Must see all captures, checks and strong threats that the opponent has Before moving the piece and make sure that the move is safe.  To err is human. And when failing, the opponent plays the necessary role of maximizing his gain in your poor move.  This is the nature of the game…. your frustration at your weakness makes it a little hard to appreciate your opponents’ victory.

Nevertheless I know Richard did try as did I.   We appreciated each others willingness to play and play hard at winning.

.What do you know? It wasn’t really that short.  Nevertheless, I still feel like I’ve only awkwardly and insufficiently expressed how much I appreciate my OTB friend.

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