Strategic moves

By Mary Lou Gorny

A conversation across a board of 64 squares — that’s a brief description of the game of chess two participants agreed upon before play in the Air Force 2010 Chess Program Base-level Tournament at the Youth Center April 10.

“Even though you don’t say a word to each other, there is a conversation taking place across the board and personalities show through, too,” said John Minnoch, current Department of Defense Hill Air Force Base worker and co-director for the tournament.

“Some people make very aggressive players, and it quickly shows. Some may be defensive players,” he said in generalizing styles of play.

Senior Airman Robby Hedrick, 75th Air Base Wing, pointed out the advantages to short-term and long-term strategies chess players apply in general.

“You learn how to constantly evaluate situations — you learn the difference between tactical and strategic — short-term advantages and long-term advantages. Essentially it is a metaphor for every situation because you learn how to stand back and constantly analyze and evaluate and then move things to your strengths and weaknesses, as well as realizing your strengths and weaknesses. Within the confines of the 64-squares game, (play) allows you to apply those theories to other aspects of your life as well,” said the Airman as he awaited the tournament start.

The best players generally tend to be balanced in all aspects of the game, Minnoch said in his estimation of what it takes to become skilled.

“The strongest players can’t have any weaknesses in any part of their game whether it’s opening, middle game or endgame or the phases in between,” he added.

Tournament play started under the watchful eye of tournament co-director Master Sgt. (Ret.) Hank Beuning, current Utah Senior State Chess Champion, at the three tables set up with time clocks alongside the chessboards.

Two junior players participated in the youth division, five in the active duty division, and five in the other category allowing play by DoD workers, retirees, civilians and spouses.

Minnoch explained earlier how he was captivated to learn the game at age eight. In Weisbaden, Germany, across from the opera house, he came upon the sight of chess players playing on two facing podiums with man-sized statuesque pieces in play on the squares. Figures of knights on horses and other such pieces had to be moved by a person lifting them up and carrying them to another square.

“They were calling out the moves and these guys would be picking up these huge chess pieces … it was awesome back then,” he said. “I was just really enraptured looking at that big giant chessboard in front of the opera house in the park.”

Scott Liddell, Ogden Chess Club member, and retired from the Navy, and agrees chess is fun and that there are advantages to learning the game.

A player with the skills to be rated Chess Expert by the United States Chess Federation, Liddell explained, “It forces you to make plans. You can’t just willy-nilly move around and do whatever you feel like at the moment. You’ve got to have a plan. It makes you think in advance.”

Minnoch added, “It’s all logical — it’s cause and effect. It’s like any other activity. Practice makes perfect. I’m not sure how much it crosses over (into other areas of life). Just because you’re good at chess doesn’t mean you’ll be good at math for example. But there’s certainly some type of psychological (benefits): to look, to concentrate, to focus and apply logical thinking.”

Most players of longstanding have favorite grandmasters. Minnoch’s include Bobby Fischer, the famous American who knocked Russian grandmaster Boris Spassky out of his position as world champion during the Cold War, and another Russian grandmaster, Alexander Alekhine who was strong in the 1920s and 1930s.

More here.

Special thanks to
Robert Williams, Advisor University Chess Club at the University of Utah, for sending us this article.

Chess Daily News from Susan Polgar
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