CAUTION: I'm letting the "Sports Fan" in me out of the bag... just for a moment... here on Chess.com! If you know nothing about Basketball, sports / athletics in general, or how they might compare to chess (or if you simply don't care) than this blog is NOT for you!
I'm not sure what it is about March Madness that always gets my juices flowing ... I mean, it makes sense when I consider that it's always been a part of my family life during Spring Season: gathering around to watch games in the evening (ok, maybe even sometimes during the "work day" ); following our brackets closely; competing against friends and family in pools - it's just Mad-Fun (see what I did there?)!
Furthermore, basketball has always been "in my blood". My dad, an attornery by trade, was a full time basketball coach of High School All-Star teams in Arizona for years. He coached my older brother, Dallas Rensch, who went onto play Division-1 Ball for Southern Utah University, my cousin Harper Kamp, who played College Ball at Califnornia University (and is now playing professionally in Europe) along with many other top AZ Basketball Prospects (many who played in College, and some others who also played professionally / semi-professionally over the years).
I've always joked that at 5'11 (really just shy of 6-foot) I'm the shortest guy in my family by several inches... and definitely the black sheep to become the "Pro Chess Player" in a family where the kids are all mostly consumed by sports and athletics. Believe me, as a teenager it sometimes sucked being good at a "sport" that didn't have cheering fans...
But I digress... As a young man, my enjoyment for "Bracketology" became a passion that bordered on obsession at times. Somehow convincing myself every year that I could fill out a perfect bracket . My brother-in-law can relate, as a lifetime Cubs fan, to the "this is the year" mantality, only to find yourself lowering your expectations drastically just few games into the season / tournament . (Sorry Cub Fans, it's true...)
Though I don't spend nearly as much time researching and filling out my bracket as I did in my teens / early 20's (aka, before 3 kids and a full time job here with Chess.com ) - if I let myself, the passion for "making my pics" is still deep within me!
I realized this year that part of my love for Bracketology (Not to be confused with President Obama's "Barrack-otology") might actually be one of the reasons I'm a good chess player (ok, I know what this sounds like *cough... keep telling yourself that Danny* - but just stay with me here).
See, it's more than just random guess work for me... Trying to see the patterns other people (my opponents) do not is something I've done my whole life. In some ways, it's much like evaluating the long term affects to your pawn structure at the end of a forcing combination - using your previous experience and knowledge to try and anticipate and evaluate the coming "pattern" or "position" more accurately than your opponent. This kind of reasoning is just a natural part of my critical thinking process. I couldn't turn off certain aspects of my "over-analytical approach" to things if I wanted to!
When it comes to Madness, the questions are obviously differant than whether keeping the bishop or the knight will give me better drawing chances in the coming ending. It's more like...
What teams have seniors returning?
Has their coach taken them to the Final Four before?
What are the patterns that this "X-Slow Tempo, Defensive Minded Team" might struggle against the under-seeded, but offensive minded, Up-Tempo Team?
Do you place higher regard on the "strength of schedule" vs how well a team might be playing RIGHT NOW heading into the tournament? Do you place a higher value on team shooting percentage and "assist to turnover ratio" even if the team played in a weaker, perhaps "mid-major" conference, and not against the tougher year round competition offered by the 6 Power Conferences (PAC-12, SEC, ACC, BIG-EAST, BIG-12, BIG-10)?
(OK, I might have over done that one a little )
But seriously, those are just a few of the question you might ask, if you cared, when making your picks. Of course, like you, I've learned the lesson many times that College Basketball itself is so unpredicatable (these are kids afterall, and the best team doesn't always win in a ONE game scenario) that I'm not sure ANY of my viewpoints are better than my wife's extremely scientific:
"What city do they play in, and would I like to go there..." or "what's the color combination of their jersey..." or my 8yr-old's "a wolverine would definitely beat a badger in a fight..." need I go on?
So you see, much like how we all felt at the end of ABC's LOST, the confusion caused by "one-question-leads-to-fifty-more-that-you-didn't-know-existed" can be, well, maddening!
By the way, why did my answers never come?! I invested 5 years in this show J.J Abrams! What gives? I mean: The Numbers; The Polar Bear; The Light- Post; The Smoke-Monster; Need I go on (**rew you Jack!!! and don't tell Locke 'what he can't do'). And don't tell me for a second that this makes sense:
Why am I writing this blog again? Anyway... back to the Madness!
Seeing as I can't possibly find a way to watch all the games this year (too much going on here making Chess.com the greatest place in the Universe... for chess or otherwise... for starters, let alone that family of mine ) - I had to think of another way to "get my fix" and express my excitement regarding the start of the NCAA Tournament tomorrow... but do it "on the clock" during my work day.
How could I possibly do that? Then, it hit me that there just might be a way to put my love for chess, Bracketology, March Madness, making fun videos, and talking trash against my fellow chess peers together...
Ladies and Gentleman, may I present the first annual: Chess Master's Bracketology, sponsored by Chess.com!
See our full brackets here:
IM Danny Rensch's Bracket! FLORIDA!
GM Robert Hess! FLORIDA!
IM-Elect Robby Adamson! ARIZONA! (Big surprise... *cough* homer)
IM Greg Shahade! VIRGINIA!
Chess players giving themselves the right to make sports predictions? How dare you! Seriously, what were we thinking ...
Not sure, but I think we may think the same thing again next year! Next year, I promise to find a format that gets us to the FInal Four faster than 45 minutes . Forgive me for that!
I hope you enjoy the show! Thanks to GM Hess, IM Shahade and IM-Elect Robby Adamson for taking the time to create Chess Master Bracketology with me.
See you around !