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Play Taller Chess

Play Taller Chess

Jan 8, 2010, 3:57 PM 6,953 Reads 25 Comments

The people of the Western nations are growing fat. Ask anybody! Look at any news source and you'll learn that there is an obesity epidemic that threatens the health and beauty of an entire generation. As a consequence we are being besieged by diet plans and weight-loss programs designed to give us leaner bodies and lighter bank accounts.

It's all a crock! You don't need to lose weight to have a beautiful, athletic body. You can stay at whatever weight feels comfortable to you. All you need to do to improve your appearance is to grow taller.

And if you want to win more chess games you can do it without investing hours of study in a study program. You only have to play taller chess.

Here's how it works.


We tend to fall into comfort zones with our openings. Some people always answer 1.e4 with the Sicilian, or meet 1.d4 with a Nimzo-Indian, and so on. Those are openings we're familiar but the catch is, our opponents are familiar with them too so, in Tall Chess, we have to take them somewhere they're not used to playing.

If your opponent plays 1.e4 why not astound him with 1...a6?

That's what Tony Miles did to World Champion, Anatoly Karpov during the European Teams Championship in 1980. Karpov probably wondered if Miles had forgotten his medication and Miles himself commented afterwards that it caused a fair amount of amusement in the playing hall—but he won the game and later named the opening the St. George. It's the ultimate in tall openings.





The problem with juniors is that, although they may have short legs, they're the fastest improving players in the game. Yesterday's easy-beat may well be today's nemesis.

It's not just wood pushers like me who need to be careful of them—a good junior is capable of biting anybody's chess ankle.

In the 2005 NSW Open, 14 year-old Canberra junior Junta Ikeda, defeated GM Ian Rogers. The game score isn't available but Junta won on time (it was actually Rogers who drew his attention to the clock). The following year he went on to win the Australian Lightning Championship. No matter what his stature may be, he's too tall for me.

Then, of course, there was Arianne Caoili's remarkable victory over GM Vladimir Epishin when she was also fourteen. Since I've already written about that game under Upsetting a Grandmaster elsewhere in this blog, I won't repeat it here. (Epishin offered a pseudo-sacrifice of his queen which Arianne was happy to take—but not in the way he envisaged.) If you haven't seen the game, do click on the link. You'll enjoy her rebuttal.


There are slower ways than cheating to improve your chess rating but you have to be careful not to get caught.

Umakant Sharma, an Indian chess player, had performed at a steady 1900 level for many years. Then suddenly his rating climbed to 2484 after a series of tournament successes. A spot search revealed that he was using a Bluetooth stitched into his cap. He copped a lengthy ban and now has ten years in the wilderness to contemplate his folly.

At least, he was caught cheating at the board: nobody accused him, as Topalov accused Kramnik, of going into the lavatory to conjure up his genie.


Did you see Erik's David Beckham impersonation for Halloween last year? Check out this pic. Mrs Erik must have spent hours working on him, but I swear that if an opponent rolled up his sleeves to reveal that much tattooing and sat opposite me flexing his muscles, I'd be wondering whether it was safe to beat him. It's reminiscent of the chess game between Chewbacca and C3PO when Han Solo pointed out that it might be dangerous to win.

If you didn't want to go as far as Erik you might just like to settle on a simple L-O-V-E / H-A-T-E across your knuckles. I'm sure that, if you tapped your fingers beside the board, it could be used just as effectively.

One opponent I found off-putting was a woman in the U1600 division of the 2008 Australian Championship. Every time I made a strong move, she'd hiss. It was a loud exhalation of breath that was probably the chess equivalent of the Sharapova shriek. Maybe she was trying to blow my pieces onto more favourable squares.


Henry Thomas Buckle once said that “the slowness of genius is hard to bear but the slowness of mediocrity is intolerable”. If I can borrow that idea from Henry one of my current games is against Mr Mediocre Man. For our first game-and-a-half he played normal chess then, when I won a piece in the second game, he slowed down; now he won't make a move until he has only a few hours on his clock. On this basis it's going to take nine days just to relocate my bishop to a more effective square and, since I'm going on vacation in six weeks, the game may well continue right through autumn—well, spring to you Northerners.

Playing slowly is his right, of course, but a reasonable request to check for conditional moves before logging out was met with a peremptory, “Negative!”

It's a valid tactic and against an impatient opponent can result in unforced errors, because not everybody is psychologically equipped to play against such an opponent. Personally I have more patience than a hospital and, besides, I've been sticking pins in a voodoo doll that bears his name. It reminds me of something that Dorothy Parker almost said: Beauty is only skin deep, but boring goes right to the bone.

So you don't need to play better chess to win more games. Step outside the box and play "taller" chess. Change your style and do the unexpected—then cross your fingers and hope for the best!

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