In the previous episode of "How to Make Master in Three Hundred Blunders or Less", I detailed some of my experiences in the city of brotherly love, like sleeping under a piano and being bad at chess. In this chapter things take a turn for the same when I move to Baltimore.
Chapter Three: Baltimore is a Scary City
In the year 2004 I found myself attending the Peabody Institute of Music in Baltimore where I found a much wider selection of pianos to sleep under. The flip side of my newfangled academic career, however, was that chess became something difficult to pursue, much like myself whilst fleeing down Charles Street in the dark en route to my apartment.
To be fair, Baltimore wasn't entirely one big real-life re-enactment of "The Wire". There was also my roommate who, in his defense, was one of the nicer people I've ever known to almost certainly by now be convincted of involuntary manslaughter. For instance, there was the time he got bed bugs and arranged to have the entire place fumigated without telling me. I will never forget that day in spite of the likely long-term memory damaging toxins I inhaled: I came home and noticed that there were a slightly larger than normal number of water bugs in the hall. Btw, here's an extremely inaccurate depiction of what water bugs look like:
Then, in a scene worthy of a Q-grade horror film, the number of water bugs stumbling around began to grow. They all appeared to be, for lack of a better term, drunk, or at least suffering from some sort of insectoid hangover. Panic was mounting. Actually, panic had mounted some time ago and was now galloping away as fast as possible. I called my landlady but she proved once again unsympathetic ("They're just palmetto bugs, and what have I told you about calling during Springer?"). I then decided that perhaps it was time to explore some piano sleeping options at school and leave the apartment to whatever local exorcist that could be found to come on a weekend.
Aside from brain damage, also contributing to the absense of any chess-related material in this chapter so far was the general lack of chess opportunities in Baltimore. This initially surprised me because the University of Maryland Baltimore County (UMBC) sports a well known chess scholarship program that has in the past resulted in a suspiciously large number of Russian emigres studying computer science and forming a chess team roughly on par with, say, France. However, my school was not UMBC. Technically it was Johns Hopkins (Peabody is part of JHU) and the chess club there was somewhat less organized. In fact, based on the times I visited, I would guess that very little actual chess is ever played at the Johns Hopkins chess club and that most of the students prefer to invent their own games(1). That said, I cannot recommend this club highly enough, especially if you want to learn to ride a unicycle.
I suppose I should now provide some actual chess content. To that end, here's one of the few USCF rated games I played in Baltimore (over in Fells Point, a truth-be-told genuinely charming area). The game ended in a draw after various clownish time scrambles, but perhaps you can find the win I missed:
So endeth Chapter Three of "How to Make Master in Three Hundred Difficult Steps". Stay tuned next week for Chapter Four, "Chess in the Absolute Middle of Nowhere", here on chess.com.
(1) Many strange chess variants were born at the Johns Hopkins chess club, and though their lives were short much noise was generated. My favorite variant was one I invented: Poker Chess. The way it works is simple: write down the move you think your opponent is going to play. If correct, you win that piece. If the piece was the King, you win the game. Perhaps it should be also noted that this variant was a distant runner-up in popularity to Beer Chess.
© (copyright) John Chernoff, 2013, all rights reserved