A True Champion
Today I had lessons with both of my coaches for a total of 3 hours. My brain is so full of information that it is starting to leak out of my ears. I have been working mostly on openings—both the ones I just need to know and the openings that I might face in my upcoming tournament. I can’t believe how much you need to know for just one not very good sideline let alone the main lines. I thought maybe I was going to get to sleep in a little bit especially with two lessons today and it being my dad’s birthday, but I ended up getting woken up at the same time I usually do. I mean seriously, who wouldn’t sleep in on their birthday…oh yeah, my dad! He told me that what he wants most for his birthday is for me to be "just a little tougher for my next competition and if that meant even working out on his birthday then great!"
You have to just know my dad. He is very competitive, but he has a good heart. He has always been competitive, but he has learned to what extent that he can be competitive. He has told me several times about when he learned that lesson. He typed out what happened for me because he can explain it better than I can. This is what he said:
"One night Mom and I were playing a card game called "Wild Man" with Rook Cards. We were playing this game with another couple and it was getting very late. I had managed to do very well, and take sufficient risks to pull off some remarkable victories. But our friends were getting a little irritated. In fact, the wife was getting a little more than a little irritated. I don't think I lost a round the entire night and we determined that we would play one last hand and then we would call it a night. The object of the game was to bid a score of points that you thought that you could take with the maximum being able to take every hand and all of the points. You had much better chances in taking all of these points if you had more cards of a specific color so that you could declare this color as trump. Having the higher cards of the trump color would guarantee a good point total. Lastly, you would declare a secret trump partner which would not be revealed until the end of the game, but they would be selected by the person winning the bid announcing a card from their hand and the person with the corresponding card would be their partner and try to help them through the round. So this is what happened. The wife of the other couple got almost all of one color and all of the high number cards in that color. She had the perfect hand to take all of the points. I got almost all cards of one color but did not have any of the higher cards in that color. None of us knew what the other player's cards were, so the ultimate facts of what happened were not revealed until after the game. I determined that I could almost win without a good partner and since it was the last hand of the night then I would take the risk and go out with a bang - all or nothing! The bidding got heated as we started into the game and as it got higher my resolve almost gave out. The other couple's wife was determined to win the bid and I eventually bid "all points" - which meant that I would take every card from all of the other players (except my partner) or I would lose. The bidding couldn't go any higher and so I got to declare trump. When I declared trump I earned a crestfallen scowl from this other couple's wife. My declaration of the trump color invalidated her color. But what really made her mad was when I threw salt in the wound for some "style points". Typically, you call a high card of the trump color to be your secret partner. I didn't have a high card in the trump color so I decided (all other things being even) that I might as well call for my partner with the lowest card of the trump color. I was going to win or lose in style, but her face was about as upset as it could be. Not only had I said that I would take every hand and invalidated her hand, but I was calling for a trump partner with a low card and this either meant that I had all of the high cards or I didn't have them and so I had to use a lower card to declare my partner, and I had the gall to choose the lowest card of all. Well, I was pretty oblivious to the moment because I was in the heat of risk and battle and I wanted to see if my risk would pay off. It did. I started throwing my lowest trump cards from the beginning and my partner (which happened to be Mom) had all of the high trump cards and so she would take the first few hands with her cards and then my quantity of trump cards took the rest of the hands and we won all of the points. But here is where things really went wrong. When the other couple had realized what I had done and what a risk I had taken, and that I had taken away their chance of finally winning on a chance and a dare (to myself) then they stormed out of the house and we have never played cards again. I had won, but I hadn't won... ...and ultimately things had went wrong far before the ultimate conclusion and there was only one person to blame. Just because I could beat the stuffing out of my opponent didn't mean that I had to make a big deal about it also and ruin our friendship.”
I admit that I am competitive like my dad, but I have learned a lot from him. He has taught me a lot about when you can compete and when you can just let go. My dad loves to quote C.S. Lewis. One of his favorite quotes is “pride is enmity and enmity is hatred of others”. There are two different kinds of pride. There’s the kind of pride that says, “I am better than everybody else” and have to show it all the time. And then there is the kind of pride that says, “I am grateful for this blessing that I have”. And it is crucial not to get mixed up which one is which. Competition often falls into the first one and the only reason you are doing it is to be better than everyone else. I don’t think competition is bad. If I did, I wouldn’t be playing chess! But you have to make sure you realize that relationships should come before competition because there is not really any fun without any relationships.
I just got back (well I guess it is not “just” anymore since it was the end of last year) from the US Chess School in Glendale, California. All the kids there are really my competitors. We compete for chess scholarships, for spots on the World Youth, and other chess things. If I saw them only as my competitors, it wouldn’t have been a lot of fun to spend a whole week (or almost a week) with them. They would be “THE ENEMY”, but it is a lot more fun to have them as friends! Justus Williams is my same age and 2nd on the top 100 list right behind me. He is also my good friend. It is nice to see him do well. When we play each other, it is all out war…let the better one win (and we both do), but we still walk away friends. The truth is that chess is one of those things that you just have to have that competition in you, but on the chess board—not off! I am fighting to be the best chess player I can be and I would expect that my competitors are doing the same. If they beat me then that just means I’ve got to work harder not because I’ve just got to beat them, but because I want to be the best I can be…and still have fun doing it!!!! I am not saying we didn’t compete at all during the US Chess School because we are chess people and it is beyond our nature not to compete, but for the most part, we were all just having fun.
I think a true champion is someone that you look up to not just because they are good at something, but because of who they are.
Here is a puzzle from one of my games on ICC (If you have any questions about the puzzle please check the move list):