There is a chess questionnaire doing the rounds in the chess blogosphere at the moment. Although I'm a patient sort, I'm not going to wait for it to be sent to me, so I thought I'd complete it anyway here on my chess.com blog!
1. How long have you been playing chess? Have you played it consistently since you started, or were there lulls in your play? How did these lulls affect your performance?
I've been playing chess since I was five, which is 31 years ago now. My dad taught me all he knew i.e. how the pieces moved, and I read a few chess books from the local library. The next step came when I joined a local club at age nine and started learning by experience.
I played regularly until I was 15 when I stopped to concentrate on exams. I never played at a chess club again. However, I never lost interest in chess and when I bought a pc and got online I discovered chess again with a vengeance!
2. Aside from playing games, what is your primary mode of training?
Well, I probably don't play as much as I should. Definitely not enough "serious" games anyway. I have a collection of about 50 chess books, mostly instructional, and I enjoy reading them whenever I have some spare time. In reality, much of my "study" is more about enjoying myself than real hard work!
3. What is the single most helpful method of improvement that you have ever used?
I haven't improved much, so it's hard to say. I think playing in a chess club was easily the most effective thing which helped me improve. Although, that may have been just because I was starting out playing at the same time I was going to the chess club. I don't know whether or not I would have improved significantly if I had kept going and flunked my exams instead!
4. What is your favorite opening to play as white? As black against e4? As black against d4?
I've almost always played e4. I don't see any reason for a relative patzer like me to play anything else. As black I have played all sorts, but I seem to alternate these days between the Caro-Kann and the Sicilian depending on my mood. Against d4, I've never been sure what to play. I usually end up in a QGD.
5. Who is your favorite chess player and why?
Of historical players, I have always admired Capablanca. I think it has more to do with his charming and suave character than his games in all honesty. But I do like his clear and simple style of play. His best games have an inexorable flow to them which makes it seem like his victory was inevitable.
Of modern players I admire Judit Polgar's achievements in such a male-dominated sport. She has single-handedly proved that women can play chess at the very highest levels with the best men. A real achievement.
6. What is your favorite chess book?
I love Irving Chernev's, "Capablanca's Best Chess Endings". I first read it when I was a young teenager and it made me love the game more than any other book. Honourable mention must also go to "Chess for Tigers" by Simon Webb which tells patzers like what chess is really like - things other chess books don't tell you - and how to improve your practical results with simple no-nonsense advice that people can apply in real games.
7. What book would you recommend for a friend who knows only the rules of chess?
It's a bit of a cliche but "Logical Chess, Move by Move" by Chernev is a great book to introduce the game. "Chess Master vs. chess Amateur" by Euwe is also very good.
8. Do you play in in-person tournaments? What is your favorite tournament experience?
I haven't played OTB for a long time. My favourite chess experience was when I beat an expert (graded over 2100 Elo) in a team cup competition. I lost a pawn stupidly early on in the game, but got a nice attack going and won his Queen for a Rook, I held my nerve and simplified to a won King and Pawn endgame to win.
9. Please give us a link to what you consider your best two blog posts (on your own blog).
10. What proportion of total chess time should be spent studying openings for someone at your level?
Less time than what most people, including myself, actually spend. I think less than 10%.
Perhaps other chess.com members would like to complete the Questionnaire on their own blogs?