Tales of a Hustler Hunter: An Introduction
If you’re anything like me, you take the occasional break from chess. These chess-free periods can be of varying lengths and for a multitude of reasons. Maybe that nagging beast known as Real Life comes bombing into your chess time: work, school, weather, relationships… these are all well-documented to be the bane of the chess player. Or, maybe, you just needed a little mental vacation from the game that you so adore, to recharge the batteries and come back fresher and more focused. Regardless of the reason or how long you took off (for me it was about five months), you find yourself drawn back to those 64 squares, and begin again.
I have only just taken my first baby steps back into chess playing/studying, but I have the advantage, the pleasure even, of living in New York City, where the chess hustlers own their little pockets of pricey chess heaven, where you can always get a game over the board. This blog and its subsequent articles will be about my experience with these hustlers, the matches I play with them and the insights they bestow. It will be about my costly attempts toward beating these men of the street. These will be the tales of a hustler hunter.
When I do return to the black and white jungle after a break, I like to learn new openings. Now this might be, and probably is, a potentially dangerous mistake. After all, most experienced players know you lose a lot of your games as you discover the intricacies of a new opening. But that loss-filled challenge is almost always a big motivator for me, and makes my studying of the opening phase of a chess game fresh again. So, after some consideration, I’ve decided to go Hypermodern.
This will definitely be a challenge for me, as I’m used to grabbing space with 1. d4 followed by 2. c4 and as black either the Sicilian Defense Taimanov Variation or the Semi-Slav (sometimes I’d attempt a Benoni, if I needed to mix it up). But now I shall attempt the King’s Indian Attack system, the King’s Indian Defense, and, perhaps most ambitiously, the Modern Defense to 1. e4 with 1… g6. A challenge indeed.
Notwithstanding my opening choices (I need to work most on my endgame anyway), I’m hoping these will lead to some fireworks and really hard-fought games with chess hustlers that don’t like to draw to begin with. I’ll be documenting my off-the-clock matches with a fresh pocket-sized scorebook, and will present them here with my amateur’s mind annotations. I’ll go through my thought process as I played, which, while far from a master’s perspective, might be more similar to how some of the users on Chess.com would think, and so it should be fun to break down my analytical mistakes together.
Here is a game from none other than Bobby Fischer at the tender age of 14, when he used a King’s Indian Attack setup (though he started with 1. e4, and I tend to prefer 1. Nf3, it transposed to a similar position). I include this game not because you can’t find it anywhere else, obviously, as I got it from My 60 Memorable Games, but because this is one of the battles I looked over recently that pulled me back into the world of chess. This game is an inspiration.
Next week’s blog entry should have an actual match or two that I played with a chess hustler from either Washington Square Park or Union Square, depending on my mood and the weather. I hope you’re as excited as I am to start on this journey and read my tales of hunting hustlers and obviously getting hunted a little myself.