Blogs
The 64 - 2021 and Done - December 2021 Recap

The 64 - 2021 and Done - December 2021 Recap

UncleButchy87
|
2

It's amazing at how quick things can change in just one year. Obviously the state of the world has proven this theory correct the past couple of years, (unfortunately for all the wrong reasons), but still. Like many, in the fall/winter of 2020 I got swept up in the Netflix original series The Queen's Gambit. Inspired I was to dig through the dusty closets of my house to see if I could find my father's old chess set. Eventually, suffocated under a mountain of mink coats that haven't been worn since '92, I found that recognizable black case. 

Do you know what the Mandela Effect is? Some believe it's proof of alternate realities but really it's just the fallibility of human memory. Playing with this chess set as a child, I always recalled on it through the years that I've gotten older as the most majestically crafted piece of art that was ever carved from stone. I was always gentle when moving the pieces because I thought they were made from a very rare marble but after recently unboxing it, the pieces were really just cheap plastic and not even weighted. Pawns were cracked and I'm surprised the horses still had their heads attached. The foldable board was flimsy, held together in the center with electrical tape and hanging on by a thread. This makeshift piece of cardboard just so happened to have 64 squares painted on it. We were even missing the white rook, as you can tell by the substituted bottle of Old Spice after shave occupying its spot on a1. 

With that being said, this edition of The 64 is brought to you by Old Spice. 

And now, a quick word from our sponsor...

I never once beat my father in chess, as he scoffed at my every move twirling his bushy gray mustache while he smoking his atypical brand of cigarettes. He might as well have been Karpov, if I actually knew who Karpov even was back then, for which I didn't. But after this past year of purchasing and studying opening/endgame books, doing my puzzles and taking my chess.com daily lessons, I've come to the realization that my father was nothing but a patzer! Just getting satisfaction from beating up on his child who didn't say his first word until he was four! Congratulations Dad! He clearly had no idea what he was doing because if he did, he would have slapped my wrist every time I played 1.h4 2.Rh3. One of those books I have purchased and studied is Sokolov's Middlegame Strategies. In the first volume he dedicates and entire chapter to "Unusual Rook Lifts". Much to my dismay, the games of a young UncleButchy87 were notably not included in this chapter. 

So, after noticing me watching The Queen's Gambit on television, as well as inquiring about our old chess board, last Christmas, as a very thoughtful gift, I received a brand new wooden chess set. This beautiful board was essentially all the incentive I needed. From that point on, until the day I die (or until I contract dementia), chess would/will be my hobby. I told my mother, in regards to my oldest brother's newest hobby "hey, it's sure better than skydiving!" Her first born also recently swam with sharks and went bungee jumping in Vegas. It seems as though his mid-life crisis has struck him early. 

What do you say to a skydiver, a vegan and a CrossFit enthusiast? ... Nothing because you can't get a word in elsewise.
I wrote that joke, but you can use it =)

The very next day, on December 26th 2020, I created my chess.com account. On March 14th I become a Diamond member (gotta do those puzzles and have that game analysis, am I right?) and after just a handful of blogs, I earned "top blogger" status.

It's amazing how prevalent chess has become in my life. It's my new sport. I follow all the tournaments, tune in every week for Titled Tuesday and Arena Kings and know all the players. The youtube channels of GothamChess and Daniel Naroditsky videos all display that red bar slashing across the lower third, indicating that I've watched every single video that they have published (Naroditsky's speed runs are for my money the best educational chess content out there, but Youtube is free so it doesn't cost me any money). I'm even in the process of starting an official chess club at my university. All in all, chess is a game that I wish I had stuck with. Instead, I grew up and directed all my attention towards football, basketball and baseball. My knees do not thank me.

This is what my attempt to get out of bed in the morning usually looks like.

The one who gets the most use out of my wooden chess set is my two year old niece (my profile name is UNCLE Butchy after all. You know what I say about being an uncle, "it's the hardest job in the world ;-) ). She comes home from school and asks me if she can play with the "BIIIGGGGG chess" instead of that flimsy one inch plastic set for which she already lost half the pieces. I'm always pleased to hear her ask though, as I usually play online I never have a reason to open it. She continues to lug the box out, which is taller than her and probably weighs more too. The box never stands a chance but she does always politely knock on the foldable board before opening it and asks "is anybody home?"

A novelty. This position does not occur in my database.

Obviously, she has no idea where the pieces go or how they move. Basically, she just likes taking the pieces in and out of the case. It's like a puzzle to her, matching the pieces to the particular indented felt space in the inside of the box. Much more elaborate than shoving a square peg in a square hole. To her, the pawns are called babies, the black pieces are chocolate and the castle is where the princess lives. It's frickin' adorable!

So just this most recent Christmas, I got my niece her very own/first chess set. It's magnetic and she really crapped her diaper when I turned the board upside down and gravity did not take hold. 

It wasn't a completely altruistic bestowal however. I was trying to preserve the condition of my wooden set, as when my niece plays with it, she tends to drop/throw the pieces, which easily get lost under the couch or worst case scenario, forged into the pit of the fireplace. Now I display my chess set on my dresser and it makes for pretty window dressing in the background of my zoom calls.

But I suppose this was all a long-winded way of saying how chess has become a staple of my day to day life just within the past year. I have the US Chess Club to thank for that, and certainly chess.com as well. This hobby might have flamed out if I just routinely signed up on a different website but chess.com is truly my home. It's the website I visit most often and is certainly the app I open the most. Whenever I check my phone, my niece asks me "you playing chess?" and by God, she's usually right. It's frickin' adorable! 

I try not to make these recaps about me or my games so thanks for indulging me on this one.

But enough about me! Let's look at some chess!

Usually December is a month reserved for pigging out during the holidays and being a real lazy P.O.S before you convince yourself that come January, you're finally going to pony up that $10 a month for a Planet Fitness gym membership but December 2021 was a dominant month for the US Chess Club. It seems as though the club had started its New Year's Resolutions early. With the end of the year wrapping up the final week of the Rapid Cup regular season, the US finished the year strong with a perfect 4 out of 4, securing one of the top two seeds and with this, comes a first round bye. In fact, out of 9 live matches held this past month, the US Chess Club won all but one, which was an U1600 match. Here's how the Rapid Cup played out...

W - 38 to 26 vs Mexico

W - 32.5 to 9.5 vs Uruguay

W - 29.5 to 6.5 vs Chile

W - 37 to 11 vs Colombia 

The US always poses a formidable lineup when it comes to the Rapid time control and these convincing victories don't disprove that. Mexico was the most notable victory back on December 4th, as our neighbors to the south have been a real thorn in the side of the US Chess Club. Mexico is always capable in all time formats but this victory proves that the Americans have a more than likely chance to take home the Rapid Cup championship. It was a relatively even match ratings wise, so let's take a look at one of the boards, @andrewk55, which looks a whole lot like Andrew WK, and maybe it is because andrewk55 sure "Partied Hard" with the white pieces.

And speaking of New Year's Resolutions, UncleButchy finally figured out how to annotate!!

Have a martini on behalf of the US Chess Club and enjoy this "Party Time" badge!

This was the scene after that resignation... 

There was also a unique event held in December. Every year, the National Hockey League holds an outdoor game on New Year's Day dubbed the Winter Classic. As far as the standings go, it's just another two points, like every other regular season game but it's anything but that. It's the Winter Classic! and the event has a weighted significance. It's usually sub-zero temperatures. I've actually had the privilege of going to a couple of outdoor games at Yankee Stadium and Citi Field and it's cold. The second you pour your beer into a cup it turns into slush. Along with that, players have to weather the conditions and the venue is usually a baseball or football stadium which holds a lot larger of a crowd than a hockey arena. The pageantry is glorious.

Well, there was a similar event held on chess.com last month and garnered just as much attention. No, I'm not making the hockey reference because the event was held in conjunction with Canada but that is the case. It was the Battle of the Federations. A unique one time event in which it was the two neighboring nations dishing it out in not just Rapid, and not just Blitz...but also in Bullet for a triple-header! Not since the 2010 men's ice hockey Gold Medal game in Vancouver has there been such an anticipated contest between the US and Canada. So how did it fare out?

Unfortunately, the 64 squares didn't prove to be as exciting as the Gold Medal game held on that 200 foot sheet of ice. A game where Zach Parise tied the game up with under 30 seconds left in the 3rd, only to have Sid "The Kid" Crosby net the Golden Goal for Canada in Overtime, a shot that Ryan Miller HAS TO STOP!

It's ok. It's not like I ever think about it...like all the time...

Quick fun fact: A Canadian team has not won the Stanley Cup since Justin Bieber was born. Canadians, you know what you have to do. The ball is in your court, the puck is on your stick...

But as for the chess, it was a clean sweep for the Americans -

22.5 to 11.5 in Bullet 2/1

15.5 to 10.5 in Blitz 5/2

23 to 9 in Rapid 10/2

Let's take a look at a battle between two titled players, National Master @ChristopherChabris and International Master @ValeriyGrinev -

Much more worthy and valuable than any titled norm, I award you one "Taco" for your valiant effort that day. Hear, Hear!

I should also briefly mention the two U1600 matches, for which the LCWL U1600 season also wrapped up. Alluded to before, the US lost to Argentina 26.5 to 9.5 but also beat Team Chile by the narrow margin of 19 to 17. The US Chess Club finished just a shade under 50% with 3 out of 7. 

Here are the final standings -

https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/14f63y8kIDqv9FTX9Ghle7P1lcih6U8OHa3GIlVxX7uI/edit#gid=88552645

This weekend will be the biggest match of the young year that is 2022 (I still have the habit of writing 2021 on my checks...because I write soooo many checks all the time =/ ) but would have also probably been the biggest of last year as well. It's the semi-final match in the LCPAL Rapid Cup. The US Chess Club is set to face-off against Argentina Live Chess after their victory against Uruguay in the quarter-finals. Winner will face the winner of Mexico and Puerto Rico in the Rapid Cup finals. It should go without saying, that this weekend (and hopefully next weekend as well) the US Chess Club will need to put forth their most Herculean lineup. Let this be a recruiting call!

So if you too are interested in playing competitive chess, here's a link to the US Chess Club main page -

https://www.chess.com/club/uschess

- where you can find all the information on how to link up, as well as all upcoming events. The club and matches are FREE to join and open to ANYONE who wishes to participate. You do not need a USCF rating! Just join the club and registration for Match Play opens one hour before the scheduled time, just like all other tournaments in the Live Chess tab. It's as simple as that! 

Also this weekend is Team USA's round 1 matchup in the Live Chess World League, where the club was recently promoted to Division A. They draw two-time defending champion Team England who currently at the time of writing this has 628 members joined for this match, nearly a hundred more than Team USA so participation is dire. Team USA represents the United States in the Live Chess World League the same way The US Chess Club represents the US in LCPAL and LCWL match play. It's a daily contest, in which you have 3 days to make a move, so really...what's your excuse for not joining? Just as long as you have at least 10 daily games under your belt without a high frequency of timing out, you too can join this daily match. Below are links for the Team USA club page, as well as a link to register for the match against Team England. 

https://www.chess.com/club/team-usa

https://www.chess.com/club/matches/team-usa/1328781

Hopefully I'll see you all this weekend on the 64 squares. But before signing off, another quick word from our sponsor...