Rising Stars #1: @kamalakanta
Series thumbnail courtesy of es.sott.net.

Rising Stars #1: @kamalakanta


    Welcome, one and all, to a surprise series opener! I've been "waffling" for the past little while, and I have tons of posts planned, so I need to get on with it: after all, my planned ideas are more exciting than anything I could produce now.

    But first, a word: burnout. It's the central problem with doing anything for too long, and it caught up to me after Concrete Problems finished. In less than a year, I've gone from just another 1400 to a Top Blogger, started Chess.com’s most successful blogging group, helped to get Top Blogs headlined and more.

    However. (This is a very important however, just like this paragraph itself, but that's not what earns it the full stop. As to what does? I'll leave you in suspense.) There's a problem here. What do you do when your raison d'etre, the single thing you wanted to say the most, is past? What do you do after Top Blogs have been headlined? What do you do when there are no mountains left to climb?

    Bloggers don't get a happily ever after, a beautiful sunset in the background as the protagonist strolls toward the horizon. They only get to double down and work on beating whatever they just did, all to prove to themselves that they haven't peaked.

    That's why I'm kick-starting this series right now: I need some inspiration, some novelty, something, anything to renew my fire, and this is my best attempt to make that happen.


    In this new series dedicated to the blogging community, I'll give some of Chess.com's more underrated bloggers a hand up and review their blog in depth, commenting on things they do well and suggestions to improve their content, and I'll share my experience with the material itself.

    I won't be short of that today - this week's rising star is practically my polar opposite as a blogger, a chess history blogger in the tradition of @simaginfan, focusing more on historical chess than chess history itself.

    @kamalakanta and I could hardly be more different. He's a 2100, I'm a 1600. He loves chess history, I can't get into it. He lets the games do the talking, something that just doesn't seem to work in my blogs. He owns mostly old chess books, I own mostly new chess books.

    He loves Nimzowitsch. I struggle with it.


    It's not about his chess: I have nothing against nice games like the following one (a shrewd choice to open the article), showcasing flexibility in the opening, a useless open file, and an aesthetically pleasing attack based on activating the Bb7 and heavy pieces, and any game where an IQP is created, blockaded and exploited as skillfully as in this second game is a treat to watch.

    No, it's different. There's no denying that Nimzowitsch was an eccentric fellow, or that he liked to "blow his own trumpet" when annotating games, and it shows: When he congratulates himself for seeing that ... c4 and not ... d4 was apparently the correct plan in this next game and doesn't give any real reason why, I can't help but shake my head: sometimes it feels like he plays according to his own version of the position's truth, especially when he insists that 6. g3 refutes Black's entire opening setup.

    I get it: Black gets some pressure down the b-file in exchange for weakening d4, and d5 is solidly defended by two minor pieces. But you have to say more than that ... c4 "gives occasion to a limited but sensible offensive" and that ... d4 would be "over-straining the 'dynamics'", explanations which remind me of when non-chess players try to talk about chess.

    null    Non-chess players + chess = platitudes, platitudes and more platitudes. Enough said.

    @kamalakanta's writing is another thing entirely. He opens the blog comparing blogging about Nimzowitsch to a firefly talking about the moon, and even when he says he feels he cannot ignore Nimzowitsch's momentous contributions to chess by not writing the post you can tell that he still feels small: the presence of a single short paragraph before every game, annotations unaltered, is telling, and the most ambitious piece of text in the post is the bio he introduces Nimzowitsch with before showing the games.

    That short biography, at least, is much more than a Wikipedia copy-paste. It's pleasingly neat and tidy - there are no superfluous sentences, and in four paragraphs it covers almost all of Nimzowitsch's most notable achievements. However, I cannot resist the opportunity to nitpick it anyway: I would like to see less about hypermodernism, which is only a footnote in the annotated games below, and more about the ideas from Nimzo's writings in general and My System in particular - they're the main event not only in this post but in every post about Nimzowitsch.

    The captions to the games? They're good... for captions. A caption can be a good sound bite, a well-written overview of a game, a standard @kamalakanta’s captions meet consistently. What it can't be, at least not that well, is a story, an opinion, a reflection, something, anything which is truly and intensely personal. To get that kind of depth, you need more.

    At least, that's everything for the Nimzowitsch post. But when I look into one of his other posts on the legendary Emanuel Lasker, I see other things.


    Some things I've talked about here haven't changed: the game captions are still just captions, and the post is still about Lasker and only Lasker. But the really important ones have.

    There are things in this post which simply aren't there in the Nimzowitsch tribute: this post on Lasker is filled with quotes, an expansive, well-ordered bio and games with diverse positions and themes annotated by many different top players of the time, as well as an audacious claim that "Emanuel Lasker is probably the greatest chess player of all time." Please, tell me more!

    And look at the writing: "Emanuel Lasker is appreciated by many, underappreciated by some, and misunderstood by most."

    The Lasker post doesn't strive to be personal and isn't, but it gets there on the sheer strength of its abundant and diverse content and ambitious text.


    I may have this all wrong: after all, chess history bloggers are different. Where I find joy in the personal expression that comes with writing a blog, they find it in the games themselves and in the process of finding hidden treasures that no one else has seen, things that I have nothing to say about.

  • Be ambitious! You can feel small around Nimzowitsch, but don't let that get in the way of blogging about him. Blog despite your smallness. Blog because you have something important to say. But most of all, blog because no matter how small you think you are, you're still a 2100. Ambition, to me, is one of the key elements of blogging: the drive to improve with every single post and to put everything you have into the blog is extremely important if you want to achieve your best possible content. Feeling small is okay, but writing small is a surefire recipe for mediocrity.

          So go right ahead. Annotate those games. Tell stories. Offer your opinion on all things Nimzowitsch. Do it all, just because you can. Through frustration, through writer's block, through feeling like a firefly talking about the moon, through everything that blogging will throw at you, you must maintain your ambition. You have no other choice.

  • Make it personal! You are important. Your voice is important. Your personal touch literally turns lead into gold: you, as a blogger, have the power to turn a generic blob of text into something special, unique, touching, thought-provoking, and dozens of other things I can hardly list here. Words on a page are nothing without an author breathing life into them. Your blogs can't live without you.

          That's why all of your blogs must be about you, even the ones about Nimzowitsch. Don't just talk about Nimzowitsch: talk about how you relate to Nimzowitsch. Don't just talk about overprotection. Talk about your experience with overprotection. You are important. Never forget that.

  • Inject variety into your posts! This was the difference between the Nimzowitsch post and the Lasker post for me. The Nimzowitsch post was a bio and some games annotated by Nimzowitsch. The Lasker post was an ambitious bio, several quotes, several different games annotated by several top players of the time and some good lines. But it's also the difference between part 1 and part 2 of the tribute to Lasker: part 2 is mostly annotated games with not much else, and it's hardly an anomaly: all of your part 2s have much less diverse content than the first installment.

          This is critical with larger posts of the type you write: uniform content can make your readers bored. Diverse content will keep them entertained longer, and keeping your content fresh for the whole series is absolutely necessary.

    nullThis would keep me entertained for a while...

    I don't do chess history blogs: I can't quite get into the blogs or the chess history itself. To me it's just history, minus the tough moral and hypothetical questions that make history so interesting.

    I don't think anyone will ever manage to convert me from chess history skeptic to chess history lover, but getting me to love their posts is another matter.

    With his personal touch, chessic joie de vivre, and ability to blog and blog well about more than just chess history, @simaginfan, @kamalakanta's nonpareil of sorts, got there.

    @kamalakanta is a few steps away, but he's moving in the right direction.


    This time, if no other, be sure to leave a comment. To make this series work, I need your suggestions and your talent! Everyone here is absolutely welcome to put their own blog or that of someone else forward. Do you like their content? Do you believe they deserve to reach more people? Just leave their username in the comments!

    This is your series.