Jun 16, 2008, 2:43 PM |

Let me start by giving a quick summation of my chess career.

 I learned chess at 9 or 10 from the instructions of a checker/chess set I got as a gift.  By 7th grade (which would put me around 13 or so) I won my first tournament in an inner-city recreation center.  At 14, I competed in my first USCF tournament, the Washington DC Scholastics, run by the venerable Bill Goichberg and earned a first rating in the 1300's.

By high school, I was able to reach the 1600's where I stayed much of the time, getting up to 1700's by graduation.  Slowly, I crept up to 2000 during college and spent a good chunk of the 80's in the 2100's and (once!) cracked the 2200 mark.

Meanwhile, personally there had been a marriage, birth of a daughter, and a divorce by the time I was 30.  My interest in life began to pick up along the same time my interest in chess began to wane.  In 1991, I moved to Florida and since, most of my games have been played here in the state.

For those of you that don't know, Florida has a reputation for being underrated.  Consequently, my 2100+ rating began to suffer as the reality of the "Florida Expert" began to creep in, coupled with my own malaise towards the game and, in seemingly no time at all, found myself mired in the mid 2000's, where I find myself today (2041).  Almost without exception, my rating since arriving in Sunshine State has gone in one direction.  Down.

Now in my early 50's, I find myself bitten again by the bug.  Fortunately my aging has also brought about a bit more maturity (in chess and in life) so I am reasonably realistic about the strengths and weaknesses in my game.  My long-term goal is now to become a FIDE Master.  My short-term goal is to become a USCF Master (maintaining the 2200+ rating). 

My game has always been -- first and foremost -- tactics.  No position was too sharp and I have garnered a reputation as a gambit specialist.  A maniacal, sacrificing hacker who is likely to throw the kitchen sink at you during the game, with no regard whatsoever for material.  Pawns were created to be sacrificed and, for the most part, just interfered with my pieces ability to create havoc on the other side of the board.

Consequently, the more time gained in the opening the more I was a fan of it.  Naturally, the Danish Gambit always hovered near the top of my list, although I resented not getting many opportunities to play it (1...e5 was out of fashion through much of the 80's and 90's, primarily due the success of the Sicilian Defense [1...c5], as well as in-fashion breakouts of the French and Caro-Kann).  These days, 1...e5 seems back in vogue, so perhaps its time for a renaissance?

Because of the lack of opportunity to play the Danish, I became a fan and student of the Blackmar-Diemer Gambit (1. d4 d5 2. e4 dxe4 3. Nc3 Nf6 4. f3).  This gambit has served me well, even when I was determined to stick with an 1. e4 repertoire, as it was playable against the Center-Counter (1. e4 d5 2. d4 dxe4 3. Nc3 Nf6 4. f3) as well as Alekhine's Defense (1. e4 Nf6 2. Nc3 d5 3. d4 dxe4 4. f3).  Forms are even playable against the Caro-Kann and French defenses, so it is a great arrow to have in one's quiver.  I have no doubt it will always be in mine.

The problem is, the one-dimensionality of my chess (high tactical aptitude, but low positional and endgame aptitudes) means trying to maintain even a 2200+ rating (forget about the 2350 or thereabouts strength I will need to become an FM) is almost unthinkable.  Trying to achieve and maintain this level without obtaining a deeper understanding of the game is almost impossible. strengths?  Recognition and demonstration of a wide range of tactical themes.  Great opening preparation.  Favorite book? The Art of Attack by Vladimir Vukovich.

My weaknesses?  Everything else.  No concept of strong and weak squares, little appreciation for the value of pawns and chains.  Unable to identify favorable middlegame-to-endgame transitions.  In fact, unable to win most endgames unless multiple pawns ahead.  Technique?  You've gotta be kidding.  Just a wide catalog of deficiencies that I need to honestly address to improve and become the player I think I'm capable of becoming.  Hard work ahead for the sac-master, no doubt.