Rook Reflections - Episode 4 with adult improver, team captain Phil

Rook Reflections - Episode 4 with adult improver, team captain Phil

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Hi everyone, 

Here is the third episode of the Rook Reflections podcast! The main interviews will happen on my Twitch channel, every few weeks, but the video of it will be uploaded to my YouTube channel

Most likely this will be the last episode that will be in a blog form, but the interviews will continue on the previously mentioned channels.

In case you missed the first two episodes, then you can check those out here: 
with WFM Alessia Santeramo
with GM Hovhannes Gabuzyan
with WIM Jesse February

In this fourth episode I interviewed an adult improver, Phil, who went from 1100 to 1500 in a short period of time (in a bit less than a year), so I asked him what helped him the most in his improvement and what experience he has in the chess world. Since he is the captain of his team, I had some questions about that too.

F: How did you start playing chess?
P: My dad played a little bit, so I played too. I played chess in school, and I got into the school team once as a substitute. The only thing I can remember is that I was the only person who got a point, I mean, didn’t lose, because it was a draw, I got stalemated. After that match I mostly stopped, I don’t know why, there is no real reason behind it. I played a little bit in the next 30 years. Then covid hit, and the Queen’s Gambit came out on Netflix, although I do like to say that I didn’t start again because of the Queen’s Gambit, because I did have 3 months between watching it, and picking it up again. Also covid hit, and obviously I was working from home and I thought about playing it again, since I have a friend who was also playing, and we played a couple of times. One day I was at work, and I was browsing Twitch for some background noise and I stumbled across a streamer called Ande_Star who was solving puzzles. Until then I thought I was okay at chess, but she was doing easy puzzles and I sort of wondered how she knew what the right move was. That got me into doing more puzzles, and then I got more involved in her streams and her community, and just like probably many other people, I got addicted to chess, and I was playing 100 blitz games a day, solving hundreds of puzzles. This was 3 years ago, and now here we are. [...]

F: What is your main chess goal?
P: My main goal is to keep enjoying it. My initial goal for this year was to reach 1400 rapid rating on, but I acquired that in March, so I wasn’t sure what I would do now. My main goals are mostly related to over the board chess, where my main goal was to become a regular in my club where I joined 18 months ago. In terms of online chess, I would like to hit 2000 rapid rating, although I take over the board chess way more seriously than online chess, it’s more important to me. 

F: If I remember well, you had 1100 a year ago, and now that you are around 1500. What helped you the most in your improvement?
P: My peak was 1591, which was about 3 months ago. The problem is, I went back to 1300 or something, but now I am just over 1500. [...] It might be a silly thing to say, but probably what helped me the most is not playing too much and not playing too fast. I more or less stopped playing bullet, and started playing more rapid, and sometimes blitz. Of course, I watch chess content too, and I have chess lessons with you, but slowing down and playing less helped me the most. 

F: Right, it’s actually interesting how many times I see players playing way too fast, and not putting their full potential in the game. Because if you play fast, then you can’t think well… I mean, maybe you can, but most of the time your thinking process will be more shallow compared to the times when you actually take the time to think. Slowing down, and thinking more helps a lot. [...]

F: What was the most surprising thing about the chess world?
P: I think the most surprising thing wasn’t necessarily online, but over the board; the size of the players and that there are chess tournaments all the time. I remember when I joined my club, I was surprised how many people were there. I thought there would be like 3 or 4 old men, but it was 10 old men, 11 including me, some kids, and a couple of girls. Also, if you are not in the chess world, and they tell you; ‘Look at this beautiful game’ or ‘Look at this beautiful position’, you would just think it’s weird… It’s hard to explain, but chess is a beautiful game, and you can only understand it if you are in this world. Seemingly it’s a simple game, but one game can be very deep. Such a simple game, and yet when you go to tournaments, there are a lot of rules, etiquette that people don’t really tell you about. It was also very surprising. In the first tournament I played, the arbiter was talking for 10 minutes before the game started, telling us about various rules and various things we shouldn’t do. 

F: Is there a rule that surprised you?
P: Actually yes. When I was at school or playing at home, obviously we didn’t have a spare Queen, so when we promoted a pawn, and the Queen was still on the board, we just put a Rook upside down and it turns out that’s illegal. I was very surprised by that, and I was wondering what you were supposed to do when you still have your Queen.

F: Yes. I think the custom is that you need to stop the clock and ask for a Queen from the arbiter. [...] 

F: Does being a team captain affect your own games? For example when someone is losing, or someone is winning, or if someone does something stupid?
P: I don’t think so. One of the reasons I wanted to become the team captain was so I could always play, haha. I don’t tend to look at other games until my game is over. I obviously look over the room, but I don’t sit there thinking about their position, I just try to focus on my own game. I start to look at their games only when my game is decided. What has been interesting as a team captain is that people come to me to ask if they should accept a draw or not. Thankfully when the team’s result is already decided I can say it’s up to them. It is a bit strange that they ask this in order to see what is better for the team, but on the other hand their rating is also affected! [...] There was one time when in a 6 board match we were 3-1 down and it looked like one of the players that were still playing was gonna lose, and he came to me asking if he should take the draw. I told him that most likely we will lose, so I would prefer if he kept playing, because there was a chance he could win, but it was also up to him. He played on and ended up winning, along with the other player on the other board who was losing, but turned the game around! We drew our opponent with 3-3! [...]

F: How do you pick who can be in your team?

P: The only time I really gave it a thought was in the summer league, because we needed to win the last match in order to win the league… or I thought we needed to win it, but it didn’t turn out the way we thought, because it was clear that we had won the league before the last match, so I could pick new people for the team. If it was a match that we needed to win for sure, then I would just pick the strongest players, even if it doesn’t include me. Also, the problem is, that one of our players doesn’t have a mobile phone or an email address, it's really hard to get hold of him to see if he is available, so sometimes I just skip him. [...]There is another league where we play and we don’t take it too seriously, so I try to give playing opportunities to everyone in the team.  [...]

These were only parts of the whole interview. In the YouTube video you will also learn:

  • Weirdest chess related thing that happened to him
  • Psychological warfare during his over the board games
  • More team stories
  • More about his personal experience in the chess world

If that sound exciting, then please, check out the full video on YouTube:

I’m curious about your thoughts and chess experience, please feel free to share them with us in the comments here, or on YouTube! Follows and likes are appreciated!

For more content and interaction you can find me on these platforms: 
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