Sunday, January 8, 2012

Escape to the Chessboard

Mindi 2003-2012  RIP - a great friend.
  My first week of the new year was in a word, trash. A project I’m working on progressed so poorly I had to work on it this weekend. I hurt my arm doing push-ups and had to stop for a few days. I wasn’t sleeping good because of the stress of the project, but the day I tried to catch a nap at work, a customer decided to stop over to talk about some future plans. On Tuesday night I went to bed after the caucuses, but Matt woke me up with a phone call to ask what they were like and then when he went to bed at 3 in the morning he woke the beagles up, who then proceeded to wake me up with their howling. And our neighbor’s Cairn Terrier, Mindi passed away after a sudden illness. Mindi’s owners (Bill and Marylin) are in their 90’s and are pretty devastated, as is their daughter Becky. I was there last year, but Mindi was only 8, half Queenie’s age.

Aaron Rees
One of my all-time favorites!!
  When nothing is going right, I just want the world to go away and the best way I can get the world to go away is to play chess. The Marshalltown Thursday Night Chess club was off to a great start when Aaron Rees showed up for the first time in over a year. Aaron was a member of 2 high school championship chess teams I helped put together from 2005 to 2007. In 2007, our final round match with Iowa City was tied 2-2 and Aaron was playing in the last game of the match and the tournament. With the championship in the balance and a crowd of 50 kids gathered around his board, Aaron won the game, match, and championship. He got his AA degree and enlisted in the Navy, but when he gets back to Marshalltown to visit his family, he always stops by for a few games of chess.

Jerry (left) vs. Big John from Tama
  The club got even better when Jerry showed up. Jerry is in his 50’s and works at night as a youth sports referee who’s been working every Thursday since September. Jerry and I are the same strength in long games, but I’m a little better in quick games. I beat Aaron in a game, beat Jerry in a longer game in what was an uncharacteristically weak effort from him, and beat Big John from Tama before the tournament. We had 8 players for the tournament and I was ready to play some chess. I beat Chandler, the high school kid in a smooth performance and was ready to take my bad week out on the rest of the players, but it was not to be because Dave the barefoot chess player came in late. That left us with an odd number of players and I sat out and watched Jerry win the tournament by beating Big John from Tama and then checkmating Dave the barefoot chess player with one second left on his clock. I split a couple of games with Dave after the tournament and then chess club was over and I was back to my stress-filled week.

  Friday was much like the rest of my week, except I had the escape of teaching chess at St. Francis in the morning. There were only 40 players, but I had a great time working with them by playing some games and helping the kids earn their buttons by demonstrating their skill in simple endings. Once I got to work, it was more of the same tension without even the thought of a work-free weekend. I got home I decided to unwind by playing some 3 minute chess on the internet and was on the giving and receiving end of some of the stupidest moves ever seen on the chessboard. I used to joke about writing a book of my games called ‘When Bad Players Play Badly’, but after this weekend’s games I think I may have found some material for the first few chapters. Here is a sampler:

  So bad I had to laugh…