Thursday, May 31, 2018

Warrior of the Mind

The Warriors’ Key Chess Piece Is Also a Chess Fanatic 

NBA playoff series are chess matches. So it’s a good thing that Klay Thompson really, really loves chess.

By Ben Cohen 
Updated May 30, 2018 11:56 a.m. ET 
Oakland, Calif. 

After a recent Golden State Warriors game, Klay Thompson opened the Chess with Friends app on his phone. He wanted to show a match he was playing against teammate Andre Iguodala to someone he’d never met waiting for him outside the locker room. Thompson thought Magnus Carlsen might be able to offer some assistance. 

Magnus Carlsen is the best chess player in the world, according to the official rankings of the sport’s governing body. Klay Thompson introduced himself to Carlsen as the best chess player on the Warriors, according to the official rankings of Klay Thompson.

 “Based on loose facts,” he said, “but whatever.”

 Thompson plays chess as often as he plays basketball: almost every day. “It’s a great game,” he said. He owns multiple chess boards at home. He carries a magnetic chess set on road trips. And he juggles several chess games on his phone, which is a problem for Thompson: He’s not good at chess on his phone.

 “In person, I’m real nice,” he said. “On the phone, I’ll make a couple moves, put my phone down for a couple of days, forget my strategy and think: Why the hell did I do that?”

 He added: “You can learn a lot about someone playing chess.”

His childhood friend Seth Tarver, who now works for Thompson’s foundation, knows his chess habits better than anyone and offered this scouting report about Thompson’s game: “One thing about Klay is that he’s at his best when you back him into a corner. He’ll be playing loose, but once I show I’m a threat, he can really lock in.”

Which means Thompson plays basketball the way he plays chess.

The Warriors were down 3-2 in Game 6 of the 2016 conference finals when he scored 41 points to rescue their season. It was a once-in-a-lifetime game. Until it happened again. The Warriors were down 3-2 in Game 6 of the conference final last week when Thompson scored 35 points and sparked another epic comeback. Golden State wouldn’t be in the Finals against the Cleveland Cavaliers for the fourth consecutive season without him.

Thompson is their rook. He’s the quietly crucial piece of this potential Warriors dynasty.

He doesn’t seem to mind that he’s an understated All-Star who will never get the glory of Stephen Curry or Kevin Durant. He prefers it that way. Golden State coach Steve Kerr calls Thompson “the most low-maintenance guy on earth.”

Everyone on the Warriors understands his value to their bid for a third championship in four years. His talents fit this team. They don’t need another ballhandler, and he scores the most points in the league off screens. They do need a ball-stopper, and he defends the other team’s best guard. The Warriors are perfect for Thompson, and he is perfect for the Warriors.

But there is nothing about Klay Thompson that screams chess player. This is someone who simply missed practice the day before he erupted for 60 points in 29 minutes. Why? Because he was sleeping. It was more characteristic of Thompson when the Warriors were in New York and he gave one local television station a man-on-the-street interview to discuss his thoughts about…scaffolding. He was identified by his name and occupation: “NBA player.” He might be the spaciest NBA player of his generation.

This is another classic Klay Thompson story. It was the end of the fourth quarter of a tie game in 2012, and the Warriors had the ball and could’ve held it for the last possession. Thompson was completely oblivious to the time, score and situation, though, and he launched a 3-pointer with 16 seconds left. Any chess player would’ve identified it for what it was: a blunder. The shot was inexcusable even before Thompson missed it, and Golden State’s horrified coaches attempted to explain why as he walked back to the bench.

“My bad,” Thompson said. “I’ll make it next time.”

The roots of his fascination with chess were also unexpected. It started in seventh-grade in Portland, Oregon. Riverdale Grade School’s chess teacher, Carl Haessler, a local securities broker who is also a United States Chess Federation Life Master and five-time Oregon state champion, taught his students to be cerebral. “I’m big on the Socratic method,” he said.

He wanted them to know how to think rather than what to think. “How to look down at this thing of all these pieces going every which way,” he said, “and cut out the white noise, look at what’s relevant, assess the position, come to a conclusion, make a plan based upon that conclusion and then make specific moves that fit the plan.”

This is not what Thompson was expecting from chess class.

“I took it as an elective just to waste time,” he said.

The other thing he was not expecting was that he would become obsessed with chess.

“And then I realized, wow, this is actually really fun,” Thompson said. “Just for an hour, to be with your friends, hang out and play chess. It was probably the best class I’ve ever had.”

What he appreciates most about chess are the moments when he can feel the advantage tipping. That sense is familiar to anyone who has watched the Warriors use a sliver of an opening to destroy other teams over the last four years. “I just love how there can be so many swings,” Thompson said, “and it can take one move to mess up the whole flow.”

Thompson is still with his friends, hanging out and playing chess. They abide by the rules of pickup basketball. There is no clock, and the winner of one match getting the advantage of playing white in the next match is their equivalent of make it, take it.

Tarver used to lose so often that he spent time studying why he was losing. “He knows some good tactics,” Tarver said. “I had to learn on the fly. I learned through him beating me.”

He stopped losing soon enough, and he declined to reveal too much about his current strategies against Thompson because they play nearly every day.

“I don’t know who’s better now,” he said. “He’ll probably tell you it’s him.”

Except if they’re playing on their phones. They’re evenly matched in person, when Thompson can devote his full attention to a physical chessboard even as his English bulldog, Rocco, attempts to play with him. But he gets so distracted online that Tarver has to nudge Thompson in person to make a move with his phone.

He’s not the only person who talks chess with Thompson. At one Warriors dinner this season, enough players and coaches were discussing chess that Golden State decided it would be a good idea to invite Carlsen to meet with the team. As it turned out, the reigning world champion is a maniacal NBA fan. He flew to Houston for the conference finals against the Rockets, and the Warriors arranged for Carlsen to have tickets. (Carlsen woke up Tuesday morning and watched Game 7 from Norway.)

Thompson was impressed by Carlsen. “That guy’s smart,” he said. “Understatement that he’s smart. He’s a genius.” And he took advantage of the opportunity to request advice on his openings. “He said he’d sit down and teach me some things one day,” Thompson said.

Thompson, who once compared Ping-Pong games with Roger Federer, thought better of challenging maybe the greatest chess player of all time.

“He’d play blindfolded and backward,” Thompson said, “and still beat me.”

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Elite Chess Players Live Longer

A new study reveals that elite chess players live up to 14 years longer than the general population.

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Memorial Day Madness 5/28/2018

On Monday, I won these games in the tournament at the Marshall Chess Club.

Round One: Sicilian Defense, Najdorf Variation

 Jim West (USCF 2200) - Kaden Pollard (USCF 1726), Marshall Chess Club 5/28/2018

1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 a6 6.Bc4 b5 7.Bb3 Bb7 8.O-O e6 9.f4 Nbd7 10.f5 e5 11.Nde2 Nc5 12.Bg5 Qb6 13.Kh1 Nfxe4

14.Nd5 Bxd5 15.Qxd5 Qb7 16.Qxb7 Nxb7 17.Bd5 Nxg5 18.Bxb7 Ra7 19.Bc6+ Kd8 20.h4 Rc7 21.Bd5 Rc5 22.Ba8 Rxc2 23.Ng3 h6 24.hxg5 hxg5+ 25.Kg1 d5 26.Rfd1 Bc5+ 27.Kf1 d4 28.Rac1 Rxc1 29.Rxc1 Be7 30.Bb7 Kd7 31.Bxa6 Rb8

32.Ne4 Rb6 33.Bc8+ Kd8 34.f6 gxf6 35.Bf5 Rb8 36.a3 Ke8 37.Ke2 Kf8 38.Rc8+ Rxc8 39.Bxc8 b4 40.axb4 Bxb4 41.Nxf6 Bd6 42.g4 Ke7 43.Ne4 f6 44.Kd3 Bb4 45.Kc4 Be1 46.b4 Kd8 47.Bf5 d3 48.Nxf6 d2 49.Bc2 Bg3 50.Ne4 Bf4 51.Kd3 Kc7 52.Nxd2 Kb6

53.Ba4 Ka6 54.Ne4 Kb6 55.Kc4 Ka6 56.Kc5 Kb7 57.b5 Kc7 58.b6+ Kb7 59.Bc6+ Kc8 60.Kd6 Be3 61.b7+ Kb8 62.Kxe5 Ba7 63.Nxg5 Kc7 64.Bd5 Kd7 65.Ne4 Ke7 66.g5 Bb8+ 67.Kf5 Kf8 68.Kf6 Ba7 69.g6 Bd4+ 70.Kf5 Ba7 71.Nf6 Bb8

72.Nd7+ Ke7 73.Nxb8 Kf8 74.Nc6 Kg7 75.b8=Q Kh6 76.Qh8#.

          *          *          *          *          *          *          *          *

Round Two: Philidor Counter Gambit

Bingjie Liu (USCF 1989) - Jim West (USCF 2200), Marshall Chess Club 5/28/2018

1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 d6 3.Bc4 f5 4.d3 c6 5.Bxg8 Rxg8 6.Ng5 h6 7.Qh5+ g6 8.Qh4 hxg5 9.Bxg5 Qc7 10.f4 Qf7 11.O-O Be7 12.exf5 Bxg5 13.fxg5 gxf5 14.Qh6 Qg6 15.Qxg6 Rxg6 16.h4 Na6

17.Nd2 Be6 18.Nf3 Ke7 19.h5 Rg7 20.h6 Rg6 21.Rae1 Rh8 22.Kf2 Nb4 23.Re2 Bd5 24.a3 Bxf3 25.gxf3 Nd5 26.Rg1 Nf4 27.Ree1 Nh3+ 28.Ke3 Nxg1 29.Rxg1 Rhxh6 30.f4 exf4+ 31.Kxf4 Rh2 32.Kxf5 Kf7 33.c4 Kg7

34.b4 Rf2+ 35.Kg4 Ra2 36.Rg3 b5 37.cxb5 cxb5 38.d4 d5 39.Kf5 Re2 40.Rc3 Rf2+ 41.Ke5 Rxg5+ 42.Kd6 Rf6+ 43.Kc5 a6 44.Re3 Kf7 45.Rh3 Kg7 46.Re3 Rf7 47.Re6 Rc7+ 48.Kb6 Rc3 49.Kxa6 Rxa3+ 50.Kxb5 Rd3

51.Kc5 Rc3+ 52.Kb6 Rg6 53.Rxg6+ Kxg6 54.b5 Rc4 55.Kb7 Rxd4 56.Kc6 Rb4 57.b6 Rxb6+ 58.Kxb6 d4 59.Kc5 d3 60.Kc4 d2 61.Kc3 d1=Q 62.Kc4 Kf5 63.Kc5 Ke6 64.Kc4 Ke5 65.Kc5 Qc2+ 66.Kb5 Kd6 67.Kb4 Kd5 68.Kb5 Qb3+ 69.Ka6 Kc6 70.Ka5 Qb5#.

Monday, May 28, 2018

Pix from Saturday Game/50 5/26/2018

On Saturday, I took these pictures during the tournament at the Marshall Chess Club.

Sunday, May 27, 2018

Marshall Saturday Game/50 5/26/2018

On Saturday, I finished with a score of 2-1-1 in the tournament at the Marshall Chess Club.

Round Three: Philidor Counter Gambit

Brewington Hardaway (USCF 1918) - Jim West (USCF 2200), Marshall Chess Club 5/26/2018

1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 f5 4.dxe5 fxe4 5.Ng5 d5 6.e6 Bc5 7.Nf7 Qf6 8.Qe2 Bxe6 9.Nxh8 Nc6 10.c3 O-O-O 11.Nd2 Ne5 12.Nb3 Nd3+ 13.Kd2 Bxf2

14.Kc2 d4 15.Bd2 e3 16.Qf3 Qxf3 17.gxf3 Nf4 18.Nxd4 Rxd4 19.cxd4 exd2 20.Kxd2 g5 21.Rc1 Bxd4 22.Bxc4 Bxh8 23.Bxe6+ Nxe6 24.b3 Nd4 25.Ke3 Ne7 26.Rc4 Nec6 27.a4 a5 28.Ke4 Kd7 29.h4 Nxf3

30.Kxf3 Ne5+ 31.Kg3 Nxc4 32.bxc4 Be5+ 33.Kg4 gxh4 34.Rxh4 Kc6 35.Kf5 Bd6 36.Ke4 Kc5 37.Kd3 Kb4 38.Kc2 b6 39.Kb2 h6 40.Rxh6 Kxa4 41.Kc3 Be5+ 42.Kd3 Kb3 43.Rh5 Bd6 44.Rb5+ Bb4

45.Re5 a4 46.Re2 a3 47.Kd4 c5+ 48.Kd5 a2 49.Rxa2 Kxa2 50.Kc6 Ba5 51.Kd6 Kb3 52.Kd5 Kc3 53.Kc6 Kxc4 54.Kb7 b5 55.Ka6 Bd2 56.Kb7 b4 57.Ka6 b3 58.Ka7 b2 59.Ka6 b1=Q 60.Ka7 Kd5 61.Ka6 Kc6 62.Ka7 Qb7#.

Saturday, May 26, 2018

Pix from FIDE Mondays 5/21/2018

On Monday, I photographed the players at the Marshall Chess Club.

Friday, May 25, 2018

Pix from May Under 2400 5/20/2018

During Sunday's tournament, I snapped these photos at the Marshall Chess Club.

Thursday, May 24, 2018

FIDE Mondays 5/21/2018

On Monday evening, this game ended in a draw at the Marshall Chess Club.

Round Five: French Defense, Rubinstein Variation

Jim West (USCF 2200) - Christian Goldammer (USCF 2013), Marshall Chess Club 5/21/2018

1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.Nc3 dxe4 4.Nxe4 Nd7 5.Nf3 Ngf6 6.Nxf6+ Nxf6 7.Bg5 h6 8.Bxf6 Qxf6 9.Qd2 Bd6 10.Bd3 O-O 11.O-O b6

12.Be4 Rb8 13.Bc6 Bb7 14.Bxb7 Rxb7 15.c3 Rd8 16.Qe2 c5 17.dxc5 Bxc5 18.Rad1 Rbd7 19.Rxd7 Rxd7 20.Rd1 Qd8 21.Rxd7 Qxd7 22.h4 Qd5 23.c4 Qf5 24.b3 Qf4 25.Qd2 Qxd2 26.Nxd2 Kf8 27.Kf1 Ke7 28.Ke2 h5

29.Ne4 Ba3 30.f4 g6 31.g3 Bb4 32.Nf2 Kd6 33.Nd3 Bc3 34.Ke3 e5 35.fxe5+ Bxe5 36.Kf3 Bf6 37.Ke4 Bc3 38.b4 Ke6 39.a3 a5 40.bxa5 bxa5 41.a4 Kd6 42.Ke3 Kc6 43.Ke4 Kd6 44.Ke3 Kc6, draw.

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Marshall May Under 2400 5/20/2018

On Sunday, this game was played in the tournament at the Marshall Chess Club.

Round Four: Ruy Lopez, Exchange Variation

Jim West (USCF 2200) - Joshua Dong (USCF 1830), Marshall Chess Club 5/20/2018

1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 a6 4.Bxc6 dxc6 5.O-O Bd6 6.d4 Bg4 7.dxe5 Bxf3 8.Qxf3 Bxe5 9.c3 Nf6 10.Bg5 h6 11.Bxf6 Qxf6 12.Qxf6 Bxf6 13.Nd2 O-O-O

14.Nf3 Rd3 15.Rfd1 Rxd1+ 16.Rxd1 Rd8 17.Rxd8+ Kxd8 18.Kf1 b5 19.e5 Be7 20.Ke2 c5 21.b3 Kd7 22.Kd3 Ke6 23.Ke4 a5 24.a4 c4 25.Nd4+ Kd7 26.axb5 cxb3 27.Nxb3 a4 28.Nc1 Bc5 29.f4 c6 30.c4 cxb5 31.cxb5 Kc7 32.Na2 Kb6

33.Kd5 a3 34.Kc4 Bg1 35.f5 Bxh2 36.Kd5 Bxe5 37.Kxe5 Kxb5 38.Kd4 Kc6 39.g4 Kd6 40.Nc3 Ke7 41.Ke5 g6 42.fxg6 fxg6 43.Na2 h5 44.gxh5 gxh5 45.Kf5 Kd6 46.Kg5 Kc5 47.Kxh5 Kc4 48.Kg4 Kb3 49.Nc1+ Kc2

50.Na2 Kb1 51.Nb4 Kb2 52.Kf3 Kb3 53.Nd3, draw.

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Monday, May 21, 2018

Spring Session Ends at Wardlaw-Hartridge

Last Tuesday, the final class of the spring 2018 session took place at Wardlaw-Hartridge School in the after school enrichment program on chess, coached by me for Premier Chess.

All eleven students received trophies.

Thanks to Jack Silver for his assistance!

Sunday, May 20, 2018

Ernesto Labate Library Dedication

The dedication of the Ernesto Labate Library will take place today at Westfield.

Saturday, May 19, 2018

More FIDE Mondays Pix 5/14/2018

On Monday, these pictures were taken by Eric Dluhos at the Marshall Chess Club.

Friday, May 18, 2018

Pix from FIDE Mondays 5/14/2018

On Monday, these pictures were taken by me at the Marshall Chess Club.

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Pix from Sunday Game/50 5/13/2018

During Sunday's tournament, I photographed the players at the Marshall Chess Club.