The Amateur Eye – Exposure to Chess

My brother Ray was the eldest in our family tree for sport.  Tennis was king and queen for my older brothers and sister.  Being three, I was taught the chess moves but found the Knight movement hard to understand.  My older three loved me dearly.  But I went my own merry way playing on my tri-cycle where I was made the retriever of bad shots over the fence. By the time I was five years old, I had too mastered the movement of pieces, little knowing what chess was to play in my life.

I was good at math and could not understand the logic of chess books that emphasized an artificial evaluation of pieces.  My interest in the Civil War and the maps detailing the battles during the 2nd World War got me to realize that it was not just the piece exchange value but most important was the terrain which made up the 64 squares.  Each side controlled 32 squares in the field of battle at the start of play.  Would it be possible to simply take one minor set of Bishop and Knight, then Rook and Queen to find their relative comparative strength on the board.  Hence, I gave the King piece the power of 6, Bishop 8, Knight 6, Rook 14, Queen 22.  Surprise!  Rook plus Bishop equaled 22, same as the Queen which was the comparative value seen in other methods of evaluation arrived at probably from actual game researched.

My paper I gave to both Dr. Marchand and Dr. Max Herzberger, both mathematicians, strong expert players for their view.  While my theory was interesting, chess history would not welcome it because it had become the standard book evaluation presumably for all time.  Got an A.  I was not disappointed because I knew they were right.  You can’t challenge the system.  I did not intend to, but only to suggest something to ponder.  I did, however, study my chess books of Capablanca and Alekhine games,  Using my evaluations, I began to see a link between my count of attacking squares and the ups and downs of the battles on the board.  It gave a real appraisal of attack-defense-mobility and told me when a position required earnest effort to find counter-play.  It also helped me to eliminate wasting time and how to gauge the needs of the position for both sides.  After seeing a game where the Queen was completely out of play did I realize, too, that the power of any unit was dependent upon the position on the board.  When any major piece had little or no mobility or attack over squares, it was largely for the moment a piece that needed attention.

Some of my games illustrate how I learned to use my square-count theory–some visualized early on and others over time as I trained myself with my library, postal and over-the-board tournament games.  I never had the time or money to play in big tournaments.  I was a club officer in the Rochester Chess Club as treasurer, tournament director, program schedules.

I won a section (3-4 years) that featured Soviet players but got eliminated in the semi-finals where my defeats taught me more than winning.  As I learned early on–you learn when you win and even more when you lose.  In this case, losing is a winning experience because you meet stronger players than yourself.

I was asked to play for the USA team against the Soviet Union and accepted.  I was paired on board 50 against the Soviet Woman Champion, Merkie Roytwa.  2 draws and about 3-4 years play. She is from Estonia and friend of Paul Keres I learned.  She sent me many beautiful picture postcards and tournament booklet that featured Paul Keres–pictures, games, etc.  I enjoyed the match finding her very friendly and great talent.  Later on, I learned that she sat on the Presidium of Sport.

I won some club/city tournaments and tornado/hurricane club events but never found time or wealth to travel for the big ones.  Chess did not really appeal to that side of me. How good I was as far as talent goes?  I was just happy to enjoy sitting down to join a friend for good game.

I no longer play actively due to a physical handicap and eye strain. I am reaching toward the 1000 article count that covers a variety of personal interests.  I do not play on the internet. I now write a column I call THE  AMATEUR  EYE that touches on chess and other general topics viewed and composed by this amateur.  (One of my readers thought that Kindredspirit’s Kaleidoscope was too long so I shortened my blog connect to kindredspiritks.

In closing, I wrote this piece because of questions asked about how square-count came about. Perhaps I can sum it all up as a process of learning applications while studying and playing chess.

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