The Importance of Free Play

Is it known by now that in Chess, one learns from their mistakes. Regardless of knowledge or skill level, repetition and going over past mistakes if transforms one into an even stronger chess player.

That is why at our Summer Chess Camp we allocate time for the future chess masters of America to have free play, in order to test any plays they have or review old plays and see where mistakes where made, or just to be creative and learn new strategies on their own, regardless of wether it derives from failure or success.

Just wanted to take this time to remind everyone reading that the first day of Chess Camp is right around the corner on the 29th, so feel free to reach out if you have any comments, question, or just wanna learn more about the program.

Thanks you all for reading,

Daniel Mascola

Operations Assistant

2nd Annual Make a Difference Now Trip: Arrival and Orientation

Habari za asubuhi from Moshi, Tanzania everyone! I am at the Make a Difference Now guest house. Check out the shot I captured of Kiliminjaro during our walk last evening:

























































Jason Bui, a Philadelphia chess teacher, who famously won $10,000 on The Today Show, and I departed from JFK airport on Wednesday, July 10th on a 12:55 PM flight to Nairobi. It was the longest flight I’ve ever been on, which took 14 1/2 hours. I stayed busy writing a review of Make it a Habit, watching 3 movies and getting some needed sleep.

After a 3 hour layover in Nairobi, we took a short 45 minute flight to Moshi. When I boarded the flight and was taking a bus to the actual plane, a 2.5 year old future prodigy randomly said hello. It turns out her father was the Kenyan Airlines pilot who just flew the plane that I was on. This time though he was a passenger going to a cousin’s wedding in Arusha. Following the six days of teaching, we will be doing a 1 day trek of Mount Kiliminjaro and a 1 day walking safari in Arusha National Park.

When we arrived in Tanzania, I gave our driver and good friend Paul Njau a big hug and made the 1 hour trek to the guest house. Along the way, we picked up Luis Cuerdo, the Spaniard chess teacher who was on our trip last year. You can see a great photo of him teaching in the December 2018 issue of Chess Life.

After a healthy dinner of rice, peas and vegetables, we went to sleep for a long day today. This morning we had an orientation and Swahili lesson. We are off soon to Uru Secondary School for our meeting with school headmaster and introductory lesson.

Stay posted for updates and please consider donating toward the 31 students that Make a Difference Now sponsors. Asante Sana!

-By Premier Chess CEO Evan Rabin


Chess Habits

Written by Evan Rabin

Chess Habits

“Hikaru [Nakamura] is a quick learner, and no and again he surprises us with a positional masterpiece.” 

-Anish Giri. 

Chess players exhibit many habits- pet openings, playing style, study methods, tournament types, etc. To improve the most, its to get out of one’s comfort zone and change habits, which can be a mixture of good and bad. Dr. Sylvie Heyman’s “Make it a Habit” book gives lots of suggestions on how to create and change them.

Some chess habits like playing style can be a double-edged sword; while it’s important for a master to develop a style, he needs to be flexible and deviate from it when the position calls for it. While most know the former World Champion Mikhail Tal for his sharp tactical slugfests, many of his games were positional masterpieces.

Others like algebraic chess notation are what Sylvie would call a “keystone habit”, which “empower[s] other behaviors to be tagged along. Every chess coach’s nightmare is when he is reviewing a game with a student and cannot determine the moves because of horrific notation. In the 2018 Middle School Nationals, one of my students Xavier had a great tournament and won a trophy with a score of 5/7. What was interesting though is that we could not play through the two games he lost as his scoresheets were illegible. We were able to easily go through the five games he won.   

To change a habit like bad notation, “you’ll need awareness, mindfulness and readiness, the triple mindset”. Firstly you need either yourself or an accountability partner like a coach to point out the issue. Then you need to understand the ramifications of bad notation; e.g, lack of focus, insufficient proof, etc.   Then you need to actually start doing actions that will help you notate better and reap the benefit. That is way I constantly reminds students to always write down their opponent’s move before even starting to consider where they are going to play next. Not only will student be assured their notation is accurate but they will also naturally process his opponent’s move and why he did it. Before coming up with a good move, it’s imperative to know what your opponent is trying to do. 

It’s important to not just tell mentees to change a habit as they are ingrained in their lives. Just like it would be tough to get a smoker to suddenly stop tobacco usage, “doctors must take a more active part in helping patients find programs that provide weight-loss and habit forming strategies.” Two years ago National Chess Expert and Jeopardy Champion Jonathan Corbblah and I coached PS 166 and Trinity at the 2017 New York State Championships. We got a little frustrated when we kept telling students to take their time and would often see them come back to the team room within minutes after the round. The time control for the tournament was sixty minutes per player. Often students would say that had 57 or 58 minutes remaining on the clock. 

Rather than to continue knocking on a dead wall, I decided to be creative and figure out a solution that would help students manage their time. Rather than just tell them to take their time, I decided to divide the time control by the length of an average chess game , which is 40 moves. That allowed me to students that they should be spending at least 1.5 minutes on each move. As the tournament progressed, we saw more and more kids coming back later in the rounds, meaning they were spending more time coming up with the best moves. One student Alejandro scored 5/6 points and finished in 3rd place in his section. 

My coach, former World Championship Candidate Grandmaster Leonid Yudasin identified one of my major chess habits; playing in tournaments for the sake of lack of better things to do. When I was in high school, I would play at the Marshall Chess Club 2-3 times per week on average, to a point where I did not have a chance to review all of my games and learn from my mistakes. Most often I would play a tournament just because I didn’t have any other plans that day. With Yudasin’s mentorship, I created a rule for myself that I could never play a tournament if either I haven’t had a chance to review the prior  tournament’s games or if I didn’t plan going beforehand. Whether it be a chess habit like bad notation or a life habit like procrastinating or eating unhealthy food, we all have ones that we should improve on.

Make it a point to take one habit and change it for the better

-By Premier Chess CEO Evan Rabin

Of Mind and Muscle

Some people get a massage in order to relax, others to address specific physical discomfort. Maybe your lower back aches or the tension in your neck and shoulders is causing you headaches. Massage can also be an effective choice for a much-needed mental respite and reboot. In fact, after a massage, you may find your spirits have been lifted, that your perspective has changed, or that you just have an overall feeling of quiet. The calming impact of a session can bring you the clarity that is essential for problem solving, creativity, and essentially, not getting lost in the weeds.  

Your massage session should offer you a safe space away from your stressors and should help you become aware of how afflictions of your physical body are impacting your mind and vice versa. Nobody wants a physical ache or mental distraction to hamper their performance, whether it be in a chess tournament, an important meeting, or a soccer match.  So, how do you get what your body and mind need from a massage session? As a massage therapist, here are my top three recommendations for clients: 

Talk to your therapist.
Before you even begin your session, communicating your goals, whether it be relief from pain, seeking improved sleep, recovery, or relaxation, is extremely important. During the session, don’t be afraid to tell your therapist at any point if you are in any way uncomfortable or something just doesn’t feel right. A massage should not be something you have to endure; it should be something you enjoy. A good therapist will gladly adjust their work style or the environment for your benefit. Here are some questions to consider: Do you prefer to leave an article of clothing on? Is the pressure they are using causing you pain? Do you want them to avoid an area? Are you feeling cold or hot?  Congested? Ticklish? Hate the music? Speak up! 

Trust and Breathe.
It takes a fair amount of trust to relax, ease our muscles, and let a massage therapist work on our body. But just by trusting, you will find discomfort diminish and your thoughts settle. During your massage, try to take deep and even breaths. Your massage therapist may sometimes ask you to “breath into an area” so they can access a certain muscle or pressure point. Being an active participant in your massage isn’t something most people acknowledge but can help you bring awareness to each part of the body as it is being worked on and promote healing. Our bodies are constantly communicating with us, it’s important to take the time to pay attention. A massage therapist is there to aid the process; if you trust them, they will facilitate your own ability to heal. 

Have a regular routine.
It’s better to commit to a monthly massage rather than viewing massage as an occasional treat.  Like playing in regular tournaments, regular massage will help you check-in with where you are at and stay at the top of your game.  While a single massage will benefit you for a few days, each subsequent massage offers cumulative benefits. Speak with your therapist about when it is best to come in depending on your needs. Perhaps it is the day before a tournament to help with a good night’s sleep and put you in a positive and focused state of mind. Perhaps it is after a tournament to relieve the hours of sitting and concentration. In fact, sitting frequently for long periods of time has been linked to anxiety, high blood pressure, back pain, and postural imbalances, all of which may be lessened with regular massage therapy sessions. 

In conclusion, think of your massage therapy session like you would a private chess lesson: consider your goals, build trust with your teacher, have a dialogue with them, let them help you learn about yourself, engage frequently enough that you don’t need to start from the beginning each time, and enjoy the process. 

“When we give ourselves the chance to let go of all our tension, the body’s natural capacity to heal itself can begin to work.” — Nhat Hanh

By Sara Loren Scovronick, LMT

Sara is a New York State and New Jersey State licensed massage therapist, and a professional member of both the American Massage Therapy Association and the New York State Society of Medical Massage Therapists. 

Website: www.sara-loren.com

Email: sara@sara-loren.com

Phone: 929-732-1626

LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/in/saralorenlmt

Keep your friends closer, and your enemies closer

Do a little research and write another blog post about chess friends and how “competitive “ chess players can also be good friends. Masters can learn from each other.

When you are the business of being a chess player, your goal is to improve your own skillset, and you can take on the next guy.

When that is a players goal, it could potentially put up a barrier between the players, and not allow for their meeting each other to turn into anything friendly. This is only natural.

So with all that info in play, the question is this, it is possible to established a true and real friendship between chess competitors.

For starters, think about what one is experiencing when playing chess competitively. Definitely some strong emotions, immersion in the game, and of-course, adrenaline. These feelings typically don’t bring out the better side of people and cloud one’s ability to be friendly, and/or make friends.

However, it isn’t impossible for chess players to be friends, or at least friendly, it is all about the indivudal apporach towards one another.

Also, if one is really in the business of improving their own skill, then they can’t really keep up that anger-based competitive mindset, and without, they have a higher chance of actually making friends with the person across from them.

So to all those reading this who have anger towards people they have played in the past, and people they are going to play in the future. It isn’t worth it, try and get along with them. You may learn a thing or two!