National Master Evan Rabin’s College Essay about Winning the U.S Chess Championship Team East

By National Master Evan Rabin

This was my college essay that I wrote back in 2007, which helped me get accepted to Brandeis University

When I see myself on the May 2007 cover of Chess Life magazine, I feel a sense of stunning accomplishment. After thousands of matches and countless hours of practice, my tenacity was rewarded when I served as captain of the first place team at the 2007 U.S. Amateur Team East Chess Championship (USATE). This achievement served not only as a milestone of personal growth but also to motivate my decision to pursue a business career. Four years ago, I played in the USATE for the first time and had a hard time even finding a team. This year, I put together a team and led four other players. One came from as far as Tennessee and after a long weekend of competitive play we came home with first place honors.

In 2003 I entered high school without a clue of what I wanted to do in the future. My desire to imamprove myself motivated me to pursue a demanding International Baccaleureate (IB) curriculum with an elective in IB Business Higher Level. This rigorous course has opened my eyes to the methods companies use to achieve their objectives. It is one thing to learn such concepts in the classroom but to get a true sense of what they mean it is essential to apply them to real life problems. Therefore, when I began to think about this year’s USATE tournament, I decided to see if I could use these principles to develop a winning strategy.

First, I took on the recruitment process to form the best team possible. I began by initiating a research effort, looking at teams that had won the USATE in previous years. As companies perform reverse engineering to evaluate the strengths of their competitors, I conducted an analysis studying other top-rated teams.  This led to a conclusion that it was best to have four players with ratings close to 2200, the maximum allowed team average. I realized this would give us a competitive advantage over the many teams that focused their resources on players with extremely high ratings. That is because to meet the 2200 maximum average, their remaining boards would have to be rated significantly lower.

I carefully selected a team using this strategy, and made sure my teammates knew each other so they were able to cooperate and have high morale. One teammate suggested the team name “Beavis and Buttvinnik” incorporating the movie Beavis and Butthead and the 1950s world chess champion Mikhail Botvinnik.

Beavis and Butt-head titlecard.pngMikhail Botvinnik - Wikipedia

When we were nominated for “ best name prize,” our team spirit received a boost. Other teams also recognized us more, especially when we were fighting on the top boards for first place. This nomination showed me the importance of both a company’s name and brand equity. Our cooperation and spirit was noted during the last round when my teammate Nick came back to the boards with four cups of water for those of us who were still playing. A grandmaster saw this action and said, “Your team is a lot nicer than ours.”

Winning at the USATE was a high point in my life. It allowed me to see myself in the role of manager and showed me how much I can achieve when I apply myself. It also demonstrated how academic studies can be applied in a real life setting. The desire to learn more about business influenced me to take a college course in microeconomics at New York University last summer. This experience provided further depth to my understanding and gave me further insight into preparing for college.

Goodbye Artificial Barriers

By Premier Chess CEO National Master Evan Rabin 


Have you ever not achieved a goal due to limiting beliefs? If you have, you

are like most other people on the planet. This past Shabbat,  Rabbi Yehoshua Lewis, Director of Mesorah NJ, explained how in 1954, Roger Bannister did a 4-minute mile, a record that most professional athletes thought was impossible.

Since then, the four-minute barrier has been broken by over 1400 athletes. Would have any of those 1400 runners made the feat had Bannister not done so- who knows? Similarly, Abhimanyu Mishra recently becomes to the World’s youngest grandmaster, at the age of 12 years, 4 months and 25 days, beating Former World Championship Candidate Sergey Karjakin’s record. Proteges like Bannister and Mishra teach us that most of our goals can be possible if we put our mind to it. We can do so by avoid saying “I don’t know”, living by the idea of “Ufaratzta” and abiding by the 50-point rule.

One answer I never accept from students is “I don’t know.”Teaching students of all ages and skill levels, I have a great idea of what questions are too hard or easy for each one. However, often students will tell me “I don’t know” or “I haven’t learned that before.”, not realizing the answer is well within their wheelhouse. To the contrary, Social Worker Carrie Cohen, MSW, LCSW once shared how in stead of saying “I don’t know” to a question, they should say something a long the lines of “Can you explain the question more”, “I need some more time to think about it”, etc. They should not jump to conclusions that they do not know the answer; they should spend as much time as they need to figure it out, confidently. Stronger players will often rush doing puzzles, clicking through the moves on Lichess or Chess.com, without figuring out the answer completely on their own.

Music Video – Ufaratzta from Yeshiva Darchei Torah on Vimeo.

“Ufarazta” means to spread out in Hebrew. More loosely, it means to get outside of one’s comfort zone. My mentor Peretz Chein, Director of Chabad of Brandeis, first taught me the idea when I learned about him running a ½ marathon after only a few months of training, when he hardly ran a day in his life before him. Despite the fact that most people did not believe he would be able to do it. He proved everyone wrong and ran the race. The next year, he ran with a group of students, named “ Team Ufarazta”.

Yesterday I was teaching a beginner student and he was so proud to tell me all of what he knew about chess- piece movement, basic opening principals, pins, etc. Since he has not played in over a year, he forget parts of the rules, like the difference of check and checkmate. As he tried to regurgitate the rules he did not know, he was actually not learning. Rather than try to stay what one knows, he should listen as much as possible and soak in as much information as possible. It is also important to be open to trying new activities, places, foods, etc. Never did I think I would end up taking a ballet class ever in my life but I did the other evening; that was definitely an ufarazta experience for me.

A few weeks ago I asked a class if Magnus Carlsen was a strong chess player; of course all the students said  he as of course as he is a strong grandmaster and current world champion. I then asked if he was good, relative to Stockfish and very few students said “yes.” The truth is even our world champion is not as strong as our top silicion friends thse days. No matter who you are playing, it is easy to either overestimate or unederstimate your opponent. No matter what rating your opponent actually is, you should pretend as if he is 50 points higher rated; that way you give him a little of a respect but not too much. For more ideas regarding confidence, see this old post.

If your instinct is that you cannot do something, do not think it is impossible. I personally did think in the first two months of our business in 2017, we would have 10 instructors working in 14 schools but we did. Some times, you just need to avoid artificial belefis and, as Nike says, “just do it!” Avoid saying “I don’t know”, live by the idea of “Ufaratzta” and abide by the 50-point rule.

The Art of Forcing Moves

By Premier Chess CEO National Master Evan Rabin 

Beginner students will often capture pieces, without considering why their opponents are allowing them to do so. To the contrary, our 118th Podcast Guest Grandmaster Maxim Dlugy often reminds us how chess is like a duel. If your opponent offers you something, your initial reaction should not be to take it but rather be suspect as to why he is allowing you to have it. One may decide to leave a knight where it can be captured, if it means capturing his opponent’s queen on the next turn. There may also be something more complicated, like a hidden attack.

Even more experienced players will not abide by Dlugy’s guideline. For instance, in the 5th round of the U.S Open 2021, I was playing against an “A”player who I bet in a tournament in Manhattan 3-years ago. When I offered a draw, he almost instantly took it and afterwards told me he felt a little relieved since he was in time pressure and I was 250 points higher rated. However, truth be told, I only offered it because I knew I was losing; when we looked at it together with the engine, Stockfish gave his position +4.9, which equates to almost a rook.

Who knows what would have been the ultimate result if the game continued but he likely would have won. If you want your opponent do something in chess or any other area of life, you must force him to do so. With this in mind, here are the most forcing type of moves, 10 being the highest and 1 being only slightly forcing:

10- Check: absolutely must be dealt with, according to rules of chess (I heard our 126th Podcast Guest Elizabeth Spiegel , when coaching students years back at the Bruce Bowyer Memorial tournament).

9- Threaten Checkmate.

8 – Attack a queen, trade queens, threaten to promote.

7-

6-

5- Attack a rook, trade rooks.

4-

3-Attack a bishop or a knight, trade minor piece.

2-Theaten to make a trade that rips open kingside.

1- Attack a pawn.

While forcing moves are not always good, one should strongly consider every single check, capture and threat. These moves can help you create tactics to lead to winning of material and checkmate. That said, one should not making an attacking move just for the sake of making an attacking move. One should only do one if he looks at the move his opponent will likely respond with and sees he will get some benefit.

 

Strategy in Chess and Business

By Jill Valdez, Founder and COO of Link Consulting

‘There sits on my shelf a beautiful wooden chess set. The box has some nicks on it, a couple of pieces are missing the felt bottom. But there it is for all who visit to see.  “Why would it be out on display?” you may ask.  It sits there because of the sentimental value.  It once belonged to my husband’s father, and it holds memories of a precious relationship solidified by many years of playing chess together.  My husband remembers with great fondness the patience his father showed when teaching him the game.  And he remembers with great pride the first time he legitimately beat his father.  There were conversations that took place over a game of chess that might have been missed otherwise.  Words of wisdom and encouragement, gratitude and love, were exchanged over that board.  So of course, this old chess set sits on display!

Sadly, this old chess set does not get used as much as it used to.  My husband has tried to teach me the game, and I simply flounder.  I know what all the pieces are, I know the rules of the game, but he beats me every time!  And it’s not because I’m not interested – chess is fascinating to me and I could watch people play for hours!  When “The Queen’s Gambit” came out on Netflix, I was jealous of her skill and ability to master this game.  I’m an intelligent person, but there seems to be a block in my brain when I start to play chess.

This is the same type of block that happens for many of my clients when they are trying to solve the puzzle of how to meet business goals.  In chess, a player – as my husband has told me- has moves already created in their mind.  If their opponent moves a piece in a certain spot, the player already knows what move they will make to counteract it.  The flaw of this thinking for business owners and managers is that they continue to make the same move, regardless of the outcome.  They don’t always assess the situation for new opportunities and adapt their next steps accordingly.  It’s like a player who only uses one chess piece and then plunges to a rapid loss because they don’t know what to do when they lose that piece.

Despite my failings at chess, I am very good at business strategy, with a twist.  Just as a master chess player can assess a board and think 6 steps ahead to a victory, I can look at a business and assess what the obstacles are and provide a strategy to overcome those obstacles resulting in new opportunities. But I’m not looking at marketing or processes or any of those classic fundamentals.  My focus is on what is actually happening when the people are working.

As a chess player does, I’m looking at the pieces that make up the organization.  I’m looking at roles, and the people who occupy those roles.  I’m looking at how they interplay with each other.  I look at management that is moving those pieces around.  The question that is asked, “Is the right person in the right role?”.  In other words, is the Knight where it needs to be to guard the Queen?  Is the Pawn out of the way so that the Bishop can attack?

My clients get the opportunity to reset the board.  I remind them of what pieces they need, what the characteristics of those pieces are, and how to best activate them for a victory.  People who work with me are taught how to best interact with each other, and to lead a team with minimal politics, minimal confusion, high morale, and low turnover.  They are given the strategy to motivate their employees to be their best in order for the company to win.

As exhilarating as it is for a chess player to implement their best strategy for a victory, I get the same rush when working with business owners and managers to improve company culture, teaching staff how to best communicate with each other and their clients, directing managers to effective hires, and so much more.  Just as a chess player loves setting up the board for a new game against a worthy opponent, I love teach strategies that will develop employees from average to amazing, bringing more certainty to the future, without service disruption.

All this talk of chess has inspired me to give it another go.  Perhaps this time I might be able to break the mental block and actually present a challenge to my husband?  And I hope you are inspired to learn more how to get your amazing team members in place!  Email me at jvaldez@linkconsulting.info to learn tips you can start today.

Is Journalism a Chess Game?

By Henry Brier , Freelance Journalist

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When I noted chess’ most vivid application to life was one semester while I was an undergraduate in Western Massachusetts. Shortly after being hired as an associate news editor for the independent student newspaper, I was tasked to the administration beat.

One of the first encounters of note while covering the administration entailed the chancellor and my initial face-to-face meeting, almost immediately after which I viewed him as the king and campus as the board. His administration was populated by assorted power players with various levels of authority, vigilance and mobility, fulfilling stand-up roles akin to the back line of queen, bishops, knights and rooks. Lower level members of the staff served as the first line of defense, very closely resembling pawns.

My responsibility was to keep tabs on the administration amid ongoing happenings and then articulate those developments in cogent, informative print. Though I did not view myself as an opponent but, rather, a monitor of this modified game of the king, this task availed multiple opportunities for direct access to the chancellor and his crew, including forays deep into his life, times, office and home.

All of which begs the question: Who was the opponent?

Given a college campus is the heart of critical culture, the top administrator had no shortage of critics telling him how he should and should not do his job. But whether anyone wanted to sack him is another question.

Among the top critics was the then chair of the journalism department, with whom I was strolling one day between classes when suddenly another faculty member comes rushing over to share an excerpt about a recent move by the king. The chair whimsically smiles, gently shakes his head west-to-east, and compares the campus’ point man to ‘a monk in a cell’.

One day I was being seen at the campus health center. An avid reader of daily news, the attending physician recognized my name and when I told her I was responsible for covering the administration, the fixer-of-ills opined that the brass was ’top heavy’.

Journalists are trained to be critical (ergo the chair’s point of departure) though while in frequent contact with the campus’ top administrative official, I did not believe sharpening the talons would be beneficial for my purposes.

Also critical was the editorial/opinion page of the student newspaper and its editor, who turned down an overture from the campus’ top suite: publishing the king’s periodic submissions. The paper derided him in a piece titled ’The Chancellor’s New Hobby’. And whether that was a signed column or an unsigned editorial, I cannot recall.

Maybe that elusive opponent was from within. His was an unenviable job, rife with opportunity to commit forced and unforced errors, become tangled in weeds and immersed in pitfalls, manufacture up-and-coming doubters, and engage an abundant number of observers and critics.

Similarly, careless, forced and unforced errors abound in chess, a thinking man’s game that sharpens critical thought processing and forward-looking ideas, plans and strategy.

Henry Brier is a freelance journalist. He may be reached at hjsb20@gmail.com.

The Full Stack Approach to Chess Improvement

The last few days I was in Tampa to kick off our new program at Tampa Day School  ,walked by Pineywoods and was impressed by the full stack of servies that they offer. I know some great real estate brokers, lenders, title representatives, mortage brokers and insurance agents, who can be seen on our partners page. To the contrary, I never heard of a company that offered all of these services. Similarly, I worked at Oracle, which took pride in offering the full technology stack with hardware, database, applications, consulting, and more:

Likewise, for top chess improvement, we recommend that individuals, schools and companies take a full-stack approach. To get better in chess, it is best to have a good mix of group classes, private lessons, self-study and tournament practice. Here is more detailed list of suggest full-stack approach for each vertical:

Individuals

  1. Group Classes: Good way to pratice with coach and other players, will be a mix of lectures, practice games, puzzles and more, can be part of school program, virtual group classes , or other option.
  2. Private Lessons: Work 1-1 with a coach, usually weekly- best way to get individualized learning plan, prepare openings, study middle game themes and fundamental endgames,  review tournament games, etc.
    1. Self- Study: As much learning you do with coaches, privately or with a group, there is no replacement for self- study. All players need to review their games, do chess puzzles and learn opening, middlegame and endgame fundamentals.  There are lots of great resources out there, incuding good-old fashioned books, Lichess and ChessKId.
  3. Tournaments

Schools

Administrators will often ask me “What does your program look like”, not realizing, we currently serve 80+ schools and no two contracts look alike. While this not feasible for every school, given budget constraints, this what the full-stack chess program looks like:

  1. Curriculum Classes: Chess teacher visits each classroom, all students in school (or a set of grades), gets exposure to chess.  
  2. After-School Program: Open to students who want to learn more advanced strategies and get ready to represent school at tournaments
  3. Professional Development: Instructor classroom teachers how to teach, prepare them tio supplement chess program and allow kids to practice when chess teachers are not there.
  4. Coaching at Tournaments: Instructor travels with students to help prepare for games and analyze them afterwards.

Corporate 

Lunch and Learns: Allows companies to start a chess culture, provides networking opportunity between different lines of business and a productive break from work.

After-Work Events: Allows for extra chess practice, can be weekly, monthly, etc; higher the frequency, the better, will include lectures, games with feedback and more.

Competition: League play, tournaments and  more. Check out the Global Corporate Chess Championship, organized by Florian Helff.

While a full-stack-approach is the best way to achieve rapid chess improvement, we realize it is not feasible for all indivudals, schools and individuals, based on time and economic constraints. It is best to start with a little bit of programming and expand as resources permit. For instance, we have several schools start after-school partnerships with us and later begin curriculum classes. To learn more about what solution is most feasible for you, book some time to chat with yours truly. 

A Tribute to Scott Chaiet, Chess Teacher and Torah Student

Last week we lost one of the most enthusiastic chess players who ever exsisted, National Expert Scott Chaiet. A few weeks before the COVID-19 Pandemic began I was analyzing a game with Scott, our mutual friend Fedor Khrapatin and a few others late at night after a round of the United States Amateur Team East in Parsippany.

Scott Chaiet playing with his teamates (Fedor Khrapatin and Paul Song) at the Amateur Team East

He was so estatic about the game that I felt like he was sports commentator. He had a true passion for identiying beautiful combinations, art on the chess board.

Scott worked as an engineer for the Metropolitan Transit Authority for many years and recently retired. Over for the last few, he often told me he would soon retire and work part-time for Premier Chess. I told him “just tell me when and you will be hired.” Unfortunately, before he could do so, he shockingly had a heart attack and stroke and passed a few weeks later.

In addition to chess, Scott and I bonded over our common passion for torah study. Neither of us grew up wth observant Jewish families, who kept Shabbat or Kashrut. However, as adults, we both decided that we wanted to learn torah, Jewish laws, holidays, etc. in more detail. At the funeral, his rabbi spoke about how he started regularly going to morning services at the synagogue and asked to learn torah. It was due to him that the synagogue started offering a weekly class on Pirkei Avot, the Ethics of Our Fathers. Likewise, I learn a lot from many of mentors, including Rabbi Mark Wildes, Founder of Manhattan Jewish Experience, Rabbi Levi Welton and Rabbi Mendy Brukirer, Director of Outreach at Meor Manhattan.

Rabbi Levi Welton taught me how the Lubavitcher Rebbe compared a Jew to a pawn in chess.

The Rebbe playing with father.

A Jew naturally is of a lower status than Angels. However, when a Jew prays, he could rise his status above them. While a pawn is the lowest value piece (1 point), it could promote to a queen (9 points), above a bishop, or knight (3 points) or a rook (5 points). Scott was a certainly a pawn who promoted himself to live in heaven. While his body is no longer with us, his soul will live forever. Come celebrate his life in a memorial tournament on September 11, organized by Tyrell Harriott.

Farewell for the Summer

By Somaiya, Summer Youth Intern

Working for Premier Chess this summer taught me a lot about myself professionally and personally. As a photographer and filmmaker, I saw this job as the perfect opportunity to practice and improve my skill sets. My supervisor, Evan Rabin, made that vision possible by giving me meaningful work that equally challenged and intrigued me. 

 

After six weeks of working at Premier Chess, I have learned the following:

– how to pitch an idea 

– how to talk to strangers and handle rejection (when passing out flyers)

– how to network with industry professionals (build my LinkedIn)

– how to collaborate with my coworkers

– how to film and edit visual media for marketing purposes 

 

With all the skill sets I have garnered, I know I am ready to leap into whatever work awaits me next! 

 

For now, I would like to thank everyone I worked with for making this summer a great one for me 🙂

Farewell for the Summer

By Isabel, Summer Youth Intern

Working at Premier Chess has been such a wonderful, enlightening experience! I have learned so much in a short amount of time and will take what I have learned and apply it in my future endeavors. Things like business advice, workplace etiquette, and of course chess, were taught to me and my peers alongside learning how an operation such as premier chess works. The environment that was cultivated by Evan and my peers made it such an enjoyable and safe place. This was my first job and made a lasting impression on me, showing me a healthy work environment. I thoroughly enjoyed the experience working at this camp gave me and am sad to go. I consider this as a great lesson for me to learn from and a part of my life to look back on fondly. Goodbye, Premier Chess.

Farewell for the Summer

By Cinthia, Summer Youth Intern

Hello everyone, and goodbye! I am here to wish good health and prosperity on you all as this will be my last day working for Premier Chess. Overall, the networking experience as well as social training has helped me prepare for the mental turmoil of college. Gaining information of how business runs behind the scenes, and how interns such as I could help piece it all together. Evan was a great teacher to the other interns and I. We commend him on his good work in running a successful chess camp and providing his intellectual seniority on us all. If you are ever given the opportunity to reach Evan, please do so as you will not regret your time meeting such an individual. I truly enjoyed my time here and I hope you all will continue to support Premier Chess just as well when I first started. Thank YOU!