Kyle Boddy at the Eastside Open with the black pieces

One Year of Rated Chess Over the Board

On February 22nd, 2022, I played in my first USCF-rated tournament – it was hosted at the Seattle Chess Club, and it was the U1200 Novice event. I had a decent bit of experience playing over the board (OTB) while using a chess clock, but I remember still being quite nervous – surprising because I had played decades of professional Magic: The Gathering events, mid-high limit poker games, and a few World Series of Poker events. I guess there’s nothing like your first bout of competitive play in a new game!

In this blog post, I want to recap how the year has gone, what things I’ve learned, what bad habits I’ve picked up, and how I approach not just the game of chess, but the lore of it. I’m mostly cataloguing this for myself, but I know there are quite a few adult improvers (the whole #chesspunks Twitter community is one such example) and my former friends in the Magic and gambling communities who may find it interesting and useful, so on we go!

U1200 Novice @ Seattle Chess Club (2-26-2022)

Coming into this tournament, I had very little practical experience studying the game. I had studied a few opening lines on Chessable and messed around with the analysis engine on lichess, but that was about it. A cursory look at my ratings shows an 822 rating in Blitz, with no games played in Rapid at that time.

My first round opponent was Chad Foster, who was very nice. He was provisionally rated 747 coming into the tournament. I had the white pieces and started off with the Accelerated London, which is basically all I was playing at this time. He went into an opening I had never seen before and still really don’t see, which is a Queen’s Indian Defense / Hippo-type shell.

I am playing quite fast, blitzing out the obvious London moves. A big reason I started playing the London is that I’m something of a notoriously slow player in Magic: The Gathering, and with a timed clock, I wanted to be able to play a system-like opening so I wouldn’t flag.

On move 11, Chad blunders a central pawn, which I nabbed after a brief think:

He then played Nf5, and I played the immediate and obvious Be5.

Oh, wait:

Without thinking, I take his knight.

With my pawn. Shortly thereafter….

Not great. It’s my first USCF rated game and I’ve gone from winning to basically dead lost inside 14 moves. Such is life as a novice player. Had I thought at any point inside these moves, I would have clearly found the right continuation, but I didn’t, so, well, I didn’t.

What follows from there is probably best summed up by the lichess computer analysis tab:

Somehow we play nearly 50 moves of blunder-free chess from there on out, with Chad finding ways to trade down into a simplified endgame and press his advantage. In this position, it’s not looking good for your boy, and the engine announces mate – though you don’t need Stockfish to tell you to push the c pawn to victory, I’m guessing:

Fortunately for me, Chad plays Rf1+ and my king gets off the back rank. I queen first, we trade down to a bishop v. pawn endgame, and it’s a draw.


The second game is not nearly as exciting – I am playing the Seattle Chess Club’s president, John Selsky, who is rated 811 at the time of the tournament. I blunder fewer times than him and go on to win up two knights in the endgame, though it took far too long to figure it out, as multiple children helpfully pointed out to me after the game.

It was supposed to be a four round tournament, but I hadn’t prepared well regarding what to eat, and I was absolutely exhausted with both games finishing last. Making matters worse, I had a splitting headache from insufficient hydration and, well, food. I withdrew with a record of 1.5/2.0 and went home.

Side Note: Chess is Exhausting

I thought for sure that a lifetime of playing Magic: The Gathering at premier events, 12+ hour long poker slugfests, and overnight sessions at the blackjack tables would have prepared me to play a few chess games in one day, but it absolutely did not.

Pure focus in chess is nothing like poker, blackjack, or Magic – it is constant calculation. While I’ve adapted some over the last year, it hasn’t been more than a 20% relief in exhaustion, and after speaking to lifelong players, they say I shouldn’t expect much significant improvement in the future.

The Next Few Months OTB: Misunderstanding Game Selection

At this point, it’s customary to talk about all the terrible study habits you had, what you’re vowing to do better, and so forth. All of this is certainly true, and we’ll get to that, but those are not the largest mistakes I’ve made over the last 12 months which stagnated my growth – no, the largest mistake I made over the last year was applying the very wrong form of Game Selection.

Don’t know what Game Selection is? Here’s a quick definition I searched up from Microgrinder:

In poker games, if we are always playing against players who have equal ability to us or superior ability, then long term, we cannot expect to be a profitable player.

Theoretically, if we played a table of players who were of exactly the same ability as us and utilized the same strategy, then we would all lose money to the rake in the long term, so despite none of the players being better than us, we would still lose money.

This is why it is important to find games with inferior “weak” players to us. These players provide the “dead money” that covers the rake and provide profitable opportunities. It is our skill edge over these weak players that account for a majority of our profitability. At the poker table, the regulars duke it out for the fish’s money.

Microgrinder, Poker Game Selection

While this doesn’t exactly describe how I chose events, it unfortunately rhymed quite closely with it. A lifetime of choosing good gambling games (see also: Becoming a split-pot and mixed games expert in poker, learning how to play uncommon blackjack variants, etc) caused me to unconsciously think that playing people at or below my skill level was a good idea.

Four of the first six tournaments I played were U1200 Novice events, deliberately skipping the free Friday league matches at Seattle Chess Club when I found out that they were paired Swiss-style with no regard to rating. I didn’t want to show up at 8 PM on a Friday night with a provisional rating of 800 and get killed by someone rated 1450 or higher – that seemed like a waste of 2-3 hours and would be demoralizing to boot.

This was, to put it mildly, incredibly stupid. I should have known better, too – how people approached professional Magic in the days of Elo-based ratings is exactly how you should approach playing chess: You want to play the highest events possible that are reasonably within your skill level. In Magic, it’s even more pronounced due to the variance and luck inherent in the game – Elo already does not work correctly when you have large disparities in rating skill, and worse yet in Magic, there’s a huge element of randomness to any given match between two players! Thus the lower-rated player is heavily incentivized to play the best people they can find, exploiting this weakness in the rating system.

Somehow, I knew all that and didn’t apply it to my chess improvement path, which is quite silly. It’s compounded in stupidity by the fact that in chess, it is customary for the opponents to analyze with you post-game to give their opinions about positions, tactics, and overall feel of the game, and getting free lessons from players much better than you is an opportunity you shouldn’t turn down.

While I’ll briefly come back to this theme later in the post, the long story short is this: Play people better than you and don’t worry about your expected win/loss records. Loss aversion is no way to approach improvement.

Now, the Flawed Study Habits

In Magic, there’s a huge emphasis on deckbuilding – you need to be good at constructing your deck that you bring to the event, since you cannot change it once the tournament begins. Furthermore, knowing the metagame of what the other players are likely to bring to the tournament plays a big role in your success or failure as a player.

In chess… this is not true. And unfortunately, I fell into this trap quite early.

Behold, the site that has befallen a great many adult improver:

I partitioned out time per day to grind Chessable opening lines, memorizing as many variations as I could in what I usually play, thinking this was a great use of resources. Never mind my good friends and literally every master-level player saying this sucks and I should study tactics until my eyes bleed, if I could just memorize 18 moves of the Caro-Kann, Exchange Variation, I would have a huge advantage!

Instead of parroting the others that I ignored (which seems useless), let me illustrate why this idea is stupid via a very recent game I just played. This was in my weekly Friday match at the Seattle Chess Club against Liam Sarwas (rated 1300+). I had white, and six moves into the game, we had this position:

I have had this position or a position like it many times, and I was blitzing out my moves. Time control in these games is G/75 with an extra 60 minutes when you hit 40 moves, but there’s no increment or delay. Liam had been playing deliberately ever since I played 2. Nc3, and in the position you see above, he spent over 12 minutes before he played 6. … Bxc3 (which is fine, not great, but certainly not a mistake).

Liam had less than an hour on his clock and spent basically a quarter of his time in the opening, while I had spent nearly none, since I have these lines and their common variations down pat (please ignore that h3 is not a good move, thank you). I felt pretty good about the position and the time situation.

I lost this game after 48 moves.

The time advantage was wiped out by move 29, and unsurprisingly, Liam is simply better at chess than me, so he ended up winning a game where I had a small advantage the entire game.

While I no longer crush opening lines for 15-20 minutes per day on Chessable, I still use the site quite a bit to review tactical ideas from my online games and refresh my knowledge. The latter part has become a staple of my training, and I have Todd Bryant (@thestrongchess) on Twitter to thank for the modifications:

If you use Chessable yourself, I recommend the changes above. Has helped me quite a bit.

The Probably Still-Flawed Habits, But They’re New

So what am I doing now that is so much better than what I did for the first three-quarters of 2022? Well, I’m doing more tactics and puzzles per everyone’s advice, but I can’t shake Bobby Fischer’s quote from my mind:

Hope you didn’t think it was one of his more… controversial quotes…

I spoke to the closest thing I have to a “coach” in my life, IM Marc Esserman, who said that he wasn’t sure that doing mindless puzzles and tactical analysis was all that helpful, but he had done it a lot as a juniors player himself. He recommended a two-pronged approach for novices who like studying:

  1. Study key classical games of the old masters – Morphy, Rubenstein, Alekhine, et al
  2. Complete thematic puzzles from positions you’re likely to get

The first piece of advice was one I’d heard before, but lost in a sea of games, I had no idea where to start. Fortunately, Marc has a bunch of free ones on his YouTube channel, and his paid Patreon has a curated list with his commentary that I have found immensely helpful as well. (If you join up at the $50 level, you’ll see him tearing apart a Semi-Slav game I played.)

Thematic puzzles was something I hadn’t heard of until someone pointed out that Lichess recently released a feature where you can study puzzles by themes and openings!

So I’ve been making my way through Marc’s Patreon videos, dedicating one day per week to study a video, and completing Lichess thematic puzzles in the openings I play three to four times per week for 15-20 minutes per day. This has been a significant improvement.

I also find time once per week to do deep study in other ways. Currently, I’m making my way through Evaluate Like a Grandmaster by FM Nate Solon and GM Eugene Perelshteyn, which I am really enjoying:

Like most adult improvers (and I would guess kids as well), abuse of Stockfish and engines was a significant weakness of mine, never learning how to evaluate a position while also training my visualization skills. This inexpensive book ($10 at the time of writing this blog post) helps you do both without boring the hell out of you with hundreds of pages of pontification.

A Better Approach to Playing Games

As I noted above, I now play in the once-avoided Friday night league at Seattle Chess Club. My first game was against Makarand Lahane, rated 1450. We played a Caro-Kann, Exchange Variation / Delayed Panov game, and it got extremely sharp very fast.

Just 24 moves into the game, we’re in this position, which is dead lost for black despite equal material:

Nxf6 is a free minor piece at best, because …gxf6 is mate in two, while …Qxf6 more obviously loses a full rook. Fortunately, Makarand didn’t calculate this, and I ended up pressing for the win with a passed pawn; Makarand found a series of only-moves, blockaded the pawn, traded it off, and offered me a draw, which I accepted.

This game made me realize that while yeah, the rating delta between Makarand and myself was 600 Elo points, and I was definitely losing for many parts of the game, the true delta in skill might not be as large as I thought. Again, this was something I already knew to be true in Magic but simply didn’t apply to chess until literally last month (Feb 2023).

The four games I’ve played in the Swiss-Style Friday night league have gone as follows:

  • Lahane-Boddy, Caro-Kann (Delayed Panov) – Draw, rating 1450
  • Boddy-Sarwas, Jobava London – Loss, rating 1270
  • Song-Boddy, Semi-Slav (Meran) – Win, unrated player
  • Adams-Boddy, Caro-Kann Advance (Botvinnik-Carls) – Loss, rating 1650

Not only will I obviously gain ratings points from this 1.5/4.0 performance, but the postgame analysis with my opponents in both losses were incredibly instructive.

Getting Better: Playing Above Expectation

I have loosely-held ratings-based dreams, but I primarily care about playing above-expectation. Studying engines like Leela Chess Zero (lc0), examining how the Maia chess bots work, and breaking down Lichess/ game ratings has helped me create a system where I take my current rating and calculate my expected performance against my opponents.

There will be games that I play like shit (round one of the Eastside Open comes to mind), but I don’t mind blips. I can handle variance over the long run, it’s one of the traits any successful gambler learns to develop the hard way. However, if I’m consistently turning in actual performances in games and tournaments that is above my expected performance (as I calculate it), then I’m pleased. When I lost to Henry Adams in my favorite line with black, I reviewed the game, put the moves into my hacked-together system, and was pleased with the result.

I got absolutely dismantled by Henry, but I made zero mistakes and zero blunders up until the end where I deliberately went for a low-chance desperado attack to simply increase the variance of the game, which was also a decision I stand behind. Henry played a single inaccuracy with no mistakes or blunders; when he is 800 Elo points higher than me, he should win that game. But what I can take from it – beyond his gracious postgame analysis – is how I played relative to expectations, and in that regard, I did quite well.

To me, this is no different than analyzing poker hands, blackjack bets, and sports bets of expected vs. actual, something all good gamblers catalogue and review. In a profession where you can run worse than your imagination can ever cook up, doubt and fear will begin to cloud your mind, and the only way out is the cold hard truth of the mathematics and statistics underlying your play. I’ve taken this approach to chess – perhaps later than I should have – and it’s helped me develop a game plan for the future.

And Yet, Getting Better is Not the Only Goal

What I’ve also learned from studying openings and talking to master-level players is that I truly enjoy the lore of the game nearly as much as I do the competitive side of it. Studying the openings of players is now something I do because I really enjoy exploring the history of the game through analysis of how the game came to be, not because I want to memorize a ton of moves in the Najdorf Sicilian or the Nimzo-Indian.

This realization has been quite the surprise, as I’ve not been one to care that much about the history of games I play; I’m also not an avid student of world history, either. But for some reason, chess is that interesting to me, which is pretty cool.

Someone Hit the Wrap it Up Button, Please

Alright, alright.

Just found out you can buy this, so I might have to do that

Let’s summarize this blog post and get out of here.

  • Play all kinds of competition, especially regular league matches with players better than me
  • Solve thematic puzzles, not random ones
  • Spend deep study time on evaluation, visualization, and historical games of my own
  • Study select games of the old masters who have similar styles (currently studying a lot of Harry Pillsbury)
  • Limit hours spent on opening study and preparation (main counterexample: Transitioning to studying new lines like 1. e4 and other approaches to combating 1. d4 as black)

If you’ve made it this far, I left my Classical Chess Play Log for last. Here’s where I am cataloguing my classical games with various pieces of information that go into my analyses for playing above/below expectation.

Click for a larger version

Let me know what you think in the comments! Hopefully we’ll be back in early 2024 with the same zeal for improvement and some new ideas.

SCC U1200 Chess Tournament Report (Feb 26 2022)

This was my first over the board (OTB) chess tournament in my life, which was also US Chess Federation (USCF) rated. It was the Seattle Chess Club Novice (U1200) tournament that’s held monthly, and it is a four round swiss pairing tournament, G75 + 5s delay. That means each player has 75 minutes to make all their moves, and each time the opponent hits the clock, you get 5 seconds “delay” before your timer starts ticking down. Added time per move is common, and “increment” tends to be more common in online play, where you add 5 seconds every time you hit the clock (Fischer Increment).

I’m known for being a slow player in Magic: The Gathering (perhaps an understatement), and not much changed when I started playing chess online and over the board casually – I consistently ran into time trouble in even Rapid format games (10-15 minutes to make all your moves). To improve on that, I forced myself to play a lot of Bullet games on, which are 1 minute games with no delay/increment (1+0). For the last two months, I’ve been playing quite a bit of that, with Rapid games mixed in – to my surprise, I time out (flag) opponents in Bullet more than I run out of time, which I took as pretty good progress, reaching 1150 rating in Bullet compared to my 954 rating in Rapid (though I haven’t played nearly as much rated Rapid online as of late).

As I perused the SCC tournament history on, I noticed there was a healthy group of players in the U1200 section playing between 750 and 1100 rating, and I estimated my rating in slow chess to be around 850-950. If I played all four rounds, I would be pretty pleased getting 2/4 (two wins, two losses) or better, thinking there’d likely be few, if any, draws when novices play each other (draws are worth a half point).

The week prior to the tournament I tried to take three days of PTO, but was interrupted all three days due to vitally important work issues (just how it is when you’re an executive of a company), and didn’t get as much study done as I’d have liked. I played some OTB games vs. my friends Peter and Max in the 10+10 Rapid format, and studied a decent amount online using the analysis engine, but I felt somewhat underprepared going into Saturday’s action.

Tournament Day

I arrived at the Seattle Chess Club’s location in Greenlake 15 minutes before the tournament started and watched about 12-14 people file in for the event, ranging from very young (7-8 years old) with their parents, to early-middle aged (me), to one or two older players. We registered without much fanfare, and pairings went up, and I had the white pieces playing against Chad Foster, who I remembered from the US Chess ratings page was rated in the mid-high 700s (just checked now: prior to the tournament, he was provisionally rated 746).

Seattle Chess Club

Both games I played can be found at the following Lichess Study link:

Round One: Boddy v. Foster, London System vs. Hippo Defense

For this tournament, I planned on playing the London System with the white pieces, which typically yields a setup like below:

Chad opened with b6 and Bb7, which apparently is the start of the English Defense, but looked to me like the Queen’s Indian Defense, going for the early fianchetto of the bishop. Fortunately, these setups are not very good against the London opening, because the pawn on d4 is extremely well-reinforced, and I felt pretty confident going through the opening moves.

(Later I was informed by someone on Twitter that his opening is the Hippo Opening, which is something you’d often see on Eric Rosen’s stream)

Indeed, after the opening 11 moves, Lichess has me at +0.5 advantage. Chad pushed c5, which was a blunder since it undefends the pawn on d6 and allows Bxd6, which is not only a free pawn but increasingly large control over the center of the board. Lichess has me at +4.0 advantage here, which is commanding, and it felt like it, too.

Unfortunately, I make the same blunder here that I make in a lot of my London games when I play Bd3 rather than Be2, which is that I forget my bishop on d3 is undefended. I set up an exchange on e5 which I do regularly – and it’s good when the bishop is on e2 – but end up giving away my bishop like an idiot capturing with my pawn rather than my knight.

Nice move, dumbass

I played this move quickly and as I hit the clock I realized what I had done, and Chad immediately took on d3. From here on out, I fought extremely hard – I’ve had worse positions before and won, or scored a draw, I thought. Turns out Lichess has me at -6.0 disadvantage after Qxd3, which is close to dead lost.

not looking good for your hero

For the next 47 moves, Chad and I played accurately with no mistakes or major inaccuracies throughout the midgame to the beginning of the endgame – I felt the vise tightening around me the entire game. I was pretty surprised; while I had blundered a piece like a moron, I felt like I was playing quite well in the midgame and just waited for Chad to re-blunder back as he did early in the game, but he simply didn’t – he played extremely positionally and closed in, forcing trades and putting me in tough spots – not only was I down a minor piece, but Chad had the bishop pair while I had only two knights.

This position felt hopeless, and it basically is – Stockfish has it at -8.6

As the position continued to open up, Chad’s advantage would only grow as the bishops overtake the knights in value due to their increased scope.

Chad would use the bishops tactically, picking off pawns regularly without me able to retaliate or put my knights on good squares. On move 61, the board looked like this:

I knew that if Chad simply pushed the c pawn to victory, I’d be pretty screwed – he has my king permanently cemented on the back rank, while his king is mobile and protected due to the pawn on f4 – I can never get my king on the third rank.

Chad finally made a positional blunder, playing Rf1?? instead of pushing his pawn, which buys me a tempo and just enough time to execute my plan to draw the game. I played Ke2, forcing his rook away and giving me the second rank for my king. He accurately played Ra1, but his bishop on a3 saves the day for me – the king tempo + bishop blocking my rook on the a file virtually scores me a win of 1.5 pieces after I play Ra5, which I find and execute quickly with about 18 minutes left on my clock (Chad had about 30).

Position after 61. Ra5

From this position, I thought for 2 minutes and calculated all the way to the end if we both push our pawns and promote. I’m proud of this calculation, I knew that I promote first and then I will play Qd5+, protected by the rook, and be able to perpetually check the king or better.

Chad played Ra2+ at some point which I figured had to be a blunder, because now Qd5+! comes with a fork against his rook for free, which is exactly what happened, and I had queen + rook vs. queen + bishop, and while both pawns are passed and his is closer to promoting, mine is outside and not next to an enemy piece:

Hope! I felt I was winning massively after Qxa2.

However, taking the rook on a2 has one major downside – it loses the initiative, and it’s Chad’s turn to start checking me over and over again. And check me, he did.

Stop it, man

At this point I was beginning to worry that I might get mated somehow, so I blocked his bishop check with Re5 and hit the clock, only to watch him play Qd4+ – I sunk in my seat, realizing I blundered my rook, and with it, all chances I had to win this game. I thought this endgame was winning for me after I get out of the checks, but after blundering the rook, I realized I had to play Qa1+, skewer his queen, and trade it, giving us the Bishop + King vs. Pawn + King ending where he has the correct color bishop to take my promoted piece, which is an instant draw (he simply keeps the bishop on the promotion diagonal and moves away from my king harassing it, and when I promote, takes my queen – and Bishop + King vs. King is a dead draw with no way to mate), so I played that, hit the clock, and agreed to a draw, signing the slips, 76 moves in all:

Needed two sheets for this game…

Didn’t have much time to analyze the game, because we were the last game to finish in the round, and we went straight into Round Two. However, it turns out that the game was drawn after 62… Rf1??, so I don’t feel too bad. The accuracy engine graded my performance as 87.5, with just 1 inaccuracy and 2 blunders.

Round One Result: Boddy v. Foster, London System, 0.5 – 0.5, 76 moves

Round Two: Selsky v. Boddy, Caro-Kann Defense

Pairings went up for Round Two, and I’m playing against John Selsky, who helps run the Seattle Chess Club and is the person I was communicating with to register for the event. I have the black pieces, and I plan on playing Caro-Kann Defense vs. e4 openings and d5 followed by c5 against most d4 openings. John opens with e4, and doesn’t play Nf3, instead playing Nc3, causing me to think fairly early in the game. I’m used to pinning the knight to his queen with the move Bg4, usually trading the bishop for the knight as is typical in the Caro-Kann opening.

Reminder: You can follow the game + evaluation over on Lichess by clicking here

I inaccurately play e6 instead of taking on e4 (which I considered), then after I close the pawn chain, John plays Nf3. This gives me an opportunity to pin his knight on c3 to his king, but I get so caught up in the idea of pushing c5 and protecting it with the bishop that I develop my knight to the interior and push c5, which apparently is a huge blunder, yielding +5.5 advantage per Lichess/Stockfish if John takes on d5:

Fortunately, he didn’t, and play resumed. I took on e4 afterwards, missed a chance to trap his bishop with b5 + c4, developed poorly inside my pawn chain (John’s bishop was pinning my knight, so I just wanted to castle), and gave John an isolated Queen’s pawn that, while advanced very far, I was confident I’d recapture at some point in the game. I finally pushed b5 to kick his bishop away, and John played b4??, which surprised me. He threw a punch at the queen, but left his bishop undefended.

Hmmm. Is my queen getting trapped if I take on a4?

I knew I could take via Qxa4, but I wasn’t sure that I could do it without trapping my queen. I had my longest think of the tournament here on the 13th move of the 2nd game, and burned at least 15 minutes on my clock going through various lines. In the end, I couldn’t see how he’d trap my queen after I was taking his light square bishop, and even if he did, I bet I would get two pieces and the initiative for it (a losing trade, but at least some compensation). I played 13. … Qxa4 and Lichess/Stockfish has me at a -5.5 advantage.

John chose not to trade queens, which I think is the right decision even though the engine disagrees; if you trade queens there and go into the endgame, you’re just conceding that you’re down a piece and the pawn on d6 is going to fall as well – defeat will come eventually.

I play 17. … Ba6, pinning his knight to his queen, he correctly responds by pushing his pawn, I trade the minor pieces and put the rook behind his pawn. I take with the queen, equalizing pawns, and offering a queen trade, which John declines once again. I refuse to take no for an answer, wanting to simplify the position as much as possible, since John has zero development and I’m ahead a minor piece. I play Qd5, figuring he will play Qd1, forcing me to choose to trade on his terms and gaining a tempo by moving a rook to the middle, but to my surprise, John plays Qxd5 (which is the recommended engine move).

Hmmm… what to take back with?

Now I face a choice – do I recapture on d5 with the pawn or the knight? On one hand, I don’t want to isolate my pawn heading into the endgame – a pawn majority when everything is traded will be easily winning – but I also want to think about creating a passed pawn down the middle of the board with both rooks, up a minor piece, with John having the wrong color bishop to attack the promote square. I choose to take with the pawn, which is inaccurate, but I don’t regret it.

Doing so allows John to take that pawn in trade for the other pawns, which the engine hates on my behalf since it thinks I could have just kept that pawn instead, but I am already up a minor piece at have a -6 advantage, going from -6 to -8 doesn’t mean much more to me compared to a simple position that I know I can convert to a win, and getting John to trade a pair of rooks is a huge win in my book.

My back rank is exposed, so one mistake and I can just lose this game by getting the back rank nonsense, but I don’t want to create space for my king and give John a move – I want to keep the pressure on and force trades. I evaluate all my moves very carefully and get a rook on the seventh rank, hoping John will trade his bishop for my knight on f6, which gives me free space for my king (apparently this is the engine best move, but oh well).

Sweating bullets, not wanting to get back rank mated, but also refusing to give up the attack

John doesn’t want to trade his bishop for a knight, and begins playing quite inaccurately and moving his bishop to safe squares that don’t do much to attack my pieces or force movement. I force the last rook trade on c1, and I have two knights vs. a bishop and equal pawns, with my center pawn being passed and further along than his outside passer – and his bishop cannot capture my pawn on the promote square. Life’s good.

My knight is stopping John’s outside pawn from advancing, and then John plays the final losing move and allows me to fork his king and bishop, albeit losing my center pawn in the process:

Tricky knights! -Jerry

From here the game ends as you’d expect; I don’t study the two knights endgame and it takes me way too long to trade one of them for a pawn and just force John’s king up the board, but I get to this final position before John’s flag falls and he loses the game on time:


Round Two Result: Selsky v. Boddy, Caro-Kann Defense, 0 – 1, 60 moves

My accuracy rating for the second round

Again, my game is the last game of the round, and they go to pair the third round after we send in our slip. I request to withdraw from the tournament, as I have a building headache due to playing 4+ hours of chess without a break and drinking just a single BANG Energy drink along the way (fortunately, I did eat breakfast and go for a walk in the morning) – my focus was already giving out towards the end of game two, with thoughts of withdrawal entering my brain with 20+ moves to play.

I wish the club had given more time between rounds for the last competitors to get their break, but I understand how it is, coming from the Magic world. Still, playing three 2+ hour games back to back is not something I’m prepared for, and with 1.5/2, I knew I’d be playing against someone considerably better than me, and while I don’t mind losing on merit, I didn’t want to lose because I couldn’t give anywhere close to my best effort.

Tournament Ending: 1.5/2, withdraw after R2

Overall, I had a hell of a time, and I’m looking forward to playing in March’s U1200 event. I need to do a lot more sideline preparation, as I realized I don’t know enough theory behind the openings I play and when to capitalize on mistakes (not just single-move blunders), and I should play more G30 or similar chess games over the board and online to practice on my focus.

What would a Magic-style report be without the best part? Man, it’s been 15+ years since I’ve written something like this section….



  • Max McCall and Peter Beckfield for playing OTB chess with me and getting me right for the tournament
  • Eric Hansen, my chess coach, for various instruction, but most importantly telling me to fight extremely hard for every pawn and piece on the board
  • Seattle Chess Club, for putting on a great tournament geared towards novices
  • The 7 year old Indian kid who asked me “why didn’t you trade your knights for pawns earlier?”


  • The Hippo Opening
  • David Bedoll, who is too cool to play chess with Max, Peter, and I
  • Me for blundering my bishop on d3 for the 901st time

Road Warrior Kit, Sept 2021 Update

The people have been asking – so it’s time to give them what they want. The Road Warrior Kit update for busy professionals on the go – now that COVID-19 is somewhat under control and business travelers are hitting the frequent flier miles once again, it’s time to upgrade your kit so you can be maximally productive on the road and at the co-working space.

EquipmentRecommended PurchasePrice
Portable MonitorLenovo ThinkVision M14$240
Charging BlockHyphen-X 100W GaN 4 Port$50
Thunderbolt CableApple Thunderbolt 3 Cable (0.8m)$39
USB-C DongleAnker USB-C Hub, 100W PD + 10Gbps$90
Portable BatteryExcitrus 83W Power Bank Pro$80
Charging CablesMulti Charging Cable – 3 in 1$14

COVID-19 and Frustration

This sucks.

For any number of reasons.

Work with the Reds was going better than I could have possibly imagined, Driveline Baseball had its most productive pro off-season ever (which is saying a lot), and now this. It all comes to an abrupt halt. Meanwhile, a significant portion of the country doesn’t take it seriously at all.

The Washington State governor shut down all “places of recreation,” which includes Driveline Baseball’s facility in Seattle. It’s the right move. But it comes with no guarantee of financial or economic relief, which is a bit scary, since we’re in the middle of moving our gym to a 40,000+ square foot location that we’re building out, spending hundreds of thousands of dollars to make the best place in the world to train for baseball…. and no one will be using it for the foreseeable future.

We thought about doing pop-up small group training in Florida and Arizona, but with players headed home from their complexes… it doesn’t make financial sense.

We have 60+ people on the payroll, a major line of our business has been forcibly taken away from us (in-person training), our most popular items continue to be out of stock due to COVID-19 shipment-related delays, we continue to hear very little about economic relief for small business owners… it’s not what you want.

College coaches around the nation go from working 14 hour days to suddenly not knowing what to do with their spare time. Not knowing where their next paycheck is going to come from, or if they’ll still be able to supplement their income with that summer ball job they have lined up. I feel that – going from working 80+ hour workweeks because of the amazing opportunity I had with the Reds to… not quite really knowing what I should be doing.

But as I’ve said before, greatness is born out of times of crisis, not times of excess.

As coaches, we have time to continue our education and to get better. To be with our families. To focus inward.

As players, you have time to continue to develop. Many of your peers – pro and amateur alike – will take this time off to go fishing, to hang out, to look at the bad side of this. When the season starts up again, those who have committed to working hard through this time of strife will have an enormous edge. You can rally your teammates and friends through group texts and videoconferencing to keep them on task, to return with a vengeance while the others squander this opportunity.

As businessowners, we have time to improve our internal processes and to rise to the tough challenges we face, rather than put them aside because things were going “well enough.” It is a time for decisive action. It is foolish to assume help is coming from a third party; small business owners around the world know just how unlikely it is that help will arrive.

As coaches, players, businessowners – we get paid and become great by making the tough choices. Not the easy ones. Playing/coaching the game was always something we’d do for free. The salary is for the other stuff. And now, well, we got a lot of the “other stuff” to deal with.

So let’s go to work.