A few days ago a pool of chess enthusiasts gathered at a hotel in Louisville Kentucky for a chess tournament. I am going to focus on just one person in particular. By appearance he doesn’t look any smarter then the next guy. His most unique feature is being the most talkative person you’ll ever meet. I’m talking a constant stream of chatter. I find myself wondering how he manages to keep quiet during a round. That alone must be a great difficulty for him. I have to say he has a great sense of humor! Just listening to him provides lots of amusement. He eats basically nothing during these events. That really isn’t an exaggeration even if it does sound like one. In the whole weekend of the tournament he had a glass of milk, some Nilla wafers, and a Cliff bar. I guess you could say he was just a little nervous. After the last round he managed to put a whole sandwich in his stomach without getting sick! Despite the fact that he can’t talk during rounds and doesn’t eat enough food to sustain his brain he is an amazingly smart kid. Just watching him play chess is an inspiration. Observing his results is similarly inspiring.
The round is underway and although I should be thinking about my game I remember that I have an observation paper to write after the weekend brain exertion is over so I carefully start observing the “genius” a few tables above me. First of all I saw he was deeply analyzing the position. A frown wrinkled his forehead and his chin rested in his hand thoughtfully. He sat erect in his chair and the only sign of nervousness was the continual shaking of his leg. He is determined to fight the game out to the end, win or lose. From experience I know that he doesn’t hear any noise except his own analytical thoughts and doesn’t see anything except the chessboard in front of him. After several minutes of thinking he confidently moved a piece towards the middle of the board. His whole demeanor spoke of control even in the way he pressed the clock and wrote his moves down. I knew without even walking over to take a look at the position that he was winning. My assessment proved to correct since within the next 30 minutes I saw his opponent resign the game.
Chess isn’t much of a spectator sport although I think watching two people fiercely battling brain vs. brain can be amusing. I realize just how much body language can tell me about their emotions. I have yet to find a chess player that you couldn’t tell anything about by just observing. Watching little kids playing old men is a guaranteed amusement factor.
Watching two people who are having a battle of their minds is an interesting sight. You realize just how expressive people really are and how body language shows their emotions. If they are twirling their hair, tapping their foot, or unable to sit still you can tell they are nervous. In situations where a player is moving his/her pieces at lightning speed it’s safe to assume they are in some major time pressure.
During the next round I noticed that my subject was looking very tired. His eyelids were drooping and he didn’t look as focused as he did in the previous round. His clock is steadily running down and his moves aren’t being played with his usual confidence. His brain is obviously working much slower then it was earlier. Since he had his head in his hands I knew he was in trouble. Getting up from my board I took a peek at his position. It was much inferior to his opponents, he was down material, and was much lower on time. An hour went by before I got a chance to look his way again. When I did I could tell he was still extremely tired but also looked slightly more engrossed then before. Soon afterward the game finished and he had managed to pull out the win.
People who don’t play chess may not notice a chess players nervous movements, their frustration, or the pressure they feel just by watching their body movements. All of us tournament players know what certain things mean though. We’ve all been through the heart pumping crazy positions and the results. Playing chess teaches you perseverance by playing on even if you are tired or have a much worse position. It teaches you patience by you not rushing a game that needs to be thought over carefully. You learn sportsmanship because it takes practice to be a good loser and gracious winner.
It’s so funny how people can go from laughing, talking, and cracking jokes to serious, win at all cost attitudes. The adrenaline of the battle makes your heart pound, the pressure of playing up to your rating makes your head hurt, and all the thinking really works your brain. The weird thing is after finishing your game you analyze the game with your opponent or a friend. After you finish you just have to hope you are pumped up for the next round because you don’t get much of a break in between rounds.
I play chess and yet I still find it interesting that people go from laughing, talking, cracking jokes, and just plain chillin’ to serious win at all cost attitudes. After completing games instead of taking a small break before the next round to rest or eat I find most chess players go over their games. It becomes hard to become fully in-tuned to a new battle if the old one isn’t settled and out of the mind.
It was hard to tell between the people who were nervous and the ones who were just cold. With all the people in the room you would think that it would be warm from body heat but it was actually pretty chilly. Of course when you are nervous it feels much colder because you are continually shivering.
At the end of the first day I’m sure every chess player felt like their brain was fried. You just had to hope you would have a good night sleep and be nice and rested because the next day when you would have to be up bright and early for the final two rounds. The night before the final day instead of taking it easy and resting K went over games and played blitz. We sat around watching blimey cow for a good laugh before retiring for the night.
I paid special attention to what he did in between rounds and at the end of the day. I figured he must be doing something right since he does so well and I could use his strategy. First of all he would go over his games with his opponent, watch people eat lunch while he drank maybe a little water, and of course talking his head off. As an observer it’s weird to see how people go from having a great time talking, laughing, and cracking jokes to a serious win at-all-cost attitude. That is exactly what you saw watching him. The last round on the first day he finished fairly quickly which is not the norm with him. I saw he really loosened up and played bughouse (which is a non serious form of chess involving two teams) and watched blimey cow.
I had plenty of opportunities to observe him because he came with my brother and I.