Here’s a new “program” I am trying with Daniel & Jordan.

GMAD = Grand-Master A Day.

Every day we pick a famous grand master, and:

  1. Read on Wikipedia about him or her, their favorite openings, etc
  2. Analyze one of their famous games

This is a great way to improve your chess while at the same time learn about the history of chess, as well as other topics such as politics, geography and the like.

Our first GM will be Bobby Fisher, and we will look at his 3rd game against Boris Spassky in the 1972 world championship.

(Our second will be GM Dejan Bojkov)

The Dip

The Dip

The Dip

A few years ago, I read Seth Godin’s wonderful little book “The Dip

Seth explains that if you want to be “the best” at something, you must prepare for a difficult journey. If it was easy, then anyone could be the best.

Initially, your success may come relatively easily, and your performance improves rapidly. But then comes the difficult part – the dip – where your feel that you can’t make any progress, and doubt sneaks in — is that all I can be?

This is where most people quit. Only those few who keep going and make it to the “other side of the dip” become true masters. And that’s why they are so rare.


This weekend Daniel played at the US National G30/G60 in California.

He did ok in the G60 (winning 2/4 games). When he lost his first game of G30 — he was quite upset; so much so that I was wondering if he might quit the tournament altogether at that point.

So I drew the dip diagram for him, and explained the theory behind it. “You are now in the dip”, I said. “If you truly want to make it to the other side, you have to make an effort and get there. It’s not easy”. This had a big, positive impact on him. He went on to win all 4 subsequent games, and ended up tied for 3rd place overall. I was very proud of him.


By the way, I also played in both tournament, and had lots of fun. Here’s one of my games, where I blundered (opponent took my rook), but then recovered with a queen trap:


Chess in Israel

Now that Boris Gelfand is the challenger for Viswanathan Anand for the World Chess Championship 2012, Israel is formally a chess “super-power”.

This summer, we went to our annual visit in Israel to spend quality time with family and friends.

Daniel had an opportunity to play in a local tournament (Kfar Saba Open) in the U1750 section, and continued to compete as part of a team at the Israel  Team Championship for kids under 14 years. We are very thankful to Lior from Chess4all for his support of Daniel during this tournament.

Here is one game Daniel was especially proud of, and was impatient to analyze with his coach Ted Castro as soon as he got back to the US.

On move 25, a nice Bishop sacrifice leads to a checkmate.

A chess dad player

This weekend I took my own advise from “Put yourself in their shoes” — since my wife and kids were out of town, I decided to participate in the Central California Open. This was the first time I played chess without my boys — not as a chess dad, but as a chess player.

I was very fortunate to meet Dejan Bojkov, who is a GM from Bulgaria, and share the weekend experience with him. Not only did I get to watch his behind-the-scenes work to compete in the tournament (he won 1st place), but he also helped me with analysis of my games.

I told Daniel many times how useful post-game analysis is for improvement, but I never actually did this for myself and my own games. Dejan gave me the opportunity to really experience for myself how powerful this can be.

Santana Row

We love Santana Row. The restaurants, the shops, the people, the atmosphere. It’s always a place that’s humming with energy, and it’s always a blast to just be there.

It also has a “life-size” chess board, and some chess tables, and is essentially the bay area equivalent of “Washington Square Park” in NYC. Most days, and especially on weekends, you can pick up games there with some really decent players.

Santana row is where Daniel saw a chess board for the first time, and got hooked. It will always hold a special place in our hearts.


Ray Robson

My son Daniel played with Ray Robson (youngest american grandmaster) this weekend, as part of a simul following a presentation by Ray at Norcal House of Chess.

Daniel was really excited about the opportunity, and was quick to point out that Ray is “twice as good as I am”; when I asked “how come”, he explained that Ray’s rating is ~2620, and he is at 1310.

I had a unique opportunity also to meet Ray’s wonderful parents, and hear the story of raising Ray first-hand. Gary (Ray’s dad) published a book called Chess Child, which tells the story in more detail, and we got a copy signed by Ray.

Anyway, here’s Ray’s game with Daniel. In move 27, a critical position arose and Daniel could have made a better move. Can you find what it is?

[poll id=”1″]

Making plans…

In his book How to Reassess Your Chess Jeremy Silman suggests that you should “let the imbalances dictate your plan”.

Very insightful and helpful advise IMO. As a chess player you are still faced with the dilemma: I have a plan, but is it a good one, or will it lead to my demise?

Often, it’s tempting to just come up with a “really good move”. This is often a move that had worked well for you in the past, or that you convince yourself can only lead to good things later in the game.

As your chess improves, you find lots of cases where a “really good move” doesn’t cut it anymore, and without a very explicit plan you are toast. You learn to resist the temptation and do-the-work to find a solid plan that is well thought out.

In chess as in life — “He who fails to plan, plans to fail”.

iPad and Chess

I really like my iPad. I use it all the time.

I just realized that I use my iPad for many chess related activities:

  1. In tournaments, I copy my son’s notation sheets into Shredder Chess — and use it for post-game analysis.
  2. I use the InstantChess, ICC, or LiveChess apps to play online with random people. It’s a lot of fun.
  3. I watch many Youtube videos related to Chess.

And — I use the “WordPress” App to post to my blog.

How do you use your iPad to improve your chess?


Why it’s important to fail

I recently watched this wonderful video that explains the importance and benefits of failing. It’s a great video. Please go watch it now. I’ll wait.

There has been plenty of discussion recently (e.g., see the discussion about “pivoting”) about the importance of failure in business and product development, especially in the context of building innovation and startups.

For me, the most important reason to fail is: it helps you develop a growth mindset. Learning that focus and effort can help you master anything, and that the some “dips” are worthwhile to work through.

In chess, failure occurs often: just when you start winning, you immediately go up to the next level, play against “tougher” opponents, and start losing again. It’s part of the cycle of continuous learning and improvement. One can’t really escape it, so one must learn how to fail.

So next time your child fails (in chess or otherwise), value that moment and encourage him to learn — it’s absolutely priceless.

Dual chess dad

This weekend my younger son played (in the kindergarten section) at the California State Championship in Santa Clara. I am so proud of him. This was his second-ever tournament (after a quiet quad at NHC the previous weekend), and he did rather well.

So now I’m a chess dad for two.

I am beginning to wonder how the relationship of the two brothers will evolve: will it foster competition or collaboration? My hope is that they quickly realize that with collaboration they can achieve more, and that 1+1=3. Time will tell.