Sunday, February 19, 2017

The Bully's Pulpit
Five Decades of Chess Intimidation

By Gary "The Chess Bully" Newsom

Lessons from Ron

Next weekend we celebrate the memory of one of our greatest North Carolina chess heroes, FM Ron Simpson, whose life was cut way too short due to cancer. I was lucky enough to know Ron and to have played him on several occasions. With me being "Expert" it is not surprising that I had a dismal score against him. In fact I was o-fer. O for however many we played that is. But it's always enjoyable playing guys on that next level. That is how you improve at chess. I took my lumps against Ron but I can say that our games exposed many deficiencies in my play and highlighted the differences between a guy on Ron's level and myself. I will attempt in this blog post to break that down a bit.

Here is a rare occasion where I (along with Walter High...) delivered a BIG CHECK to Ron. There were many more instances where Ron delivered big checks to me over the chessboard. See below.

Ron was a fighter at the chessboard. He was not a perfectly correct player. He wanted a battle, especially against a guy like me, who is a level down from him. He *expected* to outplay me in complicated positions and he did. Regularly. But as you will see, I had my chances, I just couldn't capitalize on them and made errors at crucial moments. Which brings us to our first lesson.


So the lesson here, kiddos, is simple. FOCUS. For the WHOLE GAME. Don't let up. A good player is always trying to find a way to turn things around. As I stated earlier, Ron was not a perfect technical chess player. He was a fighter. And a fighter has a way of intensifying the effort when things are looking bad. 


Well not literally of course (though I've done that a few times) but figuratively. To hang with Ron, you needed to make sure your pieces coordinate effectively. If they didn't, he would easily sense this and the punishment would be severe. 


Good advice. In pleasant company, one does not leave ones fly open. We must incorporate in our morning routine to make sure everything is properly tucked away and covered before we go out to meet the world. (But after we reach a certain age...maybe somewhere around bully've gotta cut us a little slack, OK?) In chess terms we will liken that to keeping our king position defensible. We have already seen one example of Ron taking advantage of a poor defensive setup in a French against me. Now let's see another. Here, I leave my fly (kings position) open. Ron was quick to pounce and make me pay for my error.

So I got punished by Ron regularly. But there is plenty to learn from these games and the others I played vs Ron. My impression of Ron as a chessplayer was a guy who had a great innate feel for the dynamic value of the pieces, as befits a "fighter" in the chess sense of the word. I got a lot of good positions against him. I had my chances. But when it came down to a good old fashioned chess fight, he came with more weapons than me. 

We all miss Ron's presence in the North Carolina chess community. His love of the game was obvious. He was gracious enough to spend time analyzing with those in the lower sections as well as his equals. He was a true gentleman and ambassador of the game.

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