Saturday, January 9, 2010

What Makes a Master is Memory

I dropped by Niles North High School today where Prospect went 2-2 in a team tournament losing to 2008 state champion Stevenson and 2006 state champion Niles North.

Also attending the tournament was Glenbrook which is coached by chess master Steve Szpisak. I had not seen seen Steve for several years and he struggled somewhat before coming up with my name when I said hello. I congratulated him on his memory to which he responded "Najdorf" and "Bogo-Indian." These were the openings in the two game we had played back in October 2002 and January 2003, both of which he had won pretty handily. I only vaguely recalled one of them, but when I got home and looked at my database, I was able to verify that he had remembered both of them correctly.

This brings to mind my victory over International Master Bob Gruchacz in a friendly 5-minute game back in 1981. Bob and I had become friends through work and after hitting a couple of bars one night we decided to play some chess at my apartment. In the first game, I managed to set a trap for him that was just a little more subtle than he thought I was capable of setting and he dropped a knight enabling me to win the game. After that, he began to concentrate and he slaughtered me in at least ten games in a row. It was so clear that I did not have a chance against him in chess that we only played backgammon after that.

Many years later (my guess would be 1998), I ran into Bob in the elevator with a mutual acquaintance. I happened to be carrying a chess book and the acquaintance asked me whether I knew about Bob's accomplishments in chess. I said I did and I told him the story about me getting lucky in that one game. What I found most interesting was the way that Bob grimaced when I told the story. Even after more than fifteen years, it still pissed him off that he had let his guard down enough that a patzer like me was able to beat him even if it was a casual game of blitz chess, and the fact that he had completely dominated me after that did not make him feel any better.