Thursday, May 05, 2005

Bobby Fischer Visits Joaquin

Fischer does not merely outplay opponents; he leaves them bodily and mentally glutted. Fisher himself speaks of the exultant instant in which he feels the 'ego of the other player crumbling.'
– George Steiner

Sorry for the misleading title to this article. I suppose I just wanted to catch your attention and also just point out the importance of Fischer, the movie titled after him “Searching for Bobby Fischer”, and the relation to chess and poker.

When I was eleven, I just got good.
– Bobby Fischer

Who is this madman of the chessboard that became so enamored with the game that he dropped out of high school? Robert Fischer has become an interesting if not off the wall personality that we have all grown to either like, dislike of just laugh at. Yet, there is no denying his accomplishments in the game of chess. Here are a few:

Age 13: Youngest U.S. National Junior Champion
Age 14: Youngest U.S. National Champion
Age 15: Youngest Grandmaster in the history of chess

How did he grow so deep in his knowledge of this game at such a young age? Well for starters Bobby was a no regular kid. Well before leaving school to pursue chess full-time Bobby Fischer was tested in school and had an IQ of 180. He also had a huge ability to retain information. So as you can see…Bobby wasn’t a regular kid from the start...he was one smart cookie.

“I like the moment when I break a man’s ego.”
-Bobby Fischer

In poker terms I suppose you can say that these accomplishments are like having Doyle being beat by a 13-year-old kid heads up over a year’s time. Not only beat, but crushed. Make no mistake about it (and Bobby knew this read above quote); Bobby was out to take your heart from you. He wanted you to guess every move you would make. Isn’t this what all poker players want and aspire to do. To control the table so much so that every time you come into the pot you are making the other guy second guess his move. More so, to always be thinking what you were dealt before you even come into the pot. In boxing it’s called, “setting the tempo or tone of the fight”. We have all been in that zone when we can do no wrong, lay down when we have a loser, raise to get pot-odds on our side for a draw, slow play a pair knowing you are going to get raised only for you to re-raise and all this in one sitting. But how come we can't do it night over night?

All that matters on the chessboard is good moves.
– Bobby Fischer

His opening repertoire was fairly narrow but virtually impeccable. He did not force play into particular channels but played with great objectivity into whatever offered the best winning chances, be it a tactical or positional middlegame or an ending. He rarely lost the initiative, but could defend well when it was necessary. He could be brilliant but did not seek brilliancy for its own sake; he preferred the point on the crosstable. Psychologically he was strong, usually coming back with powerful wins to avenge past defeats.
– Tim Harding

In chess one has a lot more control than in poker in terms of starting hands. In chess you control those starting hands. This all depends what piece you like to move from the start. In poker you are given two cards to play…but it’s how you play those cards that counts often. I have learned over time when to raise with a small pair to get the odds and when to just limp in and when to raise when you are on a rush because you will get people to fold to your small pair. So in some ways starting hands can be powerful if you have set the table already.

When you play Bobby, it is not a question if you win or lose. It is a question if you survive.
– Boris Spassky

I was a chess nerd for many years. I even played on the UCLA chess club team in college. There was this Russian girl who just use to crush everyone…well except for some of the Russian guys and other top players. In any case, for some reason we use to play a lot against one another…I mean A LOT (note: not a super attractive Russian girl and we are talking about chess). I took notice that none of the guys wanted to be smashed by this girl. Was it because she was a girl? I don’t think so…in chess, like poker, once you lose your legs from under you it’s a long road back. Getting crushed hurts your ego and you find yourself limping in with AA because you are scared of a bad flop. Oh, back to the story…she use to always tell me after crushing me for three games strait…”Joaquin, you play so scared” in her Russian accent. Being the hot head I was at the time I use to get sooooooooooo pissed when she would tell me this. So I would line them up and she would kill me another three games. Finally I conceded she was a far better player than I was…I think the final score of my games against her was something like 2-25-3. Yes, I still have the scars from the blood bath.

Chess is a matter of delicate judgment, knowing when to punch and how to duck.
– Bobby Fischer

Fischer is the profoundest student of chess who ever lived. He reads incessantly, forgets nothing, turns knowledge into action with monstrous precision and ferocity.
– Brad Darrach

In any case, after about two weeks and these ass-thrashing I noticed my game was getting worse. I was losing to the bottom tier of our team and I was put on the alternate list. I was crushed. I tried to regroup but I was broken already and I told her she had taken my game from me (we had become somewhat friends by then). She told me to read some books and play super aggressive and bring the queen out early (that’s like telling someone to play aggressive when they are drawing with one out). About after a week of healing and reading and another week of playing I was getting back to my old form. What this break helped me realize was that she had taken away my first move intuitions, strategic play, and I was playing scared. Does this sound familiar to any readers?

Chess demands total concentration and a love for the game.
– Bobby Fischer

Sometimes I think the Russians have the chess down so much because it’s such a passion for them. The next lesson she taught me was to clean my room. I know, I know, she wasn’t my mother or sister (both of mine are always on me about this), but she was dead serious. I am not sure if you remember in the great movie (well great for us chess nerds), “Searching for Bobby Fischer” where the boy cleans his room from top to bottom. Well basically she told me to really get better at chess one had to have a clear head and clean environment had to be a part of my life (O.K. I was in college so I would clean the room but I had to have a beer here and there). It couldn’t be a hobby; it had to be a passion a way of life. I remember doing my college boy clean up routine and just putting a chessboard in front of me (chess people know what I’m talking about) and I sat there thinking. I suppose it’s similar to riffling chips and sitting there thinking of how to play hands without any cards in your hand and you are alone…yeah, that’s it. In any case, it just kind of all made sense after a while. I went and purchased an electronic chessboard (cheap thing broke after a few months) and I just played when I had some time on my hands and practiced opening moves from books over and over again (note to self: tell Maudie new invention for retirement fund, make program where you can get the two cards you want and play them against the computer…computer breaks down pre-flop and post-flop play) and things just started to get better and better. I even got back my spot on my team and started to hold my own against the Russian girl…no, never beat her hands down…continued to get killed but I could feel she had to respect me a bit more.

All I want to do, ever, is just play chess.
– Bobby Fischer

Where am I going with this? I think for those of us who have poker as a passion really have to live it. Sure we blog about poker and write about our bad beats. But how many of us really break down how we play our hands? Do we really follow who is at our table and how they played the last hands or are we playing the cards and not the people? What I’m trying to say is that I cleaned my room again. I set a green felt on my desk and stacked my chips on it to give it a poker feel. I am re-reading every book I have on poker an taking notes on pages and post-it papers and placing them on my wall in a nice neat order. Got the books to track my wins and keeping really good records. I don’t know, just some food for thought for all of those in blogville.

Psychologically, you have to have confidence in yourself and this confidence should be based on fact.
– Bobby Fischer

In closing, the main comparison which I haven’t touched on which I meant to touch on was that poker, like chess, is a thinking person’s game and one must always be working their brain. Maybe I will have people send in their request for how they improve their brainpower at the table and list them. I hope you all have a great day and may you control the felt like Bobby did the chessboard.


At 8:34 PM, Blogger Ignatious said...

great post!

At 4:43 AM, Blogger Human Head said...

Completely kick ass

At 4:15 AM, Blogger High Plains Drifter said...

There's a lot of food for thought there, Joaquin. Thanks for the thought-provoking post.

At 10:32 AM, Blogger Bill Rini said...

Nice post!

At 12:18 PM, Blogger Joanne1111 said...

Excellent post!

At 4:14 PM, Blogger Dr. Pauly said...

You crushed this post out into the black seats!

At 10:59 AM, Blogger JasonSpaceman said...

That's good stuff right there.

At 7:27 PM, Blogger mscmike said...

Outstanding post! And completely right - chess and poker are extremely similar.

And I LOVE that movie... lost a lot of respect though when he resurfaced recently, and had some pretty harsh things to say.

At 9:13 AM, Blogger Weeds19 said...

Thoughtful and timely post for me. I'll now go re-read my books after getting crushed at the tables last night.

At 3:42 PM, Blogger pilotte--a8abb4 said...

Bobby Fischer Visits Joaquin

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Come and check out russian woman if you get time :-)

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p.s some very good points on your blog

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At 4:09 PM, Blogger qismah said...



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