The Ultimate Chess Game

Ideally, the ultimate chess game would be between the two highest rated chess programs, which can even kick the world champion to the curb (which is possible right now). However, I will be writing from personal experience rather than hypothetical situations and world champion matches.

I had been a passionate and obsessed chess player in high school. More time was spent on chess than my studies. I would stay up late at night, studying chess games and playing against my twin brother, while during the day, I attended the high school chess club. At that time, chess meant almost everything to me.

After playing on one of the best high school chess teams in Washington state, I thought I was ready for the big time: the Washington State Chess Open. In the Open, there were grandmasters and local legends that I dreamed to beat and to become. I knew I had to train harder than I ever had done to be able to compete with them. I did not have a grandmaster handy to train with, so I downloaded a chess computer program that I thought was about as strong as me or a bit stronger. It had the rating of 2000 elo points, which is about expert strength, or that of a candidate master. I believed myself to be that strong on my good days, and one of my strengths was my self confidence in light of turmoil on the board.

I set up a 5-game match between this computer program and I. In my quiet room in the town of Woodway, with a chess board in the middle of the room, and a chess clock on the table to simulate the time control I would play in the Open, I kept a laptop on another table to host the chess program. Each time I started a game, I made sure I had everything set up and that I was mentally prepared for it. I was doing opening preparation before the games, and constantly studying other aspects of chess as well. I was treating this match as a sort of chess boot camp.

The time control for the games was 90 minutes for 40 moves, and 60 minutes for all moves after that for each side. Obviously, the computer program was much faster than me, as it could calculate thousands of positions within a few seconds. So, time pressure was always in the back of mind. But I thought that under these strenuous conditions against an expert-level player, this would be the best training for the upcoming Open.

The first game was a draw, though hard-fought. I was barely able to hold onto my position in the endgame, but managed to. The second game was slow torture, as the computer kept building a better position against me while I committed inaccuracy after inaccuracy. The computer ultimately won that game. With the score not in my favor, the third game was a breaking point. Either I had to win, or else my chances of tying or winning the match were slim. I played my usual London System, which is a solid opening choice that is more positional than tactical. However, the game was not positional at all. The computer opted for the rare Dutch Defense, and right away, fireworks happened on the board. I took on an aggressive attitude in the game, and I reaped the benefits: his king was soon being attacked from my active pieces, especially bishops. To open up the kingside more, I sacrificed a bishop and used multiple types of tactics that deserved brilliancy marks. The positions in the game seemed to beg for these sacrifices and crazy tricks. The game was over in a mere 27 moves. It was difficult for me to grasp that I had beaten a 2000-rated chess computer is such a fashion. I call this my ultimate game not because it was the strongest opponent I beat, but because it seemed that I tapped into a tactical intelligence that was akin to a grandmaster like the legend Mikhail Tal. I somehow made it look easy to beat this computer, even though the match was eventually tied, with the last two games being uneventful draws. That flash of brilliancy proved to myself that I could compete with the masters in the Open.

In fact, I achieved a solid score in the Open, with two wins, two draws, and one loss—with all opponents being higher rated than me. My loss was against a veteran master player who had a book out about himself and his games. It saddened me that my only game in the top section of the tournament was a loss; however, after the game, the master showed me that I could have drawn the game if I played a different move in the endgame. This illustrated to me that there is a fine line between winning and losing in such high-level games, and that I need to practice day and night to cross over that line to be able to compete squarely with such masters. Though I beat two expert-level players during the tournament, I was not yet stable at master level, and the veteran master had demonstrated my weaknesses.

After this tournament, I decided, though, to let chess rest and to take up writing seriously. I looked into my future, and wanted to be a writer rather than a chess player. I think it was the correct decision, though I will never forget my training for and performance at the Washington State Chess Open. The concentration, effort, and dedication it took to perform well in chess has allowed me to succeed in many other areas of my life, and shaped my character to what it is today.

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