Posts Tagged ‘Chess Chat’

Chess Chat: Q&A with Karen Thurm Safran, Author of Parenting—Let’s Make a Game of It

May 25, 2019

Many people know you as the powerful marketing force behind some amazing companies and products. Authoring a parenting book seems to be an interesting career pivot for you. What motivated you to become an author?

Thanks for including me on your blog… and for the compliment. Wow, we’ve known each other for nearly twenty years since my son started chess in elementary school. Time sure flies by quickly! 

Writing a book is definitely a career shift from managing marketing teams, working in a fast-paced high-tech environment, and driving revenue for companies. While it seems like a random career move, I decided to fulfill a childhood dream of writing a book and combine it with my love of parenting. 

Welcome, Parenting—Let’s Make a Game of It, an entertaining book showing playful ways to stop struggling with your child and start having more fun. Now kids will listen and cooperate-willingly! I’m excited because already it’s been a #1 New Release in 7 Amazon categories.

How is your book different from other parenting book?

While I love reading parenting books, my book is very different. First, Parenting—Let’s Make a Game of It entertains as well as inspires. The “how to” lessons are shown through entertaining, light-hearted stories. People say that reading my book is like sitting with a friend over coffee. Second, many parenting books focus on babies, toddlers, or teens. I focus primarily on elementary school-age kids (as well as toddlers). There aren’t many books for this demographic. Lastly, parents don’t have time. My gosh, there’s barely enough time in the day to tackle parts of the formidable To-Do list, nevermind read a book. So, I organized my book into short, easy to read chapters that stand-alone. Now whenever parents have a spare moment, they can easily flip to a chapter on a specific parenting challenge. My goal is to have these fictional, whimsical stories spark the reader’s own playfulness. It’s very touching hearing how stories inspire people’s own creativity for handling frustrating parenting situations.

Why did you choose to write a parenting book and specifically, Parenting—Let’s Make a Game of It? 

Parenting is incredibly rewarding, but it’s also stressful. Even the best kids fuss, don’t listen, and misbehave. With the never-ending power struggles, parenting can be overwhelming. My parents had a trick. They embraced a “can do!” spirit, used their imagination, and created games to turn around frustrating moments. It was like magic! Goodbye nagging and yelling. Life became more enjoyable for our entire family.

When I became a mom, I experienced first-hand the benefits of this playful attitude and positive parenting style. I wrote Parenting—Let’s Make a Game of It to help other families because this playful approach helped me as a stressed-out single parent. By creating games to deal with frustrating moments, you make parenting more fun, you empower your children, and you spend quality time connecting with your family.

This playful approach is in contrast to that stereotypically serious Silicon Valley parenting style. What are the greatest advantages of making a game out of parenting for families that live in such a competitive environment?

I know, parenting playfully seems counterintuitive, especially when your kids aren’t cooperating and you’re about to scream. Being playful is the last thing you want to do! Luckily, being playful doesn’t have to be hard, You can adopt a fun attitude in less than a minute as shown in my blog, “How to be a Fun Mom (Like Mary Poppins Not “Monster Mom”). I also wrote a blog outlining 46 Tips on How To Be a Playful, Positive Parent. While it may seem like another task to conquer, being positive and playful reduces your stress… and YOUR child’s stress. You’ll spend more quality time connecting with your family, which makes parenting more fun and empowers your child.

Whether or not you live in a competitive area like Silicon Valley, adopting this playful approach has many benefits.

  • Entertains kids when they’re bored and misbehaving.
  • Calms children when they’re upset and melting down.
  • Gets kids to help around the house with chores.
  • Teaches real-life skills like organizing school work, writing papers, and project planning to meet deadlines.

Being a Chess Mom/Dad presents unique challenges for parenting. Could you describe some of these challenges and how you handled them?

The biggest challenge was making time to attend chess tournaments. These are so important and part of the chess experience, so I made sure that my son participated in as many as possible. We even flew to several national events. If you’re going to encourage your child to play chess, realize from the get-go that this is a time commitment. However, there’s plenty of “down” time during each chess round. I recommend bringing work to keep you busy. Most importantly, have a positive, supportive attitude and consider this as time to sit and catch up on whatever.

I learned at the first national tournament, that we were there for one reason: chess. During the first break, I dragged us to the local aquarium and had plans to squeeze in fun activities throughout the weekend. Woo-hoo, we’d get to explore a new city! I quickly realized that competing is exhausting, so my ten-year old son needed to simply rest in the hotel room. These national chess tournament trips are now highlights because they provided special, connecting opportunities that also empowered my son.

How did your son choose and benefit from chess?

While visiting a relative’s house, our cousin taught my five-year-old son some basic chess. Boom! That was the catalyst. This passion continued and grew since the elementary school offered chess (which is where we met Chris!). At seven, he participated in his first tournament, second tournament, and so forth, all the way through high school. Now in his early twenties, he continues playing chess online.

Chess is VERY beneficial! It teaches patience, emphasizes discipline, develops problem-solving skills, trains a logical mind, improves memory, builds confidence, and provides a life-long hobby. I’m impressed how my son can focus and tune out any noise. He’s also great at math, was a stats major, and is now an actuary. Chess gave him an opportunity to be a leader when he started a chess club in high school. But the most important benefit is that chess provided countless hours of fun!

Finally, how can all the chess parents who read this blog obtain a copy of your book? 

They can visit my “Parenting—Let’s Make a Game of It” website and also visit Amazon directly.

Thanks for all of your wonderful work inspiring students in chess! And thanks for interviewing me for your Chess Chat blog.

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Chess Chat: Q&A with Devanshi Rathi, UC Berkeley Student and Nonprofit Founder

April 16, 2019

Devanshi Rathi is a current undergraduate student at the University of California, Berkeley. She is a passionate chess player and enjoys playing and watching different sports. Her mission in life is to create a positive difference in the world around her. She is trying to do that through her foundation, the Devanshi Rathi Foundation, a registered non-profit company. In her free time, she likes to write about sports and loves to take interviews of different players because it leaves her inspired.

How old were you when you first learned how to play chess? Who taught you?

I was eight years old (in 2008) when I first learnt how to play chess. I learnt from my school coach and via self-practice in the beginning.

How has chess effected your decision making process off the board?

Chess has definitely helped my decision making process off the board. I try to strategize and plan my ‘moves’ well in advance before actually ‘playing’ them. Obviously, I don’t always go according to my original plan, but that happens most of the times in chess as well.

How did your earlier career choices lead you to where you are now?

I am not sure about this. I tried to turn into a professional chess player, or at least was working towards it for about a year and a half, but I had other interests and passions in life that always made me distracted. To become a professional, one needs sole focus on the game, and I just couldn’t do that. Moreover, my multiple interests led me to pursue a major in college that is independently designed, and I’m currently working on how I can get an effective research proposal in order to declare the same.

How would you define your chess style?

I think it would be aggressive and attacking. I don’t like to defend that much, maybe I’m not that good at it!

Does your chess style transfer over into your business decisions as well?

Yes, but I feel that I tend to be more combinatory in my business decisions. Too much aggression in the business field can cost one a lot.

What has been your worst chess mistake which has given you the biggest lesson?

My worst chess mistake would be to not participate in a number of tournaments in my earlier years. I practiced myself instead of playing in different events. It has made me realise that one must make the most of one’s current time and not think too much in advance. It is the same in chess- one shouldn’t go so deep in their calculations that we lose sight of the current position.

Do you think chess has helped you to become more resilient in life?

Yes, of course! Participating in competitions definitely helps one to get more resilient and that reciprocates into one’s personal life as well, according to my experience.

What do you hope to achieve professionally during the next couple of years?

I am currently exploring my options. I’m taking a diverse set of classes for my interdisciplinary major and can only see what happens as it happens. Not planning too much at the moment. This could be a contradiction to what I said earlier about me planning well in advance. However, this is a situation where I feel that the more ‘time’ you take, the better move you would ‘play’.

What is the biggest challenge to achieving that goal?

As I don’t know the goal yet, the biggest challenge would be to find my path.

How would you relate these goals and challenges to the chessboard?

In chess, one needs to find the real path to victory and that can take the whole game. Similarly, I’m taking my time to decide.

Could you please leave us with a favorite piece of chess wisdom to conclude this interview?

Chess is an ocean where an ant can swim and an elephant can drown.

Thanks a lot for giving me this opportunity to do this interview!

To find out more about the Devanshi Rathi Foundation and Project Checkmate, please visit: https://projectcheckmate.weebly.com/

Chess Chat: Q&A with Aamir Ali Azhar, Data Engineer

April 7, 2019

Recently I had an opportunity to catch up with my friend and former student, Aamir Azhar. I first met an elementary school aged Aamir at my Saturday chess class in Milpitas during the Summer of 2003. Since then I have had the pleasure of watching Aamir mature into a strong chess player and an impressive young man. A recent Duke graduate, Aamir is now a data engineer at Capital One. As you will see from our conversation below, Aamir sports a wisdom beyond his years and will no doubt have many more successes in the near future.

How old were you when you first learned how to play chess? Who taught you?

I was 6 when I learned to play chess (which is considered late in the competitive scholastic chess world). My cousin taught me one evening during a family dinner party. I picked up the rules fairly quickly and started playing more. In addition, my dad used to play quite a bit of chess in his teens, so we started playing together too (after his 20 year hiatus).

How has chess effected your decision making process off the board?

Chess has taught me how to become a meticulous critical thinker, always looking into the future and observing how things unfold several steps ahead. It’s a gift and a curse.

How did your earlier career choices lead you to where you are now?

I took an interest in computer science fairly early in my childhood because both my parents were computer science majors. I pursued it further career-wise, though I was always interested in the arts and humanities since I was a kid. I’ve been writing since I was young, and I continue to write on the side during my engineering day job, hoping to turn it into something bigger down the line.

The Azhar family.

How would you define your chess style?

When I was a kid, playing competitively, I was the overly analytical type. I would examine every possible viable move several moves in advance and spend lots of time trying to find the ideal move. I relied on my intuition heavily to tell me if a move looked good or probable, but I would also deeply analyze and quadruple check the move to make sure it was the best one.

I’m still largely like that, though I’ve grown less patient over time. Now I only double or triple check, and I tend to take a leap of faith with my intuition more frequently when moving.

Does your chess style transfer over into your business decisions as well?

I would say so. Again, I think through each decision several steps into the future, though at the end of the day my intuition makes the final decision.

What has been your worst chess mistake which has given you the biggest lesson?

I think my worst mistake happened when I was competing for the 3rd grade California chess championship. I had an upset against someone 300 rating points above me which led me to the championship match, where I faced the only other person with a perfect score in the last round. During that game, I was winning, and had a clear path to victory, but crippled by a combination of greed and fear, I offered a draw. That draw led me to tie for 1st place in the championship. We played a tiebreaker game and he got to take home the 1st place trophy.

I had a similar experience in 6th grade when I was competing for the California grades 4-6 championship. I was the only one with a perfect score, and going into the last round, I was facing someone with half a point less than me. I played the whole game looking for a draw (as a draw would give me first place). However, this led to me playing too passively that game — My opponent didn’t accept my constant draw requests, played for the win, and I and lost the championship in an upset.

The lesson here is fairly obvious. Play the game, and play to win. All the glitz and glamour are nothing but distractions.

What has been your worst career mistake that has given you the biggest lesson?

I’m still fairly young, so I can’t say I have many horrible career mistakes. However, I do remember after my SWE internship at Google, I was so sure I was to return to Google that I didn’t look into other internship opportunities. I wanted something different, but was too lazy to interview for other companies, so I listed 3-4 teams at Google I wanted to get on for the next summer. I got positive internship feedback, but unfortunately, none of those teams reached out to me.

Since I didn’t want to do the same SWE work I did the last summer at Google, I had to find an internship last minute. I was both picky and didn’t plan correctly. Luckily, I found a good internship, but it taught me a valuable lesson to not get cocky or entitled, and to always plan for different possibilities.

Do you think chess has helped you to become more resilient in life?

Yes, definitely. Being in that competitive of an environment that early on in my life taught me a lot of lessons, and made me into a tougher, more determined person overall. Though it did come with its fair share of insecurities and stress.

What do you hope to achieve professionally during the next couple of years?

I generally am looking for an impactful, interesting way to apply my CS background to answer big questions about society. I hope to further explore tech and data, learn as much as I can, and build up a writing career on the side as well. My dream is to either become a writer or an engineer-journalist (like a writer/reporter who uses in-depth data analytics for their stories). If none of that works, I’ll go back to grad school in the social sciences (like economics). I’m sure I can utilize my CS/data background there as well.

Amir with his father Salman Azhar.

What is the biggest challenge to achieving that goal?

The biggest challenge is really just figuring out where to start, and how to make a plan moving forward. My interests are still a bit abstract, and the path I’m looking to go down isn’t particularly clear or easy. It’s also a matter of meeting the right people and finding the right opportunities.

How would you relate these goals and challenges to the chessboard?

It’s more often that chess teaches me lessons about life, but occasionally life teaches me about chess. For example, right now, I’m giving myself some time and space to explore my interests and experiment with my career. That kind of mentality applies to chess too. Let yourself experiment, let yourself have fun. Don’t rush in trying to figure out all the big questions. My chess style nowadays reflects that. I play a lot more loosely, and I’m more willing to take risks. Not everything has to have a 20-step plan behind it.

Could you please leave us with a favorite piece of chess wisdom to conclude this interview?

My favorite quote, which rings true to me (and is apparent in my previous answers), is by Capablanca.

“You may learn much more from a game you lose than from a game you win. You will have to lose hundreds of games before becoming a good player.” – José Raúl Capablanca

The vast majority of my memories and lessons in playing competitive chess are heartbreaking losses. Very few are wins. I’ll say, and this applies to chess as well as life, embrace the losses. Play your best, try hard, plan appropriately, but accept that at the end of the day, we don’t know what will happen.

Don’t try to plan every single thing out and then get disappointed when they don’t unwind the way you want them to. Embrace the unknown, and when we experience loss, embrace it, learn from it, and even be grateful for it. At the end of the day, experiences will teach us more than thinking and planning ever will. So experience!

Chess Chat: Q&A with Shelby Lohrman, Chess Entrepreneur

March 25, 2019

Shelby Lohrman was born into a chess family on August 6th, 1972. His Father initially wanted to name him Tigrin, after Petrosian. However, Shelby’s mother didn’t care for the name Tigrin and instead suggested an alternative chess name. At the time, The Fischer – Spassky match game 4 was wrapping up and Shelby Lyman was doing the commentating. Shelby stuck!

If you’ve attend large chess events regularly you’ve probably met Shelby. Mr Lohrman has been travelling the country selling chess equipment to the masses for over 20+ years! He states that it’s his passion for providing great customer service to fellow chess enthusiasts that is the driving force behind his success.

How old were you when you first learned how to play chess? Who taught you?

I learned young…You have t remember that my dad was a US Amateur Champ in the 60’s. But with him being a type A German engineer (and being my dad), made learning from him stressful. It eventually got to the point where I quit and focused on Ice hockey. I picked it back up later on in life. To this day I think about what my life and rating would have been like studying with a mind such as his.

How has chess effected your decision making process off the board?

Chess affects my life decisions on an every day basis. Since I have delved back into chess, I think of things on a more strategic basis. With the advent of Amazon and Ebay, selling chess equipment has become a totally different ballgame. It’s like being at a chessboard. It is not just your plan, you have to accommodate for what your opponent is thinking too. This is why at American Chess Equipment we focus on bringing new products to market. I always have something new in the hopper. Why play an opening everyone else knows? I would much rather have them scramble and chase me.

What do you hope to achieve professionally during the next couple of years?

What do I hope to achieve professionally over the next couple of years? That is a great question. We have been growing American Chess Equipment organically over the last 25+ years. Looking at my industry, I have noticed a top down philosophy with the other vendors. I think that’s wrong. There is no innovation.

That’s why I love being with Wood Expressions! They are my parent company. They allow me the freedom to develop what I need and the tools to do so.

What are some of the products you are most proud of?

Just in the past couple of years I have helped to develop the VTEK300 chess clock, the wood grain mousepad chess boards, and tons of other chess products. The funny thing is the bigger companies out there are now copying me.

What are you working on developing now?

That’s a secret! All I can tell you is we have a couple of ideas formulating that will really rock the chess world. We need to bring chess to the masses.

What is the biggest challenge to achieving that goal?

What’s my biggest barrier to achieving this goal? That’s easy. The mindset of the people in our industry. Chess is a cutthroat business. Talk to any coach out there. They are worried about keeping their students and their schools. We all need to work together building the pie, making each persons share bigger, rather than bickering with ourselves. I have been working with the groups that are out there in the trenches, building their programs, working night and day to bring chess to the masses. I even have one customer that is now doing Skype classes with a group in Alaska.

How would you relate these goals and challenges to the chessboard?

As to relating my goals and challenges to the chess board…to me it is like sitting across from a higher rated player. When you first sit down everyone thinks you are going to lose. With the right preparation, anyone can get beat. Get an advantage and be able to hold it, they might even offer you a draw. To me, that’s fuel for the fire. It makes me work harder for the win.

Could you please leave us with a favorite piece of chess wisdom to conclude this interview?

My favorite piece of chess wisdom is you never truly lose in chess. There is always something to be learned in the game. Even if the turning point was just a blunder, you can still learn by analyzing what caused you to make that mistake.

Please take a moment to stop by these fine purveyors of chess equipment:

Chess Chat: Q&A with Jessica Lauser, U.S. Blind Champion

March 4, 2019

Jessica Lauser hails from Northern California’s San Francisco Bay Area, and has been an avid participant in tournament chess, both there and elsewhere, for a number of years, playing 175 rated events throughout the country, so far.

A graduate, in History, from San Francisco State University, Jessica worked for the Internal Revenue Service—last year—and now for a nonprofit organization servicing contract(s) for the U.S. Marine Corps.

Being legally-blind since birth, chess has provided her a means to attain equality and achieve success, hopefully inspiring others, along the way.

It has not been easy, but Jessica has qualified, several times now, to represent the U.S. in various competitions, overseas. These include World Blind Olympiads, the IBCA Women’s World Championship, and, most recently, the IBCA Men’s/Overall World Championship.

Jessica’s goal is to become the first blind women’s master in the United States, and to achieve a solid ranking among the top blind players in the world.

As always, Jessica appreciates the encouragement and support of the chess community, and she looks forward to making her own contribution to the ongoing improvement of others, as well.

How old were you when you first learned how to play chess? Who taught you?

I was seven, when I first learned to play chess, although it would be a few years—by about age twelve or so—before I fully understood such things as en passant. I learned from the principal of my elementary school, who was teaching only a few students at the time, since I came along well ahead of many of the chess programs that later formed in the schools, which became popular, throughout the country.

How has chess effected your decision making process off the board?

 

While chess has certainly helped me consider cause-and-effect relationships, there are countless aspects to decision-making—besides pure logic—that an understanding of chess doesn’t begin to help unravel. Alas, Life is infinitely more complex. Emotional, moral, and ethical, considerations, for example, can go into any number of decisions one may face, as an adult, and chess, it would seem, really requires much of the emotions and other elements to be absent from the process, to be effective.  

How did your earlier career choices lead you to where you are now?

 

As for career choices, I’m afraid I’m still working on that. Having a lifelong and permanent disability—moderate blindness, in my case—has significantly delayed things, in terms of both my education and career. Though I’ve always worked, or tried to be employed while also attending college, most of my jobs were part-time and student-oriented (campus IT, Library, etc.), until I finally graduated, in 2016. After doing so, I, eventually, spent time working for the IRS, before hiring on as a civilian contractor under a nonprofit agency assisting the U.S. Marine Corps.

How would you define your chess style?

 

Concerning chess style, I would have to say I’m very tactical, but have been known to find positional weaknesses I occasionally exploit. Perhaps for this reason, I tend towards a much stronger performance with far less time, than with more, resulting in an incredible disparity between my speed and slow ratings: a peak of 2048 (Blitz), as opposed to that of 1700 (Regular). Of course, it’s especially fun to beat not only male, but also fully-sighted, opponents.

 

Does your chess style transfer over into your business decisions as well?

I would say that my chess style probably influences other areas of my life, including work, in that, more than once, I’ve made major decisions—like moving across the country to take a job, and even changing states again, several months later—for the potential future benefits that doing so could afford. A big motivator, for example, has involved student loan forgiveness.

What has been your worst chess mistake which has given you the biggest lesson?

My worst chess mistake was probably not becoming the 2011 Alaska State Champion. Despite having a much higher-rated opponent on the ropes, I allowed my fear that he had some hidden resource I simply couldn’t see, to cause me to make a more passive, defending move. Instead of playing more aggressively in the endgame, which I would have done had this match taken place on the streets of San Francisco, this mistake netted me second place, down from clear first. What I learned, however, was, should I find myself playing for a title—whether state or national—when I reach the critical position of not only the game, but quite possibly the whole event, to just stop and re-evaluate whatever it is I’m seeing. Thankfully, I used this technique to great effect, in both the 2018 Kentucky Closed Women’s State Championship and the 2018 U.S. Blind Championship. I outright won both events, and even made history, becoming the first-ever female U.S. Blind Champion.

What has been your worst career mistake that has given you the biggest lesson?

 

As for my worst career mistake, I can’t say that I’ve made one, so much as I’ve had mostly jobs and no career, so far. Even so, I’m still making continued efforts at finding a career, as there exists a huge unemployment rate among folks with blindness—anywhere from 70-90% of us do not work and most cannot support themselves without assistance—so it feels good to be among a very few who are “making it”, living independently. The biggest lesson, I suppose, involves never giving up, always having a goal to pursue. While I’m currently employed, for instance, my job is contract-based, so it will end, I just don’t know when that will be. Meanwhile, I’m inching towards my second BA, in hopes of transitioning into work that uses my ears—something involving Russian—so I can enjoy greater confidence, in the future, should I experience further vision-loss.

 

Do you think chess has helped you to become more resilient in life?

While chess has definitely helped me be more resilient in life, it is my strong Christian faith that has sustained me during the most difficult times I have known. Likewise, the support of family and encouragement from others I have met has made the journey more bearable.

Jessica Lauser after winning the 2018 U.S. Blind Championship.

What do you hope to achieve professionally during the next couple of years?

 

As for professional achievements in the next couple years, I’d have to say to GET a profession would be nice. (For now, I’m simply working, but given a number of difficult challenges I am facing, currently—lack of transportation where I live/work, the astronomical cost of Lyft/Uber twice a day, if not averaging more, and, being essentially isolated as a result—morale and budget, aren’t exactly up to par.) It would be nice to not only be well-paid for what I do, but also to not have every dime I bring in essentially eaten up with what it takes to survive and get to/from work.

 

What is the biggest challenge to achieving that goal?

The biggest challenge, of course, is the stigma of blindness that follows me into every job, school/housing situation I encounter, and even interpersonal relationships. Physically incapable of perceiving nonverbal communication when interacting with others—and being largely uncomfortable socializing outside of chess, anyway—has created marked difficulty for me, in making friends and participating socially, in general. For this reason, I experience a reality quite similar to those with Autism, and it has actually been suggested that I am on the Spectrum.

 

How would you relate these goals and challenges to the chessboard?

Relating my goals and challenges to the chessboard would be to simplify them, ridiculously, making resulting analogies inadequate, at best. For example, a large part of decisions I have made, over the years, were dependent on things was told, by others, causing all kinds of problems, if and when these facts were either inaccurate, or simply untrue. Most recently, myself and other employees were told there were buses to get around the area we each relocated to, from other states, for our jobs. This statement couldn’t be further from the truth, costing us a tremendous amount of time, or hundreds of dollars extra, each month, making us wonder if moving all this way was worth it, given how we are out all kinds of money, just for the pleasure of working.

 

Could you please leave us with a favorite piece of chess wisdom to conclude this interview?

For my favorite piece of chess wisdom, I would have to say, no matter what, be sure to keep chess in the proper perspective. While we LOVE this game, and we derive immense pleasure from practicing and playing it, ultimately it is not our devotion to the 64 squares that defines us, but rather what we do, outside of chess—in Real Life—since our Great Game is only part of all we do along the way. There are far more important things to consider, like faith and family, friends and the future. In this respect, I think the saddest thing is when we take the chess out of the player, and there is literally nothing left of that person. This is why it’s important to cultivate one’s life, in a number of different areas of interest, not only to broaden one’s horizons, but also to allow for personal growth beyond what is either familiar or comfortable.  

Chess Chat: Q&A with Ashik Uzzaman

February 26, 2019

Ashik Uzzaman was born and raised in Dhaka, capital city of Bangladesh. He finished his post-graduation in Economics from University of Dhaka while completing diploma in software engineering from NIIT. He came to USA with job as a java developer in 2005 and currently working as a Senior Software Engineer at Roku. He, along with his son Ahyan Zaman, is a regular participant in chess tournaments on the west coast.

How old were you when you first learned how to play chess? Who taught you?
– I was about 8 years old when I learned to play chess. I learned it from my cousin.
How has chess effected your decision making process off the board?
– Chess makes you efficient considering many possible outcomes in parallel. This helped me consider pros and cons of making any decision carefully. Chess also helped me learn when to take time, observe and weigh in detail before making any conclusions. So I think it helped me in my career choice, my education and my social skills. 
How did your earlier career choices lead you to where you are now?
– To accommodate my chess tournament schedules, I picked relatively easier subject (Economics) during under graduate program. But later I focused on building my career as a Computer Programmer leaving chess for a long period of time.
How would you define your chess style?
– I was initially very aggressive attacking player. But as I started reading lots of chess books, I progressed to be a strategic positional player. I like Capablanca or Karpov’s style of accumulating small positional advantages.
Does your chess style transfer over into your business decisions as well?
– Yes. I often make decisions that are good for my team in the long term instead of looking at the immediate task in hand. Also I do a lot of trade off comparisons while deciding which option to choose while solving a problem.
What has been your worst chess mistake which has given you the biggest lesson?
– My biggest mistake was not focusing on the end game which resulted in loosing lots of games despite having advantages in the middle game.
What has been your worst career mistake that has given you the biggest lesson?
– My worst career mistake was not moving into Engineering Management roles despite getting several opportunities. I have been comfortably working as a software engineer in individual contributor roles for 19 years now. I am glad to share that I have amended the mistake and joining a company next month as an Engineering Manager.
Do you think chess has helped you to become more resilient in life?
– Yes. Chess teaches us perseverance and endurance. When I am stuck with a problem, I dont give up easily. I patiently continue to retry until I succeed. This is a direct habit learned from playing long games chess with intense struggles.
What do you hope to achieve professionally during the next couple of years?
– I want to see myself making good impact in my new project and hopefully take the pre-IPO company I am joining to public.
What is the biggest challenge to achieving that goal?
– Meeting continuous aggressive deadlines of multiple software projects; hiring and retaining the best engineers of bay area.
How would you relate these goals and challenges to the chessboard?
– In chess we have to keep eyes on our own weak squares and king safety and at the same time exploit our opponents’ weaknesses all throughout the game without slipping. Just as challenging in life.
Could you please leave us with a favorite piece of chess wisdom to conclude this interview?
– “Tactics is knowing what to do when there is something to do; strategy is knowing what to do when there is nothing to do.” – Savielly Tartakower

Be sure to check out Ashik’s chess blog: https://dragonbishop.blogspot.com/

Chess Chat: Q&A with Evan Rabin, CEO of Premier Chess

February 18, 2019

Evan Rabin was born and raised in New York. He graduated from Brandeis University Cum Laude with a BA in Business and International Global Studies in 2012. He founded Premier Chess, which currently offers programs in 44 schools and companies.

How old were you when you first learned how to play chess? Who taught you?

I was 7 when I learned how to play; my dad and brother taught me. 

How has chess effected your decision making process off the board?

Chess translates to my business and life processes all the time. I learn how to analyze, balance between risk and reward, and compete. I was influenced by Jim Egerton’s book Business on the Board. 

How did your earlier career choices lead you to where you are now?

I worked in Enterprise Sales for 4 years at Oracle and Rapid 7. I then cofounded a sales outsourcing startup for SaaS companies. I decided I loved sales but would prefer to talk about my true passion of chess education so I started Premier Chess (www.premierchess.com) in July 2017. We are now in 44 schools and companies including Kramer Levin. 

How would you define your chess style?

Influenced by Michael Adams, I have a style that is a mix of positional and attacking. I often will perform delayed attack’s in late middlegame. 

Does your chess style transfer over into your business decisions as well?

All the time, I love looking ahead and evaluating the best moves in a given position. For example, I will ask myself if Premier Chess is going to invest $100 in marketing, should it go to Facebook, promo items, SEO, etc. 

What has been your worst chess mistake which has given you the biggest lesson?

My worst chess mistake was letting my emotions affect my Play. 

What has been your worst career mistake that has given you the biggest lesson?

My biggest career mistake was when I told my former manager that I was upset that I was only getting a little more money than someone who was a lot less experienced than me. I learned never to talk to fellow employees about salary. 

Do you think chess has helped you to become more resilient in life?

Absolutely; chess makes me more consistent and conscious of all my decision making. 

What do you hope to achieve professionally during the next couple of years?

I hope to grow Premier Chess to 100+ schools and 25+ companies. I also hope to do more volunteer trips around the world. 

What is the biggest challenge to achieving that goal?

The biggest challenge will he finding enough qualified instructors. 

How would you relate these goals and challenges to the chessboard?

On the chess board, an attack needs enough active pieces. If your opponent’s king is exposed but you don’t have any development, you won’t be able to take advantage of it. 

Could you please leave us with a favorite piece of chess wisdom to conclude this interview?

My friend and mentor Bill Lombardy once suggested to me that I follow one top-level player’s games and go over all of his games. I picked Michael Adams and have greatly benefited from this exercise. 

For more on Evan Rabin and Premier Chess please visit:

http://premierchess.com


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