Posts Tagged ‘chess wisdom’

Asking Questions

November 26, 2019

He who asks a question, remains a fool for five minutes. He who does not ask, remains a fool forever!

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 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 Wisdom and Philosophy from Twitter

November 21, 2012

Here is a collection  of my chess wisdom from @TorresChess. If you are not following me on Twitter, then you are missing out on some interesting discussions.

11/5 Chris Torres‏@TorresChess

 It is beyond coincidence that chess and music produce child prodigies with a much greater frequency than that of other intellectual pursuits. -Chris Torres

 

11/7 Chris Torres‏@TorresChess

To play a match for the World Championship is the cherished dream of every chess player. -David Bronstein

 

11/8 Chris Torres‏@TorresChess

Starting from Chester Arthur in the early 1880s, 89% of Democratic presidents have been chess players, compared to just 35% of Republicans. – Chris Torres

 

11/8 Chris Torres‏@TorresChess

Nervous energy is the ammunition we take into any mental battle. – Garry Kasparov

 

11/9 Chris Torres‏@TorresChess

Genius. It’s a word. What does it really mean? If I win I’m a genius. If I don’t, I’m not. – Bobby Fischer

 

11/11 Chris Torres‏@TorresChess

Wins and losses are rarely determined at the the chess tournament, but rather in the effort toward preparation the player demands of himself. -Chris Torres

 

11/12 Chris Torres‏@TorresChess

 Confidence in chess stems from  preparation in solving your problems without outside interference. -Chris Torres

 

11/13 Chris Torres‏@TorresChess

“In chess, as in life, opportunity strikes but once.”-David Bronstein

 

11/13 Chris Torres‏@TorresChess

“Every difficulty slurred over will be a ghost to disturb your repose later on.”-Frederic Chopin

 

11/14 Chris Torres‏@TorresChess

My students know that it is better to lose some of the struggles for your dreams than to be defeated without ever fighting.-Chris Torres

 

11/15 Chris Torres‏@TorresChess

Follow the path to the end and you will find no sanity in reason.-Chris Torres

 

11/16 Chris Torres‏@TorresChess

A chess coach with a fancy title is good. A chess coach who can teach useful lessons that inspire confidence is better.-Chris Torres

 

11/17 Chris Torres‏@TorresChess

Apparently the chess board is really a special kind of mirror. Staring at it on length will force one to accept his flaws or go mad.-Chris Torres

 

11/17 Chris Torres‏@TorresChess

Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.”  Chess is the best tool which we can use to fix education.-Chris Torres

 

11/18 Chris Torres‏@TorresChess

Of all the pleasures I have received from the game of chess, the greatest is the friendship of my students. -Chris Torres

 

11/19 Chris Torres‏@TorresChess

If your life was a game of chess, would you rather live a hundred mediocre moves or be brilliant for a few?-Chris Torres

 

11/20 Chris Torres‏@TorresChess

Chess exercises a child’s capacity to change a vision into reality.-Chris Torres

 


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