Beginning at the Beginning… Welcome!

Hello everyone and welcome to my newest project!

I just wanted to share my “chess world” with any and all interested persons out there who may or may not find something of a particular interest for them on any given day.  I will be posting information about what it is like to be a Scholastic Chess Coach working with young people, what it is like to work in the different school communities that I service, interesting Chess Puzzles for my students and friends, my tournament games,  coverage and commentary plus annotations to top level games and my general comments on the state of the Chess World.  If any of this sounds even somewhat remotely interesting to you then please, by all means, do take just but a little time to read on.

After an absence of several years I came back to Western Massachusetts for the Holidays and paid a visit to my local chess club – The Pioneer Valley Chess Club – the club that I had founded back in 1993.  When I had moved from Western Massachusetts back in 2003 I had left the club and it’s promotion to some of the club members who were heavily involved in the club and it’s activities.  Some of these people stepped up to the plate and did an excellent job – Tom Smith, David Hall and Enrique McDonald.  Some of my chess friends have come and gone over time but the club still remains a constant feature of the local community as the years come and go.

One interesting thing that I do have to address is that I founded the club and we began our first meetings over at the Florence Community Center for a short while in the late Summer of 1993 and then we immediately moved over to VFW Post 8006 in Florence Massachusetts.  After several years the club moved all about throughout the Valley – at various times we met at A2Z Science Store and then even at the Hampshire Mall.  We finally ended up meeting at the FORBES LIBRARY and then immediately following the Noon till 4 PM meeting time slot there we would then resume our meeting over at the BURGER KING on King Street in Northampton.  The club still meets at these two locations till this very day though not throughout the year at Forbes.   It was these Saturday meetings, held in two different locations, that were very popular when I departed Western Massachusetts in 2003.

During this ten year span of time I had tried very hard to popularize the game of chess and to promote my club at every opportunity possible.   Not to grind an axe or anything but my efforts were not always successful as I had to contend with some of the personalities of the local Western Mass Chess Community that give the chess world such a bad name.  Here is one example that is still fresh in my mind…  one year I had even put together an inter club chess league which fell apart because of interference from David Lees, Marvin Fluharty and some nuckle head from Pittsfield Mass who wanted the league to mean different things and wanted to run it THEIR way – after I had done all the “leg work” and had helped to bring my project from the realm of ideas into the real world .  So of course some of these self important chess characters of Western Mass decided to hijack my project!  That was when I backed out of it, denying them support from my club the PVCC, and the league survived only one year and then fell totally apart.  That is what happens when people without a work ethic try to hijack someone else’s brain child.  If they don’t have the vision to conceive of it those kinds of people very rarely have the stamina to see such projects through.  Later on a kind of inter club team league was born – years later – and the PVCC won first place in some editions of those events.

My interest in Chess really is reflected in the History of the PVCC – and my commitment to help provide other members of my local community with a place that they can all meet and play chess.  It really was and is a kind of “grass roots” chess activism.  To my mind this had only been correctly acknowledged by the local media once and only once.  After the first few months of the club being in operation there was a front page feature in the NORTHAMPTON GAZETTE on the club and it’s members.  One of my favorite photos from this article was of John Duscharme looking at a chess board with the chess battle reflected in his reading glasses – it was a shot of his face as he sat at the board deep in contemplation.  It was quite the picture and I still have several copies of the article till this very day.  Which is a good thing too… as after I had departed the area in 2003 some neophyte reporter did a “creative story” on the PVCC and gave Tom Smith credit for founding the club.  Apparently this reporter injected a little “Michael Faye” creative license into their “work” and invented a History for the Chess Club that was, needless to say, incorrect.  The really funny thing is that this person could have found out quite a bit about the club had they even searched their own News archive on the club – you think an Editor might catch that one too but such was not the case.  Sadly these days the level of reporting that goes on in local newspapers is negligible to say the least.  I was rather shocked to see how slim and content free the Northampton Gazette has become over time – it is little better than a large page pamphlet.  I would have loved to have done a weekly chess article for the paper back in the day but now I don’t think any one really reads this Newspaper – except for some who may subscribe to it out of force of habit because of the bygone era of print news.

So what did I find at the most recent meeting of the PIONEER VALLEY CHESS CLUB on the day after Christmas 2009?  Believe it or not five other chess aficionados turned up to play chess that night.  Enrique McDonald, David Hall, Antonio Laudati, and two fellows from further afield Eric Strickland and David.  I did not catch David’s last name unfortunately.  It was a nice convivial meeting and it made me very happy to think that this club that I had founded is still serving it’s purpose – providing various members of the community with a place to meet – supported by a local business or organization – where they can share their interest with other chess enthusiasts and enjoy the company of their friends without the atomizing effects of our Consumer Culture obliterating their sense of self or community.  I do hope that the club will be much more representative of Northampton but that yet may happen.  It has happened before… and it is not fair to judge the club based upon it’s meetings during the Holiday stretch.

Did I get to play any chess?  Yep… I got to play David Hall in some Blitz games as well as Antonio Laudati and a fellow from Vermont – Eric Strickland.  Out of 15 blitz games I only erred once giving up a perpetual draw – one that I could have easily sidestepped but due to moving in haste I had failed to avoid.  I set myself the task of playing each player 5 games and every time I would win I would subtract a minute from my clock so that they next game would be a time odds game.

How did I do?  Against David I won all five games though I should have lost the game at 5 – 3.  I had blundered away two pieces leaving me with a Rook and some pawns against David Hall’s Rook, two Bishops and his pawns.  In our game I was still totally lost even after David had blundered away his Rook.  He had two connected passed pawns on the Queen’s side of the board and the two Bishops.  I only had my Rook… but with one second left on my clock I nailed David with a file mate!  I eventually got David down to 5 – 1 and won that game with one minute against his 5 minutes!  Quite  feat as David is a solid B-player these days.

My next opponent was C-player Antonio Laudati and again I won all five of my games.  In the final game I was lost – utterly and hopelessly lost.  But in Blitz Chess you not only play against your opponent – the person sitting across from you – but it is a race against time.  Again with one second remaining on my clock, as Antonio was getting ready to deliver checkmate he ran out of time.  So I went 5 – 0 against Antonio who has really worked on his openings quite a bit.

My final opponent for the evening was Eric Strickland – who is also a solid B-player weighing in at 1754 USCF standard.  I played him but made a error in our second game when I had 4 minutes versus his 5.  I allowed him a perpetual check in a total won position.  Needles to say I was not happy about giving up this draw!  So in the next game – which remained at the time odds time control of 4 minutes to his 5 minutes I ended up winning.  Then I won a 3 – 5 and a time odds game at 2 – 5.  I had failed my personal goal of getting to five wins and achieving the 5th at one minute versus five minutes against Eric.  But not bad all in all – I had scored 14.5 points out of 15 games!  Quite a nice score actually!!

Based upon the three players that I did get to meet in OTB I have to say that the level of chess has risen a bit in Western Massachusetts – even while a lot of the stronger players have come and gone.  Where were the Ed Borowskis, Larry Williamses and Nick Tavareses of yester year?  Players come and go but I am still glad to see some players still improving on their game while being active in their local chess club.  It makes me happy to know that community activities such as chess club meetings are not now a days relegated to books – that they can and actually still do happen, that people do want and seek each other out to enjoy their mutual interests.  That was my aim in creating the PVCC and I am happy to see that the PVCC is still fulfilling those needs.

Happy New Years Everyone!  – Chess Coach Sean.

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