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My Chess Story  (Page 2 of 4)
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Once I left home I didn't really play much chess. Occasionally I would find someone to play, but they usually didn't have the experience that I did. I served as a volunteer to the Philippines where I did have the opportunity to play two games against the the provincial champion, winning one game and losing the other. Nevertheless, for most of the two decades following high school I had no sparring partner and played no games at all. Then one day one of my co-workers, a bit of a computer wiz, introduced me to the computer program "Chessmaster 2000." He let me use his copy and I would stay after work and use the computers to play a few games. I could beat the program about 66% of the time. Then they released "Chessmaster 2100" which was a little tougher, and I would  beat that about 50% of the time. Later I invested in a designated computer chess board that performed at about that same level. I eventually moved to Washington state and took that chess computer with me, frequently going to the parks to play 30 minute games on the picnic tables. Eventually I would return to Salt Lake City where I participated in a few tournaments. For me, this was a real wake up call. I found that in the real world of chess, playing against tournament players, I wasn't as strong as I thought I was. I was really pretty average. I won a couple of trophies, but only because I was the best among the "unrated" players, people who hadn't played enough games yet to earn an official rating. But I still had my dreams. I still wanted to be a grandmaster and I still wanted to make a living playing chess. I would soon have another wake up call, and that would be at the World Open in Philidelphia. There they were giving away $10,000 for each division, which meant that I didn't have to beat the world champion to win $10,000 all I had to do was beat everyone in my division. I was rated about 1585 and that put me in the "Under 1600" division. So I flew to Philidelphia and put up in a hotel for 5 days. The time controls were such that a game could go as long as 7 hours. Playing a very conservative style of chess, every one of my games slowly simmered down to a pawn endgame and lasted the full 7 hours. There were 2 games a day for the first four days, so I was playing 14 hours of chess per day. I did magnificently well, so well in fact, that it would be very difficult to replicate what I did. I won 7 games with just 2 draws and no losses. I thought surely I would either win the $10,000 or at least get a big chunk of it. Apparently there were a lot of other people also doing very well. My friends have since told me that there are a lot of sandbaggers at these tournaments, people who deliberately lose a lot of games and go into a tournament rated lower than their real level of play so that they can win big money. My record only put me in a 4 way tie for 3rd place and I went home with a check for $900. A third of the check was withheld for taxes, my airline ticket cost $300, the hotel $250, and the entry fee $250. So expenses balanced against winnings meant that even though I had turned in a 7-0-2 record, I actually spent more money than I earned. To me this was my final wake up call. If I could play this well and still not make any money, I felt that it was highly unlikely that I was ever going to make a living playing chess.
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