Some pretty attacking chess at a party last weekend

For almost two weeks, Abby and I were staying with my sister Linda (and her husband André), with whom we were staying for almost two weeks in order to help them with their three-month-old baby, my first nephew, Jack. They happened to hold a Memorial Day weekend party, inviting old friends of theirs as well as new friends with similarly-aged babies.

As people started arriving in the afternoon, I noticed a boy who was wearing a T-shirt for a chess camp from 2009 or something. I couldn’t help saying to him, “Oh, you play chess? Maybe we should play.” Someone (I think my sister?) started saying I used to be very good, so Benjamin got excited and next thing I knew, AndrĂ© had fetched his chess set and brought it out. We moved the chips and guacamole to make room on the coffee table and immediately started playing a game, while I continued baby duty holding Jack.

How to play chess with a stranger at a party

Me playing a Benoni against Benjamin while holding Jack

There are actually some subtle considerations in playing chess at a party with someone I’ve never met before. Here are a few:

Here is a report on how things turned out in the three games I played at the party before I focused on eating the barbecue and socializing with everyone else:

How to play against someone wearing a chess camp T-shirt

In the first game I played, I was playing an older boy wearing a chess T-shirt, so without asking any questions, there was no telling how strong he could be. So I could not just start out “playing down”. I did take the Black side, however.

Spectators usually like to see quick excitement and blood, rather than dry, long, technical games. At this party, a surprising number of kids seemed to know chess and enjoy watching it. Therefore, as Black, I chose to play in a risky, aggressive way, challenging White’s d4 with a modified Modern Benoni.

To save time, I played quickly, not always looking for the best move.

I ended up winning the game fairly quickly, after pinning a piece and winning it and more material.

How to play against a younger boy who is mostly likely a total beginner

Then his brother wanted in on the action also and we played a quick game.

I took Black again and chose to play the inferior Owen’s Defense in order to make it harder for me to win quickly. Sure enough, from his third move and on, it was clear he was much weaker than his older brother. I tried to tone down my play, but soon I had no choice but to finish off the game with checkmate.

Playing against the chess kids’ father

Then the boys called for their father to play me. They said he was really good once. So Giorgio sat down, I took White, and we began to play. I knew this was going to be intense, since the both of us were supposedly “good” once.

It was definitely intense. I started out in the opening as though I were playing someone of equal or higher strength than me in a serious tournament setting. When Giorgio weakened his King side, I went on an attack, sacrificing a Pawn and throwing all my pieces at his King:

Giorgio deep in thought after Ba3

Giorgio and Franklin thinking

I ended up winning the game with some pretty tactical ideas throughout. I was proud of having taken part in the most interesting chess game I have ever played at a party, and proud of having won through calculating my attack correctly and well.

After the game, Benjamin had questions about some of the moves we played or chose not to play, and Giorgio started going over the game with him and I joined in the analysis. That was fun.

The past

Afterwards, his son told me Giorgio had actually been the number two junior chess player in Italy under age 16 back in the day. I didn’t bother replying that I was in the top ten in the United States under age 13 or something like that back in the day myself (Giorgio and I are roughly the same age, I think). Let’s face it, past glories don’t matter. Nobody really cares what we did as kids. We are as we are now. I happen to be less rusty than Giorgio because I did return to serious chess for a couple of years (2005-2009) before quitting again. I tried to come back again in late 2010, but had lost my edge, and I quit for good in 2011. At some point, some of us have better things to do with our time and energy than maintaining or improving our chess strength. I don’t play in tournaments any more, or even go to the local chess club. I don’t play online chess or against computers either. I’ll only play at parties!

(Update of 2015-12-21)

Three years later, when I took up chess seriously again, temporarily putting many things aside in my life, I finally achieved my US Chess National Master title.

Full game score, annotated

I have fully annotated my game with Giorgio. Enjoy!

Final party game, against the weakest boy

Later on as the party was winding down, a quiet boy who had up till then been watching the other boys play chess wanted to play with me, and so I had a game with him. Unfortunately, although he knew the rules, sometimes he made an illegal move that I had to correct him on, and also he ended up giving away most of his pieces, which I could not help but eventually just plain take.

This was my final game, and his parents were finally free to leave the party with him being happy to have played!

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