From athletics to asthma to… chess?

In about middle school I started getting pretty serious allergy related asthma; this went on into my late 20’s in a decreasing severity.   In high school I wanted to run track and play baseball, I did try and felt I was going to do well, but it was right in my highest asthma season.  So… indoors I went.

What seemed more like a sentence for a crime… had a silver lining I wasn’t expecting!  Having to stay indoors out of the spring grass, hay, weed pollens (I found later dairy was another culprit) that triggered my asthma, I stumbled upon something else competitive to do.

In the physical science room there was a large chess challenge ladder with 85 current names on it.  So, starting at the bottom (you could only challenge 1-2 positions above you), I began the long road of working my way up.  I was cool with the nerds and became a bit of one myself, some of these guys were weird!  Makes watching the Big Bang Theory more enjoyable though!

I started studying chess books, opening strategies, positional play, and tactics.  Moving up the list was easy as I could tell I was the only person applying myself to understanding the game.  Then I met a student who I thought was a teacher (he had a full beard) named Tom Lively (he wasn’t on the chess ladder) who was also playing chess in a different area, usually with teachers.  So I played him and he beat me!  First guy to do that, and I noticed he used positional strategies instead of simple usually weak tactics.

About that time I received a book I ordered (I wanted to learn the way a master thinks) called Logical Chess Move by Move, by Irving Chernev.  It explained why master players made each move they made.  It was the best instructional book I read on chess.  I used that book like a bible for chess, in depth, many times had 3 boards going, examining the openings with other books open for reference.  Within weeks I found myself completely into the game!

I climbed the ladder as fast as I could challenge and beat the # 1 guy no problem, he played tactically only (but well) so I just got superior position and eroded his defenses, so I never lost a game.  The teachers, same thing, this increased my analytical thinking greatly and I went from not trying in school to getting B’s no problem.  I kept the # 1 from sophomore till I graduated, still couldn’t do the sports I wanted but had found something else!

The only people I played in school were teachers usually.  I backed off the game into my junior year, it got to be a bit too all consuming!  Soon it became driving, martial arts, and other things.  In the spring I was usually on meds so I wasn’t 100%, but played several games blindfolded no problem, I don’t remember losing a game to anyone in school except Tom Lively in my sophomore year.

It was Tom who was the biggest influence to me, we played chess during my sophomore year, then he graduated, we also got into martial arts and watched the new Bruce Lee movie Enter the Dragon when it came out in Sacramento like 5 times!  We were best friends.

He eventually started a business and I was his manager, it was a great experience!  He introduced me to the Bible and was a great man whom I loved as both friend and teacher.  Our chess games were always battles and were about evenly matched.

I played the county chess ladder for a few months to # 5 and the best player in the county was Russ Nevins who was Expert rated I believe, I could only beat him about 1 out of 3-4 games, he may have become a chess Master.  My interest in going all the way wasn’t there.

I don’t play much anymore but it helped amp up my brain that’s for sure!  Don’t believe I was smarter than the other high school chess players, I was simply dedicated is all.  I couldn’t play the sports I wanted to but I am competitive in nature, whether I win or not, I come to play hard!  Chess at that time was no exception.  It seemed to enhance other skills for me and I am Thankful.  Till next time, God Bless,



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