Tag Archives: Chess

Journal of the Emerald Specter 52: Inspiration Strikes

I am writing these well ahead of time in order to be ahead of the curve, for those times when I’m struggling to keep afloat with all of my tasks. This has been nice to be ahead and I’m going to be making this one a long, long column because there is a lot of stuff that I want to cover.

As the title suggests, this one is because inspiration has struck me since I wrote the last column. I’m talking about BuJoRPG inspiration, chess playing inspiration, working out inspiration, organizing inspiration, and other types… having a weekend off has done wonders for inspiring me to get things done.

Why don’t I stop being vague and start getting into the meat of what this column is about?

The original inspiration for the BuJoRPG was when I came across the website ClassCraft, an RPG system for classrooms that looked interesting. I’ve since watched several seminars and explanations of things in order to get more depth on this subject and I’ve used some of the ideas to expand the intent of the BuJoRPG in general.

This has what has become BuJoRPG Version 1.0 (and currently, the development stages of BuJoRPG Version 1.8, which has not been released for public consumption). I am very near releasing this expansion and I’ve decided (definitively) that this release will NOT be a full version number higher than the original (Version 2.0 should be wholly different than 1.0, thus the new release will most likely be Version 1.8 or 1.9, as that is likely where I’ll be when I do the write up of the system).

Over the weekend that I’m writing this (for those interested in the “behind the scenes,” this is being written on August 6, 2017), I randomly did a search for some YouTube videos that I thought might result in finding someone using my BuJoRPG system… I came across videos that I wasn’t really expecting to find.

There is an app (for mobile and desktop) that I’ve found in the past called Habitica (or HabitRPG, as it was originally known). I watched a video from someone using the desktop version and I listened a lot closer than I normally do. Then, boom, inspiration struck.

As I’ve stated before, I was working on expanding the Quests operation by splitting them into long term and short term. That works, it’s in Version 1.8. I’ve also stated that I’m working on the gear and monetary system, which I’m pretty sure works but I haven’t actually used that in practice, yet. I’m willing to stick that in Version 1.8 for sure just to move on to what I think needs  to be done for Version 2. This means I’m actually setting a release date for Version 1.8 as August 30, 2017.

Soon, right?

There are a couple of caveats that I’m doing that will expedite this process: I’m NOT releasing a new template and I’m only releasing the Rise of the Iron Garden (and the base system) updates. That’s it. Further expansion on BuJoRPG Version 1 will be done by you (the users) or won’t be done at all… progress comes at a price.

Now it’s time to talk about what I want to do with Version 2.

I’ve stated numerous times I wanted to have a character collecting aspect to the game. I have a means of doing this but I’m not going to put it into Version 2, so don’t worry about me rehashing that information again. This is still going to be very much about personal improvement and development, meaning you’re the only “character” in this game… sort of.

You will now have stats. I’ve seen a lot of people adapting what I released and portioning out some of their goals, quests, and other stuff into specific stats. I’m going to full-on put stats into Version 2, which will affect how things interact with the system. Tired of having your HP get knocked out so easily because of how Version 1 works? Version 2 will have a stat that modifies the HP instead of having a base value and damage that is variable based on your level.

Gear will modify things, and gear will most definitely be a part of Version 2. These modifications will change your stats efficacy, stats value, modify your XP earning for stats, and even change the variables that you will be interacting with… meaning there are multiple reasons for having gear!

The concept of the “Dailies” was to complete things that you should be doing on a daily basis (duh). Around my own house, and work, I will be expanding this into Weeklies and Monthlies, perhaps even a Quarterlies or Yearlies (maybe). This will provide different levels of earning XP and expand on what you should be paying attention to for the short, medium, and long term of your self improvement!

Habit tracking is a part of lots of folks’s bullet journals. I’ve seen these used as both habit trackers and progress bars, and since this is an RPG being developed, I’m going to be integrating progress bars in place of habit tracking.

As you can see, this is getting more complex and (hopefully) more fun.

To Do lists are a big part of self improvement, for example, I need them for things around the house (or related to chores, shopping, etc) to be sure I’m not forgetting things. Thus, they’ll be integrated into Version 2 in a big way.

In Version 1, XP was really the only reward for doing stuff… in Version 2, you’ll get rewards of XP, coinage (I say that because I don’t know what the money system will be called, yet), powers, gear, and all kinds of neat stuff. This is to encourage you to break out of habits that you might have fallen into that aren’t the best for progress.

Like what you’re reading so far? Well, maybe I should get to the good part.

I’m going to make the “sheets” for the BuJo in Excel. I’ve created my own personal template in Excel and I’m going to make the interactive (i.e. automated calculations) in Excel, too. I said this from the beginning that I was working towards making a BuJo in an electronic version to take care of all the tracking for you.

What am I still writing for? Get to it… I will, right after I explain the rest of the column.My feedback has come back on the PRO Chess podcast host possibilities… and it’s a no. So, I’m going to do this by myself and hope to attract someone at a higher level than I am to participate as well.

I’ve started back in on Chess.com‘s tactics puzzles and I think I’ve gotten a little better just over the past week or two. I’m going to continue working on them in the hopes that I actually slow myself down a bit during my actual games, which I’d like to point out that I’m now looking at the games as “tactics puzzles” in order to keep the same mindset with both the puzzles AND the games.

Having said that, I totally “checked out” on my games this morning and made two disastrous blunders that are going to set my rating back a few points. I didn’t look at the games the way I just told you that I was and so I now have to pay the Iron Price (Game of Thrones reference for the win).

I’m also going to fully integrate chess into the BuJoRPG.

Wait, what? You just spent most of this column talking about the BuJoRPG and you’re going to talk about it in the chess section, too?

Yes. Read on.

I am building BuJoRPG Version 2 for me, specifically. That means the battles are going to involve some chess, development will involve some chess, and hell, I may even make the layout look a little more chess-like, too. Developing my chess game will also help me develop my self improvement, which is also part of my goal to be better overall.

Chess is a game that is a good mental exercise to keep your mind healthy, keep critical thinking at the forefront, and help you treat “moves in your life” more like a game of chess. Want to get that promotion at work? You need to be thinking three moves ahead because the competition isn’t, which gives you the edge.

I haven’t decided exactly how integrated chess will be at the early stages but I’m hoping that I can make it a bigger part of the BuJoRPG, which would help me be more active with my own journaling.

Look, I made a header for the end of the column! It will help tie the loose ends together.

I didn’t mention the inspiration as much in the chess segment, but that was an inspiration to start back in on the tactics puzzles. I know I need to slow down to get better and I need the tactics puzzles to be able to identify the tactical advantage I can get, figure out how to pursue the end result, and force my opponent into doing what I want them to do in order to achieve my goal.

Simple, right?

Inspiration has been coming in waves. I wrote a chapter on my serial fiction and was inspired to write more, though I had to back off to accomplish other things. I read a little bit about something I do not want to explain right now, but I did the research to find what I needed to know and I’ll tell you about that once I have a better idea on how to put into words what I’m trying to accomplish. The Jon Jones win got me inspired to watch more UFC. The NFL season returning soon has inspired me to get things done to watch the games that I’m going to want to watch during the season. A new podcast I found has inspired me to get more involved with my soccer viewing, too!

Find out what you can use to inspire you and hopefully the BuJoRPG Version 2 will get you moving in the right direction, too!

Journal of the Emerald Specter 51: Battles and BuJoRPG

Another Journal entry is being made and you’re here to read it, for which I am thankful. There is another dose of this and that, with some larger pieces of the puzzle being more prominent, I’ll still be covering a plethora of topics.

As a note, I’ve seen my traffic dip even further down. I knew that things would taper off but I was hoping that some would come here to see all kinds of stuff, not just come here for a singular purpose. I’ve got a lot of interests and I guess I was hoping that there would be “something” that would keep readers coming back. Maybe what is contained within this article will help with that, at least in a couple of the subjects.

I’m starting out with the one thing that has kind of dominated my week. As I write this, I’ve dove deep into the game to get my mind working in the direction I need in order to grow my chess.com rating from the meager “mid-1100s” and back into growth. I’d like to be back up to the “mid-1200s” pushing to get over the 1300 hump again, and that means playing games and studying.

I’ve joined a number of chess clubs on chess.com, some of which were because I was looking for regular players to play against (without the randomness of just opening up a game). This includes my continued membership in the Team USA, US Veterans Chess, and Team USA: Northwest groups. I’ve added World League, Chess.com Chess League, Rose City Chess, Chess.com iOS Club, Knights of the Square Table, Knightmares Finest Chess, Chess.com League, and the PRO Chess League.

That last one is the one I’d like to expand this article into… a little history needs to be dropped, first.

In 2005, the United States Chess League (USCL) was formed to be a United States “nationwide” organization for team chess play. The league expanded over the course of 11 years to include 20 teams, running in a similar fashion to the other sports leagues of the United States.

I say 11 years because in 2016, the USCL announced a change to include the entire world worth of teams, and changed its name to the Professional Rapid Online Chess League, or PRO Chess League.

In 2017, the PRO Chess League ran 48 teams through a seven week chess season, ending in a five week playoff season to crown the St. Louis Arch Bishops the 2017 PRO Chess League Champions. The biggest development in the PRO Chess League over the USCL was the inclusion of some of the biggest names in chess today competing, including World Champion Magnus Carlsen (Norway Gnomes), Wesley So (St. Louis Arch Bishops), Hikaru Nakamura (Miami Champions), and Fabiano Carauna (Montreal ChessBrahs).

The 2018 season is going to be organized in a different fashion due to the confusion of having 48 teams. There will only be 32 teams for this second season, 24 automatically qualify to participate, and the other 24 will battle for their chance (along with any new teams that may spring up) to be one of the final 12 teams to compete in the 2018 season proper. This is as close to a “promotion/relegation” system that PRO Chess League will get, though I will be very interested to see how this format works.

Along with the analysis of my own personal games through this column (perhaps a separate column in the future), I have approached someone about being a co-host on a PRO Chess League podcast. Depending upon how that contact works out, I would be interested in making the podcast the “official” podcast, then be able to have access to official video, commentary, and interviews with the stars of the league.

If this approach ends up not panning out, I’ll still attempt to do what I’ve stated above, just as a solo host, and I’ll still try to get the podcast labeled official. The thing I lose without the co-host is the analysis of someone who knows what they’re doing at a much greater level.

I do have other option, I just really want to work with this person.

No game to analyze this time, I have several games going at the moment and I’ve earmarked a specific game for analysis (which, as I write this, is still underway). Stay tuned.

I haven’t been into the UFC as much this year as I have in the past. There was a long run of the past four or five years where I was actively watching matches, following certain fighters, and making sure that UFC was “appointment viewing.”

In 2017, I’ve only watched two UFC events and I’m a little sad about that.

Writing about the UFC is something I enjoyed doing, following the UFC has been much more interesting than following boxing (for fans of mine who don’t know my history with boxing, I used to be a devout follower of the sport… until hugging and terrible matchups started ruining the experience). I want to dedicate myself to at least commenting on the UFC a little as I work my way back to following the big fights and upcoming superstars.

So, onto a little commentary…

UFC 214 was a nice way to break back into the UFC for me, allowing me to see some of the best fights in a while. Cyborg beat the hell out of an undeserving Tonya Evinger (I have a column about my disgust with her shell of a victory in Invicta over an opponent by the Missouri Sports Commission rather than getting it done in the ring)… good job Cyborg. Woodley defeated Maia in a match that was mostly boos by the crowd but I understand why that one turned out the way it did. Finally, the main event of the evening was the much anticipated rematch between Daniel Cormier and Jon Jones, something that has been scheduled at least twice before but failed to happen. This will be the focus of this segment.

Despite seeing what Cormier has done against opponents as the UFC Light Heavyweight Champion, I really considered Jon Jones the champion since he never lost the belt… he was stripped of the belt. Having no Jones in the UFC has been an experience that I don’t want to experience again… but the problem was Jones’ inability to stay clean or out of trouble, which is all up to the man I considered the champion going into this fight. The closer this fight came to happening, the more I worried that one of these guys wouldn’t be able to fight due to an injury, something that has happened to Cormier a lot in his reign.

With the win of Jones to regain his UFC Light Heavyweight Championship, we return to the situation we were in before Jones started having “out of ring” issues. I look forward to seeing what else Jones can do now that he’s back with gold around his waist.

The event, overall, was epic.

The biggest traffic getter on EmeraldSpecter.com is, by far, the BuJoRPG that I released. I continue to test, expand, and bullet journal. The traffic drop off that has been steadily declining is the traffic coming to the site for bullet journaling specifically. I can’t argue that I made a good move developing the BuJoRPG, but I’d like to keep the hits coming…

Testing and development in the BuJoRPG system has been changed in a slight way. If I tested the way that I tested the first time, you wouldn’t see another BuJoRPG release until almost the end of 2017. I don’t want to wait that long, as a result, I’ve modified how I’m testing things to be able to develop the BuJoRPG system a little faster.

I don’t know why I didn’t do things this way in the first place.

I’ve modified the Quest system, breaking it up into long and short term lines. XP varies for each of them and I think that I’ll be fine leaving the system the way I am currently using it (as of this writing).

A promise of bringing in “gear” has caused the biggest delay in the next release. I am doing a “real time” test of the money system (RPG money, not real money) to be able to acquire the gear because I want to see if the acquisition of the initial items is realistic and gives you something to shoot for… and I’m liking what I am seeing so far.

With the response I’ve gotten and what I see others using the BuJoRPG system (with or without modifications), I am seeing if there is anything else I’d like to include as I stray closer to putting together the next edition of the system. I’m working with version 1.8 at the moment, so I think that I may be releasing “2.0,” whether or not the changes are significant enough to call it “BuJoRPG 2.”

I think using the version system, I can leave the door open for “sequels” in the way I just used that… Ver 2.0 vs BuJoRPG 2…

Things are definitely looking good and I’m excited to show you all what I’ve got coming out.

I stalled in starting working out when I said I was going to start. Work hours ramped way up on me three days before I wanted to start and I was freaking exhausted when the actual day rolled around. I really wanted to have something specific to report, but I guess I’ll just pass along what the plan is for the start of the next week.

My week starts on Saturday. This keeps my postal week, bullet journal week, and workout week all on the same rotation. I don’t want any confusing day changes just because a “traditional” rotation for working out starts on Sunday. My workouts, my week.

The plan for the week looks like this:

Saturday – Legs
Sunday – Rest
Monday – Back and Biceps
Tuesday – Chest and Triceps
Wednesday – Rest
Thursday – Legs and Abs
Friday – Shoulders

Friday is going to be a rest day until my shoulders stop hurting. I have an impingement in both shoulders, with my left shoulder being exponentially worse than my right, I don’t even think I could do half the exercises that I ned to in order to work them out… I’m not super worried about my shoulders being worked out right now, since I’m no longer working for a “swole look,” I’ll just be making sure most of the groups even up.

If you’re wondering about cardio, that is an interesting topic. I am a letter carrier for the post office and I basically have cardio going on all day long on days that I work. I’ll be doing some form of pre-workout cardio in addition to all that, but I am leaning heavily on my job to provide the majority of the cardio as I start back out on this journey again.

The other important part of this journey is getting back to clean eating. Due to my wife locking down the spending in our house (we maintain a specific dollar amount in the checking account as we put regular amounts in savings each paycheck), we started going back to eating at home more often than not.

Several years ago, when I had issues eating dairy in any form, my wife and I started eating much better. My working out was accompanied by even better eating and we haven’t stopped eating the quality foods that we switched to (when we eat at home), allowing us to see weight loss on days we eat at home (for me, at least).

Any diet is a lifestyle change, if that diet is to work. As soon as you go back to eating the garbage you were eating before your “diet,” you’ll start regaining all your nasty weight again. This is something most people aren’t aware enough to understand. This is why most people fail at their weight loss goals.

All in all, I’m eating out far less… the money constriction is a blessing in disguise. I just need to lay off the sweets now and I’ll be back to eating completely clean.

Baby steps, I guess… baby steps.

I’ll close this column out with the storytelling header. This won’t talk about the serial fiction, though, this will be about the BuJoRPG.

Wait, what?

The base system for the BuJoRPG will be without a storyline, but the templates won’t. I’ve said this before and I’ll continue to hint at the possibility for EVERY template to have a story.

The one I’m most interested in is the Wuxia template, though. I’m going so far as to release the title of this next version of the template… that title will be the Rise of the Iron Garden.

Interested in learning why? Well, that is also allowing me to elaborate on the initial Wuxia template story, then I can properly build up each successive expansion.

This is short, but I hope it was interesting.

The Specter Show 027: Mr. Self Destruct

Heading towards a single topic show, DJ “The Emerald Specter” Allen briefly talks about some topics before getting into the meat of the show: chess. Chess.com, chess playing, chess podcasting, and more!

Host: DJ Allen
Intro Music: The Idea of You by Nine Inch Nails (from Not the Actual Events)
Outtro Music: The Perfect Drug by Nine Inch Nails
Intro Lead in: Dirk Manning

Email: EmeraldSpecter.com@Gmail.com
Twitter: @EmeraldSpecter
Instagram: @EmeraldSpecter

Support Emerald Specter at Patreon!

Thanks for checking this out, you can find more at EmeraldSpecter.com!

Hashtags: #TheGreatestShow #Podcasting #TheSpecterShow #chess

Chess Specter 6 – Moving Forward


I notice an uptick in traffic each and every time a column is published, so I’m going to see what happens when I go bonkers on the same day with a whole bunch of stuff getting put out. Are you ready?

Part of what I like to talk about chess is making the chess game, the event as a whole, something more of a spectacle than the game currently is… because what we have at the moment is a bunch of event at the physical location and some sideways reporting of the event, without any of the hoopla to go along with that.

Look at the UFC… no, really, take a long look at the UFC. While they don’t have the fight card stacked with huge names from top to bottom, they do have the headliners and at least one other big fight on the list and they promote the crap of out them. Why does chess put up a paltry effort in comparison?

Part of the problem, as I see it, is FIDE. The World Chess Federation is run by a corrupt politician, being influenced by corrupt politicians, not really investing in the thing that has them “in a place of power” at all. They want to sit in their ivory tower and look down on the rest of the world because they think no one else can do anything about it.

What about the Grand Chess Tour?

Some of the chess world has said that there shouldn’t be a single World Champion anymore, the chess world should be set up more like the tennis world… a series of tournaments to crown an ultimate winner at the end of the “season.” I’m not opposed to that scenario, but I also like the idea of a single champion.

Here’s where we move to make the UFC connection a little bit more connected. Take the Grand Chess Tour’s three tournament start this year. Is it a small start? Yes. Will it grow? Yes. Can they start promoting chess like chess is the only thing that matters? I don’t think so, but they need to in order to make a big impact. Why not promote so hard that anyone interested in the games can not only watch but WANT to watch.

Right now, the St Louis Chess Club is the one responsible for GCT broadcasts and the biggest downfall I see in their efforts is that there isn’t any means of watching the event after the fact. We have to watch live or we have to hunt, and hunt hard, for the replayability of the event. Is there pre-promotion? Not outside the inner chess circles. Do they have an idea for monetizing their enterprise? I don’t see a clear vision behind it.

It’s easy to be critical, mainly because I’m not involved. It’s also easy for me to sit back and say one thing and not provide an alternative in a tangible way. I will work on this tangible alternative… and I’m waiting for the right opportunity to do this (because I need the footage for this to work).

Your move.

Chess Specter 5 – The Entertainment Equation

chess_specter300I have titled this one something I plan to expand upon. There is some confusion as to exactly what I’m talking about when I talk about turning chess into a commercially viable form of entertainment and I decided to just lay that all out in this column.

First and foremost, get the idea of live chess on TV (I will be using “TV” for any form of video presentation, whether on actual TV or on the Internet) out of your head. Live chess events, unless there is a severe time limit placed on them and some wicked great commentary, are not going to work. Nothing that we can do will jazz up live chess short of making that into something closer to WWE rather than actually just playing chess. Having said that, there are ways to turn chess into something interesting to watch.

I’ve mentioned the Master Game and how they did it. I think that is a good means of presenting chess, especially if there is some great and hard work put into recreating the game for video. There is a more recent effort, though, and an effort that I thought had a lot of potential but ended up being an “Entertainment Weekly” version of chess, which in my opinion didn’t do anything justice. I’m talking about the Xtreme Chess Championship.

The commentary was interesting, the players had some personality, and the players also weren’t rated so highly as to be “politically correct” when they were speaking. What I mean by that is how Anand or Kramnik speaks, like “my opponent is very skilled and he played great.” There wasn’t a lot of “smack talking” but there was still a little bit about the players themselves.

The presentation was too much about getting to very specific points in the game without seeing how we got TO those points. The presentations were too short and not enough talk was done about the game or explored into what should have happened. I’m critical of this effort because there was a lot of potential here and that just didn’t get developed correctly.

Why? Why would the potential not be brought out when they have all the time in the world to work on it? What could possibly be the problem with the game and the people that created the Xtreme Chess Championship?

The people that created this are too close to the game.

The three people responsible for creating Xtreme Chess Championship are Daniel Meirmon, Jennifer Shahade, and Greg Shahade. The Shahades are married chess players and Meirmon is some sort of photographer/videographer… of chess. They, together, are too close to the product they hope to bring to the entertainment side of things. They made what they hoped would work rather than making what will work.

Stop trying to do reality TV. Stop trying to present chess AS IS. Stop trying to dive into commentary like a bunch of IM or GM level players are the only ones watching. These things are what chess players think people want… and they aren’t what people want.

Look at the World Series of Poker, World Poker Tour, and other poker entities producing poker for TV. There is a concentration on the players’ personalities, the important parts of the game, and commentary that is down to Earth. This is the template, but isn’t immutable.

If I had the time, I’d produce the whole experience from the latest World Chess Championship. I do not currently have that time, though, and maybe in the next column I’ll mock up what I would have done instead to make the event a little more “general audiences” friendly.

Until then, though, I’ll let you think about what I’ve already written.

Your move.

Chess Specter 4 – Chess on TV


The BBC used to have a show on TV called “the Master Game,” where they’d recreate a chess game that would be interesting to watch (paced well, commentary, great players, etc). Here’s a link to an episode that isn’t ideally what I’m looking at to do for chess in the modern day but there is a basis for what we can do if we look at it. Watch this.

First and foremost, one game per episode. If we have more than 30 minutes to work with, we might be able to fit a second game in (basically, one game per 30 minutes). We can get the commentary from the actual players as to what they were thinking, which would enhance the experience, but I think that the expert commentary (from GMs or our own “experts”) would be interesting as well. Hindsight is always 20/20 but the game should be interesting.

The Master Game isn’t the end all, be all of chess on TV. It is a way to present chess in an interesting manner. Ideally, in the world we live in, we wouldn’t even need a major TV network to jump on board to help this out… we could just put these out on YouTube or Vimeo and get ourselves going as often as possible.

Let’s say my little idea has gotten 4 players interested. We have 30 minute episodes we will put out on YouTube. If we have one single event, in a round robin, we have 24 games that get played (two games per player, one as white and one as black). That would be 24 episodes at 30 minutes each. If we hold events at least monthly, we could be running the YouTube channel release schedule at every week day (Monday through Friday) highlighting whatever game you’re on.

Why don’t we expand that a little? We have our 24 games played, and thus, 24 episodes ready to go. If we look at, say, January of 2015, we have 22 week days to release episodes. Take holidays off, we have 20 days to release episodes. Thus, our 24 games are now rolling into the second month and if you’re watching on day 20 rather than day 1, maybe you’ve forgotten the drama of that first game. Let’s add us a little “our story so far,” or an ESPN style “SportsCenter” segment on that 30 minute episode, bringing us up to about 45 minutes. If we have enough content, we turn that extra 15 minutes into an extra 30 and we’ve got ourselves a real “here’s why this matters” federation going on.

I maintain that this will be a club that has some exciting chess being examined and played. If we have our commentators doing their bit to promote and hype the club as a whole on top of our daily (week day) release schedule, I think we can draw some real buzz.

That’s with JUST FOUR PLAYERS. Imagine what we’d be looking at with 16, 50, or 100 players! Sure, we’d have to pick and choose what we display, then, but at least we could have choices to make!

Your move.

Chess Specter 3 – For the Rest of Us


Is my attempt to make a “entertaining version of chess” for the best players in the world? Have you ever thought that the Grandmasters of chess would be interested in doing what I’m proposing? No. This is chess for the rest of us.

There are several levels of players in the world of chess. When I refer to the “Grandmasters of chess,” I’m talking about the players who actually have “titles.” If you don’t follow chess, I mean that they have earned the right to be called master in some sense… like master, national master, international master, and grand master. Those players, using “Elo rating numbers,” would be above the 2400 mark. In comparison, I’m a 1300-ish player, so those are the REALLY strong players. If you’re playing at a 2400 level, you aren’t really going to need to be doing what I’m proposing with chess… I’m talking about the players playing at or under 2000.

First, let me break down the “levels” of chess I’m talking about. At the “pawn level,” you’re playing between 0000-999 as a rating, the “knight level” is 1000-1199, the “bishop level” is 1200-1399, the “rook level” is 1400-1599, the “queen level” is 1600-1799, the “king level” is 1800-1999, and anything above 2000 is “expert level.” While it would be fantastic to have people involved at the king or expert level, I’d say that the majority of the individuals I’m going to get involved in this might be somewhere between the bishop and queen levels.

Any chess organization has a dedication to expanding the game to as many people as possible. I’d be looking to expand this to gather in as many people as I could teach the game. I’m talking about a real life “teaching chess to others” scenario that is right along side the “action on the board” style storytelling. Again, keep in mind, these are REAL GAMES being played by REAL PEOPLE who just happen to want to act like a character to make the game more interesting.

I’ve been given a lot of skepticism over this idea over the years. At each skeptical note I’ve corrected or adapted something to make that skepticism lessen and hopefully help convert the skeptic over to my line of thinking. At only 500 words per column, which is what I normally shoot for, I can’t really get into the deep territory of this that I’d like to, but I have a column about chess now that I can talk about in little 500 word chunks.

Referring back to my levels, the people at the expert and king levels would compete with each other, though I’d anticipate the “early joiners” of this club wouldn’t be as “characterized” as the rest of the roster. I see them more in the “teach you how to get better” role and allowing the focus of the action to fall on the lower levels. Ideally, I see chess being entertaining in a review type episode (on a TV scenario) between two people that are likely to make mistakes that a “street level player” would make. What’s more interesting to someone who can point and say “I can beat that guy.” Could you? Step on up to the board.

We will talk more about this idea in future columns… I’ve already gone over my 500 word mark.

Your move.

Chess Specter 2 – First Class


Anytime I talk about chess, I end up telling the same story about what I experienced and would like to see happen in the chess world. Rather than tell the story again, from scratch, I’ll just go over the highlights.

In the school year of 1986-1987, there were a few of us in my class that played chess. We were, for all intents and purposes, a “club” but we acted more like we were professional wrestlers. There were two championships we had, the World Championship for the best of the group to play for, and the Intercontinental Championship for the second tier of players. Some people went from tier two to tier one, but that was a very limited number. As with anything, though, practice improves play. What I remember about this whole experience is that when enough people are having fun doing something, then we can accomplish something great.

Playing in the style of professional wrestling, as we were, we organized our games into events (like the WWE Pay Per Views). The World Champion would defend against an opponent, the Intercontinental Champion defended against an opponent, and the rest of us would pair up to jockey for position for the next shot at one of the championships. None of us had the concept of a large scale tournament until some of the girls wanted to play and thought we wouldn’t let them… that wasn’t true, they just never asked. A grade-wide tournament was set up and some of the girls hung around to play in the club after the tournament was over. The reigning World Champion was the one that won the tournament, proving he was the best in the grade at chess. When the school year was over, some of us continued on but the club was never the same.

I’ve often wanted to recreate this as an adult, though I understand that the instant someone hears “pro wrestling meets chess” automatically assumes that I want to falsify the games and just tell stories instead of playing. What I want to do is create a club that has real games, competitive games, tournaments, championships, and special events… all while highlighting the interesting players, the characters they might choose to play “for the camera,” and the smack talk that modern society seems to enjoy greatly in competitive scenarios.

I’d like a UFC style chess club. I’d like a World Series of Poker style chess club. Is this too much to ask?

I follow the world of competitive chess. I am a fan of reigning World Champion Magnus Carlsen, I follow the exploits of Vishwanathan Anand, Vladimir Kramnik, Hiro Nakamura, and the others as they play at a level I know I’ll never achieve. They, however, are what I would define as “stuffy.”

Picture for a moment the most recent battle for the World Championship between Carlsen and Anand. Wouldn’t it have been better if Carlsen, while respecting Anand’s abilities, was really not giving the former World Champion a chance against his superior skills? Wouldn’t if have been more interesting if Carlsen was egging him on a little more? I think it would have added some spice to the situation…

My goal is, really, to make chess commercially viable. I am working on a model and you’ll all get to see pieces of that as I write this column. Right now, though, think about that and let me know if this might be something that interests you…

Your move.

Chess Specter 1 – A New Beginning

Welcome to the inaugural Chess Specter.


Let’s get started.

I am a proponent of the idea that chess should be able to be a “spectator sport.” What I mean is that chess could easily be a TV game that highlights the personalities of the players and has expert instruction from a commentating team watching an abridged (edited for time) game.

Sounds exciting with that explanation? No, but you get the general picture.

I used to explain my idea as “WWE meets chess.” That always, and I mean always, got the response of “oh, so staged results and folding chairs… ha ha ha.” What I meant by that was to concentrate on the story lines and characters of the players and move away from the dry and stuffy atmosphere the players are currently in. The games would be actual games.

Since that initial explanation, I’ve been given a much easier method of comparison: poker.

Poker organizations on TV (World Series of Poker, World Poker Tour, etc) all do basically the same thing. They film the entirety of a tournament, highlight the “big plays” while simultaneously concentrating on the “characters” at the table. Two or three guys commentate over an “edited for time” version of the event and you have a polished, not live, event to watch in 30, 60, 90, or 120 minute format. Multiple tournaments, multiple episodes. The end result is usually a “who’s who” of the earlier episodes meeting for the championship.

Why can’t chess do that?

My idea is to turn chess into an entertaining spectacle. There is an old 70s/80s TV show from the UK (called the Master Game, I think… search it out on YouTube) that did a small portion of the idea I’m explaining. Two players played a game, they then made commentary over their moves and sat down to recreate their game to fit within a time frame. The commentary by the players was then added to by non-player commentary and you kind of learned while watching. Was the game staged? The recreation was… why does the finished product have to be live?

Obviously, there are lots of other things that would need to be addressed. How to expand something like that into a multiple game/multiple player show (like 3 games per episode or a UFC style “pay per view” that’s 3 hours long and has up to 6 games)? How to get the players to create themselves into a character instead of a stuffed shirt? Who can be knowledgable enough to color commentate?

I’ll end this with the players as stuffed shirt comment. I’m not saying that Joe Q. Public shouldn’t be respectful of John Doe’s skills, but why can’t Joe smack talk a little or create a little drama around the game instead of just being vanilla, analytical, or overly respectful? Wouldn’t it be more interesting if John stepped up and said Joe couldn’t play his way out of a brown paper bag? Now there’s a little drama involved… what’s next?

There is no reason we can’t make things a little more interesting. If I had 4 to 6 players (or 8 to 10), I’d make a “sample event” and edit that thing up. The best way to prove it can be done is to DO it.

There’s a little something to think on until next time. Maybe I’m not the only one and maybe there is more interest than I think there is. Who knows unless I put it out there?

See you next time. Game on.