Tag Archives: PRO Chess League

Journal of the Emerald Specter 91: FIDE and Chess

Yes, yes, I know… another chess column. But if you didn’t like chess, then why are you coming to this website?

Before I begin with the meat of this column, I should note that the things that interest me are the things I talk about. Those include, but are not limited to: chess, sumo, NFL, UFC, soccer, comic books, bullet journaling, RPGs, TV, storytelling, writing, NASCAR, podcasting, fitness, and movies. I try to keep from talking about one or two things too often but I honestly cover things when I think of them or something in the world happens that relates to them.

With that said, there is a chess story in the news I thought about and that leads me to talking about what I’m going to be talking about.

There is an election coming up for the president of FIDE (Fédération Internationale des Échecs), where the incumbent Kirsan Ilyumzhinov has been in power since 1995. The election is not the first to attempt to unseat Ilyumzhinov from power but this is the first election to really have a shot at making that happen.

Kirsan Ilyumzhinov has been plagued with corruption his entire run as president and has even been placed on a sanctions list by the US Treasury Department, meaning he can’t do any business with US dollars. Since that is the currency a lot of the world use (though by no means is it the strongest currency), he can’t actually open bank accounts (they’re frozen) for FIDE… which is a problem for an organization that needs funds in order to operate.

While we could be ending up with an alternative to Ilyumzhinov, we might end up with a thinly veiled new version of him because of the Russian Chess Federation.

One of the candidates running is Arkady Dvorkovich, who has now been officially recognized as the candidate for the RCF. I don’t know anything about this guy at all but from what I’ve heard, there may be other issues that prevent FIDE from being looked at as corrupt if Dvorkovich wins the bid.

So, what is the issue with FIDE?

FIDE has a serious image problem. They give official tournaments to places that ban certain players (like a not so long ago tournament) or allows shady happenings to occur with voting from the General Assembly (absentee voting, even when not absent, is an issue). There is also a perception (based on practices) that lead most players and interested parties to see FIDE as discouraging the very game they are charged to administer.

That last sentence is like the NFL actively working against the teams in American Football.

Dvorkovich is unlikely to make the sweeping changes necessary for chess to survive long into the future under FIDE’s control. There are two other candidates but worries about the General Assembly passing anything that doesn’t directly benefit those who are benefitting from the current system is a real concern.

So, how does one fix this dilemma? Simple: provide an alternative to FIDE.

As I see it, FIDE began with good intentions and somewhere along the line started falling out of that in favor of lining people’s pockets. FIDE should be a non-profit organization, or at the very least, be doing everything humanly possible to make chess the most popular game in the world.

FIDE needs to die and something better needs to be there to take its place.

Here’s how I would like to see things:

The formation of another chess governing body should form (for the purposes of this little thought experiment, let’s call it International Chess Association… or ICA) and immediately recognize the largest chess federations in the world. Right off the top of my head, that would include the All India Chess Federation, English Chess Federation, Russian Chess Federation, and US Chess Federation (there are more, but I’m not into just coming up with a large list). The ICA should also immediately recognize the World Chess Champion (who at the time of this article is Magnus Carlsen).

Sponsorship deals should be formed to fund the ICA. There are several options for what exactly sponsors could be paying for: ratings list, specific tournaments, website, federation naming (like the English Premier League for soccer is currently sponsored by Barclay’s, making it the Barclay’s Premier League), and merchandise. Let’s say that the ICA, now sponsored by Coca-Cola, becomes the Coca-Cola Chess Association, publishing a ratings list (using the URS method instead of Elo) will be sponsored by Tesla (the Tesla Top Players List, or the Tesla Ratings Report), and all of this can be found on the official ICA website (something like ICA.chess) sponsored by GoDaddy.

The ICA should also spell out how competition will work, ideally allowing for multiple ways to compete in the sport. I’m personally envisioning a couple of distinct means of competing but I’ll limit my ideas to just two: match play and tournament.

Let’s begin with tournament play.

The Grand Chess Tour is a series of tournaments set up to be chess’s version of tennis or golf, determining a “champion” by means of pivotally important tournaments. Rather than come up with an alternative, allow the GCT to continue with ICA support and get them to expand from five annual events to six (one every other month, ideally). Recognize the winner, give that winner a slot in the World Championship Cycle, and just generally encourage the GCT wherever possible.

Match play is a different animal.

Traditionally, chess (and more specifically, the World Chess Championship) has been about match play (two players getting together to play a series of games to determine an ultimate winner). At some point in the past, match play became less of “a thing” and gave way to tournament play. Sadly, tournament play is almost exclusively how chess players interact with one another.

This is where recognition of the World Champion comes heavily into play.

Set up a ladder system for the ICA, encouraging match play between players at different points on the ladder. The World Champion would be listed at the top, and then using ratings, determine a definitive ranking of players from 1 to 100. Rather than only defending the World Championship once every three years (see the 2018 cycle’s results), match play would encourage an annual championship defense… with every third year being a required player based on the outcome of the ICA’s World Championship Cycle.

An automatic qualifier for the Cycle would come from the GCT (as suggested above), the top two qualifiers from the Chess World Cup, the top two rated players on the ratings list (that are not otherwise qualified from the other categories), a nominated player by vote of the General Assembly of Federations (one vote per federation, no absentee voting, no giving your vote to anyone else to cast), a nominated player by vote of the top 100 players, and a fan voted nominee (utilizing a poll or some form of verifiable social media to prevent multiple votes being cast). These eight players would then compete in a double round robin tournament (no more than two games per day per player, preferably one game per day per player) to determine the “mandatory championship contender.”

Outside of this cycle, however, individual match play would be encouraged by the ICA to give a competitive feel to match play that hasn’t currently existed outside of the World Chess Championship match since the pre-1950s. Encouragement would come in the form of match prizes being funded by whichever sponsor wanted to jump on the specific “match card” for promotion (like the UFC has sponsors plastered all over the Octagon during fights).

This idea is the one that will meet the most resistance but I believe will draw the most attention from non-chess players (casual players or fans of competition that don’t necessarily include chess) because they can latch onto big names that provide “exciting competition.” Ask someone who five of the top 50 players are right now and only die hard chess fans would be able to come close to being correct.

There is one more competition variation that I did not consider… but now that I’ve gotten this far into the article, I want to include it. The PRO Chess League is team play, run and formed by IM Greg Shahade, and is another exciting version of chess. The ICA would formally recognize the PRO Chess League and work to aid in endorsing the promotion of team play.

Now that we’ve got some basics out of the way, there are some bullet points that also need to have the ICA declare for better chess:

  • No tournaments will be held in locations that will prevent all competitors from attending.
  • No tournaments will be held in locations that force local customs on the competitors.
  • Proven cheating will result in a 5 year ban from the ICA, meaning the player cannot enter any tournament where the ICA is providing the prize funds. They would also be removed from the ICA rating list for that time. A second offense results in permanently banning the player.

I believe that allowing for an alternative that promotes chess, doesn’t charge players for being listed on the ratings list, doesn’t charge member federations for belonging to the organization, and is generally trying to do things that would be working towards making chess more popular would have federations leaving FIDE in favor of this ICA idea.

Without getting into detail, the ICA would be able to put chess on TVs like poker has been, provide high quality documentaries, build chess academies for youth players (or maybe financially supporting already existing chess academies), provide a spotlight for chess play (both promoting match play events as well as tournament play events), and maybe even working to include other forms of competitive play (other than team, match, and tournament).

Corruption is bad. Perceived corruption is the same as corruption. Perception is reality. If someone perceives FIDE to be corrupt, it is corrupt. FIDE has to work on correcting that image and the only way to do that is to get rid of those who are in the spotlight of the perceived corruption.

None of the ideas expressed here would be without consulting some of the top players in chess. One thing that FIDE is famous for is ignoring the very members they are governing in favor of just doing whatever the hell they want. I’m honestly surprised that the top players in the world haven’t already formed their own federation and driven FIDE out of business.

Wilhelm Steinitz declared himself World Champion in the 1880s (utilizing a match with the next best player at the time to legitimize it) and there was no governing body back then. FIDE didn’t pop up until the 1920s, and wasn’t even a position of power to do anything until 1946. Why is a floundering and corrupt body being allowed to continue when FIDE isn’t even really completely necessary?

Before FIDE, players determined who would play for the World Championship based on the ability to raise funding. I don’t think we should go back to those days but FIDE isn’t running the show in a sustainable and uncorrupt way. A replacement is necessary unless FIDE can right the ship, which I don’t see happening anytime soon.

I just wanted to put this out there as a possible alternative.

Journal of the Emerald Specter 87: Fixing Chess

The title is really a misnomer, sort of… I really mean “how to fix chess to be closer to a spectator sport than it currently is” and you can already see that title is too long. So, I shortened it.

I’ve got a story to tell, it’ll be less about just that sixth grade chess club (though that will definitely be included) and be more rounded to my entire chess experience. Come take a walk down memory lane as I lead up to the meaty part of the column.

I learned to play chess in the sixth grade and was part of, for lack of a better term, a chess club that ran itself like the WWE of the 80s. I call this the 6CC (Sixth Grade Chess Club). We had a World Championship for the top tier, an Intercontinental Championship for the second tier, and we had ourselves a really good time. Some of us got better as time went on and some of us didn’t.

I was a someone who got better.

Without getting into the minutia of how everything went down, I personally ended up as the club’s final World Champion before the end of the year. I took that championship into the “next wave” of the club, which was smaller and operated slightly different, but held on to the excitement we had all experienced. The new club went forward with everyone on the same level, and those who weren’t quite up to snuff for a championship run were helped to get better so they could have their own runs as champions.

We were an all inclusive and collaborative bunch.

The next wave club lasted twice as long as the first one but still suffered a pseudo-death. I wasn’t the one to end up with the championship for this transition but the guy who did wouldn’t last long into the newest club before I was once again the champion.

This newest club, which I’ll call the last club, was really composed of a hard core group from the first and second groups (because a few from each group joined) and we ran closer to what an actual chess club with a champion would run like… we had a couple of tournaments, we had some championships among the best few players good enough to hold it (I was one of them), and we ended when all but one player (yup, me) left the group.

Instead of thinking that no one was interested, you should be aware that the others left school (all of these clubs were based in my small home town) and some moved to different towns to go to different schools.

My final year of high school, I helped form the World Chess Organization (WCO), and the WCO decided that there would be a two player match for the WCO World Championship. I won’t embarrass the runner up with publicizing his name, but I won a “best of 13” by winning all 7 games.

I won the WCO World Championship on April 24, 1994 and defended it almost 10 ten times in three countries (Puerto Rico, Japan, and the United States) with contenders from over five nationalities (Greece, England, Philippines, Mexico, and Canada). The reign was not unbroken, I did lose the championship to the Filipino (and regained it). Except for three months, I was the WCO World Champion from April 24, 1994 until July 24, 2004… when I retired the championship and ended the WCO.

Now, I’d love to continue the WCO but I’m not a 2800 rated player. I’m not even a 2000 rated player. I have, though, been trying to figure out how to recapture that exciting feeling when I was back in that first chess club.

There have been many attempts to exactly recreate the chess club but each and every attempt has failed. Some times the failure was due to a misunderstanding about what the “club” was about, sometimes there was a lack of participation, and there have also been disruptors that basically sought to undermine the entire effort because they didn’t believe in it. (To that last point, why did they bother joining? I cannot answer that.

There have been a few different variations of the club attempt: straight up WWE style (again), something more akin to how boxing operates, a tournament series (akin to NASCAR), and some other options too numerous to list.

Then I made a connection with something I love that seems to have taken hold.

Merging sumo and chess, putting a time control on this that puts a little pressure on the participants, seems to have made an impact. The Emerald Specter Chess Club on Chess.com hasn’t gotten a full roster of players yet, but we’re only three events in and things are working.

The time control is a 1 day per move and if I had the time, I believe running an even shorter time control for a single day 12 times a year would probably get more steady attention.

The concept is to give an interesting competition for players who may never have a chance at a Master, International Master, or Grandmaster title in their lives. I’d like to see this go through as a bigger “organization,” modeled to have our own versions of Yokozunas (Diamond Adepts) headlining and hopefully eventually going on to do something more than they thought possible.

I’ve been evaluating what I’ve done so far and seeing what else might be able to be done with this format. Would it be popular enough to get a sponsor and maybe some modest prize money for the winners? Ideally, that would be great and then transitioning into more of a known entity… like the PRO Chess League.

The PRO Chess League took rapid chess and put a team play spin on it. Basically, this is the NFL of chess.

This doesn’t necessarily make chess a spectator sport. So, isn’t that what I told you I was going to talk about? Yes, and I needed all that to start talking about it now.

Every one of the clubs I was a part of in school had an audience for the chess matches. Every time I defended the WCO World Championship there was an audience for the chess matches. Every game played in the Chess Basho system in the ESCC has an audience for the matches.

Do you know who the audience was for each and every one of those? Chess players.

You’re probably thinking to yourself “of course, who else would be interested?”

THAT’S THE POINT.

I have been evaluating what I have been trying to do and how to make that fit into the vision of what I ultimately have been working towards.

The biggest obstacle is figuring out how to get the average joe interested in watching chess. I do not have the answer to this question and I know that is an unsatisfying ending to this column but I have learned something from all of this: if you want to build something for the masses, you need to start building for the players first.

Chess PLAYERS want some expert analysis while events are going on. Spectators that aren’t well versed in chess may not understand the analysis and are more just looking for a “what’s happening” type recap.

What else would the common person want from chess? This is what stumps me.

Part of the problem is over saturation. Magnus Carlsen, current World Champion, playing Fabiano Caruana, current next contender for the championship, isn’t big news in and of itself. Why? They’ve both played each other, I’m guessing, over a hundred times. Where’s the excitement in that?

Every active player in the top 100 of FIDE is similar. You have played everyone you’re ranked with at several tournaments already, you’ll probably play them a couple of hundred more times before your stint in the top 100 is done, and the only thing that matters is “how did that particular day go?”

The other killer for chess as a spectator sport is the time control. There is no reason to play a single game for 8 hours. Not a single reason. The PRO Chess League went with a much shorter time control and it makes the games more exciting because you know you aren’t going to be sitting around for 6 more hours waiting for a result.

Fixing these things is exactly as easy and changing the situation to elicit the results that you want. Sounds simple, right?

Do you want shorter chess games with vastly more activity? Make the time controls 15 minutes or shorter.

Do you want less drawn games? Score wins much larger than draws, maybe even going so far as to reward losses more than draws to cut them down.

Do you want to see games less frequently between the same people to make their meeting far more anticipated? That is something that would need to be figured out…

I made lots of references to the WWE style organization we used for the 6CC. When people hear or read “WWE” all they can think about is predetermined results and chair shots. There are two better references that can be made this two decades later that would be better analogies: UFC and poker.

I’ll start with poker.

Professional poker is a series of tournaments leading to a final tournament to determine the winner of the year. It’s kind of like NASCAR in the respect you have to win your way to the end, then win again at the end. The problem with poker is that you have multiple organizations claiming dominance and running their own tournaments irregardless of what the others are doing. ESPN shows the World Series of Poker, which some regard as THE championship, while Travel Channel as the World Poker Tour, which I believe is presented far more interestingly than what ESPN does. Personal preference, really.

If you’re interested in keeping the format a series of tournaments and running through to crown an ultimate winner at the end, this is definitely the scenario for you. In fact, don’t even limit the field of competitors… start the cycle out a hundred “qualification” tournaments all over the world, open to anyone. If you qualify from those, you get to then enter the next level and try to keep going from there. The field gets smaller and smaller as the year progresses until you reach a final tournament at the end to crown your champion. The later stages of the cycle are also where you’ll see the top players hang out as they’re really good at chess.

You could also use a point system to allow for advancement. Wins could be 5 points, losses could be 2 points, and draws could be 1 point. This encourages the players to actually play to win because right now “draw” is the word that you hear most often in results. The top 1024 point earners from the qualification rounds to advance into the heat of the competitions? Use the points.

Now, let’s talk about the UFC.

The UFC signs players to contracts, the best of the best in the world, to offer them a series of fights that heightens the excitement of the company as well as enriches the status of the fighters. Due to the fact that this is a combat sport, scarcity is a necessity… but the UFC doesn’t limit those who want to be really active and are healthy (see Donald Cerrone). They have multiple divisions for fighters to compete in based on their weight and they promoted the bejesus out of events to make sure they draw in the crowds.

Personally, I love the UFC and the way they do things. They get fighters scheduled to fight and let them smack talk each other the whole process, leading to the eventual fight to resolve the matter. WWE used to do this type of thing but their model is vastly different now.

This model, like the 6CC, would rely on some scarcity. In this scenario, ratings don’t matter… in fact, don’t even publicize the ratings of any of the players that sign on to this scenario. Group players in different categories so that super strong players aren’t taking on less competitive players. Behind the scenes, use the ratings to group them up… maybe in 200-300 rating point increments. Ideally, you’d allow for a little overlap per “division” so that someone who is getting better can opt up rather than be stuck in a division because they can’t find the competition to help them excel.

Yes, I’m saying keep ratings behind the scenes but don’t let the public know them. If John Doe is rated 1753 and Bill Fold is rated 1562, the potential spectators would know that Bill Fold’s chances are very low. If Art Work is the Gold Division Champion and his opponent, Jim Shoe, has played his way through some exciting games for a shot at the title, this is a scenario that would garner more interest because you aren’t focusing on the number. Sure, Art Work could be 1612 and Jim Shoe could be 1599… that could even be a selling point under normal circumstances, but keeping those numbers unpublicized makes the potential much greater (and if the players don’t know the exact strengths of their opponents, that eliminates them mentally beating themselves if their rating is lower).

Arrange matches (two game matches, one with white and one with black) to determine winners and losers. Use the point system from the poker example to keep draws almost non-existent (or use points per winning with white and black pieces specifically, same thing with draws… that would also be a winning combination to keep the draw counts down and allow for players to play for the win). Get players to “sign” for the organization to compete in so many matches, like the UFC, so that if the player wants to go on and do something else (or more traditional), they aren’t locked in for an indeterminate amount of time (but do have to participate a minimum number of games).

Hype the matches. Have the players do some smack talking about their opponents right up until the match. Even UFC fighters hug after the fight, showing their opponent respect. Chess players can do that, too. Really drive up the potential value of a, let’s say, blitz match between two championship contenders. Yes, they’d be ranked, which is another way to get them interested in smack talking and competing for ranking. The ranking and opponent’s rank could determine the prize fund (a #1 vs an unranked player might draw $100, whereas a #4 vs #7 would draw $300 because ranked players playing would be more interesting).

There is something I haven’t said in this column that would affect almost all of these ideas. Ratings are that subject.

Nothing I’ve talked about up to this point involves anyone rated higher than 2200. I’d even go so far as to say that you’re probably looking at a rating cap of 1800. The reasons for that may not be entirely obvious but they’re completely valid.

A player with a 2200 rating has a more “traditional” view of chess and would be less interested in the showmanship of what I’ve talked about. Players with 1800 ratings and up are more interested in studying games, figuring out how to improve their games, and are interested in competing for traditional prizes in traditional tournaments against other traditionally minded players.

On the lower end, players rated 1000 to 1300 seem to be more open to some shenanigans during their play. I have a regular game against a 1300-ish player that results in some fun back and forth while we play. We haven’t gone overboard with straight up smack talk but the potential is there. I’m also under the belief that players in the 1400 and 1500 range might also be willing to participate, as they’re in that “I’m not good enough for top ranked play but I’m better than casual games.”

The reason for the rating limit is to encourage those who aren’t really in any danger of winning any prizes to participate in something that will draw some attention to the game for someone who doesn’t necessarily play. I’m willing to lay money down on the bet that if you have an event (a single player v single player match, or maybe a couple of those) played at a faster time control with a whole bunch of smack talk leading up the actual games, on top of the event being promoted like a UFC fight, that you’d get non-chess players at least moderately interested. This draws attention to the game, allows players who are interested in doing something a little more on the “fun” side of the game to participate, and gives those interested in learning chess a platform to jump onto that isn’t a traditional “stuffy chess scene.”

I believe these ideas have merit. I believe that with the right group of people that a successful organization could rise up to bring chess to a wider audience. I believe that if some effort was put into these ideas that, if nothing else, could be a way for lower rated players to feel like their accomplishing something great, even though they may never reach a 2000 rating.

Isn’t that worth giving a shot?

PRO Chess League Podcast 004: The End

First and foremost, I mislabeled the show as episode 5 in a couple of places… shouldn’t matter.

This is the end.

PRO Chess League Podcast 003: Weeks 1 and 2

The PRO Chess League weeks 1 and 2 are over and I do a terrible job covering them. First time back jitters.

Host: DJ “The Emerald Specter” Allen

Contact:
Email: EmeraldSpecter.com@gmail.com
Twitter: @EmeraldSpecter
Instagram: @EmeraldSpecter
Website: www.EmeraldSpecter.com

Hashtags: #chess #PROChessLeague

The Specter Show 040: Hurt

The PRO Chess League Podcast, the Greatest Show, some BuJoRPG talk, and a little bit more. The description isn’t great but I’m hoping you’ll listen anyway!

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

Contact:
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: #TheSpecterShow #bulletjournal #bujo #BuJoRPG #BuJoRPG2 #soloRPG #PROChess #TheGreatestShow

PRO Chess League Podcast 002: Qualifier 2018 Results

The PRO Chess League 2018 Qualifier is over and the results are basically in! The six definitive qualified teams and the most likely winners of the voting are discussed!

Host: DJ “The Emerald Specter” Allen

Contact:
Email: EmeraldSpecter.com@gmail.com
Twitter: @EmeraldSpecter
Instagram: @EmeraldSpecter
Website: www.EmeraldSpecter.com

Hashtags: #chess #PROChessLeague

Journal of the Emerald Specter 60: The Big Roundup Edition

If you woke up this morning wondering where the Journal of the Emerald Specter was, you’d be right in thinking you just can’t find it. Well, here it is, and it wasn’t prewritten for a number of reasons.

I normally write the Journal on the same day I record the Specter Show, which is Sunday. Every once in a while I’ll write the Journal earlier, giving me less “rush” to record the podcast (knowing I also have a column to write). This week has been a bit of a hectic push to get things going and I’ve had to dump a truckload of stuff out of the way to make way for everything else coming in.

Along with the issue of the podcasts not downloading (the backup server we are using from the server crash last week was being temperamental, so we had to finagle some things), having multiple appointments for my foot (I have been cleared for full duty at work, finally, so the appointments will cease and I can have a little bit more free time without having an appointment to worry about), and TV season kicking back into full swing, I’ve been a bit overwhelmed.

Enough about me whining, though, let’s get to some decent content, shall we?

On October 28, from 8:00 AM Pacific until sometime around 3:00 PM Pacific, the PRO Chess League will be holding their qualifying tournament to kick off Season 2. I don’t believe the event will have much to do with team play, which is confusing for a team based league, but once the event is over, we should know the teams competing in the 2018 PRO Chess League season (which I’ll be covering on the PRO Chess League Podcast).

When I woke up this morning, the PRO Chess League had it’s very own website (where it was using a Group Page on Chess.com before). The site is still fairly sparse, though, that is going to change with us coming into a new season.

I’m excited for the chance to see the season happen instead of finding out about results well after the season is over (like I did for season 1).

On a personal chess note, a podcast that I recently listened to inspired me to work on my own chess development in the way that the guest suggested. The podcast is the Perpetual Chess Podcast, hosted by Ben Johnson, and the episode in question was episode 44 with GM Jesse Kraai. The way that Kraai teaches is by deep diving on the analysis of a student’s games. The way he explained how he does his own development is that he replays the game, analyzing every move, as to understand what both sides were thinking and seeing what could be improved upon. He said “write it down,” which I’ve taken to mean on a “standard sized sheet of notebook paper” and said that when some people start out, they have a hard time filling a couple of pages. Kraai makes it sound like you should be writing a small book for each game.

Knowing this, and knowing that I’m starting back into my bullet journaling again, I’m going to start deep diving on my own games. My rating on Chess.com has slipped from around 1150-1250 to under 1100, which was not making me very happy. I won’t ever be a Grandmaster, or most likely never even be a titled player, but I’d like to be playing at 1600 or better.

Doing this will also help me beef up my pages in the bullet journal, since I had a hope to start a new journal at the beginning of the year. Maybe a 15 page game analysis would be beneficial to eating up those pages a little faster.

If you weren’t aware that I love professional sumo then you must be new here. The Banzuke (pre-tournament rankings) for the November tournament comes out on October 30, and for the first time, I’ll be playing in the Sumo Game to try to see how good my sumo knowledge is and picking winners.

I bring this up because I’d like to see others participate, as well as putting my own skills on notice as I embark on a “pick ’em” style quest to become the Sumo Game’s 4th Yokozuna. When you sign up you have to pick a Shikona (fighting name), so I’ve combined my last name (Allen) with my favorite rikishi’s Shikona (Ura)… that makes me Allenura.

I’ll post updates here to see how I do, since my time zone is in a wonky location for daily picks (because the matchups are made following the day’s activities), we’ll see how well I can keep up with this and see how far I can go.

Remember above when I said that I was cleared for full duty at work? Well, there is a caveat to that (in that I am not quite brave enough to start running again, yet), but I’m going to start back up on the road to fitness and nutrition.

I say that after having eaten six Krispy Kreme donuts in the past 12 hours.

When I injured my foot, my weight had been on a down trend with me seeing a good possibility of not only dipping under the 270 mark but remaining there… then the injury happened and my weight went up (albeit slowly) up to 290. I’ve been hovering around the 288 mark for the last couple of weeks and since I can do my job again without restriction, the weight should once again start coming back off.

On the nutrition front, my wife and I decided to start planning out our meals on a weekly basis (for the purposes of grocery shopping as well as getting back into healthy habits). I’ve had a wicked sweet tooth the last two months and I really need to start loading up my diet with healthier snacks. The bullet journal will come in handy here, too, as I start logging what I’ve eaten and how healthy I’ve been with my meal choices.

The bullet journal is coming back!

My wife and I watch a lot of TV together. There are a number of shows that I’m prepared to drop for the sake of not having an overwhelming amount of things to catch up on but we still have quite a few shows that we watch together that we barely keep up with at present. I wanted to comment on a few of the shows, making decisions on whether they are even worth my time anymore.

The first one is Star Trek Discovery. While I’ve been a big Star Trek fan for decades, and I’ve always been big on the “new” rather than dwelling on the legacy aspects, Discovery isn’t hitting the right buttons for me. I’m interested in the arc for this season but the show, in my opinion, isn’t Star Trek. One of the issues, in my opinion, is that the show is struggling to jam in a story without altering the continuity any.

Just like Marvel and DC in the comics world, Star Trek Discovery should be unbound from continuity to tell their stories and not try so hard to fit within the tiny time period they’re trying to in order to appease the assholes… sorry, die hard fans, that can’t accept the fact that trying to remain tied to a TV series from 1966 isn’t the smartest thing to do.

While I’m not the hugest fan of J.J. Abrams’s style on many things, his take on the Star Trek movie franchise was out of this world. I didn’t care for the amazing rank jumping that Kirk did in the movies, but I can let that go because Star Trek was fun to watch! And do you know why that is? Because he wasn’t held down by decades of continuity.

Abrams only misstep, in my opinion, was trying to retell that Khan story. If he’d have left that one alone, I’d say the new trilogy would be unmatched (save only by Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan).

The next show I wanted to discuss was Netflix’s Castlevania. So many people watched this and so many people said this was the greatest thing since sliced bread and I’m just over episode 3 and thinking “um, why is this so mind-blowingly popular?”

Did I play the games? Yeah, I did. Was I a super fan over them? No.

The story of Castlevania is an interesting one but where I’m at in the series, we JUST met Trevor Belmont and I’m not even sure he and Dracula will meet in this first season.

If I had to choose right now, I’m pretty sure I’d drop Castlevania like a bad habit in favor of making time for other things.

Next let’s talk about some of the “standard network programming” that I’ve been watching. On Fox, the Orville is what Discovery should have been… more story, less flair. It’s corny, and I can blatantly see the formula they’re using, but I’d rather watch that than CBS’s offering.

Midnight, Texas is another one that I’m watching, though I’m not really sure why. The concept of a town full of supernaturals is interesting but since Charlaine Harris is the one who created it and I know that, I can see the last couple of seasons of True Blood in the show (the seasons that really ruined things). Stop putting it all out in the open, discovering the supernaturals is part of the fun.

The Exorcist is a refreshing take on the old movie, though I’m already a little annoyed that they’re dragging out the storyline already. I can understand they need to fill up a season, but when will the networks jump on board the “only enough episodes as necessary” instead of their tired old “22 episodes a season” schtick? What worries me with this one is that it’s on Fox, meaning they have a solid premise that they’ll probably ruin by having way too many seasons (like Prison Break, the Following, etc, etc).

Welcome to the section of this that is going to (most likely) take up the most room. What I’m going to talk about here is going to be covered on the Greatest Show on Saturday (assuming any other host shows up), and that’s solo RPGing.

I’ve known for some time that there is a way to play a roleplaying game alone. What has always nagged at me was how to tell a story that would be surprising to me (as a player), but would be planned out enough to be interesting (from a GM standpoint).

How do I surprise myself?

About a week ago, I came up with an idea to tell a long form story about a spaceship tooling around the solar system (ours) while discovering all kinds of new bits and bobs about the way things work. I’ve come up with a few plot ideas that I would like to explore and I even started jotting down a rough timeline of events to arrive where I arrived. The last thing I wrote on my note, three days ago, was “is this worth developing?”

I was about to sideline the idea when I decided to start poking around my favorite SIM group (Obsidian Fleet), as well as some of the others I have found in looking around the Internet (Bravo Fleet, Pegasus Fleet, Horizon Fleet, Theta Fleet, and the like). They are all Star Trek-centric SIM fleets, with a few of them having a non-Trek SIM here and there. Whenever I get an itching to seek out a SIM to participate in, I check these and I’m normally looking for a Battlestar Galactica (reimagined) SIM… and never find one. My hope is that someone will take BSG and say “the show premise was wonderful, but let’s SIM in the era before the complete loss of Caprica or maybe the events of the show never happened” or something like that. Nope and nope.

Two days ago, though, I decided to try to find SIMs that were far more generic. I decided to search for something that would be almost identical to what I was looking for but wasn’t necessarily tied to a “fleet.” I popped into Google and looked for “online rpg writing free.”

I discovered a whole slew of stuff I didn’t know existed.

The first thing that really caught my eye was what I thought I was looking for: Storium. Storium is basically a writing exercise for telling a story (and using “cards” to add twists, quirks to the characters, etc) in chapters. After perusing the site for a while, I have decided that the idea, while sound, was not doing what I needed it to do (for me).

I kept looking.

After searching through the results, I came across Die Heart, a blog dedicated to solo roleplaying. The “big list of solo RPG resources” is really what led me to the G+ group and looking into solo roleplaying as my hope for telling stories.

Jackpot.

One of the people who was writing his blog as a means of “instruction” (to improve his own solo RPG experiences) mentioned that he was utilizing the “bullet journal style” in recording his gaming… and that drew my attention, again.

The concentration on using notation of things in the solo RPG, for those folks, is to make notes rather than write down everything (to avoid them slipping into just “writing a story”). I’m interested in turning my solo RPG experience into content for this site, so I’d be looking for taking down information for the entirety of the solo RPG rather than just note taking… which will be the true test of whether I can RPG rather than just “write prose.”

Once again, we return to the fact that I’m getting back into my bullet journal.

Without writing, word for word, exactly what is happening, I’m going to track my solo RPG experience into what these sites are calling “reports” so that I can create longer form content. Learning recently on the latest Greatest Show (the Greatest Boot) that the Expanse was actually just an RPG setting turned into books, I want to make my aforementioned space adventure into an RPG that is basically a story (where I don’t 100% control the outcome).

I also had an epiphany that my “hopeful comic book” creations could also be made from solo RPG sessions. Holy crap, right?

In order to avoid “talking about doing things rather than just doing them” I’m going to stop writing this column for this week. I’m going to do some bullet journal set up and prepare myself for a rocking space adventure that I’ll publish onto this site in installments. I’m picking a game system to use first, then I’ll figure out which GM-less engine I’ll use to run the game for me… and hopefully awesome will then ensue!

Thanks for reading!

The Specter Show 037: Eraser

An unexpected server issue held this release up, it is corrected now.

Speaking of server issues, DJ discusses the server getting fried on October 1, talking about doing things that should be done rather than talked about, bullet journaling without the RPG, BuJoRPG 2, and a few other things. He even gets off on a tangent and literally gets lost.

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: Theo Rossi

Contact:
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 @TheoRossi #BuJoRPG #BuJoRPG2 #bulletjournal #bujoideas #bujoinspiration #bujogaming #bujoimprovement #bujofun #bujodesign #selfimprovement #PROChessLeague #PROChessLeaguePodcast #SpecteroftheGalaxy #ESPL #chess #health #nutrition #bodybuilding @MadebyTricia #madebytricia

PRO Chess League Podcast 001: Introductions

Welcome to the PRO Chess League Podcast!

The introduction for the podcast, reasons why the podcast exists, what to expect from the podcast, and a little bit of information about what the PRO Chess League is are all contained within! Join the audience and help boost the PRO Chess League so we get more great chess.

Host: DJ “The Emerald Specter” Allen

Contact:
Email: EmeraldSpecter.com@gmail.com
Twitter: @EmeraldSpecter
Instagram: @EmeraldSpecter
Website: www.EmeraldSpecter.com

Hashtags: #chess #PROChessLeague

The Specter Show 030: March of the Pigs

Foot in a boot from injury? Check. Caught up on all the things that need to be talked about? Check. DJ runs you through some BuJoRPG 2 talk, being injured at work, writing progress, comic books, Specter of the Galaxy, and even more than I’ve already listed. Won’t you join us?

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: Theo Rossi

Contact:
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 @TheoRossi #BuJoRPG #BuJoRPG2 #bulletjournal #NoMansSky #writing #PROChessLeague #SerialFiction #Comicbooks