Feet on the Floor

The United States Chess Federation’s rating system has built-in rating floors. These prevent sandbagging, intentionally dropping your rating to play against lower-rated opposition, and also help preserve chess dignity. Without floors you could jeopardize a rating you worked your whole life to build.

My chess rating has dropped precipitously in the past few months and I’m nearly at my floor. At this proverbial fork in the road I can either take a break, I am taking up a new combat sport and trying to learn the piano anyway, or I can have some fun. I choose the latter.  I will be venturing The Vulture as black (as white I will be launching my f-pawn forward one square in what is known as the Barnes Opening). You may be asking why someone who wants to rehabilitate his game would reject generations of accumulated theory. Let me tell you why I will place my scant remaining respectability to 1. d4 c5 2. d5 Nf6 3. c4 Ne4?!

I am interested in rehabilitating my ability to work at problems I face over the board. Moving from the specific to the general for a moment I should mention the will to find the best move must also be improved. I plan to be tied down in a Gordian Knot of hanging material, shuttered knights, and an insecure king. There will be no far-flung hope for a draw, not with the amateurish undermining of my game without rhyme or reason. I will finally be forced to look for initiative and lose my penchant for passivity. That is one thing keeping me in the ratings cellar.

Chess is wonderful. There is no method which can hide your true strength. When you sing, chances are your friends tell you that you’re a regular nightingale. When you draw, well-meaning loved ones say “I just love impressionism!” to your badly-rendered portraits. Chess is a form of art which suffers no delusions. Much unmasked I must try the radical to improve.

The Vulture is a cruel creature elegantly adapted to a grisly job. Ever wonder why the bird is bald? It’s to keep clean when he’s snacking on the dearly departed. Feathers would require constant cleaning. The Benoni wannabe is every bit like its namesake in its stark rejection of formalism. The wizened bird knows one thing: notions of decorum must occasionally give way.



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