Tools for Freedom

I just encountered one of those eschatological catalogs which sell anti-radiation glasses and tools for stopping the encroachment of the federal government. I’m not exactly Randy Weaver but I do love a good magazine with a giant, burning dollar bill on the front. It was good for a chuckle, for its novelties which may surface as details should I capitulate and churn out my generation’s The Road, and for a few historical tidbits. For instance, the subject of this chess article, Agenda 21, that is the benign United Nations plan for keeping our planet healthy- or, as Tools for Freedom would have it, the crucible for engaged citizens everywhere.

So I’ve decided to institute my own Agenda 21 for chess, and I encourage you to do the same. No, it’s not a global spying ring operating under the guise of assisting the poor. It’s going to be a plan for improvement in my chess life, beyond where I suspect I’ll go despite dint of hard work and interesting ideas. Everything happens because somehow deity, or perforce mankind, decided to systematize things. Chaos began all things but letting it manage things is a bad idea. I’m going to reach into the whirling maelstrom of my chess mind and create some order up in there.

Right now I rarely win at club level; I lost a pawn ending last night so dishearteningly easy to draw that it looked like a helpmate problem. That’s okay because I’ve got a lot of pluck! I’m taking positive steps to see where I go wrong and am looking at the mistakes made at the higher levels as well. Everyone has leaks in their game that cost them rating points. I prepare sparingly, overestimate others, and am not even slightly in love with the hard-nosed aura that seems to surround good chess athletes. Losing habits, all of them.

The analogy I’d like to make is that of a stalled ship. Ultimately it’s staying in port until the anchor’s lifted, but solving that error doesn’t mean the boat’s fit for the seven seas. Sometime soon there are barnacles that need reckoning. The crew’s wages can’t be in arrears or the captain will have a mutiny on his hands. The supply rooms better be stocked and mouse-free too.

It’s tempting to solve only the biggest issues first, the giant metal chain tethering you to your circumstances for instance, but tackling things in descending order of importance can’t be the best practical try. There’s got to be a better way. That’s what my Agenda 21 will feature.

Now this isn’t completely my idea. Jesse Kraai had something similar in one of his lectures, probably in the archives of, a while back. He encouraged us to make plans based on the success of other plans. Fundamentally this is an amazing resolution, to make a map of a place you’ll never reach.

At first it seems the high point of idiocy to compound one hazy view of the future with an even mistier view to the land beyond. Sure, I get it; on a chess board a rank amateur can calculate forcing sequences but in life we can’t control what gets in our way. However, when serious obstacles emerge your defining idea can’t be the thing in front of you but the beautiful places that lie on the other side.

Why isn’t Magnus Carlsen 2900 FIDE yet, a threshold that is unreachable only until it happens? Has he not gotten around to hiring a captain with two good eyes yet – maybe that’s why the boat is going in circles.



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