Player Profile: Rhys Goldstein (2038)
Rhys plays chess for the beauty of the game. Every chess player celebrates a good result against a strong opponent, but Rhys looks beyond ratings and results to the rigour and creativity behind the moves: “I am always hoping,” he says, “for a great game featuring inspiring ideas combined with impeccable logic.”
Rhys is delivering this week’s pre-tournament chess lecture at ACC: “Selected Double Piece Sacrifices,” Monday December 2, 6:50 to 7:20 pm.
Rhys first learned the game in Vancouver, where he grew up. As a curious seven-year-old, he was watching a child and an adult playing chess at a community centre. Seeing his interest, they called him over and taught him the basics. His parents then bought him his first chess set, and many of his early games were played at home with his father. While not a strong competitive player, Rhys’ father was a great teacher who tailored his games with his son to illustrate tactical and strategic themes: skewers, forks, mate with two rooks, etc. – things Rhys could use in his games against his friends.
inspiring ideas combined with impeccable logic
It was not until high school, however, that Rhys started playing regularly. He and his high-school chess club friends played almost every day: at lunch, after school, sometimes even in class (“passing a sheet of paper back and forth with a board drawn in pen and the pieces scribbled over top in pencil”). These high-school games led to lasting friendships. Indeed, the first person Rhys played at his high-school chess club – Rhys remembers his friend “fell for the four-move mate” in their first game – became the best man at his wedding.
The demands of family (Rhys and his wife have a young son) and professional life (Rhys investigates applications of architectural computer modelling for improved energy efficiency) haven’t kept Rhys away from chess. He still plays and lectures at Annex Chess Club. While his wife is “indifferent” to chess, he does play the occassional game with his one-year-old son, who likes “to smash through the king’s defenses with both hands.”
Just as every young hockey player dreams of playing in the NHL, every young chess player wants to become a grandmaster. Rhys, however, at 33, is old enough to have more modest goals: “It would be nice to get to 2200 [master level] one day, but I am not in any rush. For the time being, my goal is to slowly improve in the areas where I am weak, which include playing open positions, managing the clock, and not blundering so often!”
Chess at Annex Chess Club
Rhys likes a lot about the ACC, starting with its welcoming atmosphere. “Some clubs make you feel like an outsider when you first walk in the door. That’s not the case with the Annex Chess Club, where it’s easy to meet someone and start playing a casual game.” He is also impressed with the number of tournament players who come out regularly on Monday nights, with the range of playing strengths at the club, and (as a computer programmer) with the “terrific website.” Given the need for silence during tournament play, he thinks an online forum is an important place for ongoing conversations.
chess should be fun
Rhys not only plays at ACC; he is also one of our most regular lecturers. Like his father, he loves teaching chess: lecturing and writing articles, he says, “can be more rewarding than actually playing the game.”
In the end, the highest praise he gives ACC is personal and very simple. He credits the club for his own return to competitive chess after a decade-long hiatus: “The Annex Club is the reason I started playing chess again.”
Chess for fun
At ACC, where we promote chess for everyone,™ it’s music to our ears when we hear that we’ve brought a player to the game – or brought one back. On this point, however, Rhys might not subscribe to full ACC orthodoxy.
Should everyone play chess? We say yes, but Rhys is not out to convert the nonbelievers. “Maybe everyone should try chess once or twice in their life, but only those that enjoy it should keep playing.”
you must have the courage to play the move you think is best
Rhys’ first rule is that “chess should be fun,” but he admits it is not always fun, even for him: sometimes chess can become “more frustrating than entertaining.” When that happens, he takes a different tack in his games until he starts “learning new things and having fun again.”
For Rhys, also, there are limits to the educational value of chess. “The worst thing about chess is that, when you’re playing a game, you’re not really learning how to cooperate with other people. Team sports are a little better that way. At the moment I am playing both chess and soccer, and they complement each other well.”
Tips and advice
Apart from his advice that chess should be fun, and his suggestion to mix it with cooperative team activies, Rhys has two tips for the developing chess player. The first is to practise chess puzzles: “If your goal is to improve your rating as quickly as possible, then buy a book with hundreds of chess puzzles that you can solve in your head in less than one minute.”
With his second piece of advice, Rhys returns to the theme that chess is about the ideas behind the moves: “I agree with Capablanca that the beginner or average player must develop their imagination. According to the legendary world champion, this means you must attack when possible, and you must have the courage to play the move you think is best regardless of what other people might say. For inspiration, I recommend books of historical games annotated by passionate authors. The Most Instructive Games of Chess Ever Played, by Irving Chernev, will do nicely.”
Here is a favorite game of his own: