Big Friend of the Pod

Of all the unexpected benefits and opportunities that have come through book reviewing, surely the most humbling has been my appearance on the Perpetual Chess Podcast. Ben Johnson has interviewed giants of modern chess like Bartholomew, Nakamura, Polgar, Watson, Yermolinsky, and the Shahades. And now he’s gone and ruined it all by talking to me.

You should listen to the episode in its entirety to bask in the glory (haha) of my genius, but I did want to take the opportunity to make a few notes here about the experience and the things I forgot to say.

1. For new readers and visitors – welcome! Glad you liked what you heard enough to click the link and join us. These reviews appear in the outstanding Chess Life magazine, and I wholeheartedly recommend that you subscribe to the print edition of Chess Life, either as part of your membership with the US Chess Federation or as a stand-alone product.

2. Ben is located in Pittsburgh and I’m in Omaha, so we did the interview over Skype. The sound quality is excellent, my ‘ums’ notwithstanding, and very few edits to the conversation were made.

3. As soon as the EP was over, I was horrified that I’d not mentioned Boris Gelfand’s two books from Quality Chess, Positional Decision Making in Chess and Dynamic Decision Making in Chess. Both are among the finest chess books in print, mainly for advanced players but with ideas and lessons accessible to any serious student of the game. John Watson’s Secrets of Modern Chess Strategy and Chess Strategy in Action also went unmentioned, and that omission is scandalous.

4. I was surprised to find that I didn’t include Kasparov’s My Great Predecessors or GK on GK series in my book list. I suspect that this is because I ultimately find them to be rather overrated. There’s entirely too much computer analysis for my taste, and the history is not earth shattering enough to make up for it. Revolution in the 70s is the only exception to this – it’s an excellent work, and the interviews are priceless.

5. The way I describe chess in Nebraska makes it sound as if there are no strong players in the state. That’s patently false, as we have a lot of talent here in Omaha and in Lincoln. The problem is that our pool of players is small, and so we’re always fighting each other for the same circulating rating points.

6. My wife is at least as powerful as Petrosian’s, if not quite so conniving.

There was a day a couple of years ago when my wife said that chess was becoming something of a career for me, or, perhaps better, a vocation. In saying this – and she’ll never admit it, but I think she knew exactly what she was doing – she was giving me license to view it as such. It gave me license to mourn my slow-motion exit from the academy, and also to look forward towards an identity that did not wrap itself up in my aborted PhD studies.

Most of us, if we’re honest, know deep down that we’ve ‘married up.’ I really married up. Thank you, Anna, for everything.

7. Last week’s guest Mark Crowther is a true hero of contemporary chess and you should donate to his efforts with The Week in Chess at his website.

8. It’s hilarious that I worked the phrase “big friend of the Pod” into the conversation. Thanks to the Gilmore Guys and Pod Save America for adding it to my vocabulary. (And yes, I do have a very interesting range of listening habits.)

My thanks to Ben for asking me to be on the Pod, and my very deep thanks to you for (a) listening and (b) reading.

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4 thoughts on “Big Friend of the Pod

  1. Stephan

    Thanks for being on my fav podcast. Hadn’t heard of you before (Germany here) and am glad to have found you. I like your reviews and your humor. I picked up Tinman’s Titans too and was very happy about your explaining the Steps method. Finally I understand it, all the different booklets had me mixed up. I’m going to try and find a teacher online to work through it with me.

    Again, many thanks for your efforts. They make a big fat difference 🙂

    Reply
  2. Matt Phelps (@mwlphelps)

    The “Men in Blazers” podcast (English soccer related, but generally hilarious anyway. I highly recommend it) uses “Great Friend of the Pod” (GFOP). That’s what I thought of when you used that phrase.

    Thanks for your work.

    Reply

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