Man de la Maza

Friday, December 24, 2004

Scheckte the Elf

Ever wonder why you often don't get what you ask for from Santa? It isn't Santa's fault. He delivers the list as he gets it, but his list is compiled by Scheckte the Elf. Scheckte has been in Santa's employ since the population thing started getting out of control after World War 2. He is a bit ornery and often changes the requests ever so slightly. By special arrangement, I was able to see some of this year letters to Santa and Scheckte's responses.

Dear Santa,

For Christmas this year, I'd like a Cloak of Invisibility like the one Harry Potter has.

Vladimir Kramnik
Classical World Chess Champion (mostly)

PS Thanks again for last year's gift "Beating the Bum of the
Month" by Joe Louis. It was most instructive.

Dear Vlad,

Please enjoy the enclosed backbone. You may find it handy.



Dear Santa,

I demand that this year for Christmas that I am released from prison.

Robert James Fischer
Chess Champion of the Universe

Dear Bobby,

I have arranged for you to have citizenship in Iceland. By the way,"Scheckte" is a Yiddish nickname. Enjoy eternity on a big ball of ice, you anti-Semitic f*ck.



Dear Santa,

For Christmas this year I would like:

1) The Turkish Federation to sponsor my match with Kasimdzhanov (I'll take it from there)
2) A rematch with Kramnik (I'll take it from there)
3) President Putin out of office (I'll take it from there) and
4) Sales of a million plus on latest book about Bobby Fischer

Gary Kasparov
World's highest Rated player (which really means the World Champion)

Dear Garik,

Quit writing. If I've told you once, I've told you a thousand times that making Karpov cough up blood in the middle of your '85 match is all you're getting this liftetime.


PS Find a real barber for God's sake. You look like an idiot.


Dear Santa,

I enjoyed match with Susan Polgar this year. Next year could you arrange for a rematch at a nudist colony.

-Anatoly Karpov
Former World Chess Champion (before the title got confusing)

Dear Tola,

I'll work on it, but you have to do your part. Read the enclosed copy of the "South Beach Diet". You look like you're having a reaction to a bee sting.



Dear Santa,

This year for Christmas I'd like to be World Champion again and a goat.

Rustam Kasimdzhanov
Undisputed World Chess Champion (at least in Uzbekistan)

Dear Rustam,

I'd love to bring you the goat. Where in the hell is Uzbekistan?

Dear Santa,

This year I would just like a chance to sit down and play with the other great minds of my time to determine once and for all who is the World champion. I hope to win but frankly just want the chance for a good battle solved over the board and not through politics.

Humbly submitted,
Viswanathan Anand

Dear Vishy,

Finally somebody writes me to ask for something easy. You'll need to study hard because you are not as experienced as the other competitors. Please read the enclosed copy of Learn to Play Go to bone up before the match.



Hope everyone has a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!!!

Wednesday, December 22, 2004

Level 90 and up

I entered the last last set of problems last night. The were hard but solvable. It helped that the first one I got was a variation of Damiano's mate, so I knew the basic pattern; I just had to figure out a few wrinkles. Nothing like calculating a 10 move mating sequence where you sacrifice 2 rooks, 2 bishops, and 2 knights to help your confidence. I was very tired though and glad I only had 8 problems to do.
Sancho claims that the Level 90 are easier. Let's hope he's right.

I'm one schedule to finish on December 29th. My plan is to take it a little easy and on December 31. After all, I've got Christmas and a vacation in Florida between now and then. No sense rushing.

Does anyone speak Dutch? Swedish?
I was googling yesterday and came across this site. I'm guessing Dutch because I know we have one reader, Bach Singer, from the Netherlands. Could be Swedish. My ignorance runneth over.

Some other interesting places where the blog turns up:
The Progressive Republic and The Austin Film Festival

Orange Knight
I suggest we send out a search party for Orange Knight. He caught a cold on December 4th and has not posted since. Must be a nasty cold.

Monday, December 20, 2004

Intuition v. Calculation

As I bumble through the Level 80 problems, soon to be Level 90, I wonder at what point tactical play rests on intution rather than calculation. I find it hard to believe that someone could calculate all the lines of these problems. Some run 10 moves deep in several branching lines. At some level, intuition has to take precendence in tactical decisions.

The most difficult problems for me are the ones where the king is pulled out into the middle of the board and then mated in the open. I need a lot of practice at this. I can rarely visualize the sequences.

82 days down, 73 to go
1121 probs down, 80 probs to go in Circle One

Thursday, December 16, 2004

Chess Haiku

Comments from my opponent, Raul Groom, in a French Defense correspondence game:

I must comment on the beauty and simplicity
of the French after

1. e4 e6
2. d4 d5
3. e5 c5
4. c3 Nc6

An ideal opening for a Buddhist, perhaps.

One man controls space
His opponent, the tension.
A knight, intrigued, leaps.

78 days down, 77 to go
1091 probs down, 118 to go in Circle One

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

In other news ...

In a hastily organized press conference outside Walmart, Don Que, the "Man de la Maza", announced to the media that he is halfway finished in his quest to finish the 155 day tactical regimen outlined in the book "Rapid Chess Improvement". Representatives from several major middle school newpapers were in attendance.

Q: What results have you seen thus far from your regime?
A: I have seen a dramatic change in my OTB and correspondence play. I would estimate the difference is 150-200 ELO points. During the second half of the program, I hope to get those points back.

In addition, I have gained 10 lbs and seem to be breaking out.

Q: What are your thoughts on reunification of the Chess World Championship?
Sadly, neither Kasparov or Kramnik will agree to play me. They are hiding behind their lawyers and spam blocking programs. I have also been informed by representatives for Judit Polgar that the restraining order has been made permanent.

Q: What has been the hardest part of the program so far?
The divorce proceeding was definitely a low point as was the foreclosure of my mortgage.

Q: What advice do you have for someone wanting to embark on a similar journey?
Cheetos are available in 5 gallon bags in ailse 12. They have proved a welcome balm to the trials of the Path de la Maza. You might also want to pick up some handi-wipes for your computer keyboard.

Q: There's rumor of a movie deal? Comments?
Though it is a bit premature to comment, a major media conglomerate is offering me unlimited rentals for $24.99/month.

The press conference came to an abrupt end as several law enforcement officers thoughtfully escorted Mr. Que from the scene in a county-provided cruiser. The hometown crowd bid the hero adieu with an impromptu chant of "Wacko, Wacko, Wacko...".

Further questions for Mr. Que should be addressed to county officials for the next 30 days.

77 days down, 78 to go
1088 probs down, 121 to go in Circle One

Monday, December 13, 2004

Saved by Potluck

I think taking Thursday night off was a good idea. Friday night was marginal, and Saturday was hard to justify (although it was nice just to curl up with Dulcinea and watch a movie). Blowing off Sunday would clearly have been a mistake, and I was halfway there.

Sunday evening, we went to the in-laws for a Christmas celebration. Special visitors from out of town. Waddled home with a belly full of dinner and put the girls to bed. My bed was looking very nice. Get a good night's sleep ... Start the week off right ...

Then I remembered I had promised to bring a dish to the company Pot Luck luncheon. Sadly I have no talent for cooking anything that requires less than 2 hours. Everything I make well has to bubble on the stove for half a day. My choice for the pot luck was red beans & rice. The recipe, with no intended sarcasm, says to "cook for 3 or 4 hours". Nothing for it. Pulled out the onions and started the saute. Had the pot a bubbling by 9 PM.

Since I was up 'til midnight in an sleeping house, it was no problem to get cracking on chess problems. I think from here until the end of Circle One I am going to focus on studying the problems more than trying to get them right. I spend nearly all my time trying to figure out the lines and don't leave enough time to study the solutions. Even when the whole solution is out, it sometimes takes me a a bit to figure out why the position is winning. I think this is better use of my effort.

The break I took delays my Circle One schedule to finish on December 29th. That's good. I probably will lose another day or two between now and then (ya think), but I'd like to push to finish before the New Year.

75 days down, 80 to go
1055 probs down, 154 to go in Circle One

Friday, December 10, 2004


Played a G/25 quad last night at chess club. Though number 2 in my quad, I scored an anemic 0.5. Should have scored 2.0 (number 1 guy was out of my league). Three thoughts:

1) I really suck at Action chess. I always have, and I always will (and "That's OK".)

2) My brain is a bit scrambled. I think I'm having trouble assimilating all the tactical themes floating around in there. The board looked like a jumble of pieces all night long. I have heard of new skills making your game worse, and I think I am experiencing it.

3) As I sat down to me first game, I thought "I don't want to do this. I'm sick of calculating".

Only the third thing bothered me. It's a training thing that has happened to me with running before. Sometimes you get a bit stale. Usually the best solution is to take a day off.

So I did. Went home and went to bed. think it was the right decision.

74 days down, 81 to go
1039 probs down, 170 to go in Circle One

Thursday, December 09, 2004

It's a small world (but I wouldn't want to paint it)

Yesterday, I received an email from someone I didn't know but had been meaning to write -- Howard Goldowsky. In fact, this may be the first time this has ever happened to me. I knew of him because he interviewed Michael de la Maza in 2001 for the Massachusettes magazine, Chess Horizons. I ordered a back isssue a few months ago. Mr. Goldowsky has been generous enough to allow me to post his article which I though might be interest. You might also check out some of his other chess journalism and fiction.


A Conversation With Michael de la Maza

"For any player who has yet to reach the expert level, tactics should remain the principal area of study. You will probably notice in your own games that tactical situations provide the majority of decisive moments." -
Chesswire, Newsletter for

" Dwell not too long upon sports; for as they refresh a man that is weary, so they weary a man that is refreshed." –Thomas Fuller

Over the last two years, Michael de la Maza has drunk deep from the rewards of chess, but it is now time to put the cup down. Within the last 730 days, he has raised his chess rating 720 points, pocketed $10,000 for winning outright the Under 2000 section of the World Open, and has authored an inspirational piece titled "400 Points In 400 Days".

Most class players don’t even accomplish one of these feats in their entire chess playing career, where de la Maza has done all of them in only two years. At thirty-one years old, with a current rating of 2041 that shows no signs of going down, one would think this man would continue on with his original aspiration of making master. Instead, he has seriously thought about retiring from competitive chess forever.

I sat down with Michael de la Maza in late October amongst the tourists and street music at the Au Bon Pain café in Harvard square to talk about this decision, and how it came about.

Unfortunately, he will likely disappear from the competitive chess world as abruptly as he arrived. If he does decide to retire, what will remain is his inspiration on what and how to study; a recipe for the class player on how to create the same chess potion that has provided him with his own magic. Whether we drink or not, is up to us.

It is of note that during his two year run de la Maza had no job. He was fired from his previous one, and decided to take some time off. Currently he works as a technical manager for a small startup, and lives in Harvard square.

"400 Points In 400 Days", The Article

Most of Michael’s philosophy and approach to chess can be found in his 400 Points articles. If you read them, you’ll see that he recommends focusing study on nothing but tactics. I asked him how he came to this conclusion.

"I wrote the articles because I saw things that basically broke my heart. I saw a 1000 level player reading Kotov’s middle game book. That’s like someone who’s just learned how to add reading a calculus book.

"That’s one of the fundamental fallacies of chess, that there’s just no structure to the learning process. If you go anywhere else, if you want to learn about mathematics, you first learn how to count, then you learn how to add, then you learn how to multiply, then you learn how to do long division.

"In chess, you learn how to play, and then someone says, ‘Well, after you learn how to play, you can read Silman, or you can read Kotov, or you could read a tactics book, or you could read NCO…’ One hundred thousand books, any one is good, you’re expected to learn them all, and how can that possibly be?

"In every other subject, there is a very clean progression. You go to first grade, then you go to second grade, then you go to third grade, etc. How could learning Kotov at 1000 be good for you at 1500, and good for you at 2000, and good for you at 2500? There’s nothing else like that. In chess, there’s no order, and that’s why I wrote the article. [The order is], it’s basically all tactics until you’re a 2000 plus player."

None of the literature de la Maza read helped. He looked through many articles and books, but still didn’t improve. I asked him about what his first steps in chess were like, and he was quite animated about this initial stage of his career. What I heard was contradictory to common perceptions.

"The first book I actually read from front to back cover was Silman [How to Reassess Your Chess], and I actually got worse. I would spend half an hour thinking about where to put my knight, and then I would drop a piece…[Silman] has ten or fifteen move variations…if you’re a class player, you’re going to drop a piece while you make those ten to fifteen moves... I don’t mean to dis Silman. I think that he’s a great chess author. But first, class players should stop dropping pieces, and then they should read Silman."

In his article, he challenges any class player to take any winning position in Silman, and set it up against their computer. If you take the winning side, and set your computer to a relatively high level, say 400 points higher than your rating, before you can tell what’s happening, de la Maza guarantees that 99% of the time you’ll be lost within fifteen moves.

According to him, if you’re going to attach your hard earned entry fees to the false bottom of an unrealizable strategic advantage, they’ll both vanish, right into the hands of the guy sitting across from you studying tactics.

"What are the logical reasons why you need to do tactics before anything else? One of them is, a material change when you lose a tactical combination is far greater than the evaluation change when you lose a ‘positional combination’," de la Maza says.

He refers to this reading of the wrong material and meaningless study of strategy as "class player hell". As much as we would all like to stay out of there, there is no doubt that the habitual study of strategy (and openings) keeps pulling us back in.

We actually started to talk about openings, and de la Maza explained how he used to play the Caro Kann and the Colle system, two positional openings, and how as soon as he realized the importance of tactics he switched to e4 and the Scandinavian.

The Personality

Where Bobby Fischer loved the feeling of crushing his opponent’s ego, de la Maza doesn’t believe that the ego should be involved at the class level. "It’s just not about the ego. At the class level you’re losing games because you’re missing three move combinations, it’s not some guy strategically out thinking you, or crushing your brain down, or anything like that.

If you’re losing to a three move combination, you’re losing to a three move combination. I don’t feel sorry for you. If you beat me, you beat me because you see a three move combination that I don’t see."

When de la Maza is not at the board, he’s laid back and all smiles. At one point in our conversation, I brought up the first of two times we played. This was a time in his life when he was going through a self described "weird phase".

I recalled that the first time we played was a Tuesday evening at the Metrowest Chess Club, and that he had come to play dressed in a hooded black cloak. It was mysterious. The hood stayed up during our game, and to add to the mystique, his left arm never moved from under its cover.

It seemed as though I was playing the Headless Horseman, using his hidden arm to hold on to his horse under the table. As I recalled this, de la Maza leaned back in his chair, and laughed out loud like a little boy. It took him a few moments to settle down. When he did, he explained.

"Basically, I busted my arm at one point. At chess tournaments people are constantly bumping into you, walking behind you or what not, so I decided to put on a protective vest…but it was a bit extreme, I must say."

The explanation ended with a grin. Without pause, and with a direction of purpose refined by two serious years over the chessboard, we moved on.

During his run, de la Maza estimates that he has played about two hundred and fifty games. At one point, he played fifty games in a row without a loss against players rated below him. I asked de la Maza if he had a memorable win from his career, and the answer he gave me uncovered something else about his character: His most memorable game was a loss.

de la Maza -- Barry 1. e4 c5 2. c3 e5 3. Bb5 a6 4. Qa4 Nf6 5. Nf3 Qc7 6. Bc4 Be7 7. Ng5 O-O 8. O-O h6 9. Nxf7 Rxf7 10. Bxf7+ Kxf7 11. d3 d6 12. Be3 Be6 13. Na3 Nbd7 14. c4 Kg8 15. Rac1 Rf8 16. Nc2 Ng4 17. Bd2 Nb8 18. Qa3 Qd7 19. Qc3 Nc6 20. b3 Nd4 21. Nxd4 cxd4 22. Qa5 Bd8 23. Qb4 Qe7 24. Rcd1 Qh4 25. h3 Nxf2 26. Qxd6 Bxh3 27. Be1 Qg4 28. Qd5+ Kh8 29. Rxf2 Rxf2 30. Qxd8+ Kh7 0-1

Without a hint of sarcasm, he described his demise as beautiful. "Barry used every single piece on the board except his king."


Most people improve their game over a chess career, and many even improve hundreds of rating points. It’s only a few who jump multiple rating classes to beat the averages. Jobs, family, social obligations, friends, and other interests, all provide the gravity to keep us down, ultimately keeping us playing for fun instead of for blood. Because Michael de la Maza didn’t have a job, playing chess for him was never just for fun. It wasn’t just that he wanted to improve, he needed to improve. If he wasn’t going to improve, he wasn’t going to play at all. This is the core of why he wants to retire. He feels that the potential for improvement isn’t there anymore.

Now with a job, he doesn’t get the chance to study as much as he used to. Playing is also more difficult. "I can’t understand how people play at the Metrowest [club] if they have a job. They get out from work at 5:30, drive for an hour, the game starts at 7:30, and they eat dinner in-between. I could never do that. I’m very impressed with people who can do that. The other thing is the next day. I don’t understand how people can wake up for work the next day."

Since he was never burdened with life getting in the way with an 8am Wednesday morning meeting, or with a family needing attention, he was able to focus one-hundred percent on chess improvement. "[Now with a job] it would basically be impossible" he said. For de la Maza, if improvement is impossible, there is no point in playing.

Improvement opportunities aren’t there like they used to be. "At the Metrowest, with the exception of Foygel and Curdo, I think that I’d be one of the highest rated players there. So in a four round tournament, it’s like kill, kill, kill, get killed [by Foygel or Curdo]. Then nothing happens.

When you’re killing people you’re not learning a whole lot, and in fact, you might even develop bad habits…you know, attack too early before developing or something like that. And then you might get killed by Curdo, and you don’t learn anything there [either], because you’re outplayed in every single facet of the game."

At one point in the interview, I asked Michael de la Maza if he would ever make a comeback like his namesake Michael Jordan, and try to make master.

"Maybe. If I have some ideas and if I have some time, maybe…it’s very different, it’s very different the higher you go." Later in the interview, de la Maza added, "That’s one of the reasons I’ve quit: I don’t know how to improve. Generally, it just gets harder as you get higher up."

But to the casual observer, he shows no sign of slowing down, and he could actually well be at master strength already. He confirmed this.

"At the World Open, there were at least three or four wins that were under thirty moves. Surprisingly or not, they were all blowouts." Even after saying this, and after acknowledging that you pretty much need to be as strong as 200 points above a class section to win it, de la Maza still didn’t seem enthusiastic to play his hand at master.

There seemed to be more to it than time and lack of ideas. When speaking of the World Open, he admitted to being under huge psychological pressure.

"Especially the last four games. I would have been happy if the other guy across the table had just croaked right there on the spot. I didn’t care about the other guy at all. So I was in a very nasty mood." It’s this pressure, not just in big money games, but in the constant need, the constant addiction to gain rating points, that he doesn’t like.

If he did decide to make a comeback, he hinted to me some ways he might consider improving to master. Very sporadic study of openings could help obtain middle game positions that are tactical in nature. Endgame study could also be helpful.

When asked if he would consider using tactics to steer the game to a point where you know you’ll have a good endgame, he responded:

"That’s an idea, but I certainly don’t believe in this below 2000. Below 2000, if you get to an endgame, that’s because you missed a tactical opportunity before then. Rook and pawn endgames are actually highly tactical. You penetrate into your opponent’s position with your rook, he penetrates your position with his rook, and the question is who’s going to gobble up the pawns first, and which pawns are going to be passed pawns? That’s not a positional question. It’s purely a tactical question."

Final Thought

"People shouldn’t be scared about improving. [There’s a myth that] the normal player sits and thinks where the knight should be, and after half an hour figures it out, while the grandmaster just throws up the knight in the air and it magically lands on the right square.

"I don’t believe that. Chess is like any other thing, like becoming a chemist, becoming an archeologist, or becoming a zoologist, you have to work hard, and you have to study. There isn’t some magic piece of your brain that’s devoted to chess that some people have and some people don’t. Anyone who can ride a bicycle and who can speak a language, can become a very good player."

And that takes care of just about everybody.

© 2001 Howard Goldowsky. All rights reserved.

74 days down, 81 to go
1039 probs down, 170 to go in Circle One

Wednesday, December 08, 2004

The oxen are slow

Must be time to go up another level. I was just getting comfy with the level 60's. After last night, I note I only have about 10 left. Ah well, existential crisis coming my way probably starting tomorrow night.

I can definitely tell a difference. When I started, I thought there were two skills that I would be developing -- calculation muscle and pattern recognition. Calculation muscle makes it possible to hold larger and larger numbers of variations in your head. Pattern recognition enables you to know the answer wihtout thinking because you've seen it before. I would now add a third which I would describe as "jugular detection".

When I look at a problem, I now have a very good sense of where the weak point in the position is. On the level 60's, the problems have been well beyond my ability to calculate. I have been able to see all the lines to a solution very rarely before I made the first move, but I now usually know what the first move is without even knowing why. You could also describe it as "pattern unrecognition". Something looks out of place because you don't usually see it there. You may not be able to see the line, but you're pretty sure it starts here. Even though I may make several mistakes, I am getting a much higher percentage of the first moves right. And to quote my nephew, "it is way cool!"

Note to Pale Morning Dun -- The oxen are slow but the earth is patient, Grasshopper. I would suggest resisting the temptation to abandon the the micro drills and go headlong into the CT Art 3.0. You're going to have 127 straight days of chess problems soon enough. That said, I might have done a few of the problems before I was supposed to.

73 days down, 82 to go
1026 probs down, 183 to go in Circle One

Monday, December 06, 2004


Made it. Inspired by reaching four digts, I caught up over the weekend and completed my one-thousandth chess problem last night. I celebrated with the traditional Arrogant Bastard Ale and leftover pizza.

The weekend started off very rocky. Friday night, I completed my problems at a 34% solve rate. This was disheartening to say the least, but I was very tired and knew I could do better. Nonetheless, I did contemplate going back to tic-tac-toe (which I freakin' rock at). Saturday and Sunday were much better. I am now at the much more respectable 53% solve rate for the level 60's. Everytime I start a new level I seem to go through a small crisis in confidence. My solve rate always dips low and then recovers. Some of this is no doubt the result of learning and doing the problems better, but I think the lion's share can be attributed to psyching myself out. We'l see. Level 70 is only a few days away. Here are my stats for Circle One:

Level 10: 95%
Level 20: 85%
Level 30: 75%
Level 40: 65%
Level 50: 65%
Level 60: 53%

Elo Start-Finish
Level 10: 1525-1820
Level 20: 1820-2056
Level 30: 2056-2103
Level 40: 2103-2165
Level 50: 2165-2312
Level 60: 2312-2320

Welcome to Orange Knight. Glad to have a class A player in our midst. I am very curious to see how much benefit the program provides for a higher rated player.

71 days down, 84 to go
1000! probs down, 209 to go in Cirlce One

Friday, December 03, 2004

How To Think

I am pleased to welcome our newest quester Pale Morning Dun. I look forward to reading his posts. I thought his comments about Silman's review of "Rapid Chess Improvement" were right on target. Don't worry about the initiation ritual. It is only illegal in 9 states (reminds me Sancho -- we're due in court at the end of the month), and the hair grow back quickly. Please remember to bring your own goat.

I only did 5 exercises last night instead of the 15 I was scheduled for. I know, I know. I am a bad man. Very bad. BUT whatever IT is, I didn't have IT yesterday. I played a couple of G/30's at chess club last night with bad results. When I came home to do problems, I gave up after 5 (44% solve rate). Probably just having on off day. It is also possible that I am a moron. You know, come to think of it, some guys came by my house last week. Maybe I misheard them, and they were actually asking me to join the Moron church.

I am really dreading that this is directing me to part 3 of De la Maza's program "How to Think". This is the part of the book that I never liked and always ignored. First, I am always mistrustful of anyone who tells me how to think. It always sounds good, but before you know it, you are selling flowers at traffic lights dressed in a peach robe singing Kumbya. As such, I always stick to doing my own thinking in a manner that comes naturally. Second, his method seemed so geared to winning the game rather than exploring the position. Chess games, at the class level, are almost always won on tactics, but playing chess should be more than playing tactics until your opponent screws up. This points to one of the areas where I did agree with Silman's review. He said De la Maza "offers a philosophically bankrupt vision of what chess is". Much as I admire De la Maza's program, I have to agree that I did not like his approach to the game.

So it seems I may need to think about how to think before this is through because losing sucks. More on this later.

68 days down, 87 to go
948 probs down, 261 to go in Circle One

PS If you didn't see it in yesterday's comments, check out the Boylston Chess Club Weblog. A little write up of the Knights Errant De La Maza using the precise picture I wanted to use here. Liked the blog too. Got to figure out how to get pictures and what "trackbacking" is.

Wednesday, December 01, 2004

Christmas recommendations

It's December 1 which means it's time to go out and buy a bunch of stuff to give to people who don't need it. It's the Amercian way. In fact, it is the engine of our consumer-based economy. As a public service, let me make a shameless plug for several shops I frequent.

1) -- Good quality chess sets priced much better than retail ($40-$150). I have been pleased the the quality and service of this site.

2) -- If you want a high quality set and you are willing to pay for it, this is the place to go. Their wooden sets range start at about $125 and go up from there. I ordered a set from them for Christmas (theoretically the Empress de la Maza ordered it) and received the good service I expected. I'll let you know about quality on Christmas day or when I can figure out where the hell my lovely child bride is hiding it.

3) -- There's a guy in a little store in Pittsburgh, Games Unlimited, who has 15 gagillion games stacked all over the place. I highly suspect some temporal wormhole in the back where he crams his inventory. Among them is an impressive selection of good quality chess sets (more than Wholesale chess, less than House of Staunton). He also carries every other game you might want to own, particularly good quality classic games. I have been buying games here since 1979.

4) -- The world of board games took an evolutionary leap in the mid-1990's with the introduction of a game called "Settler's of Catan". Since then, a new gaming genre referred to as "German" or "designer" games has taken off. If you want to get one of these, Fairplay will give you the best price in my experience. If they don't have it, try (though you'll pay a few bucks more).

I am a confirmed gaming nut. I should be pleased to make specific recommendations on games. Send me an email if you are interested.

66 days down, 89 to go
928 probs down, 281 to go in Circle One