There’s something about having a chess set in coffee shops that makes people want to talk. When I’m teaching a lesson to a kid, having to deal with kibitzing spectators is annoying. When I’m by myself, it’s not too bad, although it gets tiring to hear people passersby announce checkmate without looking at the position. In my most recent coffee shop chess discussion a man with a long white beard suggested that I split my students into three groups. One group would learn exclusively opening theory, the second middle game tactics and the final group would learn only endgames. Then I could have these groups play each other so that we could finally learn what the most important part of a chess game was! As I usually do when receiving a coffee shop suggestion, I agreed that this would be an interesting concept, but decided that refusing to teach 2/3 of chess to each student in the name of science might not go over well with my employers.
This conversation did remind me of a key game from my chess career. In the tournament in which I earned my NM title, I barely survived the opening against a young expert from the Midwest (Now a Master). Eventually, I reached an endgame down a pawn at which point my heavily prepped opponent played one of the strangest maneuvers I’ve ever seen from a player of that level. Within one or two moves I was able to take over the initiative. I’ll be very impressed by anyone who can predict white’s 24th and 26th moves without peeking.