Led by the Blind – The Dark Knightadmin
The standard android ring tone ubiquitously rang in the classroom. “Hello?” The voice on the other end was President of The Houston Chess Club, Leon Fusselman. “Hey can you get a few of your critters together (The Knights of The Chess Academy) Grand Master Timur Gareyev, GM Gareyev (listed as Timur Gareyev with the USCF) wants to play you guys in a blind fold exhibition and lecture?” Even though it was midweek and a school day, one does not pass up an opportunity like this. Really?! What would you do if you received a call from say, Adam Silver, the commissioner of the NBA, National Basketball Association and he said that LeBron James is going to be in town for a couple of days and wants to shoot a few hoops and talk to your players? Even though it’s in the middle of the week, without hesitation, you round up all the team players you can and no matter where on Terra-fir-ma it is, you lace up your sneakers and you show up. GM Gareyev graduated from UT Brownsville and won the National Colligate Chess Championship. He first impressed us by awaking amid a very complicated match in 2010. We entered several players into a star studded event featuring names like Grand Master Julio Sadorra, Master Bradley Sawyer, Master Jefferey De Jesus and Grand Master Mauricio Flores. GM Gareyev, at his own admission “crashed” a wedding the “knight” before. On the way to the first round of that day we stopped him and I said, “Guys he has been a Grand Master since the age of 15 years old.” Immediately we took pictures and signed autographs. He hurried to his match at board #1. we went to our respective boards. Over 3 hours later with all of our games completed, we stood silently, crowded with about 20 other players, watching this extremely complicated position in the grand ballroom, only three other games were still on going in this massive room. GM Gareyev is seated right in front of me with head in both hands and about 5 minutes remaining on his clock.
I’m thinking and looking, trying to comprehend what is going on in the mind of this chess titan when I hear what sounds like snoring. I motion for my top player to come closer to listen and mouth the words “Do you hear snoring?” At which time someone in the crowd sneezes.
GM Gareyev awakes and says in that hard Uzbekistanian accent, “Tis my move?!” He says, “I think Mate in 4 to his opponent?” At which time his opponent agrees and knocks over his King, resigns and reaches out his hand to GM Gareyev.
Four years later I catch up with GM Gareev and interview him at a small but strong tournament at Cristo Rey College and Preparatory Campus in Houston, TX. We are in the quad area, an open outdoor area, on a beautiful Chamber of Commerce Day. It’s 72 degrees, zero humidity and a slight breeze from the southeast, with just a few cumulous clouds in the far distance. He isn’t playing, but is the drawing card for a few of the best players in the area. He is fresh from the Millionaire Open in Vegas, what he calls, “The best chess tournament I have ever been involved in.” He is dressed in a nice “throw back shirt” from the early 70’s era that would have gone nicely on the set of a Starsky and Hutch episode. His longtime friend and tournament organizer Master Bo Githoro is with him and reminds me of Huggy Bear. As we snap a “selfie” I comment, “Guys we could be crime chess fighters chasing down errant Bishops and locking up en passant Pawns” to which only the true chess aficionados chuckle. GM Gareev is polite, courteous, kind, noble and really funny. He is a giving free spirit, having recently moved from Austin, Texas to San Diego to Las Vegas. He climbs mountains, and sky dives. He arrives at the tournament from picking up burgers and fries for everyone playing in the tournament. I mean the guy is a boy scout complete with the Boy Scout Law: Trustworthy, Loyal, Helpful, Friendly, Courteous, Kind, Obedient, Cheerful, Thrifty, Brave, Clean, and Reverent. Well, all but the reverent part when it comes to chess, his tactics and strategies are downright nefarious. He walks over to the area where we are to interview and takes off his shoes and starts to walk around in the grass. “Robert, you gotta try this. This is freaking amazing Bro.” I comply as I remember reading something about connecting with the Earth and an old Bruce Willis movie where he too is walking around with his shoes off to lose stress, calm down and reconnect. We are now seated in the grass barefoot mind you, talking about everything from, Taekwondo, movies, football, skydiving and the advantages Android has over iPhone.
Dark Knight: You have played in thousands of games and several hundred tournaments. What is the best tournament you’ve ever entered?
GM Gareyev: The Millionaire Open is by far the best tournament I have ever played in. Maurice (International Grand Master Maurice Ashley) did a great job.”
Dark Knight: Why was this the best tournament?
GM Gareyev: It was big money, Franc (Tournament Director Francisco Guadalupe) did a great job, he always does. The food was great. The atmosphere, they really treated us like royalty. And, hey it was Vegas.
Dark Knight: Your buddy Bo (Master Mbugua Bo Githoro) did well in the Millionaire Open as well. In fact he made Master and did not lose a single game.
GM Gareyev: Yea, the Samford is a pretty good deal. You get to study chess and you win a lot of money and promote chess. But it’s not about the money, it’s always about the chess. It’s always the chess. To be good at something you gotta work at it. You make mistakes in chess and the only way to get better, well one way to get better, is analysis of your game. That is essential. So, best thing for me was making GM and other championships, they’re all good.
Dark Knight: So chess is hard work. Why do it?
GM Gareyev: Hard work can be fun. What was it that Bo said about hard work?
Dark Knight: He (Bo) quoted Kasparov. “Most individuals believe hard work beats talent. But most people fail to realize is that being a hard worker is a talent.”
GM Gareyev: Text that to me Robert.
Dark Knight: It took me about a month to work past looking beyond the 3rd move.
What is your advice?
GM Gareyev: Your brain will try to talk you into thinking “I can’t do that.”
But believe me you can. It will be difficult but you can do it.
Dark Knight: It feels counter intuitive or resiliently unproductive. And yet you do it
blind folded. I remember you saying once that you call out a board number and when you hear the players voice you see the board and think a few moves ahead and visualize the end-game. But how does one do that?
GM Gareyev: It takes practice and hard work, so I make it fun.
Dark Knight: You sky dive, climb mountains and so much more. What else do you do for fun?
GM Gareyev: I like football.
Dark Knight: Really?
GM Gareyev: Tis just like chess, offense and defense. He smiles and says. Let’s play a game before you go. Playing as Black, now 12 moves in, I capture a Pawn and start dancing in my seat. I think I have him. I say, “You’re going down Grand Master.” He winces, looks and takes 1 minute and 12 seconds to make his next move. I am up on time but possibly down on position. He smiles and moves, Qf4 and says to the crowd, “ Ahhh, Coach Robert is in real trouble now.” My King is perilously shaking on g8. I notice just how relaxed he is. I think about how meta-cognitive thinking will allow you to process the seemingly insurmountable calculations in chess and just how complicated things on a chess board, and all of the decisions that have to be made, can be. I look down at GM Gareyev and he is making fists with his toes in the grass under the table, just like Willis in the movie Die Hard. I think of a t-shirt a kid was wearing at the tournament, I consider my own stress levels, I then realize most stress is self-inflicted. The t-shirt read, “Stay calm and play chess.” And that is how GM Gareyev does what we mere mortals can’t, he remains calm. He took 1 minute and 12 seconds to look 8 moves ahead at Mate. I have 2:09 seconds on my clock, GM Gareyev has 1:02 on his. Someone says in the crowd, “It’s not how much time you have, it’s how you play the game.” Who does that? Who awakes after crashing a wedding the evening before while competing in one of the most prestigious chess tournaments, sees mate in four, tells jokes to entertain the crowd, looks 8 moves ahead and mates a Master Level IV Certified Chess Coach 8 moves away. Who has a mind like that? Grand Master Timur Gareyev, that’s who.
When one thinks of the blind, names like Ray Charles, Helen Keller and Stevie Wonder come to mind. To anyone in the chess world, when blind chess is mentioned, there is only one name that comes to mind. At the Houston Chess Club back in 2010 with 10 of the best scholastic and adult chess players in the area, with ratings 1455 and above, while wearing a blind fold, GM Gareyev corrects the player on board #7 and says in that heavy accent, “No, your Rook h4 move is incorrect. Your last move was Rook b3.” After looking at the notation kept by the Houston Chess Club President, GM Gareyev was absolutely correct. The kid had moved the wrong Rook on the previous move, 9 boards away! GM Gareyev is scheduled to break the record of 64 opponents all while blind folded. And old adage is, “There’s the blind leading the blind.” If GM Gareyev is leading on any chess excursion, pick up your canes, place on your blind folds and follow.