Friday, April 3, 2009

Keeping a "Poker Face" in Chess Match

From the Brownsville (Texas) Herald Chess: Ultimate mind sport tests your patience and your poker face April 2, 2009 - 5:44 PM By Ronnie Zamora, Special to The Herald The game of chess is loved by those who play it and misunderstood by those who don't. "A lot of people don't know about chess," said Mauricio Flores, the top-ranked member of the UTB-TSC Chess Team, which will be competing in the Final Four of College Chess in Dallas on Saturday and Sunday. "Chess is in its own world. Nothing else compares to it." Many chess matches will take as long as five hours to complete at the Final Four. But through it all, members of the University of Texas at Brownsville and Texas Southmost College Chess Team must remember one thing: Keep a straight face when competing. Chess is a game of little emotion and seriousness. "That's something that I have improved on," team captain Daniel Fernandez, a junior, said. "I have a good poker face when I make a mistake. I keep my composure. Many years ago, you could see it on my face if I made a mistake. Now during a game, I don't have expression." Keeping a straight face is vital to the success of the best players. Any facial expressions, especially those of disappointment, give an opponent the advantage of knowing that a mistake probably has been made. A good opponent will eventually find the mistake and attempt to capitalize on the error. "I'm usually pretty good about hiding it," freshman Bradley Sawyer said. "I try not to show any expression. The less your opponent knows, the better." Just like big stakes poker tournaments that last hours and test the stamina of participants, the length of time the matches also tests the patience of chess players. "Chess gives you a lot of tension," sophomore Nadya Ortiz said. "You never know how you are doing until it's almost over. Sometimes, you may be down by one piece but have the advantage because of better positioning." Ortiz said chess "is not like basketball or football, where you know you are winning a game because you have more points. In chess, the position is confused, and you don't know if you are doing well or not." To have strong focus and stamina for long matches, UTB-TSC Chess team members turn to physical exercise to stay fit and strong. "Physical exercise is important because sometimes you are playing 7-8 hours a day," Ortiz said. "Your mind is going to be tired in 1-2 hours. If you have a healthy body, your mind will be sharper." Most members of the team play tennis for recreation. Others play basketball and pington. But it's the love of the chess - the ultimate mind sport - that keeps them going. "It's an addiction for me," Flores said. "A lot of people don't know you have to study chess like any other courses in college. A professional chess player needs to study the game to keep improving. We're always learning. "For me, this is what I enjoy doing more than anything else."
Well, during a match, players aren't always without expression - or movement. All part of the "psych out" of your opponent - or sometimes you just have to go to the bathroom really bad but you don't want to leave the table.

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