When I was twelve and a Class D chess player, I played in a simultaneous exhibition against a grandmaster (GM) for the first time. My opponent was the legendary ex-world champion, Anatoly Karpov. Although the odds were heavily stacked against me, I’ve always felt that the game ended embarrassingly early.
GM Anatoly Karpov-Chris Seck
1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 g6 6.Be3 Bg7 7.f3 O-O 8.Bc4 Nc6 9.Qd2 Bd7 10.O-O-O Rc8 11.Bb3 Ne5 12.h4 Nc4 13.Bxc4 Rxc4 14.h5 Re8 15.hxg6 fxg6 16.e5 dxe5 17.Ne6 Qc8 18.Nxg7 Kxg7 19.Bg5 1-0
Years passed. As a student, I worked hard at chess. I read a lot of chess books, and my playing strength slowly improved until my rating hit a plateau of USCF 1800. From that point onwards, I would occasionally accidentally manage to beat an expert or even a low-level master. But against GMs, I lost 100 percent of my games, without even a single draw. Here’s one of my more notable masterpieces—from the GM’s perspective, that is.
GM Saidali Iuldachev-Chris Seck
1.e4 e6 2.d3 d5 3.Nd2 c5 4.Ngf3 Bd6 5.g3 Ne7 6.Bg2 Nbc6 7.O-O O-O 8.Nh4 b6 9.f4 dxe4 10.dxe4 Ba6 11.Re1 Rc8 12.c3 e5 13.f5 c4 14.f6 gxf6 15.Bh3 Bc5+ 16.Kh1 Rc7 17.Rf1 Bc8 18.Bxc8 Qxc8 19.Rxf6 b5 20.Qh5 Ng6 21.Ndf3 Qh3 22.Ng5 1-0
To be sure, at the scholastic level, being an 1800 player was enough to win a couple of minor school tournaments. I was elected president of my high school chess club, and my scholastic achievements eventually helped me get into Stanford University.
But I remained dissatisfied. My rating remained stuck at the 1800-1900 plateau, and I knew no way to improve further. Moreover, my lifelong ambition remained unfulfilled. I wanted to beat a GM. Sure, it’s good to beat other amateurs, but wouldn’t it be nice to beat a GM—someone who is really good at the game?
So, I read more chess books. But while the existing chess literature featured plenty of GM-vs.-GM games, they rarely showed GM-vs.-amateur games. None of them offered practical advice on how a weaker player could hope to prevail against a stronger one. Moreover, the few published GM-vs.-amateur games tended to be one-sided matches where the amateur would voluntarily make a couple of beginner’s mistakes and concede the game after a token positional struggle. Quite simply, it wasn’t the stuff that I was looking for.