Anticipation of Things Future

by admin on December 31, 2022

Fifteen years ago, when I started this blog, I called the first post Remembrance of Things Past. It seems like an odd way to begin a chronicle that literally had no past at that point. But it gives me a perfect title for today’s entry, written on the last day of the year, which will be the 1245th and last post of this blog. I’ll call it “Anticipation of Things Future.”

First, I owe a little bit of explanation to the small group of people who read this blog regularly. Why didn’t I tell you that I was going to wrap this blog up so soon? The answer is that I didn’t know! I made up my mind just within the last week. One day I was talking with my wife about some computer issues I’ve been having. My laptop has been getting increasingly finicky, and I complained to her that I will probably have to get a new one soon. But why should I? This blog is essentially the only thing I use my laptop for. For everything else I use my desktop computer, a Mac. The only reason I keep a toe in the Microsoft Windows world is that Fritz, the computer chess program, runs on Windows.

And that’s when it hit me. When this blog was fresh and new, I wouldn’t have thought twice about getting a new laptop. But the fact that I wasn’t really even sure that it was worth it… means that it isn’t worth it. Or to put it in a more positive way: I’ve accomplished everything I ever wanted to with this blog. I’m satisfied. I can let it go now.

As I’m sure many of you have noticed, but have been too polite to say, my blog has been losing momentum for several years. I write fewer posts and have fewer readers than I used to. In 2015, my peak year, the blog had 56,545 views and I wrote 93 posts. This year I’ve had 10,002 views and written 27 posts. (Thanks to the five people who have viewed it so far today, putting it over the 10,000 threshold on the very last day of the year!)

That’s one reason for wrapping it up, but not the decisive one. If I still had a lot of things I wanted to say, it wouldn’t matter whether the audience was large or small. But the pandemic, and my exit from regular tournament chess, has given me less to write about. I tried getting back into the tournament scene this year, playing two tournaments, but both of them were disasters.

I felt guilty about those bad tournaments, guilty because I let my readers down and myself down. I do not want this blog to turn into a woe-is-me recap of my defeats. At this point I’m still undecided about whether and how much I’m going to get back into tournament chess, but doing it just so that I can keep my blog going seems like the wrong reason. I have to admit that my desire to play tournament chess is waning. More and more, I find myself thinking that it’s time for White and Black to end their endless battle, shake hands and declare a truce.

Finally, this blog is a lot of work. I have always really worked hard on crafting my posts — and it seems as if I work harder and harder as time goes on. I do love the craft of writing, but maybe there are other things that I should use it on.

Now that I have thoroughly depressed all of you, let me talk about the positives! First of all, I am so grateful to everyone who has read and enjoyed this blog. It constantly amazed me when people would come up to me at tournaments and say, “I read your blog.” It made me feel as if I was someone in the chess world, and also that I was writing something that people enjoyed.

I also loved the comments, which were of such high quality and often taught me things that I didn’t know. That’s one thing that makes a blog more satisfying than a diary. A diary entry just sits there, exactly the way that you wrote it, but a blog post spontaneously grows into something better.

For me, one unexpected joy of this blog was the way that it intertwined with Mike Splane’s chess parties, which he organized monthly from about 2009 to 2021. Mike was, among other distinctions, the most frequent commenter on this blog. His chess parties gave me great material, from games to philosophical insights like how to form a plan, and why forced moves are often underrated. I’m happy that I was able to use this blog to introduce readers to ideas like the Mike Splane Question. Also I’ve been able to publicize his book, Chess Wizardry, both here and in Chess Life. I was thrilled when John Watson wrote a review of Mike’s book in the October 2022 issue of Chess Life! It’s as if we’re keeping Mike alive, in a small way.

Another satisfying thing that happened very late in the lifetime of this blog was winning the Chess Journalists of America award for Best Chess Blog in 2021. I never expected to get any kind of award for this blog, and I think I earned it in part just for sticking around long enough! In 2007, when I started, blogs were all the rage, but very few blogs from that era on any subject are still going. I’d like to think that the award also was a public recognition of 50 Years of Chess, my pandemic project in which I wrote 50 posts on my 50 years in chess, highlighting one game per year. In fact, the one piece of unfinished business for this blog is to collect all of those posts into one downloadable PDF. If I can do that easily, I’ll post the PDF in January 2023.

Now let me turn to the title of this post: anticipation of things future. What is left to look forward to? Well, first, I look forward to trying to get back into tournaments again, doing it for the right reasons and perhaps being better prepared. There’s a new group organizing tournaments in California called 1000 Grandmasters, whose goal is to create a chess “ecosystem” in the U.S. that would make it possible for the country to support 1000 grandmasters. It’s been a problem since forever: so many of the most talented players get to the end of their teenage years or their college years and find that chess is just not a realistic profession. 1000 Grandmasters hopes to change this with a donation-based model. To some extent, Rex Sinquefield is already doing that, but you always have to worry about the sustainability of a model that relies on the generosity of one person. We’ll see if 1000 Grandmasters can offer a better or at least a complementary approach.

What would it take to have 1000 grandmasters in the U.S.? That would be about three grandmasters per million people — the same relative population as in Lithuania (3.05 per million) and the Czech Republic (2.85 per million) and far fewer than Iceland (36.92 per million). But it would be a twelve-fold increase for the United States (0.25 per million, as of 2013). It seems scarcely possible… but “impossible” is the sort of thing that old people say. We’re talking today about reasons to look forward.

Also in the “anticipation of things future” department, I hope to get to work on a new mathematics book in 2023. I have a co-author, and we’ve sent out a proposal, but it’s been harder than expected to get an agent interested. The first two declined. The third one sounded extremely enthusiastic when we contacted him in November, but now we haven’t heard from him for a month and I have to wonder what’s going on. If it doesn’t work out with him, maybe we will go back to pitching publishers without an agent, because I know of at least two publishers that would be interested.

Maybe I will also look for new volunteer opportunities. At age 64, I really don’t have to hustle for work as much as I once did, and I would like to try to find other ways to make a difference. Writing books is one way, but also I’ve been thinking about things like sponsoring or helping refugee families. Or maybe teaching chess in the prisons. Or … ? I’ve barely even begun to think about the possibilities. I should try to think of this phase of my life as a time to feel more free than before, and free especially to try new things.

Of course, trying new things inevitably means letting go of some old things, but there is nothing wrong with that. Especially when the old thing has given me as much joy as this blog. There’s a lot of satisfaction in putting the last pot into the kiln, the last stitch into the quilt, or the last period on the page, and saying, “There. It is finished.”

Thanks, once again, to all of you for reading.

Finally, if any of you want to contact me for any reason, and if you’re not a bot, my e-mail is scribe (at) danamackenzie (dot) com. I’ll be glad to hear from you.

Happy New Year!

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{ 20 comments… read them below or add one }

Dave Gertler December 31, 2022 at 10:50 am

Dana — Congrats on running this fine blog for so long, and on deciding to wrap it up and move on to other adventures!

I made a similarly sudden chess decision, to retire from tournament play, nearly three years ago (at the start of the pandemic). And it was the right move (though I still play online blitz and am working on an opening book).

Best of luck with your personal chess renewal, your math book, your volunteer endeavors, and whatever else awaits you!

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admin January 1, 2023 at 10:01 am

Hi Dave,

It was great to get in touch with you again this way! Chess gives us satisfaction in different ways at different times in our lives. Let me know if and when you finish your opening book!

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Brabo December 31, 2022 at 11:12 am

” my blog has been losing momentum for several years. I write fewer posts and have fewer readers than I used to”

I think there is a strong link here with the lack of fresh input. The exit of regular tournament chess is a big handicap for succesful blogging.

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Brabo December 31, 2022 at 11:40 am

“Fifteen years ago” “In 2015, my peak year, the blog had 56,545 views and I wrote 93 posts. This year I’ve had 10,002 views and written 27 posts. ” “when I started, blogs were all the rage, but very few blogs from that era on any subject are still going”

https://schaken-brabo.blogspot.com/

This is my chess-blog which is now running its 11th year. It is written in Dutch so a language spoken by a very small minority in the world. Still in 2022 I received about 70.000 views for 49 posts !!

Despite what you and many others told me already several times (indirectly), I notice a lot of people are still willing to read blogs. The key is of course the content. It needs to be original, interesting and entertaining. A very good example is the one about the rabbit: https://schaken-brabo.blogspot.com/2022/01/het-konijn.html
Such stories can only be found by exploring the world and not just sitting at home.

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admin January 1, 2023 at 10:10 am

Hi Brabo,

Thanks for your comments over the years! I hope your blog will keep going for a long time yet. As long as you have new things to say, and the joy exceeds the cost of labor, then there is no reason to stop!

Since I won’t be writing a blog any more, maybe this will give me more time to read your blog, and perhaps others. Maybe I need to speak less and listen more!

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Brabo December 31, 2022 at 11:48 am

“Thanks to the five people who have viewed it so far today”
As a follower of this blog, I just read the content of a post via the mail which I receive. This is not considered by the tool keeping track of the views. Only for making a comment, I access the blog itself.

You can avoid this behavior by not sharing the full content of a post to the blog-followers in a mail. That is how I do it for my blog. I just give a teaser in the mail to my blog-followers which triggers them to click on the blog (and often also react).

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Brabo December 31, 2022 at 12:03 pm

“Finally, this blog is a lot of work. I have always really worked hard on crafting my posts — and it seems as if I work harder and harder as time goes on.”

Yes I know the feeling. 3-4 hours of writing at one post is for me not an exception. I remember a couple of times that it took me more than 12 hours.

Finding the motivation to keep on writing for free is not trivial. I always told myself that if I have nothing interesting to say that I simply don’t write. I had only a brief period of a month in which that happened (over almost 11 years). Readers prefer good content above continuity/ quantity as their time is too valuable and your time as a writer is even more. So it is important as a writer to know when to slow down/ take a break.

” The answer is that I didn’t know! I made up my mind just within the last week.”
Did you consider taking a break instead? Are you sure you won’t regret?

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Brabo December 31, 2022 at 12:15 pm

“let me talk about the positives!”

My blog has opened doors to opportunities/ people many times.
Also I have seen many of my articles had an impact on decisions of others (on and off the board).

So yes blogging takes a lot of time but it is not work for me. I love it.

Anywa

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Marshall Polaris December 31, 2022 at 4:17 pm

Thanks for writing this blog! I have been reading for many years, since I lived in Michigan and was about a 1600 player. Now I am 2150 and I moved to California, but the blog only got better. Playing in the USATW together was a highlight of my chess career so far. I hope you have many more years of teaching and playing coffeehouse chess ahead of you!

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admin January 1, 2023 at 10:19 am

Hi Marshall,

Thanks for your kind words! I think it’s really cool that you knew me first through my words on a screen, and then you later became my real-life teammate! Yes, that US Amateur Team West tournament will always be one of my happiest chess memories. Good luck to you in getting your National Master title, which will certainly happen if you keep at it, and perhaps I will see you again at some future tournaments.

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Gabe Ewing December 31, 2022 at 4:50 pm

All good things come to an end. Thanks for the entertainment and insights.

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admin January 1, 2023 at 10:21 am

Hi Gabe,

The hard part is knowing when is the right time to end! But hopefully I got the timing more or less right. Thanks for your support.

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Michael Aigner December 31, 2022 at 5:49 pm

Say it ain’t so. Old chess masters retire, but don’t resign. I will miss the enlightening blog posts in my email inbox. Few chess writers combine chess skill and literary proficiency like you do. While we haven’t played a game since February 2010 and have not seen each other in at least five years, I still lament the retirement of one of my top 10 opponents.

Chess competitions in California and Nevada have changed so much over the past decade. Talented children are everywhere and adults are nowhere. I am now an experienced veteran and the oldest at many tournaments – at just 48 years old. However, I still enjoy teaching chess to children and battling against the very best in the state, country and even the world. Sometimes the beatings are painful, e.g. my 3.5 out of 9 in Las Vegas was punctuated by 1.0 out of 4 versus 9 and 10 year old stars, all rated around 2000 but rapidly improving.

Dana, you and your writings will be missed. Maybe now I need to buy some math books.

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admin January 1, 2023 at 10:28 am

Hi Michael,

I’ve written publicly that Emory Tate was my favorite opponent, so I can’t back off from that, but you are certainly a strong number two. I admire you for continuing to fight the good fight, even against what seems like an endless tide of young prodigies. Someone has to keep them honest!

I definitely hope to play in some tournaments again. I’m retiring this blog, but not necessarily retiring from tournament chess. We’ll see what the future holds. I strongly doubt that you’ve seen the last of me!

I didn’t write it, but perhaps you could check out “Math With Bad Drawings” by Ben Orlin, which came out of a blog by the same name.

Have a great year!

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Rob January 1, 2023 at 2:48 am

Thanks for all your writing Dana.
I believe I have read your blog since you began and I have pretty much
enjoyed most of your posts. And even though I quit playing what I call serious
chess, I frequently learned something here.
I found your writing style to be entertaining as well as informative.
As a believer in the idea that when one door closes another opens, I feel hopeful
that the next door that opens for you will bring more of that which you might find
worth sharing with others.
Bon voyage et bonne chance.
Rob
France

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admin January 1, 2023 at 10:40 am

You’re right, Rob, you’ve been here since the very beginning. Using my admin superpowers, I can see that your first comment was posted here in 2007, and so you have the unique distinction of being the only person to write one both in 2007 and in 2023! I appreciate your loyalty over the years, and now that I’m retiring this blog I hope you’ll manage to find another one that you’ll enjoy just as much. (Doesn’t have to be on chess.)

Merci beaucoup,
Dana

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Dan Schmidt January 1, 2023 at 4:05 pm

Thanks for everything. I don’t know if I read this blog from the very start, but it’s definitely been over a decade. My interest in chess has waxed and waned over that period, but even during the times that I wasn’t taking the game too seriously it was always a pleasure to see that there was a new post here to pore over.

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admin January 2, 2023 at 12:23 pm

Thanks, Dan! You gave me an idea for a good slogan: “dana blogs chess… taking the game too seriously, so that you don’t have to.” Oh well, too late now! 😉

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Juande January 3, 2023 at 5:33 pm

Dana, thank you for writing this blog!
I have been reading this blog since you started. I hope you play in some tournaments again. Maybe I will see you at some of them!

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ChessAdmin January 7, 2023 at 12:40 pm

Thanks for all you did on this chess blog to make it high-quality, entertaining, relatable and thought-provoking.

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