HHCF: Where are you from and where did you grow up?
JR: I am from Canada and grew up in Northern Alberta. Currently I live in Southern Alberta near Calgary, in a small but very beautiful town close to the Rocky Mountains. For those in the United States, Alberta is pretty much due north of Montana.
HHCF: When did you first learn chess and how did it grow from a casual thing to a life passion?
JR: When I was a little kid I was aware of the game, but never really learned it in detail because no one else played it around me. Then in the summer of 2007 my younger son became interested in chess and asked to learn how to play, so I picked up the movie “Searching for Bobby Fischer” and we watched it together. Both my son and I fell in love with chess after watching that movie, and I wanted to learn as much as I could to share the information with my son. I wasn’t aware just how much lore and legend was behind the game when I first started, not to mention how much a person could learn. It’s definitely a life-long pursuit, there’s no question about that.
Chess is something that everyone can enjoy from all walks of life, regardless of race, ethnicity, or economic status. A rich man can lose to a poor man, a young girl can destroy an intelligent doctor or lawyer. Chess is amazing that way, and that’s one of the reasons it’s still around today even though kids have Gameboys, Playstations, Computers, and all sorts of entertainment.
I also really enjoy the fact that the source of chess ability comes from the mind, which is the most powerful and complex tool that God gave us. The chess board is like a canvas and the person moving the pieces is painting a picture on the board representing themselves. You can tell a lot about a person from their chess style. For instance they could be aggressive, defensive, evasive, tricky, all kinds of human emotion show through the battle on the board.
HHCF: Tell me about your first competition. What do you remember most?
JR: So far I have only been in one over-the-board blitz competition. I came in second place, losing one game to the winner of the overall tournament. Since then I wanted to focus more on learning various things about the game of chess before starting to pursue standard rated tournaments. I am hoping that by the summer of 2009 I should be in good shape to begin playing in some serious competitions. I probably could have started this summer, but I just celebrated my first year in chess in July of this year, so I still feel I need a lot of work in my abilities to compete. I would like to avoid making “simple” mistakes which as you know is very costly on the chess board, as well as improve my positional analysis and endgame skills.
HHCF: What prompted you to start posting your chess ideas on youtube?
JR: My first YouTube video was the first PGN file I saved of my chess games, and from there I continued sharing my games and things that I was learning along the way. When I first became interested in chess I was also impressed with the whole concept of YouTube and vlogging, and I wanted to participate. I thought to myself, why not learn chess and track that progress on YouTube? From my perspective, it was a perfect blend of my interests. I also thought making videos would be great in terms of motivation, which turned out to definitely be the case.
Another big reason was that I didn’t know anybody locally who played chess, so I thought YouTube would be a great way to share and draw on the experiences of others as a new player. I was definitely right about that – I have received so much help and support from my viewers, it is very humbling, and I am always excited about the conversations that come with the new videos I post.
To my knowledge I am the first person to begin playing chess and posting YouTube videos at the same time. Looking back over this past year, I am very glad I made that decision.
HHCF: What’s your ultimate goal in chess?
JR: My current goal is to one day become an International Master. My plan is to begin sanctioned rated tournaments in 2009. Hopefully, with a lot of hard work, I will be able to achieve the norms required for that designation once I get comfortable and consistent in tournament play. I don’t think I could ever achieve GM status, especially given that I started out pretty late compared to many, but who knows … it’s been done before so if I can get the IM designation it would definitely be a possibility. It’s always good to dream and work towards things, and with chess I know that even if I don’t achieve my goals it will be fun trying!
HHCF: What kinda music do you listen to and what what’s the best concert you ever attended?
JR: When it comes to music I am all over the map. I like rock, some heavy metal, alternative, some of the old country (Johnny Prine, Johnny Cash, etc) Dance, some rap and Hip-Hop (Jay-Z’s work with Linkin Park was awesome). I really enjoy artists that fuse things together and I don’t care if they are mainstream or not. If it sounds good and I enjoy it – it moves my soul and that’s what music is all about.
The best concert that I have ever been to would have to be Soundgarden back in the days of Black Hole Sun – awesome show and awesome sound at the time. Still have many good memories of the days of Nirvana, NiN, Pearl Jam, etc.
HHCF: If you could impress 3 things into the head of anyone trying to take chess seriously, what would they be?
- You’re not alone in your passion for chess. Sometimes it’s easy to feel isolated, because chess isn’t a main competitive staple in many places. It’s easy for people to say “This person plays Basketball, or Hockey, or Soccer” but it’s not very common to hear about good chess players. I would say first and foremost that nowadays, especially with the internet, there’s a large chess community waiting to welcome you and help you along your path of learning.
- Keep it fun otherwise it isn’t worth keeping! From my experience this past year, I can see how the fun of chess can be stripped away from a person due to pressure or just worrying too much about things like ratings, and so on. But at the end of the day it’s very important to enjoy chess; enjoy the competition, and don’t let the wins or the losses get to you too much. I have had performance slumps from time to time, and so far I have noticed that the slumps usually come before a big increase in skill. It’s like you have new tools in your head to use in terms of what you have learned, but it takes a bit to put those skills into practical application over the board. Don’t let the occasional slump get you down, and try to focus on why you are playing chess in the first place. And last but not least, don’t be afraid to lose – losing happens to the best chess players, and it is a part of the learning process providing you want to figure out what went wrong to avoid similar mistakes in the future.
- I think emotion is key in chess – in other words the ability to control your emotions from move one until the game is over. I believe the best chess players in the world are not who they are because of memorization; they have the ability they do because they don’t just learn techniques, they learn to master their emotions during the course of their battles on the board. They know intimately where their strength comes from, and they try to zero in on that when they sit down to compete. Tiger Woods does the same thing with golf – he needs to be in “the zone” to be at his best, and only he knows what that zone is and what he needs to do to get there. He could be at the best physical condition of his life but if he doesn’t have his emotions focused and under control, he won’t finish first at the end of a tournament. The best in chess are the same. I like to look at Tiger Woods as we’re basically the same age, and he has always impressed me with his level of competitive spirit and devotion to his sport.
FOR MORE INFO ON JROBI CHECK OUT: