ChessMaine Interviews: Curt Brock
02.16.09 ChessMaine interviews Curt Brock, one of the finest gentlemen on the Maine chess curcuit both on and off the board. Curt scored 3.5 points to win the 2008 Downeast Open with a performance rating of 2190--a full 637 points higher than his rating at the time. We hope you enjoy Curt's insights and his impressions of his best game from the Downeast Open.
You can read the illustrated tournament report from the 2008 Downeast Open here.
ChessMaine: Curt Brock, congratulations on your win at the 2008 Downeast Open.
Curt Brock: Thank you very much. It feels great.
CM: At USCF 1553 you were seeded last in the Open section yet you came out on top. We should also mention that in the course of scoring 3.5 points in 4 rounds you had a performance rating of 2190. How did you manage to pull this off?
CB: I'm not exactly sure but I think my opponents were just having a bad day!
CM: You played your first USCF-rated tournament in 1992 but have been entering many more tournaments in the last few years. Why the recent surge in chess activity for you?
CB: Well, actually the USCF archive only goes back to '92 but my first tournament was in '90, I think, and was ironically the Downeast Open. A friend and I used to play in High School and after graduating I just kinda stopped for about 10 years. Then I happened on some guys playing in Barnes and Noble and it kind of sparked the old flame.
CM: As a result of your fine performance at the Downeast Open your rating will reach a career high of 1698. This represents an increase of 363 points in a little less than 2 years. To what do you owe this upswing?
CB: Well I think just playing a lot of serious games and studying has sort of tied up some loose ends in my chess play and has resulted in some nice gains recently.
CM: Are you following any specific training regimen or have you been working with a trainer/coach?
CB: No coach or anything, I've just been studying a few books more seriously and playing the computer on the 2000 level.
CM: Are there any specific books or software that you have found particularly helpful to you in your chess study?
CB: Definitely, Silman's Complete Endgame Course has helped my endgame understanding immensely. I have Fritz 10 and Chessmaster which has some great tutorials. Also, recently Simple Chess by Michael Stean was recommended to me by Lucas McCain. I have to thank Lucas for the recommendation, and also the ½ point! Thanks Lucas!
CM: For players who might be interested in a 300+ rating increase (and who wouldn't) could you offer any pearls of wisdom?
CB: I guess, just play as seriously as you can; try to know your opponent's plans as well as your own. And like any other subject, you have to study quite a bit to reap the reward of deeper understanding.
CM: How do you approach chess study? Where do you spend most of your time for example: tactics, endgames, openings?
CB: Lately it seems to be positional stuff like outposts, weak squares, backward pawns. I try to study an hour a day but that's not always possible. I think studying the endgame gives the greatest return on your time invested. Understanding endgames can also help to find a plan in the middlegame and even the opening sometimes. Therefore it can help with a whole game strategy.
CM: Would you be willing to walk us through what you consider your best game from the Downeast Open?
CB: Well, I can try. My best game would probably be round 2. I had the black pieces against Ruben Babayan, who as you all know is one of Maine's best players and overall very nice guy. The game started out with a Slav type defense which I think was played quite poorly by me.
1. Nf3 d5. 2. d4 c6 3.c4 Bf5 4. Nc3 dxc4 5. e4 Bg4 6. Bxc4 e6. At this point I was thinking "how did I lose like 3 moves!?" I believe the opening is my weakest phase of the game and this one was no different. However, there were no real blunders and I continued to try to develop and seek some equalization. 7.Be3 Nf6 8.Qb3 b5 9.Be2 a6 10.Qc2 Nbd7 11. 0-0 Be7 12. Ne5 Bxe2. Here I remember worrying at first that white could play Nxc6, Qc7 14. Nxe7 Kxe7 15.Qxe2 winning a pawn but then I realized that didn't work because I would just play 14...Bxf1 instead of recapturing the knight. 13. Nxe2 Rc8 14.Rac1 Nxe5 15. dxe5 Nd7 16.f4 0-0 17. Rf3 c5 18. Rh3 c4. Here white has made his plans of a kingside attack apparent. I didn't see any immediate threat so I continued to advance on the queenside with plans to maybe exchange bishops and place my knight deeply into enemy territory on d3 at some point. 19. Rcd1 Qa5 20.a3 Bc5 21. Nd4 Qb6 22. Qf2 Rfd8 23. Qh4 Nf8-covering h7 and also opening the rook to pile up on the d4 Knight. 24.Qf2 Rd7 25. b4 cxb4 e.p. 26. Rc1 Bxd4. Here I was down to about 10 minutes left and overlooked the better Rxd4. 27. Rxc8 Bxe3 28.Qxe3 Rd1+ -again overlooking the stronger c2 where if white captures my queen I had an amazing forced mate in 10! 29. Kf2 Qxe3 30.Rxe3 b2 31.Rb3 b1(Q) 32.Rxb1 Rxb1 33.Ra8 b4 34.axb4 Rxb4 35. Rxa6 Rxe4 36.Kf3 Rb4 37.Ra8 g6 38.h3 Rb7 39.Kg4 Kg7. I stopped notation here as I had about 5 minutes left on my clock. Basically we both had a flurry of moves where I had lost a pawn and then gained 2 pawns and my opponent's flag fell with about 15 seconds left on mine, whew! Saved by the bell!
CM: Who are some of your favorite players?
CB: I haven't really studied a lot of the great games but probably Fischer, Tal, Kasparov.
CM: Outside of chess what are your interests? What do you do for work?
CB: Is there anything besides chess?! My wife and I have a house and a small rental building which both require quite a bit of maintenance so I don't have much time for other hobbies. I work the night shift at the Wal-Mart distribution center in Lewiston where I load trailers. Not real exciting work but it leaves my mind free to dream of chess positions!
CM: Is there anything else you would like to add that we haven't touched upon?
CB: No, I think you've covered it all quite well, thank you.
CM: Curt Brock, thank you very much for speaking today with us and best of luck in your future endeavors--chess and otherwise.
CB: Thanks again and thanks for all you're doing to promote chess in Maine. It's much appreciated.