A chess master is a chess player of such skill that he can always beat players of the general strength found in chess clubs, who themselves typically can nearly always prevail against the level of play generally possessed by the average player in the general population.
Master #1, 2000:
The first master I had the “pleasure” of playing was Selby Anderson in the 2000 Waco Open. The tournament was a four round Swiss, and my first two games were excellent, drawing an expert with the Black pieces and easily defeating a Class A player. My good results meant that my round 3 match-up would probably be against someone else with 1.5 points.
That someone else was Anderson, the highest rated guy in the tournament.
Before the game, he asked who I’d played, and gave a grunt of minor respect when mentioning my draw with the expert. This quickly turned into complete disrespect as the game started. He opened with e4, and started reading a book! I went with Basman’s Defense (1. … g5) for a surprise factor–yes, I’d been practicing this opening–but in retrospect, it was probably best to try for a more solid, orthodox game. He had an easy game, although towards the end, he briefly set the book aside for one or two moves when I managed to get a piece or two in the neighborhood of his King. (Stream of consciousness at the time: “Take that, Selby! You actually had to pay attention for a couple of moves!”)
More than one person expressed to me their dismay at Anderson’s classlessness afterwards. But what do you do except laugh? (He also made Sam Sloan’s Hall of Shame, not that having a point of view in common with Sloan is necessarily something to brag about.)
Master #2, 2007
My friends were either busy or working on Saturday, which gave me a chance to visit the Houston Chess Club. They are quite active, holding some sort of event most of the days of the week, and I hope to be involved with them whenever I’m in the area.
On Saturday mornings, Life Master Larry Englebretson gives lectures at the club, followed by a three round G/60 tournament. I’d been sick, feeling awful, and was wavering as to whether to play in the tournament at all. Only five players had shown up, so I decided to enter so that no one had to take a bye. (That altruistic gesture was for naught, as one more player showed up for round 2, and someone had to take a bye anyway. And I had the bye for Round 3.)
My first game was against a Class A player. Although I didn’t play particularly well, I managed to win the Exchange, and should have won. I plead rustiness and sickness as reasons, not excuses, for the endgame loss.
The second game was against Mr. Englebretson. Around move 10, I dropped a Pawn (seeing the mistake after hitting the clock), and immediately I had to try to create some sort of imbalance that would at least give me a chance at counterplay–except for his extra Pawn, the pawn structure was symmetrical. At several points during the game, I kept telling myself, “OK, here’s something I’d like to do, but how can I force it? I know this guy’s seeing everything that I do, and more!” While parrying my plans to force a weakening his pawn structure, he was able to constrict my space and implement a plan of his own, ramming a central passed pawn down my throat. Recognizing that the most important square for a passed pawn is the square in front of it, I attempted a blockade, and for a little while, I was able to hold. However, he was preparing to blast his d4 passed pawn through by landing a supporting Pawn on e4. Realizing this, I got as much stuff as possible to try to defend the e4 square. However, due to his well-posted Bishop and superior space, I was not able to match his buildup, and he was eventually able to have 5 pieces eyeing e4 compared to my 4. At move 29, my position was resignable, but I played a few more moves just to be able to say I survived 30 moves with a master. (Non-chesser’s note: a move is considered one play for each player).
After the game, Mr. Englebretson motioned me to step outside. He was very friendly, and we discussed what happened during the game. He was complimentary of how I handled the game after losing that Pawn early, saying I played “tough” (probably partially true; I’m sure part of it was him being nice, but it felt good to hear it anyway). He talked about the parts of the game I handled well, and mentioned a couple specific moves where I could have played better. I told him seemed like he saw everything, and he did a great job of restricting my pieces.
Even if we hadn’t chatted, I’d visit the Houston Chess Club again, but his friendliness not only makes it a lock I’ll return, but would actively recommend it.