“When you don’t make moves and when you don’t climb up the ladder, everybody loves you because you’re not competition.” —Nicki Minaj
While the world witnessed the birth of Lessons and Confessions in mid-2018, one could contend a love of writing coupled with strong subject matter knowledge conceived the project many years ago. I can’t imagine coming up with ideas is anything foreign to most of us. Does the phrase “That would make a good book…,” ring any bells? Unfortunately, for too long, “…but how interesting would others find them anyway?” resonated louder in my head, deterring efforts of documenting as the ideas came along. Besides, surely the earth-shattering ones would spring back to fresh memory when I made that time to put pen to paper. Confession: They didn’t. Lesson: Don’t let them escape. Write it all down, right away.
After getting over my product’s relevancy hurdle, I realized there lies another not too far ahead. The next one centers on me—how relevant am I? More importantly, how do I effectively show that value to the world?
Promotion in chess fairly straightforward—as in a pawn literally moves straight forward until it reaches the opponent’s back rank, at which time it is promoted into a stronger force. With four options (Queen, Rook, Bishop or Knight) the process is generally black and white, although you shouldn’t get lulled into auto-promotion.
A 2006 analysis of ChessBase (the world’s largest collection of tournament games, at the time over 3.2 million games) revealed promotion(s) occurring in only about 1.5% of modern master-level games. Chess players might be starting to grin at my boldness to even cite such a statistic. To my readers who may not quite understand, let me try to paint a picture numbers cannot.
I’ve set up a brief journey through three positions and three centuries. The common thread: famous Grandmaster games where promotion spelled inevitable victory.
Referring to our points guide in Trade-offs, White seems to be in good shape with that Queen. Only a glance is needed, however, of his second rank to spot three potential spoilers to a smooth-sailing victory. It so happens that every variation here is lost for White, by way of a trapped King and potential to be promoted on more than once.
To challenge the World Champion, you have to win a series of matches against the world’s remaining strongest players. All while the champ gets to watch your every move.
There is no way for Black to stop White’s a6 pawn from becoming a Queen, except sacrificing his own.
This was the first game of Bobby Fischer’s second 6-round Candidates match. Fresh off a 6-0 sweep against Mark Taimanov of Russia, he followed in similar fashion to defeat Great Dane Bent Larsen in each one of the remaining 5 games, a combined 12-0 feat likened to “knocking out Mohammed Ali with one hand tied behind your back.” Yes, he did follow the storybook run by dethroning Russian Boris Spassky the next year.
Black’s pawn is an entire two squares from seeing a promotion, but the support of its Rook makes the world of difference in an equal material endgame.
The games shown all appear in ChessBase, but none are counted toward that 1.5% figure. Why? As a sign of respect and sportsmanship, it is customary at high levels to resign when losing becomes “obvious and overwhelming.” The winners didn’t have to promote—and it’s a sign of respect for the opponents to acknowledge their capability to finish it out. It’s distasteful to put in your best players and run your best plays in garbage time. Allow the other team to enjoy and the fans a chance to beat the traffic.
I don’t have the self-promoting nature of a back-rank pawn. I am passionate about the things I create and value others’ feedback, but I don’t care as much about people knowing me as the “artist.” If I ever solidify enough connections to write under a pen name and still be heard, Rheanna English may go dark indefinitely. What I’m finding is, the deeper I get into promoting myself, the less it feels like I am portraying my actual self. Realistically, however, I understand that taking reader pulse starts with getting some live readers. I am researching sophisticated ways; I also need to break down and just reach out for readership.
A final note– If you happen to be thinking something like, “Is that all you have on promotion, three unimaginative, ripped-off positions?” or otherwise think I did a weak job touching on everything, then you especially must stick around. I’m not done with it yet. There are more pieces on the horizon…I don’t want to steal their thunder.