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Learning the Game

Atanas Kolev

By GM Atanas Kolev


I started playing chess at 10 and my first chess book was brought to me by my father (who also taught me the rules of chess). The book was titled First Steps in Chess by Nikolai Minev and Oleg Neikirh and was full of wonderful chess games. I studied the book very carefully and had the impression I was ready to meet my first serious chess opponent. At the time, this happened to be an older kid from my neighborhood who had already played in some chess tournaments. I was sure that I was ready to take him; however, I lost the game rather easily by allowing a pawn piece fork.


Even with that loss, I kept playing. Later, I had a very useful (although not pleasant, to be honest) experience in one of my first chess tournaments. My opponent was also a weak chess player (like me), but much older and had an interesting habit of reacting to each of my chess moves with an expression of utter disbelief. I do not remember the game, but I am sure he had a very bad position and had to travel with his king early in the opening (he was White, as I recall). I missed a lot of winning continuations and after the end of the game (losing again as you may have guessed) my opponent just told me, “You have no idea about chess.” This may be true still, but it gave me a lot of motivation to keep on working.


One of the first Bulgarian champions (Dimitrov) once made the most original move I ever saw. We played a Sicilian and I was playing with the white pieces; he castled short and, after a sacrifice, his king came to e8, where his destiny was to get mated. Instead of resigning the game, he just castled long and it was the only move that allowed Black to survive the attack. I told him that he had already castled once in this game and it was an illegal chess move, so he immediately resigned. I still wonder if maybe he just wanted to try his last chance as a kind of a joke.