My name is Jeff and I am an ex-Toyota employee (Labor relations and shop floor management) and now business consultant for those choosing to learn the Toyota System. I have had the opportunity to play chess with equipment layout, material volumes, and policy decisions for years. I had also played the real game back in my college days at Auburn University, AL. Why chess? Its fun yes, but it reaches kids and adults in many ways that bring out the best in all of us.
The one constant the game provides is relationship building between individuals, cutting across many barriers in society. So, I decided to pick the game up again five years ago in my late 30s. I found that I still played bad but enjoyed it anyway. I even hired a coach. I actually got to the point of understanding GM games-wow. She still tells me to castle, but I never liked doing that so I found openings where one could skip castling sometimes-Sicilian Sveshnikov. To be honest, when I do not castle early I am toast.
I also decided to take up chess sponsorship on a consistent basis to see if it had any positive impact on people. I found several players who were not only highly rated but good communicators / teachers. There is a difference. At Toyota we had both skilled technicians and teachers like any company, but the teachers taught what I would describe as a new culture. This is significant in my mind. Teachers are real good with people, and many times influencing our youth and adults in healthy directions that ought to come from many places it does not for many reasons.
I’ll keep it short. I first noticed this chess culture at a little center in Queens, NY. I took some lessons from coach Sofia Polgar (actually flew her into NYC from Toronto, found her on the ICC website). I noticed how she explained complex things to a beginner at my chess level- just like a good teacher. Between lessons I would walk out into the large area of the little club and see young children solving 6 to 8 move tactical puzzles with club manager Leon. These amazing little kids. Seeing all this without moving the pieces and remaining so calm and enthusiastic. Sofia’s sister Susan ran this club at that time. So, I sponsored some events with both Susan and Sofia to help people experience their inter-personal gift of good character and joy both of them bring to their work.
Jeff Smith and Sofia Polgar
Over and over, event after event, the same inspiration was found on the faces of people. I observed these teachers demonstrate the same high quality of character and joy of what I would describe as chess culture with all the participants. This was more than business to them- it's a way of Life. Just like my experience with teachers at Toyota. I would like to express a great debt of gratitude to Sofia and Susan for letting me sponsor some of their many worthy activities. They are both a class act.
Another example comes from Lexington, KY. Like the two above Chess Grandmasters / Teachers: GM Gregory Kaidanov is yet another excellent Teacher of chess culture. In my mind, it's just embedded in the character of these people. Once again, I saw a good natured, professional, good thinking, calm individual, with real teaching skills for our youth and adults do good work. So I sponsored some events with him as well. Greg apparently has quite a list of students young and old who enjoy learning from him. As good as these people are at chess and at how they teach it to others, they more importantly set an example of good character and joy through their work. This combination of mind and feeling hits the mark in my book, by developing leadership and human relationship skills in others- flat out, no doubt about it.
GM Gregory Kaidanov
Oh yes, how about this little web event. I am an addict of this Sicilian line of play and pleaded with GM Gregory Kaidanov and GM Judit Polgar to have a tiny Internet match for a week. Judit is the best Woman player ever and has beat Kasparov, and has been in the top of all chess players for over 20 years-became a GM back when I was still learning basic math. We will use the MonRoi system to make games available to everyone who has Internet connection. You can sign up free at monroi.com (My King) website run by Zeljka. Look out for MonRoi’s Founder Brana Giancristofaro as she is an Electrical Engineer and a good chess player- and has a really good idea with this product to help others.
So…Greg & Judit who are top GMs in anyone’s book, will slug it out for a week so us mere mortals can enjoy the sometimes sharp play of the open Sicilian e4, c5. I look forward to this week and so should you. They were barely compensated for their participation, but they did it anyway. There is that example of good character front and center again.
Finally, the ability to transform the nature of our youth & adults into those qualities that are the best of our nature – Humanity, come through living examples: demonstrating right thought, feeling, speech, and action to bring about the kind of Culture we all aspire to in our relationships. I see these Teachers bring this out in others. Why? Because it's part of their nature. Are they perfect? No, but they sure are headed in the right direction. Help me support their good work (there are many more in chess than the few people I mentioned as in all disciplines) by giving them a shot at doing events like this one or even different in nature. Support your local chess teachers who embody the Culture we aspire to have in our society. If you dropped the game after a few or many years give it another shot. You will find yourself building some new relationships and positively connecting with others.
Judit Polgar - Greg Kaidanov Sicilian Theme Match Website