Playing for #1

The US Championship has been going on for the last couple of weeks; twenty-four players playing for #1 which was reduced to 4 after the first 7 rounds.  And then 2 after Onischuk declined the draw on move 41...Ne4 and ended up losing, and Nakamura was in a worse position and played 23...Rh2?? (he lost shortly after).  This past weekend, I had my own tournament for number one; not nearly as impressive as number one in the country, but I was playing for number one in my state.

Last weekend I went to Moab, Utah to play Utah's highest rated active chess player.  His name is Harold Stevens and he is a guy that lives in Moab.  Harold had been playing chess for many years, but hadn't played any rated games until recently.  How was Harold discovered?  The people in Moab are always looking for more people to be in their chess club.  Harold hangs around town and his chess abilities were discovered.  Damian Nash who was the highest rated active player in Moab played Harold and figured out that he has some talent.  Damian later set up some tournaments to get Harold a rating.  Harold played 30+ standard games and had only one draw (all the others were wins) and ended with a 2348 rating once he came out of his provisionals. 

Now considering that I was the highest rated active player in Utah, I had lots of people telling me that I should play him, and having my title of "Highest Rated Active Player in Utah" taken away, I admit that I was interested in meeting him and maybe playing some games.  Damian contacted us to see if we wanted to come down to Moab to play in a tournament with Harold and a few other high rated players.  We talked about it and agreed to come down and play.

We got down there and I have to confess that I was a little concerned.  I have not met a lot of homeless people and I was not sure what to expect.  My dad did say Harold had been fasting for two weeks (drinking only soda) and I was hoping he wasn't crazy.  But he was very nice and not crazy (thank goodness).

We had planned on two games with Harold on Friday and two games with Stephen Gordon (another top Utah player) on Saturday.  That didn't happen. Harold decided that he didn't want to play two games on Friday, because he was a little weak from fasting (who can blame him?).  We had planned on leaving early on Sunday, so it didn't really matter because we thought we could just put one more round on Saturday.

So we (my dad, Damian, and I) went back to Damian's house to go swimming.  Damian has a cool and very interesting swimming pool.  His pool was made from an old windmill and a water tank.  The pool was on the second floor, with a patio area on the first floor and then the crow's nest where you can just go look all around.  It was a cool (both figuratively and literally as they pump their water from their well), interesting and a fun experience.

After we were done swimming, we went back to the library (that is where we were playing) so Harold and I could play our first game.  It was a good game, I was black and we went into the Maroczy bind (I hope I spelled that correctly) but in the end I won.  Damian told me that Harold has an amazing memory and he can remember every game he has played or book he has read, but what he is missing out on is experience.

IM Daniel Rensch and I just recently had a conversation about what helped him the most to get to IM.  He said some other stuff, but at the end he put: "Experience is the key" and this was my reply:

"Hi Danny,
I agree some with what you are saying, but I am not sure if I think experience is the key.  I know a few people that play in tons of tournaments; I would say they have the experience.  But I think it is not having the experience, it is learning from the experience.  You can have the key, but if you don't have a door to use it on what is the point.  And if you have the key and choose to never use it on the door it goes to, you might as well throw it away.  I think you need to have the key and use it on the door to learn new things. 

Having the experience is one step or putting the key in the lock.  Learning from the experience is turning the key and then when you use the things you learned, that is opening the door.  I think the whole thing might be the key and with out one you can't open the door.

Thanks for talking with me,   Kayden"

He sent me a reply agreeing with me and telling me to not over think it, and in the end we both agreed that experience is the key.

Back to the subject!  Next day I was not feeling well (all stuffed up with either allergies or a cold), but I still played.   I ended playing an extra game with Harold on Saturday which won’t count in the actual tournament.  He seemed to be playing better, probably because he had broken his fast.  He could have had three fold-repetition but didn't go for it because he was better, and unfortunately for him ended up losing.  In that game his king was in the center, but was protected nicely.  He played this one move that looked good at first, but... looks can be deceiving.  In the third game we got in an endgame where he had two Bishops for a Rook, but I was holding him back.  He ended up going for the win, but I got counterplay with a passed pawn and won.

The tournament is ongoing and I still have to play Stephen Gordon two games. Wish me luck!!

I have learned a lot from this whole experience.  The moral of the story is: there are lots of different kinds of people in this world with lots of different life experiences.  Harold Stevens is a good player and a nice person, and I am glad that I had a chance to meet him.  Or maybe the moral of the story is: don’t fast for two weeks before playing in a chess tournament Smile.

Here is the answer to last week's blog puzzle (what PurplePuppy said about zugzwang was correct):


And here is my third game against Harold Stevens:


  • 6 years ago


    Wow, I really liked the game that you played. Simply brilliant. Your a good player. It was supposed to be winning for him though. A couple of bad blunders costed him the game. But even then, you played quite solidly and in the end one. As Garry Kasparov says "The player with the last mistake, loses the game." And that is what exactly happened here.

  • 6 years ago


    Kayden - best wishes at the Copper. I have enjoyed your blog and reading your bio.

  • 6 years ago



  • 6 years ago

    GM Shankland

    This "I can give you the key, but you have to open the door" business is making you sound like Lawrence Fishburne!

  • 6 years ago


    Good game, that's an experience!

  • 6 years ago


    Moab...such a beautiful spot to play chess !  It must have been great to go there.  One spring I played chess in Arches National Park and in Canyonlands (with an archaeology chess mastersSmile).  What a great experience.


  • 6 years ago


    was an awesome puzzle...

  • 6 years ago


    This content has good message..........Thanks......

  • 6 years ago


    Fascinating article, ultra-cool puzzle and tricky rook v. bishops endgame with Mr. Stevens. Best of luck with the stairway, it's just beyond that opened door.

  • 7 years ago

    GM KaydenTroff

    Yes David (Pruess) I looked over it and you are correct.  But remember (I am trying not to make excuses) my brain was discombobulated because I was sick

  • 7 years ago


    it's nice to see a friendly game between two titled/high-rated players.

    I always find myself playing differently in such games, since I take more risks and play more for fun.

    Is your playing style different in 'unrated' games?

  • 7 years ago

    IM dpruess

    well, Kayden won that one with perserverance and endgame skill-- not because his hyper-accelerated dragon turned out well. he had a tough time of it in the opening, and was in a losing position for a while.

    by the way, Kayden, you may already have studied this game, but to me it looks dubious to follow qa5 with b6 and nc5-- the queen seems badly placed there.

  • 7 years ago


    Great game by two Masters! Things were starting to look dicey when it was R+2B versus 2R+P; I was thinking I'd probably want White's position. But you pulled it out. My Hyper Accelerated Dragons never turn out this good . . .

  • 7 years ago


    Interesting! A chess genius can truly come from anywhere!

  • 7 years ago

    IM DanielRensch

    Sounds like a good experience Kayden Wink... Always good to get to know people of different backgrounds and pespectives then your own...


  • 7 years ago

    GM KaydenTroff

    Yea we gave him a thing of Beef Jerky and a container that had a mix of different nuts and things.

  • 7 years ago


    did you offer him food??

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