Culture Shock by Theo Slade

The following article was published in the 2016 May issue of British Chess Magazine (BCM), which began in 1881 and is the world's oldest chess magazine. Theo Slade (2059), a new Orlando resident from Cornwall, England, is their youngest ever staff writer, starting when he was only 12 years old! Theo has been writing regularly for BCM for three years and has agreed to share his articles with the CFCC community.

The following article was published in the 2016 May issue of British Chess Magazine (BCM), which began in 1881 and is the world's oldest chess magazine. Theo Slade (2059), a new Orlando resident from Cornwall, England, is their youngest ever staff writer, starting when he was only 12 years old! Theo has been writing regularly for BCM for three years and has agreed to share his articles with the CFCC community.

culture shock

by Theo Slade

Just over five months ago my family and I moved from Cornwall, England, to Orlando, Florida, the Land of Opportunity. It was something that we had been thinking about and planning for a long time, and finally, we took the plunge. Orlando, known as The City Beautiful, is much more than just theme parks; it really is a beautiful place to live. And as for the chess, well, the only “Floridian” players that I knew of were Caruana and Nakamura, and if you ignore them, then who is there?! So you can get a good picture inside your mind of what I was thinking when boarding the Virgin Atlantic plane to make the giant leap across the pond. 

As you can tell from my headline, the chess culture out here is completely different from what I imagined it to be, even if my original interpretation was somewhat wishful. Oh, and another thing, not only did we move countries, away from family and friends, but I also moved from an Academy which had only just been founded two years before, to a virtual school in America. I now attend Orange Country Virtual School (OCVS), which is kind of a normal school; it is just that there is no building! I do my work online and submit it for my teachers to mark. I have to be disciplined, but if and when I am, it gives me time and flexibility to study and play chess.

Secondly, there are rarely “set” scoresheets. Most players merely record their moves in their scorebooks. Next, you have to bring your own set and clock to the game. As you can imagine, boards come in all shapes and sizes (mostly square!), and sets vary from the regulation Staunton pieces to the very ornate – nice to look at, but difficult to play with. Everyone also seems to have a different clock, although analogue clocks are unheard of (woo hoo!). The first battle with one’s opponent is to decide whose set to use! In my short spell here I have already had two disputes with my opponents before a pawn has even been pushed...

Overall, American events are less formal. Players are allowed to listen to music through their headphones, and if someone’s phone goes off the arbiters (or Tournament Directors (TDs), as it would be over here) do not mind it as much as they do in England. This leads to some funny scenarios. In one tournament, where several GMs were playing, someone’s phone went off extremely loudly, and everyone looked round. As you do, he just apologised nonverbally and walked out of the playing room quickly. As it transpired after the game, his phone went off because of a tornado alert! It was all over the news, and there was a possibility of it actually affecting us! Thank goodness it did not...

The game that I have chosen to feature is not necessarily typical of the tournaments I have been playing in. Maybe next time I can tell you about the choice between two- and three-day schedules, the option to buy yourself back into the tournament if you lose your Friday night game (!), and even different time controls for different rounds!! Normally I have no time to prepare, I have few, if any, games of my opponent, and I do not know my opponents anyway. However, this game was an exception because I had already played Cooke before. See Cooke – Slade, Turkey Bowl, 2015.

Just generally, I would say that I am quite an emotional person, and my coach has tried to curb this. One massive advantage of living here is that I am now coached by GM Lars Bo Hansen, and his wife, WIM Jen Hansen, who have a very innovative training system, which you can even access from the UK! If you are interested, you can find out more at orlandochesshouse.com. However, this tournament was a team event, and I always get a bit (!) more emotional in these events, because I have a passion for winning as a team, rather than just individually... 

In the featured game below, after 68.Qxb1: The only thing that can explain my emotional state is that it was just like...

Arsenal's Mesut Ozil after scoring a winning goal!

Arsenal's Mesut Ozil after scoring a winning goal!

Theo Slade of British Chess Magazine

The following article was published in the 2016 May issue of British Chess Magazine (BCM), which began in 1881 and is the world's oldest chess magazine. Theo Slade (2059), a new Orlando resident from Cornwall, England, is their youngest ever staff writer, starting when he was only 12 years old! Theo has been writing regularly for BCM for three years and has agreed to share his articles with the CFCC community. Photo by: Brendan O' Gorman