There´s a lot to be said about this week´s target for a Player Profile interview.... What you probably don´t know is that he lives in a village with less than 200 people, he is a husband and a dedicated father of three children, and he is really good at table tennis. At the peak of his chess career, he was sidelined for a couple years by ear infections that prevented him from travelling... (Click here for the full story in his own words.)
So without further ado, heeeeeere´s Danny!
Name: Daniel Rensch
Title: International Master
Date of birth: October 10th 1985
Fide rating: 2415
How are you?
Fantastically late on this interview... my apologies!
Accepted. Ok then, what, if push comes to shove, is your all-time favorite movie?
Wow... Being someone who enjoys himself a good pup culture reference, I'd like to think I'm "well viewed" (my made up equivalent to "well read") in this area, at least for someone of my generation. I'd have to go with 12 Angry Men (both the original and remake with Jack Lemon are great). Lots of important "human dynamics" in that movie. Others are Princess Bride and There's Something About Mary for comedies. First time through movies gotta be Usual Suspects, the Godfather Parts 1 and 2, and the Matrix (original). I also love Good Will Hunting, the equivalent to a "Man-Chick-Flik". I even like Braveheart -- the last great Mel Gibson movie before he completely went bonzo-bananas/jumped-the-shark!!!
What kind of food and drink do you prefer?
I like Italian food. Love pasta. Um, I don't drink soft drinks. So I have to say water for non-alcoholic, and of course that's all I drink -- Besides when I need a John Jameson (whisky if you're keeping score at home) on the rocks after a long hard day!!! Loves me a New Castle or a Sam Adams Light (yes, I said Light) for beers...
What is your favorite book?
All the King's Men, by Robert Penn Warren. BUT I also LOVE Catch-22 by Heller. I've read all the LOTR's (settle down "Nerd-Town") and Harry Potter's too. Loves me a good Fantasy series. I also like Catcher in the Rye, the Chosen, The Fixer, Lord of the Flies... and the list goes on with American Classics that I love. All time favorite chess book, that I enjoyed only slightly more than Madam Bovary was The Luzhin Defense by Vladimir Nabokov...
What music are you currently grooving to?
I've been accused of being in touch with my "feminine-side" by my brothers when it comes to my taste in music, but I don't care. I groove to John Mayer, Jason Mraz, Coldplay, Keane, The Fray, etc and things that sound similar to that genre of "Pop meets something Jazzy or Bluesy". For rock bands I LOVE the Strokes. All time favorite band, but their last great album was Room on Fire, so that sucks. Love the Foo Fighters and other Alternative/Rock bands, but I can't go any harder than Nirvana grunge style (meaning get the Metalica away from me)... I like Adele and Sara Bareilles for two of my favorite Female Vocalists... BUT I also get stuck listening to every Glee song remake possible (can't get the wifey to stop watching that show) and if you walk around our house you'll hear my 6 and 4 year old boys singing their own versions of every popular song -- from Somebody That I Used to Know by Gotye or Call Me Maybe by the latest Canadian-Pop-Music-Star ;-P -- So yeah, I'd say we are big music people in my house hold...
You strike me as a really funny guy when I watch your videos, I practically fell off my chair laughing one time Have you ever considered a career as a comedian?
In all seriousness, no. Not a "career". When I was a kid, I was convinced that I would be an actor. I could make myself cry (sounds healthy, right ) and do all kinds of faces. I LOVED movies... But then I discovered chess, and everything fell apart . My brother and I DO keep a running note on our Iphones of Stand Up Jokes though. So I do love pointing out the funny things about every day life...
Tell me a chess secret?
Chess player's aren't that smart! Chess is not for the "intellectually elite" or "high IQ people" -- that's a big lie. It's a game of pattern recognition! How do you learn to recognize patterns in both life and chess? Experience... Sure, having a brain that naturally does well with math, calculating, etc can be an advantage to start and maybe something that separates those at the very, VERY top -- BUT it is not the determining factor in your growth. Work hard. Be willing to look at your mistakes. That's all you gotta do to become good, and then creativity and calculation at the highest levels are what separates the "best from the rest"...
What is your best chess memory?
Winning 3 National Championships in the same year with the same team (The Shelby School). We won the Junior High Nationals with an Elementary team -- and we are still the only team to do that, though I think a Junior High team from NY won the High School Scholastic Championship this year, and they were the first to win "playing up" since our team did it. Making the IM-Title was cool, but I definitely get a little nostalgic when I think about those days and all that we achieved. People can read more here: http://americanchess.net/ace-program/mission-statement/
The Shelby School chess team
What chess hero had the most influence on your chess development?
Alexander Alekhine. The first TRUE Super GM. Strong in all areas. Launched the future of "Dynamic Chess Understanding" with his play. Fischer and Kaspy were great too of course. I could name many others too... BUT I consider Alekhine my chess Spirit Guide, if you will...
Are you self taught in chess or did you get lessons from a master?
I am a good "Russian School Boy". ALL Soviet Training. IM (given the GM title after his passing) Igor Ivanov was my main coach. GM Alex Yermolinsky and GM Kaidanov have also influenced me greatly as a player and coach. I have also started working with another great "former Soviet" Grandmaster... but not revealing now
Was religion a part of growing up?
Hard to explain quickly what my ideals are for life, but I'll try . What I believe and grew up with is not a "religion", but more a strong belief that what goes around, comes around. I believe Karma is a spiritual fact, like it or not. The Golden Rule should be a way of life, not an opinion or interpretation. So what are the specifics of my spiritual beliefs? Treat people with kindness, respect, understanding, and have compassion before judgement. Be curious about people's views that are different than your own, rather than fearing your own lack of understanding. Be willing to forgive even if you can't always forget... I have very strong spiritual beliefs, but they are a commitment to a way of life. More a "lifestyle" NOT a religion. Dogmatic laws and the inherit hypocrisy within them can be very dangerous, and lead to war -- so I never damn or judge someone's views that are different than my own.
And your family life was strong, and helped instill these spiritual beliefs?
Yes I mean, if you think you can't have strong spiritual commitments BUT still come from a dysfunctional home, than you're naive I love my family, as crazy as life was for me growing up at times. My parents were divorced when I was really young, so I have siblings all over the place, and the family politics that naturally come with that . The bottom line is this for me: I have my own children and wife now, so *my* family is my priority now. I will raise my kids with the same teachings I grew up with though: Again, not a religion -- but the understanding of "spiritual evolution" -- Which means we can all grow, we can all become better people (if you don't think so, look at the world), we can always and we should always try to evolve and enjoy the "process" of growing and learning.
If you were to live 100 years in the future, what do you think the game of chess would look like? What do you think is the chess of the future?
Chess.com has taken over the world, one chess game at a time, etc Um, no I think tourney chess will exist, more rapid, more 960, etc -- BUT I don't like to predict the future...
What do you think are the primary ingredients in a chessplayer?
The ability/willingness to "self-critique" which will naturally develop the critical thinking skills needed at the chess board...
Do you have an idea of some kind of “ideal chess style”?
ALL the world's strongest GMs have it!!! Chess understanding has evolved... I mean, the thought there that is separation between positional & strategical vs tactical & attacking is an amateur's view. There is no separation. One cannot exist without the other, and the best description of a strong GM these days is "dynamic". I mean, Carlsen is a total chameleon and can beat you in a checkmate attack or in a long technical endgame. So could Kasparov and all other GMs. I mean, they all tend to win one way more than another because they've developed their own personal tastes over time, but the thought that Kramnik couldn't bust you in a checkmate attack just because he plays lots of endgames is false. For anyone under 2200 who says "My style is this, my style is that, I don't like this, I don't like that..." they are headed down the wrong path. Play what the POSITION WANTS not what YOU WANT!!!
How old were you when you began to play chess?
10 years old.
What do you do nowadays to get better at chess? How do you train?
Nothing. Well, not nearly what I need to do to get to GM. I play some locally, train some on my own and with others who will remain anonymous for now, but I need to do a lot more ;-( -- BUT it may take a few years. I need to get Chess.com on top of the world first, then I can go back to playing more
Do you have a family?
1 Wife. 2 Sons. 1 Daughter. -- So yes, I do.
Is the Internet a big part of your life?
I work online, and online alone... Even the only students I have left are "Skype Lessons".
What was your childhood like?
Dysfunctional -- but fun? Strong family influence. Sometimes too strong? Divorced parents, siblings on both sides, lots of love, lots of fights, lots of growth... In one word: Busy!
What is your favorite chess game?
Geller - Euwe Zurich 1953 -- First game I memorized. Made me love the Nimzo Indian forever...
What is chess to you – a game of combat or of art?
It's a game. A great game that I have obviously dedicated the majority of my life to (at least my "ambitious" or "professional" life). But it's a game.
How much time do you devote to chess?
If you count my J.O.B for Chess.com and my students then I would say 50-60+ hours a week. If you are talking studies, then 2 hours a week if I am lucky...
What is your inner being?
Unfortunately, anxious and insecure most the time. I am working on finding my own inner-peace...... I'll keep you posted
What is the one thing you’d most like to change about the chess world?
The exposure it gets. Lots of ways to do that, but this interview is long enough already
Do you think one is born a chess player or can a great player be made by hard practice?
Talent Is Overrated by Geoff Calvin...
How do you deal with the mental stress and nervous strain of playing chess?
Well, it is nerve racking and if you aren't in the right frame of mind it can be taxing. But you have to throw yourself into it and enjoy the adrenaline, or you won't make it :-)
Who is your inspiration?
My kids. My wife. I LOVE what I do...
And here´s Danny´s lovely daughter Hazel
What is your greatest fear?
In life? Comfort. Oh, and like everyone else I don't want to be alone In chess? Not feeling complete with what I accomplished when it is all said and done...
If you could give a beginner in chess only one piece of advice, what would it be?
Run away. Run far, far away... Um, don't get discouraged. I lost all my games at my first tournament and wanted to quit chess, never to return... but I made the awful decision :-P to keep working hard and learning from my mistakes, and so can you!!!
Do you prefer blitz, otb tournaments or correspondence style chess?
Tournament Chess (otb) of course. Love Blitz though. I hate Correspondence Chess. I only do it on Chess.com because I get bored, but I spend less than 5 seconds a move because I have no patience.
Who is your most difficult opponent?
Uh, Alexander Ivanov owns me. On Chess.com it is definitely GM dretch (Conrad Holt). Plays like me and plays my openings, but does it MUCH better than me. Hard to combat that...
GM Conrad Holt. Hard to beat.
Is there any chess book that has had a deep and lasting influence on you?
Several. Tal - Botvinnik 1960 by Tal, Zurich International 1953 by Bronstein, Dynamic Chess Strategy by Suba (AWESOME BOOK), lots of stuff by Nunn, Kaspy's Great Predecessor Series may be the best series of all time if you REALLY love the game of chess and it's rich history...
If you could choose to live one day of any time in the history of mankind, which time would that be and why?
You're kidding me? So many days. I guess right now is OK though...
Do you have any favorite hobbies?
Table Tennis!!! Not Ping Pong -- DON'T disrespect the game ;-P -- trying to learn the Guitar, Sports like Tennis and Basketball have always been fun, etc
Are you a superstitious person?
Very. It's mental illness...
What is the most important lesson you’ve learned in chess?
What's important and what's not important: Winning is important because it's the culmination of things that *really are* important (I believe I let this rant slip out in a recent video, though I normally save it for my students): Your work ethic, your willingness to take criticism, how much you love and enjoy your craft, etc -- So winning at chess has been important for me -- BUT let me clarify something -- Chess has also taught me that your accomplishments don't define who you are!!! You have to learn to BE (who you are), DO (what you do), and only then HAVE (what you have)... NOT what the world tells you: DO (what you do), BE (meaning you are only as good as what you do/accomplish), HAVE (you only deserve to HAVE from what you've done). Not true. Everyone is fine how they are (insert picture of Stuart Smally) -- BUT if you do want to get better, then that's why winning is important. Did that make any sense?
Yes. No guts, no glory But what does your future hold as a chess player?
In the words of the great Emory Tate: "I plan to win every chess game I play from here on out!!!"
How would you describe yourself to an alien from another planet?
See, there's this crazy dude over there...
Do you think the future belongs to rapid chess and blitz?
Maybe more so, but there will always be classical chess and it will always be held in the highest regard...
Do you have any thoughts on how chess.com can get even better?
Just like my co-workers and bosses, I can say that I have a TON of thoughts on how Chess.com can get even better. The moment you say you can't get better, is the moment you go backward... We are a constant, ever-evolving mechanism that will not stop until ever chess player in the world is 100 % fulfilled and using Chess.com to achieve their chess dreams!!!
Messrs Danny Rensch, Erik (founder/C.E.O. of Chess.com) and David Pruess, making Chess.com ever better.