|Player Profile (October 2002)
IM Christopher Sergel (2506)
My grandfather taught me how to play chess when I was seven. I played casually until high school and then spent a great deal of time at the Manhattan Chess Club (Hans Kmoch was then director). I played in a few USCF tournaments and met some interesting people - (Abe Turner and Asa Hoffman - who gave me my first real lessons).
Then I had a hiatus from chess - at the age when, I suspect, many people do. First there was College and beer and romance - then there was protest and long hair and (yes), I did inhale. Then trying to make a living and starting a career. None of this was conducive to chess.
I might never have played chess again, but postal chess seemed relaxed that I took it up again around 1988. It was great to reunite with this former love, and postal chess seemed like the best way - I didn't really want to tie up whole weekends driving to depressing venues, sitting in awful chairs and attempting to see with (yuck), flurescent lights.
My commitment grew and I started taking phone lessons from Lev Alburt (I studied with Lev for about four years and finally learned what the game was about).
Not liking the physical situation of over-the-board chess, I started making my "chess cave" a room I would want to spend time. Painted the walls. Put in carpeting. An air conditioner. Purchased a stereo. A nice wood chess set to replace the plastic goop. A humidor. A bar stocked with diet grape (for when I'm serious) and Grand Marnier (for when I'm losing). Recessed lights - very easy to work with.
I listen to many kinds of music. Normally jazz or classical. When I'm losing I listen to old Hank Williams (the real one - not his silly son).
The last time I played a gambit I turned up the volume to "Ride of the Valkyries."
If there was one piece of advice I could give it would be - "Never try to play chess under flurescent lighting or while listening to your opponents music."
I obtained my first IM norm in the first email world championship. It was an amazing group - two of the players - Christian Sender and C. Costa have since become Grandmasters. I would have obtained a GM norm from this tournament had the ICCF used the correct ratings at the start of the tournament instead of the ratings of the players at some previous point of time. But that doesn't matter - that was my high point in chess and I'm sure I'll never play that well again.
I obtained my second IM norm in the Olympiad. Since then I've picked up my first SIM norm at the second email world championship.
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