Attacking Chess, Diabetes and the Aging Process: A Candid Discussion with Francisco Anchondo

Left to right: Anatoly Karpov, the late Grandmaster Pugly and Francisco Anchondo.

Recently I had the opportunity to sit down with my good friend Francisco Anchondo to discuss chess, health and happiness. Francisco has been playing chess for over five decades and teaching chess for the past 40 years. A regular coach at Torres Chess and Music Academy camps, Coach Francisco has recently been sidelined due to complications of diabetes.

Chris: Hey Francisco. I’m sorry to see you having such severe health problems. I know it must be difficult but are you still finding enjoyment in chess?

Francisco: Severe? Well l wouldn’t call it that. Diabetes is a matter of diet, stress, and lifestyle changes. I have kept up with keeping my sugar readings down, but one slip up and boom you lose a toe. The ulcers can take months to heal. In an infection gangrene can set in within 8- 12 hours. To you diabetics run to the hospital. Do not let get to the bone.

Enjoying chess… I will always have a passion for the royal game. It excites me. My greatest joy is teaching chess to children. They are the future.

Chris: I am happy to hear that. As soon as your out of the hospital and feeling better we’ll have to teach a class together again. Are you going to try and play in any upcoming tournaments?

Chris Torres and Francisco Anchondo enjoying a lunch break at the Calchess Scholastic State Championships.

Francisco: As l have aged my desire to play in tournaments has become a very difficult struggle. Not only am l in close combat with my opponent, but with another foe. My health.

Chris: That’s tough. Can you describe the unique challenges facing diabetics who play competitive chess?

Francisco: In order to play a competitive game l must ensure my blood sugar is close to normal range that being 80-120 as it reads in the glocose meter. At 240 the body starts to be affected. Your concentration is decreased, you become drowsy and overall it is a hassel just bringing it down. Out of pure love for the game l play because l love it.

We allow ourselves of what we allow in life. Don’t eat after 7pm. Check your feet everyday. Get a large mirror. Vegetables is a must . Baked fish and chicken in small servings. Walk 15 min a day. Avoid stress and confrontations with everyone. If a person is trying to annoy you or upset you walk on. Get away. Do not say anything. Drink alkaline water. Absolutely no greasy food. Especially pork. You should only eat a portion. Of the size of your fist. Fist and a half at most.

Chris: Recently some other players your age have retired from tournament chess. Do you have any advice for older chess players who chose to remain competitive?

Francisco: Those of you who are older (i.e.above 50 years of age) I have have one good advice. Play lines you are familiar with. If you can make it tactical and put your opponent away quickly so much the better. Play for the fun of it. Enjoy it. If you play in hopes of winning money and getting upset with yourself when you don’t win then you have no business sitting down at the table. Be calm, be cool and collect ,the game will come to you along with the victories. Ok? Learn some very deep and difficult openings that will shock your opponent. However in order to do this you must do your homework. Preferably sharp tactical and difficult to defend. You have to know it backwards and forwards to the tee. Ok? 

Chris: That’s some solid advice. Before I go, can you show me a recent victory or two that you are especially proud of?

Chris Torres and Francisco Anchondo taking on all challengers at the Fremont Arts and Wine Festival.

Francisco proceeded to show me these fine victories on a small chess board near his hospital bed:

Dec 2017 Anchondo, F vs Aguayo M.

1.e4 c5, 2.Nf3 Nc6, 3. b4 Nxb4, 4. C3 Nc6, 5. d4 cxd4,6. cxd4 g6, 7. Bc4 Bg7, 8.Bg5 Qb6, 9. Nc3 Nxd4, 10. O-O  Qc5, 11.Rc1!? NxNf3+ 12. QxNf3 QxBc4 13. Nd5 Qxa2, 14. Nc7+ Kf8, 15. NxRa8 Nf6, 16. RxBc8+ Ne8, 17. Nc7 1-0.

Dec 2017

Hernan L. Montillo vs Francisco Anchondo

1.e4 e5, 2. Nf3 Nc6, 3. Bb5 Nd4!?, The infamous Birds Variation against the Ruy Lopez. 4.Nxd4 exd4, 5. O-O c6, 6. Bc4 d5, 7. exd5 cxd5, 8. Re1+ Ne7, 9. Bb3 Be6, 10. d3 Qd7, 11.a4 O-O-O, 12. Na3 Nc6, 13. Bf4 Bd6, 14. Bxd6 Qxd6 , 15. a5 a6, 16. Ba4 Ne5, 17. h3 h5, 18. Qd2 Bxh3, 19. RxNe5 QxRe5, 20. gxh3 Rd6, 21. b4 Rg6+, 22. Kh1? Qf5, 23. Kh2 Qf3, 24. Rg1 Rxg1, 25. Kxg1 Rh6, 0-1 White resigns

Chris: Those are some fantastic games. How would you describe your style?

Francisco: I come from Richard Shorman school of chess thought. I love attacking chess. Tactics ,Gambits, and that is what I teach. Follow the following players. Paul Morphy, David Gedult, Mikhail Tal, Rashid Nehzmetdinov,Emory Tate and Francisco Anchondo.

Chris: Would you like to give a shout out to anyone before we conclude our interview?

Francisco: Well I’m happy to have taught at Elizabeth ‘s Berkeley Chess School along with her son who is a gifted teacher. Dr Kirshner’s Weibel Elementary chess program with an excellent second to none program. With excellent talented teachers Demetrius Goins, Jason Cruz. These two l have known 15/20 years respectfully and l couldn’t be prouder of their accomplishments. The Torres Chess and Music Academy with Chris Torres and my years with him. Wonderful attacking material excellent program. Mr. Shorman and l only bring his name up because he showed me the way of what and how chess is to be taught. And of course Joe Lonsdale’s program at MSJE.

Published by chessmusings

Chris Torres is a nationally renowned scholastic chess coach working in the San Francisco Bay Area. His classes have attracted players of strengths ranging from rank beginners to world champions. A chess professional since 1998, Chris is widely recognized as one of the main driving forces behind the explosion in popularity and sudden rise in quality of scholastic chess in California. Chris Torres served as the President of the Torres Chess and Music Academy from 2005-2020 and currently is recognized as a correspondence chess master with the United States Chess Federation. Since 1998 Chris Torres has taught 6 individual national champions as well as led multiple school teams to win national championship titles. In addition, Chris Torres has directed and taught at 10 different schools which have been California State Champions at chess. In 2011 and 2012, several former and current students of Chris Torres have been selected to represent the United States at the World Youth Chess Championships. Mr. Torres’ hobbies include playing classical guitar and getting his students to appear on the national top 100 chess rating lists.

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