Journey to International Master: An Inspiring Profile of Keaton Kiewra
Coach Q: Welcome to the "1000 GM Player Profiles." I'm Coach Q, your guide to these amazing players, and I'm here with International Master Keaton Kiewra. Welcome, Keaton! How do you feel to be here?
Keaton: Thank you! It's great to be here. I love talking about chess, and it should be a very interesting discussion.
Coach Q: That's fantastic to hear, Keaton. Chess is such a captivating game, and I'm sure our audience is eager to know more about you and your journey. So, tell us, how did you get started with chess?
Keaton: My journey with chess began when I was around 7 years old. My older brother used to play, and I became curious about the game after watching him. He taught me the rules, and we started playing together. The more I played, the more I fell in love with the strategic depth of chess.
Coach Q: It's amazing how a sibling's influence can spark such a passion! So, as you progressed in your chess journey, were there any particular players or mentors who inspired or influenced you?
Keaton: Absolutely! As I got more serious about chess, I started studying games of great players like Bobby Fischer, Garry Kasparov, and Magnus Carlsen. Their creativity and brilliance on the board deeply inspired me. I also had a mentor at my local chess club who recognized my potential and guided me through crucial stages of improvement.
Coach Q: I really hope that you have a good bounce-back event, Keaton. Just reignite that passion a little bit have a lot of fun with the games and make those connections because it's going to be a great event with a diverse community of players.
Keaton: Thank you, Dylan. I'm looking forward to it as well. It'll be a stellar event, and I'm excited to see everyone come together.
Coach Q: Likewise, it's been a while since we've seen each other. I wish you the best of luck.
Keaton: Thanks so much, Dylan. I appreciate that. It's always good to catch up with fellow chess enthusiasts. It's great to be here, Coach Q. I'm really looking forward to the upcoming tournament, the Hollywood Masters event. I haven't played much chess in the last few years due to the pandemic, but I recently started playing again, and I'm excited to get back into it.
Coach Q: That's wonderful to hear, Keaton. Not playing over the board for a while must have been challenging, but it's great that you're getting back into the game. Are you putting in extra training for the upcoming tournament?
Keaton: Well, I wouldn't say extra, but I have started training more seriously than in the past few years. I'm trying to get back into the groove and prepare as much as I can for the event.
Coach Q: That sounds like a good plan. Training is crucial for staying sharp in chess. By the way, I heard you relocated to the Bay Area. Why do you want to travel to LA to play this event?
Keaton: Yes, I did relocate to the Bay Area this summer. As for the LA event, I'll already be in LA for another event and visiting friends. I love experiencing the best of both worlds between SoCal and NorCal, so it's a great opportunity to play in the tournament while I'm there.
Coach Q: That's cool! It's nice to have the flexibility to play in different locations. Have you played in other 1000 GM events before?
Keaton: Yes, I participated in a round-robin GM event before, and, to be honest, it was a bit rough. I only managed to score one out of nine, but I thought the tournament itself was well-organized and had a strong field of players.
Coach Q: It happens to the best of us. But it's good to hear that you appreciated the event. Are you planning to take any lessons or insights from those games into the upcoming tournament?
Keaton: Absolutely, I always try to learn from my games, even if they don't go well. I believe every experience on the board can teach me something valuable. So, I'll definitely try to apply any lessons learned from those games to my performance in the Hollywood Masters event.
Coach Q: That's a great mindset to have. Learning from each game is crucial for improvement. By the way, I noticed you mentioned that the entry fees for some tournaments have increased significantly. Do you think it's essential to have low-cost or free events for IMs like yourself?
Keaton: Personally, I think it's essential to have a good balance. While I understand that organizing events requires resources, excessively high entry fees can be a barrier for players, especially those trying to achieve norms or establish themselves in the chess world. So, having affordable tournaments can provide more opportunities for players to compete and grow.
Coach Q: I completely agree. Accessibility is crucial for the growth of chess, especially for aspiring players. Now, let's talk about your chess journey. How did you get into chess, Keaton?
Keaton: My dad tried to teach me when I was four because I enjoyed playing other games like Checkers and Connect Four. However, it didn't click for me at that young age. Then, when I was seven, he introduced me to chess again, and I immediately fell in love with it. I guess it was just the right time for me to start.
Coach Q: That's interesting! Sometimes the timing is crucial when it comes to developing interests. Do you remember your first tournament?
Keaton: Yes, I started playing in scholastic tournaments in Nebraska where I grew up. My first-ever tournament game was a bit rough; I got Scholars mated. But I managed to recover and won the rest of my games, which earned me a third-place finish.
Coach Q: It's fantastic that you bounced back from that early setback and had a successful tournament. When did you start taking chess more seriously and get coaching?
Keaton: I've taken chess seriously since I was seven and started playing tournaments. I began coaching with a wonderful person named Tom O'Connor, who has been a significant influence in my chess journey. I also received mentoring in chess instead of the typical school subjects, which was a unique experience.
Coach Q: Tom O'Connor sounds like an amazing coach and mentor. It's always great to have someone who fosters a passion for chess in their students. As you progressed in your chess career, were there any points where you felt stuck or experienced plateaus?
Keaton: Oh, definitely. Like most players, I had my fair share of plateaus at various levels of play. Progress wasn't always steady, especially back in the day when chess culture and access to high-level chess were different from today. I probably spent more time at some plateaus than players do now.
Coach Q: Definitely! By the way, I really enjoyed our discussion about spirituality and meditation. It's fascinating how those practices can complement our chess journey.
Keaton: Absolutely. I think finding that balance between body, mind, emotion, and spirit is crucial for leading a healthy and fulfilling life. It has certainly helped me find peace and happiness in my life.
Coach Q: That's really inspiring. I can see how your spiritual journey has shaped your approach to chess and coaching.
Keaton: It has indeed. I think my mission in the chess world goes beyond personal achievements. I want to be a bridge that connects people, fosters community and helps players on their paths.
Coach Q: That's a beautiful perspective. Chess has such a diverse community, and it's fantastic that you're striving to bring people together through your coaching and connections.
Keaton: Thanks, Dylan. I believe that connecting with others and creating a supportive community is essential, especially in these challenging times.
Coach Q: Absolutely. And I'm sure your approach will resonate with many chess players. Your dedication to coaching and your passion for spirituality will undoubtedly inspire others.
Keaton: I hope so. I believe that if we can find meaning and purpose through chess and spirituality, it can bring a lot of fulfillment to our lives.
Coach Q: I completely agree. It's been a pleasure talking to you about this, Keaton. Your insights are valuable and thought-provoking.
Keaton: Thank you, Dylan. I've enjoyed our conversation as well. It's always great to discuss these topics with someone who appreciates their significance.
Coach Q: For sure! Well, I won't keep you any longer. I wish you all the best in your upcoming event and your continued journey in chess and coaching.
Keaton: Thanks, Dylan. It means a lot. I'll see you at the event, and we can catch up further there.
Coach Q: Looking forward to it! Take care, Keaton.
Keaton: You too, Dylan. Have a great day!