HHCF Interview With Erik "Weaksquare" Murrah


I met Erik aka @WeakSquare on Twitter. We became cool and I wanted to share more of his thoughts and his art with you. Check him out. Certainly a man investing a lot of positive energy in the youth.

HHCF: How did you get started in chess?

WeakSquare: My father taught me the moves when I was about 9 or 10. I used to play my chess program on the computer or battle chess at the school library. I always thought the game was beautiful but never really took it seriously until later in life.


  HHCF: When did you decide to compete and tell me about some of the things you have learned from competition?

WS: That is actually kind of an interesting story. In 2003 I became addicted to online poker. In 2005 I had destroyed all trust between me and my wife because of my addiction. My wife and I met with our pastor who pointed out to me that my addiction was not with money, it was with competition. He recommended that I focus my competitive energy on something far less destructive.
I started playing chess online and it was exactly what I needed.  I never picked gambling back up once I started playing chess. I think that’s why I have picked up chess so quickly, whenever I decide to do something I pour myself into it completely. I have a ferocious tenacity for winning and I think that’s an essential ingredient for becoming a good chess player. I started competing in tournaments in 2007 after I found out my hometown had a chess club. In 2009, I became the South Carolina Amateur Co-Champion by scoring 4 points out of 5 in our state championship chess tournament.
It’s kind of interesting to me that chess, which has given me so much life and energy, was born out of a crisis.  I firmly believe that our mistakes never define us as people, how we choose to recover from our mistakes is what makes people great.  When I was at the lowest point of my life in 2005, I always kept a positive attitude that I could make things right. I worked harder at restoring my marriage than anything else and it has paid enormous dividends. Next year my wife and I will be celebrating our 10-year anniversary.
I have learned so much from playing chess, mainly because I have lost a lot of games. I have a theory that investing in your losses, whether it’s chess, business, football, or whatever, teaches you the most about your discipline. Losing is not a tragedy, failing to learn the lesson that comes along with the loss is the real tragedy.
So yes, I have learned so much about chess, life, competition, winning, and losing by playing.

HHCF:  You have made some really cool videos on chess. I especially like the ones on Capablanca. Do you plan to keep making more?
WS: Hey thanks! I have done numerous videos on YouTube. Actually I started making the videos for my own benefit.  I started pouring through the best of Capablanca’s Endgames and found the games so fascinating I thought it would be kind of tragic to review a game, move on and forget it. So I started making the videos so I could review the games at a later time.
I also started making a video series on the Hyper Accelerated Dragon which is my defense versus 1.e4.  That series has gotten a very nice response from the folks on YouTube. Honestly I don’t have as much time to do videos as I would like. With kids and studying for games, artwork, my job, and such, the time it takes to create a video is a huge investment. I hope to do more in the future.


  HHCF: You were recently featured on TV for some of your outreach with kids. Tell me about that program?

WS: I work in law enforcement. Our county sheriff focuses a lot on community involvement. He challenges all of his employees to be heavily involved in the community. As a response to his challenge, I approached a local elementary school about coaching some at-risk children.  They were very receptive so I have about 14 boys that I meet with once a week to teach them the game.  
They all love it. I told them on day one that chess is about commanding an army, they ate that up. I also told them about Magnus Carlsen who is the strongest chess player in the world at only 21 years old. When they figured out that they could be better at something than grown-ups they really took a firm interest in learning the art.


  HHCF: Your blog is a very fun resource for chess and art. I especially love your wallpapers. How did you get involved in graphic design?

WS: Thanks so much! I’m really proud of my blog. Art has always been a big part of my life, I have always been able to draw really well.  When I got into college that was about the time Photoshop started becoming a very popular business tool. I got really good at it and now am Photoshop expert.  Being in public relations requires me to write a lot of news stories and also create a lot of promotional materials for community events through the Sheriff’s Department. So the professional skills that I have learned translate perfectly to running a blog about my favorite hobby.
As a side project, I also have a web comic called “The Unexamined Life” which melds philosophy and nerd humor.  And make no mistake, I am a nerd. People have a hard time believing I am a nerd on the surface because I played high school basketball and have competed in triathlons. Usually when I tell them I can play chess blindfolded, that removes all doubt to my nerd claim.
  HHCF: Whats next for the Weak Square? Wait! How did you come up with that name?
WS: What’s next? Who knows? I love being creative but I got to tell you man, creative people generally have no rudder. We kind of go where the creative winds push us. I had the idea for this web comic and then pushed out three issues within a few weeks, I mean fast. 
Honestly where I go from here is kind of whichever idea takes off. People have given me a lot of positive feedback about my blog, my YouTube videos and my artwork so at the moment I’m pursuing all three actively. Oh and of course, I still have competitive chess.
Regarding my moniker, it was really important I come up with something creative and funny, but also self-deprecating. I think poking fun at yourself keeps you honest and humble but it’s also a great form of humor. So, I came up with “Weak Square” which of course is a chess term for a square in your camp that cannot be defended by a pawn.  But it’s also a double entendre because “square” is also a slang word for someone who is kind of lame. So by calling myself a “weak square” is clever but poking fun at myself at the same time as kicking out some chess lingo for folks in the know.
  HHCF: Any final thoughts?
Yes, I have a real heart for children and I really respect and love your organization for what you guys are doing. This may sound cliche’ but children are the future of humanity. We have to invest in them if we are to overcome things like racism, sexism, class warfare, etc. All of the things I do is with the hope of inspiring imagination in someone.  That being said, all of the energy and effort I put into my hobbies come a distant second to the important things in life like my relationship with Jesus Christ and my wife and children.
I am an extremely busy person, so making quality time for children and family is something that is easy to let slide, but it really is the most important thing that I can do.  So instead of letting chess stand in the way of my family I include them. I bought my little girl a pink chess set and we just set up the pieces and knock them down and she thinks it’s the greatest thing in the world because it’s spending fun time with daddy.
So I wanted to say all this stuff I do is a drop in the bucket to being a good husband and father.
Thanks!

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