Manny Machado Brings Chess (and Hits) to Padres

SAN DIEGO – The laborers are lined up and the shining white knight stands ready to attack. The game will continue, again, as soon as the strikers’ meeting is over and sometime before the third star kicks the ball.

Given Manny Machado’s poor start to the San Diego Padres this season, it can be speculated that the five-time star is playing chess with his teammates playing chess. But in Machado’s case, it is also true: While he does not hit rivals and steals the acrobatics, Machado can be found keeping his mind straight and calmly reflecting on the chess board.

“Chess is fascinating,” said Machado, who learned the game from Brady Anderson, a former player and chief executive of Orioles, in Baltimore in 2017. “It’s something you can’t just go and play. , how he tries to attack you. ”

The game impressed Machado from the start. He puts a board on a small table between his closet and his club neighbor, Fernando Tatis Jr., has another board in the living room nearby; and plays at home during the winter with his father-in-law, Luis Alonso, who is the father of former Premier League player Yonder Alonso.

When Tatis Mdogo revealed last season that he regularly plays chess, Machado began bringing the board to the field for matches in his spare time, like the ones he played in Baltimore.

“If you play every day, you’re at war with him,” said Wayne Kirby, coach of the Mets team and a regular rival of Machado’s, in Baltimore and again last summer in San Diego.

Many Orioles would play chess during Machado’s time so that players would wait in line and call “I got next” as if on the court for a basketball game, said Kirby, and finally the team set up three chess boards in the club hall and board. of travel by road trips. Machado said he was still recruiting new rivals in San Diego, so far he has compared the minds of foreign players Wil Myers and Trayce Thompson, who this week was nominated for a quota (in baseball, not chess). Machado has also played a bit with Tatis Jr.

His usual rival, however, is Michael Brdar, the first-year coach to hit San Diego.

“It’s been fun,” Brdar said. “She’s beautiful. She’s so beautiful.”

Machado fondly remembers the first time he and his Orioles arch-rival Jonathan Schoop played a game. It was Seattle in 2017, Machado said. Both were pioneers at the time, so raw that Machado said their first game lasted just about three minutes.

“We both sucked,” Machado said. “It was interesting to take and learn from him.”

Machado and Schoop had ridden together through the Baltimore field system and were competitors in everything, including who had the strongest firing arm. They continued to thrive as chess players until their matches became almost addictive, complete with trash conversations that are still heard to this day.

Who won the most?

“Come on, that’s not a question,” said Schoop, who now plays second base (and more chess) for the Detroit Tigers. “I let him hit me several times just to make me feel better. If we played 100 times, he would hit me 10 times. ”

Machado laughs when this is presented to him – and corrects Schoop’s calculation.

“Honestly, at first it was a little bad because he knew a little more than I did when I started,” Machado said. “But once I learned how to do a few steps, he had no chance against me. Now, it’s probably 70/30 – I’m 70, he’s 30 years old.”

Machado then added: “I don’t think he could win the game against me now. Even getting his queen out of the way. He would have finished. “

Schoop, though, claims to know “all of Manny’s steps,” in one particular direction. “If you take the horse away from him,” he said, referring to the knight, “he is finished.”

Kirby agreed. “The horse is too big for Manny,” he said. “He loves that horse.”

Kirby and Schoop said games between players would sometimes be controversial because they were both highly competitive. At other times, Schoop said, Machado would accuse him of cheating.

“They wouldn’t have reached 100 matches, they would have been arguing a lot,” Kirby said. “They would get in there because as soon as you touch your queen or something, and then take your hand off of it, you’re done. Both would have claimed they did not remove their hand from any piece. “

In San Diego this season, Machado has had a hand in – and in – – everything. As of Thursday, his average strike .383, 46 hits and 27 runs scored all led to a major score. At 29 years old, he already ranks 19th among the players playing on the MLB roster (1,471) and 18 in the home race (258).

With Albert Pujols and Miguel Cabrera approaching the end of their celebratory lives, it looks like there will be a long wait for another member of the 3,000, 500-song club. join the brotherhood one day.

Machado called Cabrera the “best player I’ve ever seen” and spoke enthusiastically about his preparation.

“I know the game changes a bit, but there are no more strikers like that who go out and get 3,000 hits, 500 homers – and twice 600, right?” Machado said. “That is negligence.”

It’s the kind of striker Machado strives to be, and that’s what he is again after a summer left shoulder injury that made him unable to lift his arm for a while. He still played 153 games, refusing to make a list of the injured, and even now he is smiling softly while refusing to disclose a full diagnosis of the injury. (“I can’t say that. I can’t tell you. I don’t know what it was. I’m not sure what it was.”)

It is a whole package of lazy, star striker, key midfielder and chess king that has promoted him to be the team leader for a club that has been having problems with it lately.

“You see him from afar and you have your opinion on him,” manager Bob Melvin, who joined the Padres this summer, said about Machado, who has gone through a number of early career issues and replaced leadership. “Then when you get here see what he is up to. He’s a certain voice, he certainly leads by example. He shows up to play every day. He does it every day. There are subtle things about it that shout at the leadership.

Brdar, who started playing chess after watching “The Queen’s Gambit” the last two winters, suggested that there could be a connection between chess and beatings.

“You’re going to make a bad move in the game of chess, and that’s often how you can recover from that instead of letting it leak in two, three, four steps in a row,” Brdar said. “That’s the same as beating.

“You will chase the field here and there, you will miss the mistakes here and there. But more often than not it is about what you do two, three, four subsequent episodes, or two, three, four subsequent ones. I think there is a clear balance. “

Machado agreed, noting that “you are training your brain to do the right thing. People read, people do a little mystery to awaken their minds.

For Machado, chess fills that role.

He and Brdar are playing “slow” games on the board in front of Machado’s closet – if the batting coach walks past the club hall and sees Manny stepping on it, for example, Brdar will stand up and do his thing, and vice versa. Then, after a striker meeting or knockout practice, they will play longer games on the board in the players’ living room.

“He is currently playing finchetto with his bishop,” Brdar said of Machado’s opening strategy in many games. “So he wants his bishop to have the whole picture of the whole board.”

“That’s my step,” Machado said. “When I saw ‘The Queen’s Gambit,’ I didn’t know the names at the time. I still don’t know much. I know a few. But it’s all about the opportunity. I use them a lot. ”

Brdar proudly reports that he has learned to turn off the action. Machado humbly admits that in their games so far this season, the batting coach has won three times with Machado only once, and lost once.

“But it’s a long year,” Machado said. “Things are changing. It’s like baseball. You go on a hot stream, you go on a cold stream. I’m on my way right now. “

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