Showing posts with label Not Improvement. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Not Improvement. Show all posts

Thursday, April 12, 2012

A Mantra for Chess Improvers

I get feeds from a lot of sites, but rarely has something hit the inbox that struck me like this.

From this long and interesting post, a small nugget of pure gold for people striving to improve at chess:

[The girl asked] "How do I let go of this harsh false self, this ego, this part of me that keeps beating myself up and comparing myself to others, yet still keep striving to improve myself? Once I give it up, will all the drive I need to succeed just evaporate too?”


She simply responded to the girl, “There is one thing you have to keep telling yourself throughout this process, and it’s something I continue to tell myself to this day: ‘You are fine just the way you are…and there’s always room for improvement’.” Those words were like a sledgehammer to my chest that knocked the wind out of me. So direct and so simple. The most important part to me was that she said “and there’s always room for improvement,” rather than “but there’s always room for improvement” which would make the acceptance feel a lot more false and conditional.

From that point on, every piece of personal growth I pursued, everything I read, every piece of advice I got from people, every goal I set, every memory I recollected, every emotion I processed through meditation…I processed all of it through the filter of that mantra: “You are fine just the way you are…and there’s always room for improvement.”

And I asked myself if I've ever thought of my chess life that way.

You can ask yourself, too.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Back in Business, and Ain't It Grand

Hiatus over.

I played a few blitz games last night on FICS and felt like a rusty nail in an acid bath, won one or two and dropped a bunch. That's okay, I think the break has made me Hunger for chess, and blogging, again.

Chessloser hit Vegas, castled long (0-0-0) in the last three rounds after starting 3-0, and he's feeling a little down about it. As who wouldn't? A natural, healthy reaction. In the comments, I advise a break. We ALL need a break, from time to time. Things go in cycles, including the Sun; it would be really, really HIlarious if it turned out that increasing carbon dioxide levels were the only thing between us and the next Ice Age. (h/t Instapundit)

To everything, there is a season.

I'm playing in the Tournament of the LEPers II starting in a week or so, I feel like I'm having fun again with chess, after swearing off the five-hour grind. It's amazing how rusty I've gotten after just a few weeks with no tactics work, no games and no studying of any kind, but I'm also not all wound up with the wins and losses and rating points. I could lose all the games in the LEPers event and I'll be all right. Amazing.

I've postponed my LSAT, mentioned in the previous post, until October. After a lot of research and practice, I've decided I'm going to spend another 150 hours of prep. Unlike chess, this is a game that seems to work in a roughly linear fashion, time spent studying to final score. Not true when you get to the very right edge of the bell curve, but close enough to make it worthwhile. Maybe I'll get a great score and go to some really stuffy law school back East and become a wealthy shark in a three piece suit--or maybe I'll just stay where I am for the next twenty years and have a great life. Law school, I can take it or leave it, like chess.

I'm very relaxed these days.

I'll get back to posting games soon--in addition to some mildly interesting stuff from the final stage of my five-hour grind career, I've got some older contests that might amuse, and even instruct. I'm going to start using the excellent Glenn Wilson's ChessFlash.

Friday, May 16, 2008

My Final Tournament Game (at This Time Control), Plus Some Other Announcements

Last night's game at the Reno Chess Club marked an important turning point in my chess career.

I was originally scheduled to play Eric Shoemaker (aka Green Hornet) in the 7th and final round of the Club Ch. Swiss Qualifier. However, when I was all set up (score sheet even filled out and sitting across from him) the Director asked if I would consider dropping out of the round; several people who didn't have a shot at qualifying had not shown up, and the bye might have to go to Vern Young, possibly affecting his chances. I really wanted to get a game but I could see the logic of it, so I said I'd consider it, especially if someone else would play me a rated game. After a bit more delay they found me an opponent, Hadi Soltani, for a "rated side game." Okay, fine.

Now instead of having White as originally against Shoemaker, I drew Black and we played into a King's Indian as he and I have before, this time a sort of Gligoric Variation. I got a bind on the queenside and played some pretty artistic positional chess, which culminated in my coming out two pawns ahead in a rook ending. He had been ahead on the clock quite a bit, but now of course he started playing slower trying to find chances, and the game dragged on; everyone reading this knows how it can take many moves to make progress in this kind of position (rook and far back g- and h-pawns vs. rook). And the game dragged on; by now we each had 7 or 8 minutes left to sudden death, and due to the late start it was well after midnight, it looked like it would still take many moves to win the position, I had been enjoying the process, mostly, but at some point it occurred to me that "man, I'm still sitting here and I've got to get up and get ready for work in less than 5 and 1/2 hours!" and that just struck me as ridiculous, you know?

And a few minutes later I just hung the effing rook, just moved it to a square where he could take it, there went the game, it was effing embarrassing, there were some other players still there, by now almost all the other games were finished, people were calculating tie breaks for the qualifiers out loud nearby and which kind of says where this game fell in the grand scheme of things, he snatched the rook off with a decisive motion, I resigned and I had a moment of acute embarrassment, a few players had been watching and of course I had been exposed as an idiot, a patzer, a pretender and a fool, a clown, a dolt/dope/dumbkopf, a fish, a guppie who had made a mistake that the average 8-year-old rated 1000 wouldn't make. All the ratings gains I'd painfully made since last summer were now up in smoke, all the tactical books and the chess blogging and the study had produced this.

And then the clouds, so to speak, parted.

Before I walked out of the club I realized that this was the last five-hour game of chess I would play, ever. No more bleary Fridays at work on a few hours sleep after unwinding from the intensities of the Thursday evening death-struggle; no more worries about rating points. Screw rating points, the game was probably a lot more fun and less stressful when no one cared, they just played to win.

AS far as I'm concerned, I'm never playing another game of chess longer than three hours, max (G/90). A lot of clubs (Kenilworth, for example) play all their championship games at this time control. Seems about right for me, and I'm only talking about me here. The Reno Chess Club has a lot of nice people and a lot of good players; apparently there is a long-term tradition and consensus that 30/90, G/60 is what the most people want for rated tournaments, which is what most club nights are devoted to. Unlike some clubs there aren't many quickplays, blitz nights or other types of events. That's cool, but at this point I'm opting out.

What I really like are games that last 1-2 hours, with some increment so there's no sudden death. The first Tournament of the LEPers used 15 +30, fast but fun and most games take about an hour. For blitz I like 2 5, you need never lose on time and a few really quick moves can buy some decent thinking time when needed.

One more thing, on this post a few days ago Francis W. Porretto (Eternity Road) commented:

Robert, are you sure that elevating your rating is that important to you?

I think at 56 I'm a little older than you are, so our positions in life aren't exactly parallel. But maybe this perspective will be worth it to you anyway.

As you move into the second half of your life, you'll find that it's more important to preserve your pleasures than to maximize your achievements.

I teach chess to young folks. I don't get anything for it other than the pleasure of having conveyed a bit of knowledge to someone who wants it. Those kids are delighted to learn, and eager to make use of their knowledge in combat, just as I was when my uncle Karl (an international master in his day) deigned to teach me something about the game.

It took a while, but I learned soon enough that tournament results and USCF ratings are less enduring than the sense of heightened understanding. The results and ratings are ephemeral; the sense of understanding is something you can enjoy forever.

These days, I don't enjoy playing the game nearly as much as I enjoy introducing new players to its mysteries. Not many of them ask to see my tournament results, or ask what my rating was when I stopped playing competitively. They're just happy to have the attention of a "gray head" who has some knowledge to impart.

Whatever you decide to do, stay with it only as long as it makes you happy.

Yeah, I've found these words of wisdom bouncing around inside my thick skull from time to time ever since I read them. Everyone has different wants, needs and goals in an endeavor like chess; for the last two years I've been trying to get back to my "glory days" in the 1800s USCF, I've enjoyed playing and analyzing and blogging, I've especially enjoyed reading about others' chess experiences and triumphs and struggles, I still enjoy all of that, but I'm officially out of the grind-my-way-to-A-player business, I'm gonna quit formal studying with all the weekly goals, timetables and problem sets, I'm gonna play me some chess, especially at FICS, definitely in the next Tournament of the LEPers (YOU, get over there and sign up), and maybe someone wants to play a rated match at the Club at a fairly quick time control eventually, I'm up for it.

I'm gonna keep playing with my three-year-old, he's already learned quite a bit thanks to the Windows built-in chess game that shows all the legal moves, he has a tendency to move his king right up the board but hey, there's still time to get him playing the Catalan...

Chess ain't supposed to be work. It's a game. Chessloser knows this, even when he's at a tournament. I'd forgotten for awhile. If it took a "most embarrassing moment" in chess and the loss of some rating points, so be it.