Only the 26th of December I put on the warm coat and the scarf and sweater and headed off to the CCSCSL for the Christmas Open, my last tournament of the year. I had accomplished my goal of breaking a 1200 USCF rating and was looking to relax during my holidays and have some fun playing chess. I wasn’t quite ill but I wasn’t feeling that great. Register, coffee, first round and I get crushed by a 2000. No problem. That’s what happens, stupid move on my part pushing the wrong pawn. Bad game. Oh well. It happens.
So I went down stairs. I analyzed the game a little bit a saw the stupid move. I knew it was a terrible move. I knew it! Oh well. That’s the first round eh?
One of the great problems I’ve had over the last year regarding chess is only what I could describe as a psychological deficit. In 2009 I played solid games against much higher rated opponents. Wasted won games against C and B class players above my rating and just blundering away to the U1200 crowd. 2009 was brutal and this “psychological deficit” was always a problem. I found it much easier to concentrate when playing up and much harder to stay focused and calculate when playing younger kids and average rated players.
It would be very honest to say sometimes I’d just get really pissed while playing and say “to Hell with this.” In 2009 I just calmed down a bit. I tried to focus on the game as a game. It wasn’t about who I was playing or how I’d faired so far on a given tournament day. It was about showing up and challenging myself to focus. Smoke less during games, ponder more, try to get my notation right.
I think I did well at that. It’s hard to lose as much as I did and keep coming back.
I started studying using Chess.com’s chess mentor. I learned a bit. I set up the board in the house and worked through tactics and played in a great many thematic tournaments.
Anyway. My second game of the day was against a young unrated player. Ok. No problem, don’t underestimate anyone, I will just play the game. I did just that. Up a pawn, better pawn structure, trade down, slowly I dismantled the youngster and was on my way to victory as I sat with passed pawn, Queen and King all his pieces gone.
Then the one move I couldn’t make, the one move that put the game into a stalemate, and I made it. I totally failed. A years worth of study, improvement, a blunder of epic blundering proportions. I felt at that moment like I had FOOL stamped across my forehead. The youngster in question had just that morning learned about stalemate, I found that out from the TD who had been coaching him.
I couldn’t believe it. I withdrew from the tournament. I was totally crushed. In a terrible mood, I felt absolutely awful. I didn’t look at a chess piece for 2 weeks. I didn’t move one until this afternoon, over 3 weeks later. I would load up chess.com and take one look at a game awaiting my move and I couldn’t even begin to calculate. I was totally chess-broke.
I knew the moment I started learning about chess this was going to be a life thing. It was a very weird experience to be so suddenly distant from the chess board. Encountering a lesson or a game is how I relax during the day when I get work stress. The tournament experience and long format OTB were an absolutely refuge from the hectic day to day things. I loved it! Yet I couldn’t even take the chess set out of the car!
So I still haven’t looked at my games online but the more I thought about it the more I knew I would return and I had to just get over it and start playing.
Today I returned to the CCSSCSL and entered the weekly blitz tournament which has returned to Tuesday nights in 2010. Paid, coffee, cigarette, chess! No warm up games. First game back….BLUNDER! Queen trapped in a corner! Oops! 2nd game….BLUNDER! Lose knight in the 6th move of the game….3rd game…VICTORY! 4th game…VICTORY! Fith game? BLUNDER! Loss. Oh well. I lost to the guys I was supposed to lose to and I beat the guys at my level. 2 points + 12 rating points to my quick rating and I won $7.50 of prize money tying up the U1300 group.
It felt good to move some chess pieces. I will be thinking about my goal for 2010 and I’m excited to start playing again.