November 30: I’m having lunch with Aman Hambleton at a nearby restaurant and it’s the usual time of day where tons of emails come in. I decide to visually scan the ongoing wave of silent notications on my smartphone and find myself pausing the conversation because one of the emails catches my eye with the subject line ‘Tata Chess’. Aman and I had just been talking about plans for the New Year and how the Chessbrahs were going to prepare for the upcoming PRO Chess League which kicks off in January. A feeling crept up that everything we had just talked about was moot because of what I was about to read on my phone.
I didn’t need to open the email to know what was in it-- either a very unexpected commentary gig OR a spot had opened up to actually participate in the Tata Steel Challengers event. Out of these two options I was almost certain it involved me playing because 2016 has just been that sort of weird year. I open the email: there was an opportunity for me to be a last-minute addition because a spot had miraculously opened up.
A day later my participation was confirmed as the last player in the invitation-only fourteen player round-robin that takes up almost the entirety of January. Fourteen players with an average rating of about 2600. So much for my original plans. I have been trying to get into this prestigious event for 4 years in a row so without a doubt in my mind I was willing to drop all my original plans and change my focus back to the realm of professional chess.
Fast forward to December 29 as I’m writing this. 4 weeks have passed and only two weeks remain until the tournament begins. What have I been doing to prepare myself for the hardest tournament of my career?
Social: went on a few dates but as reality started to set in I’ve become more and more of a Netflix-fuelled recluse as I try to find my own personal ‘zone’. Have some chess friends nearby to keep me sharp, though.
6-7x a week. Usually try to get about 100-120km of biking done (on a high-resistance setting) as well as 5 days of lifting. Sleeping better and feeling great already.
Spinach salad, protein shakes, and beef or chicken. All day, everyday. Some carbs from pasta and cereal.
Reading my Great Predecessors by Garry Kasparov and Five Crowns by Yasser Seirawan
I’ve been streaming and playing a lot online. I’ve been doing this for my channel and not particularly for chess preparation since I’ve been away quite a bit this year I wanted to finish the year off with a bunch of streams to reward the amazing supporters I have. On the plus side, matches like this: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ms1R7tSOYqw have been super beneficial.
The tournament starts on the 14th of January and the final two weeks leading up to that I will not stream nor play online and focus solely on getting ready to play classical chess.
My playlist: Whether it’s in the gym or when I’m studying chess I generally listen to music. Here are a few of my personal picks for December 2016:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a8RkupfnDuM&t=3070s (heavy techno for that extra push)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5mGMJBCMsb8 (Vivaldi-classical music)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WlkGrqkZ6uo&t=1670s (groovy tech-house)