Secret Life of a Chess Grandmaster
What springs to mind when I ask you to picture a Grandmaster?
Maybe an image of a rather elderly gentleman sporting a large beard? Or do you conjure up an image of a 'geeky' individual resting some nice 'old school' glasses upon his eyes? What about the figure of gentlemen dressed in a drab grey suit!? Is that what you see?
One of the greatest things that I have found from my time being a proffesional chess player (writer,teacher,commentator,video maker etc!) is the vast range of people who play chess. It is simply amazing. Young and old, black and white, rich and poor: Chess, bridges every social gap and class. It truly is a game that brings people together.
Grandmasters are often sterotyped in the West as being dull, boring and geeky. To be honest, I am not even sure what the words, 'dull','boring' and 'geeky' really mean and whether they should have negative connotations. As the great Magnus said, 'Geeky is the new cool'! Anyway, just to disperse some of the common thoughts that the general puplic have about us GM's I thought I would share a couple of chess stories that I have heard and been privy to.
1) The Naked Wonderer
Grandmasters never drink too much as they need to be perfect condition for the game.
During one team chess event I was staying at a busy hotel full of my fellow companions. On this one particular occasion I stayed rather too long in the very busy bar. Apon walking back to my room around the hours of 5am, I noticed a dark and mysterious figure making abrupt movements at the end of my corridoor. Was this my imagination or was I witnessing some other worldly specture? Feeling brave, possible due to the alcoholic fire running through my veins, I decided to proceed towards the figure. It then dawned on me that this was not actually a Spawn of Satan but something far more terrifying...
A strong naked chess player! Who was bounching off the walls like a crazed football. Yes he was completely naked! Knowing the gentleman I offered him my assistance to help him back to his room, but not in a state to understand anything I was saying, he clearly saw me as a threat and took a lunge for me. That was enough to leave him where he was and calmly return to my room. Who knows what happened to this GM, did he find his room or did he take cover in the tournament hall to be found be the arbitors!?
2) This is not the Grunfeld!?
Grandmasters always remember their opening theory
There was a very funny story of a Grandmaster who was so drunk he got the board the wrong way round... G.Serper tells this story brilliantly here.
3) The Grandmaster that dated a Super Model
Grandmasters are useless with the opposite sex
Eric Lobron is a very strong Grandmaster who was once West German Champion. On top of this he has also apparently made a fortune on the stock exchange and dated a famous super model, Carmen Kass.
Not bad going... I had the chance to play him in a blitz game which you can watch here:
4) Grandmaster are very Clever.
Grandmasters have a high intelligence
I onced shared accomodation with a fellow Grandmaster for a tournament that went on for just over a week. We were given the pleasure of having to cook for ourselves, but it became apparent on the first day that my fellow GM had never done anything like this is his life. Being well over the age of twenty this person had no idea how to even cook rice. It also soon became apparent that he also had no idea how to wash...
He may have been clever in some ways but certainly not in other ways...
The moral of the story. Grandmaster are just the same as you: Some drink too much, some don't. Some are social beings, others are not. etc etc
They do share one some things in common though:
1) Huge determination - The will to win and learn
2) Adaptability - They can pick themselves up and improve after a lose
3) Love for the game - Why dedicate yourself to something if are not passionate about it
4) Great concentration skills - This can be learnt, but you need to be patinece to be a GM.
If you think you have these skills, then who knows maybe you have what it takes. But it is also not all it can be cracked out to be. Are you ready for a job with low earning (I just earnt £150 for coming 5th= in the British Championships - 12 days of work), lots of time away from your family, no stability?
My one bit of advice: Just make sure you enjoy yourself and enjoy playing. Good Luck!