Announcing my Retirement from Competitive Chess

Illingworth
GM Illingworth
|
18

Hello chess friends,

I've been playing chess for two decades now, and I'd like to announce my retirement from classical tournaments (with the exception of the forthcoming 2019 FIDE World Cup, which I just qualified for). 

Some of you may already know that I am primarily focused on helping others improve at chess, through my chess coaching and my writing. I've been intending to retire from playing on the completion of the 2019 Oceania Zonal (which I just completed) for some months now. It's only recently that I decided I would announce it, out of respect for the various organizers, who were wondering why I wasn't accepting their invitations to their wonderful tournaments  

I've loved playing chess since I was six years old, and my passion for chess extended to coaching and writing from quite a young age as well. Particularly in the last six months, I have felt my passion for chess coaching and writing grow stronger, and my work with helping others achieve their chess goals becomes more and more fulfilling by the day. I'm particularly fascinated by the question 'How do chess players improve?' and my ideas of how to best answer it continue to evolve. 

A massive turning point in my career was the 2018 Australian Chess Championship, which I won with a score of 10/11, and a performance rating of almost 2800. This result motivated me to work very hard on my own chess, feeling that I would constantly ask 'what if' in the future if I didn't have a go at improving my level now. In time, however, I came to realize that I hadn't enjoyed playing a classical tournament since the 2018 Australian Championship. Playing long games had become increasingly boring to me, and at some stage, I could not see the point of making myself suffer. 

For instance, my last tournament before the Zonal was the 2018 Olympiad, a tournament that I would normally be extremely excited about playing! However, I noticed a pattern emerge at tournaments - I would really enjoy myself throughout the event (talking with friends and so forth), except during the actual games. This was also true at the Olympiad, where I would either play too fast and miss things, or play slowly and see nothing. 

To be clear, my decision doesn't have anything to do with frustration about my results - I felt that for some years, but have now put my playing ambitions to rest and play purely for enjoyment. When I compare my own successes with that of my students, I can say that seeing my students perform well (as happened at the recent 2019 Australian Juniors - I will blog about this in the future) brings me even greater happiness than the best tournament results I had in my career. 

I am in Guam now, where the 2019 Oceania Zonal was held, and I have to say that it's been a wonderful tournament to play as my second-last official tournament - the last being the 2019 FIDE World Cup, which I am sure will also be a wonderful experience! The organizers (led by Roger Orio) have done a great job of making the players feel comfortable, even setting up a great banquet and performances for the players the evening before the tournament. The hotel has been very comfortable, the tournament venue is of the highest quality, and I have thoroughly enjoyed all my interactions with old and new friends! 

Before playing this tournament, I was curious to see how much I would enjoy playing classical chess without any attachment to the result. It was nice to not feel the heavy pressure I had put on myself in the past, but at the same time, I would say that playing the actual games was the least interesting part of the tournament for me! That has nothing to do with my opponents, but rather reflects the shift in my own priorities of late. 

I'd like to thank the various people who supported me throughout my chess career and helped me achieve one of my big lifetime ambitions of the Grandmaster title. There are too many to name them all individually, but I'd particularly like to thank:

- My parents for unconditionally supporting my chess

- Everyone who coached me over the years (particularly Bernard Laugery, John-Paul Wallace, Brett Tindall, Ian Rogers, Laszlo Hazai and Surya Ganguly)

- Harbord Diggers Chess Club and Norths Chess Club for supporting me through important phases of my chess journey

- All my students, current and former, for allowing me to make my living doing what I love

- The chess community in general for providing a great environment for me to grow as a chess player and as a human being. 

Incidentally, this is the last game I played before announcing my retirement:

Now that you know I won't be playing tournaments anymore, I'd like to share with you my current vision. There are so many passionate chess players out there who really want to get better at chess, who have a big dream of what level they want to reach in their lifetime.

Nowadays there are many good learning resources, including the various features on Chess.com, but it's not easy for the aspiring chess player to find the right material for their level and current situation, which solves their most pressing challenges in chess, and shows them how to achieve their desired improvement. 

I'm extremely excited about creating a program that allows anyone, in any situation, to get the direction they need to make progress and see real results from their chess training. As a Grandmaster with over 15 years of coaching experience, I understand the problems chess players face at each level. 

Wouldn't it be nice to have easy access to the answers?

I'll keep you updated with more content and news as more amazing things happen  

Finally, I should mention that my retirement from competitive play is not necessarily a permanent one. I may be persuaded to play a tournament if I am offered conditions that make participation profitable for me.  I'll still be playing the occasional blitz/bullet game online, for those who still want to follow my play!