Dealing With Fear

GM KaydenTroff

I played in a tournament this past weekend in California (11 hour drive each way).  From the title you can probaby tell that it wasn't a perfect tournament for me.  But it was good in the sense that I learned something really important. I learned about... I think you guessed it... FEAR.  Great lesson to learn for me, tough, but good.

This tournament was only five rounds.  The tournament started out with me playing (IM) Enrico Sevillano.  Okay nothing to worry about, I can go out there and try really, really hard to win, and if I don't nobody expected me to anyway.  It was a good game that went about 4 hours.  I had 5 seconds left on my clock. As I analyzed it afterwards, there was one point that I probably could have drawn (disappointing that I didn't) but okay.

Next day, I get a forced bye (full point).  Ugh!  I feel like I am getting punished for not doing something I was expected to do.  It was especially hard because we came so far and it was only a 5 round tournament to begin with.  But someone had to get it and it just worked out I did.  I actually hoped one of the higher rated players would finish fast and would play meSmile (it didn't happen).  So, my mom and I decided to go get lunch and relax at a park.  It was snowing that day in Utah so we enjoyed the nice weather of California.

Next round, I know I can't get the bye again at least, and I figured that I would play the highest rated of the 1-point people, I was right.  I got (FM) Joel Banawa, and I wasn't nervous or anything.  It was fun to try my new white opening for the first time in a standard tournament against a 2425 rated player.  It also was a good game, I think it also went about 3 1/2 to 4 hours.  Got a good night's rest, ready for the next game.  I was feeling okay because even though my only point came from my bye, I had played two high rated players and I felt like I had done pretty well.

The next morning, I got a 2074, Varun Krishnan, who is a good player. "Oh rats, I really need to win this game," I thought.  With no wins and a lower rated player...I really needed it.  It is probably not hard to figure out what I did majorly wrong in that game.  As my mom put it, "You let fear play the game for you." And let me tell you, fear isn't a good chessplayer!!  So I think you can figure what happened. My opponent, even though he was a 2000 (now 2100), played pretty well, and me, the NM, decided to have fear play for me.

 CAUTION! Do not let fear play chess for you, it is not a good chessplayer.

I played careful (not in a good way) and cautious and was so worried about making a mistake that I played completely different from how I normally play.  I was white again and this time I worried about playing a new opening that I was not completely familiar with.  The thing is that playing with fear made everything that I was fearing happen.  Not to take anything away from Varun because he played a good game, but I didn't play my game.

Last round, I have three losses, two against higher rated one against a lower rated.  I get Joshua Gutman. "Funny," I think. I got him in the last round of the last tournament I played in. We overheard him telling his friend that he had lost to me in the last tournament and his friend said, "He (meaning me) is not having a very good tournament," and truthfully...I wasn't!!  I knew that Joshua was a really good player and I did not want to leave the tournament without any wins (other than a forced bye).  Oh... I was feeling the pressure before the game!!  My mom told me I would be walking home if I didn't win, and even though I knew she was joking (all they ask is that I play my best), I think it gave me a little more incentive to win. Smile

We started the game and I was definitely feeling it!  Fear really wanted to play for me (I will feature this game at the end).  First couple of moves I was tired and nervous.  Finally, I gave myself a mental slap in the face, got it together and decided I wanted to play (not fear).  It was a good game. We played the Grunfeld and ended up going into an endgame.  He had more pawns in the center, but I had a beautiful placement of the king (the king placement killed him). I eventually broke on the side, got up one pawn, but that one pawn was enough to win, so he resigned.  We later went over the game and decided that even with my great king placement he probably could have held a draw but he made one move that just killed him in the game.

Yes! I actually won and didn't let fear play for me.  I ended up only dropping 7 points which I think was a good payment to learn the lesson I did.

After the tournament I got to hang out with GMs, Khachiyan and Ramirez, and IM Jacek Stopa as well as, the class B champion, Leo Kamgar, and his mom.  It was probably the best part of the whole tournament, we did chess puzzles and played some blitz games. It was tons of fun!  I will post some of the puzzles they gave Leo and I to solve later on in the week.

I would like to thank the TDs and congratulate the class B winner (and my new friend), Leo Kamgar.

Next tournament the people I play better watch out because I am not going to let fear play the game for me anymore!!