How do you prepare for a World Championship?
Have you ever tried to figure out what you would do or how you would prepare for a world championship? If you happen to be someone who already knows or has won a world championship, please don’t be discouraged from adding comments to this blog so I can read them!!
As many of you probably know, I am going to Greece in three weeks (wow, really? Three weeks?) to represent the United States at the World Youth Championship and hoping to bring home a medal when it is all said and done! I am really excited to go to Greece (though I am not so sure I am excited about a 19 hour flight)! Playing in a world championship will be a totally new experience for me. Even though I have played lots of people from all over the world especially on ICC and chess.com, I think it will be very interesting to play all of the other really good players who are close to my age from lots of different countries. There are other challenges too. Greece is 8 hours different from where I live. The games start at 4:00 in the afternoon Greece time which means they will start at midnight my time. That is like going to play Ghost in the Graveyard (at least the way we play it), where you go find a ghost at midnight, but in this case, I am going to play chess at midnight. And not just any chess, but championship level chess!!!! And all of this after a 19 hour plane ride! We actually leave on the 18th of October and get there on 19th. That is pretty cool that we are leaving on one day and getting there on another day. Now I just need to make a bet with someone. “I bet I can go up in the air for 11 hours (New York to Athens) and not come down.” Hey, I could make some serious money here! Maybe I could cover the flight….okay probably not!!
My dad has decided that he needs to toughen me up a little to get me ready. He calls it running the gauntlet, but when I read about that on Wikipedia, it didn’t sound too entertaining. Check it out here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Running_the_gauntlet. When it talks about "modern use" though, it might apply to me. It says, “the expression (to run) the gauntlet has been applied to various less severe punishments or tests consisting of consecutive blows or tasks endured sequentially and delivered collectively, especially by colleagues such as roommates” (or in my case, my dad). Of course, without the “severe punishments or consecutive blows” (my dad would never do that) just tests or tasks one right after the other to help me get tough.
The first thing he did was to add tennis to our morning run. Now we run for ½ mile and then play tennis for a ½ hour. At first I wasn’t so sure about this. I am not the greatest tennis player (don’t expect to be seeing me on the top 100 lists of tennis players any time soon). We have been working a lot on focus….like hit the ball with the racket and actually keep it in the court. Okay, so I am not that bad, and I am getting better. I’ve learned to like tennis, but I am still not thrilled with getting up earlier (though compared to my brothers who get up at 5:30 to run, I guess I shouldn’t complain).
Next, I started reading a lot of chess books which definitely has seemed to help. I really like Dvoretsky’s books. He seems to have a good understanding of positional chess and has been able to convert that to his books. Another book that I have really enjoyed that I am reading right now is Daniel Naroditsky’s Mastering Positional Chess. Apparently, if your name ends in “tsky” you should think about writing chess books. How does Troffitsky sound?
The biggest thing I have been doing is playing in local tournaments to get more over-the-board experience. We realized after the Southern California open that it seems to be too long in between tournaments and I needed to be more “warmed up” on over-the-board experience so I don’t need to warm up at the tournaments. I’ve been going to tournaments where there are several higher rated players than me which has meant traveling. When you play higher rated players, the pressure is on them. I haven’t really liked playing lower rated players. You can play a long game and if you win, your rating only goes up a little bit for a lot of work, and if you lose then you lose a lot of points (please refrain from commenting that ratings don’t matter…to me, I can have fun with chess and still want to get rating points). Because of this, I had stopped playing in Utah. There are a lot of good players in Utah, but it is hard to play in tournaments where you are always the top rated player. But my dad decided that this would be a good way for me to “run the gauntlet” and taste a little bit of the New York lifestyle where you can go to a tournament several times a week. So, he contacted all the highest rated players that live near Salt Lake and asked them if they would be willing to help me prepare for the World Youth by playing me in several different tournaments. They have been very helpful even offering to play the openings I am struggling with or need work on…how nice!!! My dad has made sure to set them up at night when I am tired or early Saturday morning or when I am not feeling good or when there are lots of distractions. My mom calls it “sabotage”, but my dad calls it “making me tougher”. I call it a little bit of both ! But I have to admit that it has been really helped me a lot and if this keeps up, the kids in Greece better watch out for Kayden Troffitsky!!! There are 25 games scheduled before I leave and so far I am 10-0 though none of them have gone easy on me.
I am not sure if Khachiyan is in on it with my dad or not, but he also has me doing things late at night when I am tired. I will either get really good at chess or I will be a night owl….one of the two!!
Three weeks to prepare, and two weeks there! I can hardly wait!! I want to thank everyone who has helped me get there through donations and sponsorships and I want to thank all the players in Utah who have played me and will play me to help me prepare and to my dad for loving me enough to make me tough (even if there is sabotage involved) and for taking me to ice cream afterwards!!
For those of you who could use a little extra practice yourself, here is a good puzzle for you: