Tough Summer

Everyone has them.  It's those times that you tell your friends you are finally quitting chess.  When your rating can't get any lower.  When you pass a bunch of kids playing bughouse and you think to yourself 'hey, maybe I should give that a try instead'.

Rough games, tournaments and even streaks are something that everyone goes through.  How to handle them is not such a common thing.  

Personally this Summer could not have been much worse.  I started with 4/11 in the US Championship, which to be fair is not all that bad.  The field was strong, I was unused to the format, and I didn't lose all that much rating.  I wasn't super satisfied with my games, played some really terrible ones against Akobian and Lenderman, but overall I thought I got unlucky in many games (and maybe overly lucky against Kaidanov).

Next up, the Chicago Open.  I feel I'm back in the Groove and score a sweet 6.5/9 beating Mikhalevski in the final round to tie for second place.  Sweet!  I've evened out the US Champs!

And then the disaster series strikes:


First off, we have Las Vegas, National Open.  To me this tournament is quite fun.  It is, after all, Las Vegas, the venue is nice and yada yada.  But on top of that, National Open usually coincides with my birthday.  A dangerous, dangerous mix.  After surprisingly starting with two draws against two masters, the tournament just did not get any better for me.  The climax of disaster happened in round 5 against Arun Sharma:

In the initial position, Black is ok.  White has to defend against a bunch of threats, but unfortunately the queen on e7 is doing a good job of pinning down that bishop.  The game should end in a draw since I can't really improve my position too much.

However, I start blanking out.  The first thing is that after I played Bd3, I thought g6+ Kh6 was fine for me, completely forgetting about Rxf3.  Once he played it I thought it was just a draw after Qc1+ Kh2 Be5+, forgetting that he doesn't HAVE to take my bishop on d3.  A total disaster!

Life was not easier for me in the World Open.  I played with somewhat of a fever (mistake!) and was also not able to put two and two together.  Here is a simple example:

You can basically just jump to move 22.  Here black has the choice of taking on b5 or e4.  If I took on b5, I would simply retain a very comfortable advantage and it's hard to see how White will ever equalize.  However, I blank out that after taking on e4 he doesn't have to move his bishop, and indeed it is I that is lost after the simple 24. bxa6.  Disaster again!  My game against John Daniel Bryant was even worse, my opponent sacrifices material for no apparent reason and instead of winning in one move, I again lose.

The US Open was a rather mediocre tournament for me, but at least it wasn't bad. 


So what now?  I have managed to lose over 40 rating points and sadly I'm basically out of contention for next year's US Championship.  The main thing and most important is to not lose motivation.  Chess is one of those activities that reminds you that you might be doing something wrong in life.  Currently, it is possible that my study habits are way off, that I'm not taking some things quite as seriously and that overall I need to work harder.  So that's what I'm going to do!  I will definitely be taking a few months break off chess to regroup - not from studying, simply from playing.  Hopefully I will be able to come back stronger than before, and regain the level that I used to have.

Don't demoralize if you also have bad streaks, they happen, but as a GM friend once told me, people only climb to their peaks after suffering a set back.

Happy recoveries!


  • 3 years ago


    Even as a relatively new player (just started taking seriously this last year), I can understand.  A few times I have deleted the app off the phone.  Screaming NOOOOO is not uncommon when I am home alone.  After a while I have evened out.  I have set a goal to hit 1200 and then drop the app and study for a while.   Nice blog.

  • 4 years ago


    I recently had a similar experience after winning the 2012 Southwest Open Novice section in Dallas with a perfect 7 points. I played a few prep tourneys at the Dallas Chess club and did very well. So all things going into the tourney were spot on. My rating jumped from the 1200's to 1500's after this series of tourneys.

    Then I fell off a cliff. I played a few more DCC tourneys immediately after Southwest open and played like an idiot and dropped 100 or so points.

    What happened? I can say my feelings were different about chess after the Southwest Open. Before and through the SW open I was VERY NERVOUS and in a way to deal with my nerves I became uber focused and nerves became steel. I was ready to dig in and fight...carefully!!

    After the tourney, I suppose, I was simply so relieved after winning and with perfect score (which is totally crazy and never expected that) my guard was down, I had ZERO NERVES, and just wanted to play and have fun and was way too relaxed. I thought I could just go and play and the wins would just come, but I played like a totally different person...and consequently lost or drew a bunch of games I really should have won. I try and blame it on the short time control, but that doesnt really hold since I have had great success in g/30 in the past at DCC.

    And so I have not played a USCF tourney since to try and get that "nervous" feeling back. Anybody else have a similar experience or can directly make the connection between nerves/mindset and your play?

  • 4 years ago

    IM dpruess

    nice blog. i think pretty much every single tournament chess player can relate to this. good luck getting things in gear again!

  • 4 years ago


    Swooning spells are part of chess.  We all have good runs and bad.  I try to think of them as 'learning spells'. 

  • 4 years ago


    I had a similar thing happen to me last year.  I just broke through 1700 USCF and then promptly lost almost 50 points in 3 weeks only to work harder prepare like a beast and head into the same National Open mentioned above to score 4.5/6 in the U1800 section and gain almost 100 point to my highest rating ever at 1771!  I'll look forward to watching your start rise even higher Ale!  Go get em!!

  • 4 years ago


    It coincides with my brother's birthday too, since he was born on June 21th 1988. :)

  • 4 years ago


    Dont worry life goes on man and life gets better as you get older into your prime 20s

  • 4 years ago


    Brothers in arms Ale - I lost 50 ELO in 2 tournaments over the past month. 

    Happy recoveries indeed :( 

    (we need to get coached by Keaton or something) 

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