My Five Deadly Mistakes Against Hikaru

My Five Deadly Mistakes Against Hikaru

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It took him 34 seconds, a ferocious attack, and a gentle smile to temporarily destroy all my self-confidence in chess. Charismatic, merciless, faster than lightning, he showed me what high-class chess is all about ... And just how far, faaaar away I am from ever attaining it. Hikaru Nakamura - one of the world's best and most admired chess players, brought this incredible experience to life.

I mentioned in my previous blog that last October I got to play a game with Hikaru, while he was visiting my beloved city of Toronto. I played so badly, I was completely disappointed in my game and in myself. There was only one comforting thought in all of this – no one, NO ONE(!), would ever know about it! Surely, of the thousand games that Hikaru played in Toronto that weekend, my game stood NO CHANCE of making it to his channel. It was a game that fell flat like a pancake (on my part). It was a no-show performance (on my part). Not only because I kept blundering, but also because I forgot to be entertaining. I did not shout, did not trash talk, did not wear anything funky, did not serve beer nor eat blueberries during the game, did not bring any ducks ... did not express myself in ANY way or form. I was everything a streamer does NOT want – plain vanilla!

I buried the game in my head and went on living, with my terrible loss. But the game was resurrected on Hikaru’s channel!

And I got “exposed”. I suppose “exposure” is good in such a sense. Forty-three thousand views (at the time of writing this)!  Forty-three thousand “oh, she sucks” thoughts, released into the atmosphere. All over the globe. But hey, these are my 3 minutes of fame! And I welcome it any day!

I had to wonder - why MY game? Is it a great contender for The Crappiest Execution Of The Petroff Defense, ever!? Or perhaps The Highest Underperformer, ever!? (My weighted average rating is around 1900 and I played like 1300.) Or, maybe … maybe … Hikaru simply liked my nose!!

So let’s see the video and what happened …

My Five Deadly Mistakes

#1 – Playing an opening I’ve never played before. The result? I blunder on move 4! Guys, I found myself in a very devastating position when I faced Hikaru. If you know my history from the previous blogs, I have played/studied only the Pirc Defense ever since I got back into playing chess 2 years ago after a looooong hiatus. But this fall, I realized that I can’t win with the "Jerk” Defense and that it’s a terrible opening for me. So, I had to try something else – the Petroff. Unfortunately, I only spent a week looking at its various lines before I met with Hikaru.

What to do? Play a loser opening – the Pirc, that I know well but will get crushed in. Or, try something solid like Petroff, that I haven’t tested yet? Both options looked gloomy. I went for the latter. With devastating results.

#2 - I panicked. Oh, the pressure! I’ve played tough games with observers before, but NEVER that many. And never with video/photo cameras! I felt self-conscious, and … “evaluated.” 

I’m also not used to 5-minute games. All I ever play is 10+ minutes per side! I’m a slow poke. 

#3 – I refused a free gift! The gift – white’s hanging e4 pawn. Was Hikaru purposely offering it to me for 3 (!!) consecutive moves, leaving it undefended? He was probably like: “take it. Take it. TAKE IT, woman! Ugh, she’s hopeless.” Or, did he think I was playing some sort of a new gambit!? The truth is - I simply forgot to take the pawn on move 4. Shame!

#4 - I ignored the time control. At one point, during the game, I glanced at our chess clock and saw something VERY disturbing, something like 04:42 on my side and 52.3 on Hikaru’s side. My instant thought was: Hey! Why do I only have 4 minutes and Hikaru 52!? Not fair! I thought the time control was supposed to be 5 minutes to 1. Who set up this clock? It’s wrong, wrong, wrong! Should I pause the game and voice the issue? Start all over? Why is no one saying anything? Somebody – SAVE ME!

By the time I figured out that Hikaru’s clock was displaying seconds and milliseconds (duh!!) and mine minutes and seconds (duh!!), I already made a few terrible moves and lost all my focus.

#5 - I ignored the cameras. Result? Profile shots revealing the least favourite angle of my … nose! Don’t get me wrong – I love my nose … just never from that angle. Oh, please, any other angle, just not the profile. Why did I not turn left and right and pose like a supermodel in front of all the cameras? I was going to lose to Hikaru no matter what. Might as well go down in style! But no. I opted for ... modesty.

Friends, I hope you can all learn from my mistakes. These are once-in-a-lifetime opportunities – make the most of them!

Thank you Hikaru!

Vive la magie! 

Former Canadian Girls Chess Champion (1999 tied for 1st, 2001 1st place)

Busy mom of two

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