Work and Play

Work and Play

GM gmjlh
May 6, 2012, 6:41 AM |

For many people, chess is work. It's what they do. There's pressure to perform your very best - always. Otherwise you'd be letting yourself down. And there's no tougher judge than yourself. At least I know I'm really hard on myself for losses.

But it's important to enjoy your work, and that will be the topic of this blog. How I make chess fun - always.

This Easter, I went to Philadelphia for the Philadelphia Open. I was looking forward to playing - which is always a great start. I haven't played as much as I'm used to, since school is demanding more time than previously. So getting a vacation to play chess and take a timeout from school was already a great start for enjoyment.

I came a couple of days early to adjust to the timezone and sightsee all my favorite 'National Treasure' spots (Liberty Bell mostly =D). But the most important reason for feeling like this was play - and not work - was having a good friend of mine as a roommate.

Sharing a room is economically smart, but I really believe it's also good for your performance. Having someone to dine with. Having someone telling you 'we should go to bed'. Having someone to laugh with between the rounds. Having someone to share ideas with for upcoming games.

Before the tournament started, I had my first ever visit to International House of Pancakes. It was a dinner meal, so I didn't actually have pancakes. So I made a pact with Shankland, my roommate, that we would have pancakes there on the morning after the tournament if one of us won.

I went through the tournament playing brilliantly, with those pancakes stuck in my mind :) Alas, neither Sam nor I won, after a surprising turn-around in the last round, but I wasn't going to let that stop me from a great breakfast. We went anyway! (See picture)

When I play online, I also try to mix it up for my own enjoyment. It's easy to just get addicted to online blitz chess, and forget to have fun while you're doing it.

I try to take a five minute break when I lose. I don't want to ruin my mood by losing lots of games in a row, so I timeout and try to think 'Do I really want to play more?' 'How am I going to crush this guy?'. It works for me.

Also, I'm more inclined to try out exciting (and often dobious) sacrifices when playing online. For one, it's not so serious if you lose, and also it gives such a great satisfaction if it works! Today I'll show one such game.

At one point I was a rook down, but I was not afraid! My pawns were powerful, and in the end I actually did have a winning line. Unfortunately I'd spent too much time, and I managed to get voluntarily checkmated in the corner.

I really encourage you to play the game through. To this day I'm very proud of this game - even though I lost! Fantastic and fun games are certainly possible in 3 0, but this has got to be one of my greatest ever :D

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