On becoming the 2015 Toronto Champion

NM geordie_derraugh
Jun 29, 2015, 9:09 AM |

I've come to several important realizations over the past few months. The first is that it is very very hard to improve in chess as an adult, especially going it alone. I was ready to put in the work, but I realize now that hard work is a necessary but not a sufficient condition for success in chess. The second realization is that chess is not a financially viable career choice. These things may have been painfully obvious to everyone else around me but to me I needed some hard personal anecdotal evidence.

It was around the time I realized this, after a string of bad results, that I started looking into other life options. I had a few math/physics courses under my belt from University of Toronto so it made sense to finish up my undergrad there and I eventually decided on Actuarial sciences as a more lucrative field where, as opposed to chess, hard work would be more proportional to my success/income.

All was going well and I was feeling a renewed zest for life until I made the last minute decision to play in the Toronto Closed Championships. I'd stopped studying chess in the months before and I was focused mainly on rereading my old math textbooks to get my brain back into gear. Little did I know I'd end up winning the tournament and feel very tempted to get back into hardcore chess mode!

But, it's been about a month now since the tournament ended and I'm halfway through my summer math course and doing well. The temptation to go back to studying chess all the time has mostly subsided, and so I'm ready to look back and reflect on what went right for me in the tournament, and how I can continue the upward trend.

I should mention that I still plan to play in tournaments and eventually come back to working towards my chess goals. I haven't given up on the quest for GM, but I consider it now to be my lifetime goal, and chess to be my main hobby. I'm going to focus on school until I'm working as an actuary and only then I plan to find a GM coach on skype and start studying chess a few hours a week.

Back to reflecting, I think the main thing I did differently at the Toronto Closed was that I was in a different state of mind. I was playing for fun, no expectations, and no pressure. Also, I was mainly doing tactics puzzles instead of preparing openings. I don't know whether the tactics puzzles caused my good form or my good form affected my tactics rating, but somehow I managed to get my Tactics Trainer rating over 2900 and my chesstempo blitz rating over 2200! Two milestones I've been trying to reach for several years. I was neglecting tactics training for a long time but I think there's something to be said for not neglecting your strengths. You've probably defined your style around your strengths and weaknesses and neglecting your strengths may have short run adverse effects despite the long term benefits of becoming more well rounded. You'll play to your strengths still, not realizing your strengths aren't as strong as you expect them to be.

That's all for now, time to hit the books! Ok maybe one more tactics puzzle first ;)