My Path to FM - Part 1 - Reminiscence
I'll start by saying that (obviously) I'm not an FM yet. One of my big goals when I started playing in tournaments was the NM title, and when I got it I lost a lot of motivation.
Why was I suddenly so unmotivated? Well, a couple things. In 2013 I got my NM title after three excellent tournaments in a row. In Canada, on top of the 2200 rating, you also need 3 Norms. You obtain a Norm by achieving a 2300+ performance score in a 5 (or more) round event.
At the time, I was pretty proud of myself. Not only did the first of those three tournaments push my rating above 2200 for the first time, but by the time I had achieved my third Norm, my rating was almost 2300. By Canadian standards that's rather incredible growth for a non-child prodigy. In hindsight, though, I got a little bit lucky. In my first tournament, I needed a final round win to clinch the norm. Normally, a draw would have been fine, but I was paired against a 1700 who was carrying a 2300 performance score himself, and was fairly desperately playing for a draw against me. We ended up in the following position:
For my second norm, I was even luckier. Although I had a pretty good tournament and clinched my norm with a round to spare, the only reason I clinched the Norm was because I had a 2200 opponent hang his queen while up two pawns. I've never hung my queen OTB, and I've never had an opponent hang his queen since. So yeah, crazy lucky.
The final norm was a little less lucky. I went 4/5 in a Guelph tournament and scored a 2500 performance. Even still, I only played 1 IM (and lost) and somehow managed to share first with a GM whom I never had to play. So yeah... a little lucky.
So that brings my back to why I lost my motivation. You see, after setting such a lofty goal as National Master back when I was a 1700 player, it was hard to see what to do next. Once the satisfaction of clinching a title wore off, I was a little disillusioned. The struggle to gain the title was far more satisfying than actually having it. ... I think that applies to chess and life.
Then the best thing that ever happened to me happened. And it was by far the worst thing that ever happened to my chess - I married my girlfriend. Even though not much changed, absolutely everything changed. There were suddenly much more important things in life than chess, and further improvement just wasn't that important to me.
There was another thing that really drained my motivation. Getting the FM title is almost impossible in Canada. For the most part our FIDE ratings are severely deflated. I don't have the exact science to prove it, but I'm a perfect example. 90% of the tournaments I play in are not FIDE rated, and as a result my FIDE rating (which is largely inactive) is only around 2050, while my National rating is 2329. Using the CFC/FIDE formula my real FIDE should be in the mid 2200's or higher, but that just won't happen in Canada. All of this means that the only realistic way to get the FM title is at the Canadian Zonal.
Getting the title from a 'one off' tournament sounds cheap, but in this case it's actually far more difficult to obtain the title at the Zonal than it is by playing a bunch of open tournaments. A Zonal tournament is the earliest part of the World Championship cycle, and so all the best players in Canada play. To get the FM title you must score 6/9. To put that in perspective, the winner this year scored 6.5/9. To score 6/9 would likely mean beating several IM's and GM's.
In spite of the long odds, I've now set the extremely lofty goal of obtaining my FM title in the next World Championship Canadian Zonal. In part 2 I'll give a detailed study plan for title players to critique and aspiring masters to learn from. In about a year we'll see how well it worked!
Ps - I babbled too much in part 2, so this is now a 3 part blog. Sorry guys!