Playing in the zone- my best game ever.
In 1975, after playing chess for 3 years, I qualified for the Finals of the Puerto Rico Chess Championship. It was, if I remember correctly, either an 8 or 12 player round-robin. I placed 4th.
The first 3 places qualified for the Zonal Tournament to be held in Santo Domingo. Luckily for me, the 3rd place player did not want to go. So I found myself on a jet plane, to play in a tournament that was part of the World Championship Cycle! I honestly thought I would lose every game, which was good, because I went with absolutely no expectation.
I did surprisingly well, missing the IM title by 1 point. The Zonal tournament was divided into two groups of 12 players each. The strongest players were the 4 Cuban players, all of them IMs.
In the early rounds, I drew with one of them (I believe his name was Joaquin Garcia). In the next-to-last round, I won against IM Julio Boudy. It was the only game the Cubans lost in the tournament.
Among the players in this Zone 5 Zonal Tournament was a young boy from St. Thomas. He was perfectly sculpted (he was a wrestler). The day of my game with Boudy we struck a conversation.
He was a pro-establishment guy- had been invited to the White House- short hair, perfect grades, outstanding athlete.
I was a rebel- faded jeans, afro, agnostic, and questioning everything I could question on this Earth in search for the Truth of life.
We had an honest exchange that went on for an hour or two. We each expressed how we felt about life in general, without going into specifics about any aspect of politics or religion- just an honest, humanistic and enriching exhange between two people who were almost diametrically opposite, but had the openess of mind and freedom to discuss and share our mutual points of view.
It was an open-minded and open hearted exchange, and it elevated my mood/consciousness in a strong way! When I got to the tournament hall, I felt like I was walking on a cloud! Such was my elevated mood! And I sat down to play, with the Black pieces, against one of the strongest players in the tournament.