My First Anniversary
This morning I received a message from chess.com congratulating me for having been a member for one year. I took that as a cue to write a blog post about how things have been working out over the last year.
Feb-Apr 2012 -- Solo play.
I joined chess.com because I was asked by jonathanstepney to join so that he had another regular player to practice with. Having not played chess since I was nine, I thought of it as a "childrens' game" and didn't expect to enjoy it very much. Initially I didn't enjoy it but over time, as I got used to the site features, I found that I was enjoying it more and tried to play a few games a week. The maximum number of concurrent games I had was about seventy and I was averaging a rating of about 1200-1250. At that point I knew that groups existed but thought they were very exclusive or something.
May-Jun 2012 -- The Chess Phantoms.
Eventually, I'd joined a few groups but tended to unsubscribe from their messages and was effectively a silent member. The first group I took an active part in was Chess Phantoms where I was shortly made an admin and then verbally abused and banned from the group by a former admin who seemed to be suffering from narcissistic personality disorder. He was some kind of manager in real-life so it didn't surprise me since management tends to attract high-functioning NPD sufferers. However, that was my first taste of chess.com group politics and it wasn't a pleasant experience. After trying to be a bit more active in a few other groups, I found that many groups tended to be quite despotic so I didn't participate very much until eventually I thought I'd start a group of my own to see if I could do any better.
Jul-Sep 2012 -- New Athens.
I started New Athens with the express intention of distributing power and responsibility amongst many admins as well as making admins answerable to the non-admin members of New Athens. I chose the name in order to reflect that I would be taking ancient Athenian democracy as a cue for how to organise the group. It was much more complicated and harder work than I had imagined but the group was very lively and there was a great deal of member activity. During this time, my rating was suffering a lot since I wasn't able to concentrate on moves very much whenever I was online.
Oct-Dec 2012 -- Hiatus.
Eventually, the limits on my time prevented me from participating as much as I had and I had to leave New Athens to it's own devices for a few months. The limits on my time were such that I wasn't even playing chess and I kept timing out on many games. From what I was told afterwards, New Athens essentially ground to a halt in just less than a month. As one admin put it, it's ironic how I had tried to distribute the group's activity but in practice everything was still going through me.
Jan 2013 -- Started at 1000+. Achieved 1250+. The Atheists.
I became active on chess.com again just a few days before the new year. Seeing that my rating had dropped dramatically to about 1000, I decided I would concentrate on my games rather than on groups until I get my rating above the 1200 default value. I managed to reach about 1250 by the end of January so I was quite pleased with that. Towards the end, I started to become active at The Atheists group. I had also helped New Athens elect a new Archon to replace me since I had announced that I was retiring from running the city.
Feb 2013 -- Achieved 1300+, Admin at Admin's Corner.
I continued to focus on my game and am currently at about 1300+. My aim now is to advance past 1325+. I've chosen this more modest rating improvement because I can see that I'm reaching my true level of play. I've also started to become active at Admin's Corner and got made an admin there. I'm trying not to take on too much responsibility but am happy to throw ideas at this group since the admin and members seem quite receptive.
Summary: Groups can be fun with decent admins and enthusiastic members but the real focus should probably stay on the chess and getting in the practice. As such, I'm aiming to complete an average of 100 games per month which seems to require that I maintain 35 three-day games. I've also found it useful to avoid playing more than one game at a time against any one player so that a player going on vacation only suspends that one game instead of several.
Reviving New Athens: A new Archon has been elected but I'm not seeing the group being revived. I am going to leave things as they are for another fortnight but will take up the matter more directly if there is still little activity in the group.