Monday, January 7, 2008

Let's Get It On, Baby!

Welcome, 2008. So long, 2007. I’m back from my 2 week vacation and ready for lots of chess. I didn’t study much chess these last two weeks as quality time with my family seemed more important to me. I did, however, get in some 13 long games with my dad on a beautiful new wooden set I gave him for Christmas. Those games were lots of fun and made me realize that I improved more than I thought in 2007. While sometimes it seems the more I study, the worse I get, I guess the truth of the matter is that I might appear to suck more because I tend to play stronger competition than before. Against my father however, who I haven’t played in a year and who on average won probably 50% of our games in the past, my final score was 10-3 in my favor. I was surprised to see how effectively I could often rip open his position, sometimes sacrificing pieces on pure instinct and just making it work by keeping the initiative. My tactical eye was also much sharper. So all in all, I think I’m on the right path. (although the road ahead is still veeery long)

Last year was a good year for many reasons, but I have a feeling 2008 will be even better. I’m going to continue my regimen of tactics study with PCT and tactics books, and hopefully realize some of my goals lined out earlier.

While I didn’t study much in the last two weeks, I did manage to read most of my favorite chess blogs pretty regularly. I am surprised by the recent trend of chess overdosing, frustration and/or resignation I saw. Granted, it’s not really a mass phenomenon or something, but just take, for example, Atomic Patzer's comment here, Lithium's post here (and this related post, or BDK's recent posts starting somewhere here.

They’re all good chess blogs and I’ve come to like their writings partly because their chess struggles feel very familiar. It saddens me to see that a hobby (obsession?) that’s supposed to be primarily a fun thing can cause such frustration. I fully sympathize with their emotions, and I go through similar feelings all the time. I guess we’d all love to see our efforts pay off in the form of a quick ratings increase, some sort of more tangible measure of success, something that tells us yes, all that time and energy spent on chess was worthwhile. It’s frustrating to see so little return on investment in this silly game called chess.

However, that last sentence contains a word I will continue to remind myself of – chess is first and foremost a game, something I do to relax. I doubt that I (or most other chess bloggers) will ever make a serious living off of chess, and so I will continue to study only as much as I can without it taking away from more serious endeavors in my life that actually contribute to my personal and professional development. I think with a healthy, realistic attitude towards the importance of chess in one’s life, and with less expectation of a “ratings miracle” or a certain win/loss ratio, one can more freely focus on studying chess just for the pure joy of the game. I will not impose rules on myself like “I have to put in x amount of hours every week”. I will simply study whenever I feel like it and as time allows (I realize this is probably sub-optimal and will not get me to Grandmasterdom anytime soon, but what the heck – it’s only chess, and I won’t let this beautiful mistress put too much pressure on me).

So here’s to a kick-ass 2008 in which I will continue to get my ass kicked, but in which I will continue to love chess for its complex beauty.


wang said...

I think it's the competetive nature that causes this. All chess player's are competetive, otherwise we would play a game of chance. I do agree that the rating's miracle is pure myth. I am looking for improvement in 2008 but I have come to the realization that I will have to lose many games until I get to where I want to be.

gorckat said...

Welcome back!

I've also been falling in love with chess for chess' sake only. I love watching the pieces dance in some of the games I've played.

I've also been trying to visualize board positions at key moments- the way pieces line up, holes in a castled position. Makes me appreciate what I see that much more :)

Chessaholic said...

wang - true, competitiveness is a bitch...

gorckat - usually my chess pieces only seem to dance after a few too many gin and tonics :) I also find the process of consciously visualizing board positions immensely helpful; really letting the position sink in and understanding the imbalances and weaknesses helps me formulate plans.

Sir Nemo said...

I hope the new year brings even MORE improvement to your game! Good job on kicking your dad's butt in your little match!

Polly said...

Someone told me about going to Russia and being told by a well known trainer there that "If you're not losing hundreds of games, then you're not trying hard enough." I guess that means I was trying hard last year. :-)

Though in all seriousness, I think it takes a lot of learning through our mistakes to move up. There will not be a chess game where we have better dice or cards then our opponent.

Chessaholic said...

thanks nemo!

lol @ polly... I guess by that measure, all of us tried hard last year, since we all seem to have gotten our share of ass whoopings... but I agree, we learn from our mistakes - as long as those mistakes don't make us quit :)