The Future of Road to GM

I’ve now returned from my year in China, but the future of my project to become a Grandmaster is still uncertain.  In order to study chess it is absolutely necessary to be alive, and in order to remain alive for any length of time access to food, water and shelter is useful.  The acquisition of these requires money, so it is to the generation of said money that I now turn my attention.

It is my hope that at some point in the future I will once again be able to dedicate a significant amount of time and energy to chess, but that point is not now.  I have set up an email list for the purpose of informing people if/when this project becomes active again.  You can sign up on the right.


Posted in Humour, Progress report | 8 Comments

The End of the Road?

Tomorrow I will be moving to China to study Mandarin for a year at Xiangtan University.  Although my desire to improve at chess has not waned, and I still believe my project is achievable, I no longer feel able to blog under the ‘Road to Grandmaster’ heading without making chess my first priority.

Two years ago today, I wrote in my first post and ‘mission statement’:

“This blog will document my journey as I attempt to improve from a ‘Class A’ chess player to a Grandmaster, the highest title awarded by FIDE (the World Chess Federation).  I propose to do this without failing my degree (an MSci Joint Honours in Physics and Chemistry), without dropping my other hobbies (guitar, Go, Mandarin Chinese and more), without losing my girlfriend (who has not the slightest interest in chess), and even whilst maintaining a normal student’s social life.”

Starting with the secondary aims, I wasn’t able to dedicate much time to my other hobbies, though the more important degree and girlfriend-keeping have been or continue to be negotiated successfully!  The primary aim has not of course been completed; I am not a Grandmaster.  However, I do feel my chess has improved, and when FIDE takes into account my performance at the Czech Open I will finally have progressed from ‘Class A’ to ‘Expert’.  The graph below shows my ECF grade (converted into an approximate FIDE rating) up until July 2011, with the vertical blue line marking the start of this project.  In September of that year I got my first FIDE rating, and the points thereafter reflect that rating.  (It would be remiss of me not to mention that my latest ECF grade has actually gone down, but I believe my FIDE rating to now be my most reliable one.  The 2009 point is artificially high because the ECF made alterations to their grading system in that year.)

My rate of improvement during the project has been solid but unremarkable (+~150 points in two years).  Please refer to my latest study plan post for my thoughts on possible reasons for that.

For those of you who, like me, aspire to take great strides forward in your chess understanding and strength, a few words:

1.  Do not be discouraged by those who claim that ‘talent’ is all-important.  (The Polgar sisters are one great example which demonstrates that practice is much more important.)  For an entertaining and inspiring read about the power of ‘deliberate practice’, try ‘Bounce’, by Matthew Syed.

2.  Prioritise.  The American wrestler Dan Gable has been quoted as saying: “If it’s important do it every day, if it’s not don’t do it at all.”  In other words, if you try to improve your chess whilst working full-time, learning the shakuhachi, and playing golf four times a week, you won’t get very far.

3.  Make yourself accountable to someone.  I did that in a big way with a public declaration of my intent and regular updates on this blog.  It’s been a mixed blessing – a source of both motivation and anxiety – and I think a smaller-scale declaration could work as well.

In closing, I’d like to thank everyone who has helped me in any way over the past two years, whether by offering to share their books or learning materials, their time to play and analyse, or their words of wisdom and encouragement in comments on my posts.  You’ve helped to keep me going after bad tournaments, and have fuelled the improvement which I am confident will continue even after I stop posting here.  Although I have not achieved my goal, I hope some of you have nevertheless found some value in my posts.  It may well be that at some point in the future I will once again find the time to pursue chess improvement as a top priority, but until such time, goodbye, and good luck.

Posted in Uncategorized | 18 Comments

Czech Open games

Here’s a selection of my games from the recent Czech Open (rounds 2-4).  The first is an exciting draw.  In the second I am ground down in a worse ending.  In the third I slightly spoil a better opening but manage to overcome my opponent in the ending.

Posted in Game analysis, Tournament report | 3 Comments

Czech Open result

The Czech Open is now finished, and, all-in-all, it went well.  I finished on 4.5/9 (my pre-tournament aim) against opposition ranging from 2035 to 2151.  This means that I’m expected to gain about 40 rating points, taking me up to ~2017 in the next FIDE rating list.  I’ll post a few of my games when I get back to England.

Posted in Tournament report | 3 Comments

Czech Open update

I’ve now played the first two rounds of the main tournament here in Pardubice, and it’s going well.  Yesterday I managed to beat a 2151 with white, and today I drew a 2107 with black.  Yesterday’s opponent blundered in the opening, and although I allowed him plenty of counterplay I don’t think I ever squandered the win.  I felt like I had slightly the better of it for most of today’s game too, but a quick look with Houdini shows that it was pretty equal most of the way and a draw is a fair result.

I may post game fragments when I get a chance, but I won’t be posting complete games until after the event so as to keep the openings I’m playing here a secret.

Posted in Tournament report | 2 Comments

Czech Open: Blitz & Rapidplay

I’m currently in Pardubice, awaiting the start of round 1 in the main tournament.  On Wednesday morning I played in the ‘Superblitz’ tournament – 9 double rounds (i.e. two games with the each opponent) of 3-minute blitz – and scored a decent 4/9.  I played both GM Aleksandr Volodin and IM Petr Neuman, and although I failed to give either of them much to worry about I did manage to trade wins with another titled player, WIM Monika Tsiganova (2164 ELO).

On Wednesday evening and Thursday I played a 9-round rapid tournament, and decided to enter the top section, where I was seed number 151 out of 164 entrants, in a field which included David Navara and Robert Hess (and initially Sergei Movsesian, though he withdrew before it started).  In the first round I was paired with Ladislav Urbanec, 2293 ELO, and after initially having much the better of it the game reduced to a (probably) drawn ending.  A position was repeated three times and I claimed the draw, but alas in rapidplay if you are not recording the moves you have only your opponent’s sportsmanship to rely on in such cases, and my opponent refused to accept my claim and found a way to deviate.  A while later I overstepped the time limit and lost.  From then on my play deteriorated, and I ended on a rather miserable-sounding 2/9.  I’ll upload some of my games later if I have time.

Hopefully the main event, where I am seed number 169 of 264 in the B section, will go better.

Posted in Tournament report | 3 Comments

King’s Indian project: game 3

Here’s guess-the-move game 3 of my King’s Indian project.  My impression is that I did a little better than last time, though I’ve not analysed it yet.  I got rather short of ideas at the end, but that was because the black position had no ideas left!  So far black is on 0/3…

Posted in Game analysis | 3 Comments

Weekly Progress Report #91

I did around 6 hours of chess study last week.  Almost all of that was playing through the first two guess-the-move games in my King’s Indian project, but I did look briefly at some KID games earlier in the week.  I’ll be continuing with the KID games this week – both playing through new ones and analysing the ones I’ve already done – but I’m currently earning a bit of money painting for my grandfather so finding a three hour slot isn’t possible every day.

Posted in Progress report | 3 Comments

King’s Indian project: game 2

The second ‘guess-the-move’ King’s Indian game. Project described here.  I’m finding it hard to manage my time and concentrate on the game whilst also typing my thoughts, but hopefully I’ll improve at that.

Posted in Game analysis | 1 Comment

King’s Indian project: game 1

Here’s my first guess-the-move game in my recently announced King’s Indian project.  I played it with a time control of 90 minutes for all moves plus 30 seconds increment, but unfortunately had to pause partway through and finish later.  I made plenty of mistakes, but not Polgar’s decisive mistake!  The only moves given as variations are the incorrect moves I chose; if there’s no variation on a given move then I guessed correctly.  The annotations are my thoughts written live as I was playing.

Posted in Game analysis | 4 Comments