Sun, Sea & Sixteen Silly Moves

When I rolled into Paignton on Sunday afternoon the sun was shining and the sea breeze carried with it the promise of success.  My first opponent was stronger than me, and usually played in the Open section, but I had white and was looking forward to a nice win to open the tournament, the season, and the Road to Grandmaster.  In fact I was crushed in sixteen moves.  Here’s the game:

After this demoralising defeat I made my way to Dartmouth, where I’m staying on the family boat, and rowed across with my stuff.  The evening was quite pleasant, as I had my guitar with me and it carried very nicely over the calm water.  Unfortunately it didn’t stay calm for long, and I was kept awake for a long time by the wind whistling in the rigging and the water slapping against the side.  The waterproofness of the boat got a good test, as it rained all night, and somewhat surprisingly I didn’t wake up and find I’d been dripped on.

After reluctantly exiting my cold sleeping bag in the morning, I arrived eight minutes late, unshowered and bleary-eyed, to the first game of the morning tournament.  I soon fell further behind on the clock, but my opponent missed a tactical shot on move 21 which won me the game.  Here it is:

This afternoon the pairing board told me I had a bye, which for those who don’t know means that an opponent couldn’t be found for me (due to an odd number of players) so I would be awarded a free point.  I hung around anyway and one person didn’t turn up, so I still played.  I was told I would get a point anyway, regardless of the outcome (i.e. it was a friendly), but they appear to have put the game on the pairings board, so I may find I’m on 0/2.  The game went badly for me from the opening, and I eventually succumbed in time pressure.

6 thoughts on “Sun, Sea & Sixteen Silly Moves

  1. Can you please tell me how, in your 16-move loss, your move 8.Nxd4 does not just drop a Knight to 8…Nxd4? Is the score of the game incorrect?

  2. Hi Will,

    Good luck with your road to grandmaster ambitions. I would recommend first of all paying close attention to a healthy well balanced diet (e.g avoid junk food with lots of calories and saturated fats as well as alcohol (or occasionally if necessary) and possibly supplement with vitamins although this might be more controversial. I would also recommend having regular aerobic exercise (daily) supplementing this with more varied types of exercise. Devote at least half-an-hour daily to aerobic activity and set a reps goal.

    You’ll also have to create a strategy for studying chess. You need to work this out as it will inform your short term goals. The cluster approach was used by some people in the Grand Prix circuit many years ago. They would play lots of games in a short period after a gap away studying intensively. This would help them to increase rating points as they were under-rated. It was an artefact of the rating system and worked by maximising the number of games played while the increase in strength hadn’t translated into ratings. However with a higher rating you get to play stronger opponents in tournaments and one of the key points about rating is the players you get to ‘hang out with’ in tournament games. Writing this blog will also help with that. So getting back to the strategy – the key point here is how you handle the openings and even more importantly how do you handle your thinking during the game. The problem with openings is evident when you look at the Anand-Topalov match – lots of supercomputers and teams of grandmasters working away at very specialised openings. This is far removed from looking at MCO a few minutes before a game – but the above is the type of preparation you’ll be facing as you climb the ranks – so it’s best to start as you mean to go on. There are two options – 1. Know some mainline openings in a lot of detail – that will add a huge amount of time to your training 2. Go for obscure openings but know them in detail aka Miles. Getting up to speed with obscure openings can be attained through 5 minute games, books and chessbase preparation but don’t get into the habit of concentrating on 5 minute games as an important part of your preparation – it’s augmentation only. Thinking strategy is important – Think Like a Grandmaster is always worth a look. However you need to focus on how you are going to be thinking during a game – a systematic approach can be operationalised and remember this is what you are going to be doing over and over again – thinking during the games on your journey to becoming a grandmaster.

    Once you have the strategy in place, you can then focus on the short term goals. Write them down and then break them down into even smaller goals. This may run into the thousands. A goal might involve reading a chapter in a book, playing a 5 minute game etc. This approach can be applied to other areas in your life to ensure that your stated goals in the introduction are accomplished (see Chicken Soup for the Soul).

    The trick that will get you further in a short space of time is to operationalise your thinking during the game. Your 16-move loss is a case in point. When you took on d5 this was obviously just a blunder. One rule which you could follow habitually is – before making a move, write it down, cover what you’ve written so your opponent can’t see it, then scan around the board looking at the move of every single one of your opponent’s major pieces and see what the repurcussions are – this would have revealed the danger of the pin Rd8. This is extremely boring to do – but I guarantee your performance will increase in the space of a single tournament. The trick once you’ve got confidence with this is to build up the rules that you follow and ensure that you are able to follow this. A little walk, exercise etc in between games will also help you to sustain the intense periods of concentration that are necessary for this.

    Best of luck



    1. Thanks for your interesting comment. I will probably write a post soon containing a plan with shorter-term goals and milestones. Unfortunately I can’t use your suggestion about writing the move down first, as that’s now against the rules, but the other suggestions look good.

        1. Thanks for the link – I’ve just read the article. Perhaps I will start a page for weekly goals and progress reports.

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