Thursday, 21 November 2019

The IOM Chronicles- Part 3

   Manly Smiles


   The free day proved to be a very enjoyable one- it was the last sunny day on the island… Visited two castles, bought some souvenirs, took a lot of photos and also had some time to think about what was going wrong and how to make things get better in the second half of the tournament. 


   As a small incursion into the story- I really like travelling, no matter of the means of transport, airplane, train, bus- as long as I have a cozy sit by the window and some headphones, I really don’t mind. During these trips I usually get a lot of ideas, some of them later coming to life here…

   I felt like giving this explanation because for the most of the ‘serious’ chess players, a rest day spent on buses from a town to another and from a castle to another is just a big waste of valuable energy. It was not the case for me… I came back to Douglas with a big dose of inspiration and an even bigger appetite (for both chess & food)! So, a dinner with some teammates and friends came very handy. When the waiter asked for our orders I couldn’t resist the temptation of ordering duck, not well cooked- rare! A teammate asked if I was sure, suggesting I’d take it medium, but no- I wasn’t ‘chicken’ anymore, I was in mood for some blood!

   Went to bed in good spirits, looking forward to my next day’s game with white.

   Sitting at the board confidently I knew it was just the right time to improve my tournament’s position. Went all in and got winning chances quite quickly, but- ‘chicken’ or ‘duck’- it just wasn’t meant to be… Sacrificed a piece incorrectly, played on for like 4 hours, but just to resign at the end… My opponent shook my hand giving me an almost guilty smile. I turned tomato red, felt some tears coming to my eyes, but quickly remembered I was not 10, not even 20 anymore, pulled myself together and smiled back, gathering my belongings from the table one by one… Chocolate, nuts, juice, cola and a heavy sigh…

The evening wasn’t the nicest one- my roommate lost as well and even the jokes we tried to pull off were not triggering even a smile… The toughest was the feeling that everyone felt sorry for you. But as a friend told me- I am vaccinated- after last Olympiad's 5 losses in a row, it is very difficult to take me down, I have learned to draw my energy from despair, though it’s definitely not a skill I’d like to use too often…

Four more games. While the ‘mating’ hope never dies, I decided to put on the ugliest dress for the next round- in a sign of protest- against the winning manly smiles and the forced ambitions adjustments…

A woman in a state of despair is a dangerous thing, even in chess… Won two games in a row, felt a shy flame of hope again…

The first castle we visited on the free day was one mostly used as a prison and as a place of torture. Well, my play in the Grand Swiss can be described also as a "prisoner’s" one- when I’d just see a ship out of my cell’s window, a black flag would be risen…

Another 2 losses followed- the last two… in that tournament… this year…

It was time to go back to my cell, until I’d see another ship which would maybe set me free or maybe not…


Tuesday, 22 October 2019

The IOM Chronicles- Part 2

‘Chicken’ who Dreams


The island is asleep, am I too? Is it a bad dream or is it the end of a chapter and the beginning of another?

While players are either celebrating or drowning their sorrows I’m trying to look back on how it was when it’s not even really over…

It was most certainly a very tough tournament but one where there were so many lessons to be learned!

Lesson 1- never make experiments in the first rounds! It is very important to have a good start, as it boosts your confidence! A dull draw with the white pieces vs a 200p higher rated player is not a shame- it is a strategy! I started with be black pieces in round 1 and decided to go for a complex and interesting position rather than trying to exchange one piece after another… Was it correct, was it not? The standings are probably the best judge…

Another black in the 2nd round came as unexpected as it only could. Have tried to prove myself that the lesson was learned and played some very solid chess in order to keep the position equal up to around move 35 but just to spoil it with 2 blunders in a row in the time trouble…

“Irina, pull yourself together! All will be fine!”

A very much awaited white in the 3rd round against yet another 2600+. “And what should I do know?” Any sane professional would tell you to go for a draw after 2 loses in a row, but… I am a player- it is written in my DNA to believe in myself and in my chess- why else would I come here? A big advantage after the opening- doubted myself, made a few slow moves- a bad evaluation and… another loss- the 3rd one in a row. That hurt a bit, or maybe even more, though I made sure that the makeup would not show it to the World and to myself either…

Not an easy win against a lower rated player followed, but a win is a win.

(Photo by Maria Emelianova)
White in round 4 vs an opponent I lost to earlier this year- another 2600+. Played some inspiring chess up to some point, when I lost my advantage and had to be very resourceful in order to maintain the balance. Fought hard, he made a mistake and I got again a big advantage- a totally risk free endgame. He offered a draw. I believe that was the critical moment of the whole tournament. I had reached the time control, got the 50 minutes- calculated, evaluated, realized that I can play for 2 results… but again- I doubted myself… Thought about the lunch I had skipped, the diner I would miss, the caffeine trembling hands, the temptation of the first positive result vs a higher rated opponent and I just couldn’t make myself continue. I was chicken- took the draw.

Lesson 2- A bad plan is better than no plan at all! If you’ve got a strategy- follow it, don’t change it, as it only creates confusion and eventually bad decisions will arise… If you decide you’re in for big fights- fight until the end! If you want to be chicken- be so from move 1 to 151, from round 1 to 11… You can not be Jeanne d’Arc up until move 20 and then suddenly decide you’re afraid of fire… The chicken who dreams is ought to be punished - another loss followed…

At least 6 rounds had already passed and a rest day was scheduled.

‘Chicken’ wanted to be Jeanne d’Arc so badly, still… 


(To be continued)

Thursday, 17 October 2019

The IOM Chronicles- Part 1


A Cabin Bag of Hopes


(photo credits: John Saunders)
To start with the beginning, I have a special place in my heart for the Isle of Man- came here last year for the first time and it also happened to be my first participation in a super tournament. I started with 2 draws vs 2700+ players and had an overall successful event, which was definitely very pleasing… Having had such a great time here last year, I expected nothing less from the 2019 edition.

It is actually an honor to be a part of this great chess celebration and these are no big words! Yes, it is a celebration- of chess, of brilliant games, of great fights and inspiring personalities!

While preparing openings and new ideas for the tournament I was both very optimistic and enthusiastic! What to say? My mind was in IOM much before I myself got carried here by a plane full of grandmasters.

Dreamy window view...
The first worrying bell rang just after the plane landed and everyone was waiting for their baggage to be fetched… I had none and it was not because it got lost- I got so carried away by my whole being enthusiastic about the chess I’m going to play here that I did not bother to take too many things for the 2 weeks on the island- just packed my cabin bag, thinking that I’m coming here to impress with my chess rather than looks and there the second bell rang- "Is my cabin bag too small for the high hopes?".

A taxi drive along the promenade and a diner in the favorite Italian restaurant later I forgot about any bells at all…


Walked around Douglas with my roommate on the next day, telling her "This is the best place for coffee, that one for lunch…" and so on. I must say that I really enjoyed the role of the guide- it made me feel like I belong here, at this tournament… Did the 3rd bell ring here? No, it didn’t… Or did I maybe miss it?

Unpacked my cabin bag later, taking my time while thoroughly sorting out all my hopes… "I will win against 'a' 2650 player in the 1st round, Magnus will make a draw and then I’ll play him in the 2nd round…", yeah- I was very thorough.

The day ended with me lying in the bed with my headphones rhythmic whisper

"Whatever it takes 
Ya take me to the top, I’m ready for 
Whatever it takes
‘Cause I love the adrenaline in my veins
I do what it takes
Always had…”


(To be continued)


Tuesday, 17 September 2019

No Place for Regrets

     I had the dream to travel the World... I had the dream to win a contest... I wanted to win an Olympic Medal, to become a WGM, an IM... I dreamed of falling in love... I still dream of becoming a GM...

     10 000 meters above the sky, music in the headphones, a glass of wine after a tough weekend, 3 more hours to kill, isn't it the perfect moment for some meditation?

     Looking back, I'm certain that all the dreams come true once you have the courage to believe and follow them! It may sound very cliché like, but how can I not believe in it when all I wished for came true- one way or another...
     Living on the "believe in your dreams & in yourself endlessly" mode has become a lifestyle for me.
   
     I lost a game to a much lower rated, 62 yo WGM some weeks ago. Lame!!! But to be honest, in a sadistic way, I was even happy... People who dedicate their lives to their passions no matter what inspire me! I dream of surviving the age of 62, still loving chess and playing it competitively! That's why when losing that game I was happy for my opponent- happy for a whole sleepless night...

     People who live their lives for someone else are a mystery to me. Love and things you do out of it are indeed a tricky matter... Once you sacrifice your own happiness for let's say your family's financial situation you don't make them by any means happier. They may not understand it right away, but the price is too high- you burden them with your sacrifice. They have to be happy for 2...
     One can continue this line of thinking or try to work up a theory against it, but still, my position is that there shouldn't be a place for 'unhappily spent years or lifes'...

     I respect people who follow their dreams "because" and "despite" and "no matter what" and I live my life as there's no other! There are only dreams and there's no place for regrets!

Saturday, 10 August 2019

The Struggles of a Chess Player


Do you know that feeling when nothing goes the way you planned, you try to cut on the losses at least but things keep going wrong? I have the feeling that we all know what I’m talking about, especially the chess players.

I was complaining to a friend about this situation yesterday and among other things, I said that with every year and with every other hour spent over the chess board the losses become more and more painful. That feeling of “How is that even possible after so much training or analyzing this f* variation?” or “How could my brain produce this nonsense?” pushes you to the verge. I sometimes feel I might lose my self-control after yet another painful loss… It is also about the lack of a balance- the wins are taken as granted, it’s not the same magnitude of emotions. I won and won, of course it is ‘normal’, why be so happy about it? But the most interesting thing is that I am much more optimistic than ever anyway. It might sound like a contradiction, but despite the immediate desperation I get after a lost game, if I manage to ‘survive’ it, I wake up the next day with a total belief that it was just an accident, I’m awesome and I will totally win the next game.

 It is quite strange that I have developed this philosophical approach to losses- “I will learn from this mistake and become stronger” but only when the first emotions pass. My dream is to overcome these as well. I would probably be very proud of myself if I could manage it. But how? How to fool your brain that you don’t care he’s ‘dumby dumb’ from time to time?

Writing this I have just had a revelation. What if the brain craves for these adrenaline rushes and emotions it gets after a loss? What if this is the reason behind all the unexplainable mistakes? Maybe the problem is that I don’t ‘motivate’ it enough to win? Hm… Will have to come to this thought again.

As for now, I have survived yesterday’s loss, I am as stupidly optimistic as ever and I am ready to take whatever outcome today’s game will bring, though I’m absolutely sure I’m fantastic and I’m going to win))))

Thursday, 11 July 2019

The Chess Terror

This post has been inspired by the current 'War' book I'm reading.

Add a 2h drive on winding roads and the acute necessity to think of something catchy in order not to make the person sitting next to me on the bus never ever want to have a Greek breakfast again and here it is... I will try to bring to life these (I hope) entertaining reflections.

The whole thing started with me deciding I am in need to go for a hike. Where else if not to Agia Irini's Gorge, right? But why walk (or rather crawl through) all those km?

There were about 2 days from the 'deciding' to the 'make it happen' point, days which proved to have a very demanding schedule... Sunbathing sessions were succeeded by the frappe drinking and the sea swims, being only interrupted from time to time by the usual chess player's 'praise yourself' thoughts after gaining 10 Elo points. It has started to develop into a dangerous situation. Wouldn't want to go for a swim and feel I'm Phelps or Poseidon in search of his trident... In order to reset the brain and come back to Earth I thought a physical demanding activity like a hike would be the perfect solution.

When the time came, I woke up at 6,30 am, had a good breakfast and went to catch the bus to Agia Irini's Gorge. 7,30 am- the bus started its engines and took off. My backpack thought it was time for the adventure to begin and flew directly into my neighbor's lap... A very friendly gaze landed on me, no matter of the "Sorry", "My fault" and all the "Signomi" I was trying to cover myself with... What a promising start! Twenty minutes later the bus driver started to show us his Formula 1 skills on mountain roads... Greek Yoghurt, Greek cookies, Greek coffee, Greek.... F***! I remembered instantly all I had for breakfast, cursing myself, the driver, the neighbor and everyone I could only think of! 7,50 am - it meant I had to bare it for one more hour... Well, "I must think of something so interesting that I would forget about my being sick", the brain suggested while trying to understand why it doesn't recall any Greek swearing, just to align it nicely with the yogurt and coffee...

My relationship with 'the brain' is quite tough, but it always throughs me a life vest in time of great need! This time was no exception. 

Aleppo, Sarajevo, Afghanistan, Congo... Will my computer suddenly shut down if I continue this line of thinking? Let's see...

What is it all about? I've been reading a book written by a surgeon who volunteered in war zones for decades. He was describing some of his most memorable experiences. The content is what one would expect it to be, with tears coming to the eyes on too many occasions. What is there to be added?

"Being a professional chess player is not much different than being in a war zone. It's being a soldier, a rebel, a martyr and a surgeon altogether" , the brain threw at me... What could I say to that? Hm... 

The soldier fights for an idea, for a belief. What does a chess player do? Quite the same, trying to prove again and again his idea or even enforce some concept. The sense of duty? We want to prove our families, coaches, friends that all they've done for us wasn't in vain, some willing to take their efforts to great lengths just not to let down 'the others'. The discipline? How else can one be a performer, win games and titles? Weapons? Openings, Endgames, Tactics, Engines, Strategy... The list can go on.

PTSD! Really? We constantly live with it, from tournament to tournament. You lose the last game, lose money, invitations… You go home and think of it over and over again, have nightmares about the winning position you ruined, about that opponent who took 'everything' away from you and think "what if"... Ask a player about his best win. He will name one or two. Ask him of his most painful loss and you'll hear a full list.

"Ok, I get it, I am a chess player, a soldier - a little Formula 1 driving can't take me down!". "Don't interrupt me, I am not done", the brain angrily answers to my bewilderment...

The rebel fights against a system. The Carlsbad, the Nimzo-Indian? He often is poorly armed but compensates with his great belief that he is fighting for the 'right' side. Haven't you ever played a game against a better prepared, higher rated opponent but had 'the feeling' that you're better anyway? How is that any different? The rebel throws self made bombs at his enemies. Novelties! He shoots from AK 47s. The looking straight into your opponent's eyes?

"You plan on taking down the driver or the neighbor perhaps... Whatever, just stop this nonsense!". "You stop the nonsense, and learn smth useful for once!" the brain commended.

The martyr sacrifices himself for a cause. He endures terrible pain or looking from the other side, he wears explosive vests to cause terror. A player continues playing for his team after 3 consecutive loses, after 5... How is that different from wearing the vest?   

"You want to take down the whole bus?"

The surgeon. "How is that any like being a chess player?". You shoot, throw grenades at your enemy. He's done, he surrenders. It's not enough though. The doctor removes the shrapnel from the wound and sews it accurately, he reattaches the limbs... He makes you believe it's all behind and you can move on, perhaps come to war again. After throwing novelties at your opponent, shooting him with your gaze and destroying him, you have to accurately sew his wounds, making him feel it was just a battle he lost and he has a chance in the next one. He must think it was your only weapon, the last novelty, he must fall into the trap again...


"Agia Irini's Gorge!!!!", the driver shout at us.

Wednesday, 19 June 2019

Save the Ticket

Waking up to a café au lait and a croissant...

Can it get any better than this? Only if the day continues with strolls around a rainy Paris...

When I was asking friends about what to see in the city, they were saying- just walk... Many thought it was too crowded, too expensive, too touristic...

A beatitude of floating ellipses...

Later on, I was able to translate what my friends meant.

Paris is too crowded by beautiful people, each of one deserving a page in a fashion magazine. It is too crowded with art which asks "You think you know what beauty is?", "Are you sure that THIS is beauty?", "Does it shock you?", "Do you want more?", "Are you sure you CAN take more?". The questions just never end.

It is expensive because there's no money that can buy you the feeling you get when in Paris. You may think you can recreate it, but how? You can't pay any money for it to rain so you could enter a café, drink a glass of wine, then go out in the sun, get busted by the rain again, run under 'some' bridge, then walk along the Seine trying to catch the rainbow, then get caught under the rain again so to enter 'some' museum and feel like it's rain, sun, wind and rainbow altogether...

It is too touristic because that's all it is about. We're just passengers on this 'train'. We can keep the ticket, but never the place...

I just ended up feeling like a cactus ripped from a desert and brought to grow roots in an "Orangerie"...








Do you have a ticket?