Thursday, 21 February 2019

The Life of a Chess Player- Part 3

   The evening proved to be a very enjoyable one. I got distracted from all of my chess thoughts and by the time I got back to my place, I understood that I’d have a good night sleep. Over the years, I have come to the idea that a good sleep is often more important than some super preparation, especially before a morning round. I checked the pairings and decided I would have my chance to fight for a better prize the next day. A draw with black would guarantee me a tie for ‘some’ prize, while a win would mean an extra 2k in my pocket.

   I woke up the next morning feeling quite fresh and motivated. Had some breakfast and prepared a bit. ‘The brain’ was surprisingly silent… I must say that it was nice not to hear voices in my head for a change! I was quite pleased with my preparation and went on to take the last walk towards the rock.

   “He will walk straight into my preparation and he will be busted!” Here it comes again! I was happy that at least it meant that ‘the brain’ was not still sleeping. “Just focus and play well!” “How nice it would be for him to play what I’ve looked at! With 2k extra I can buy that nice purse I’ve seen and order that beautiful dress I liked…” “Sh!!!” I imagine how I would take care of my kids if I can’t control even my thoughts… But, that’s not what this story is about, fortunately enough.

   Got to the game just in time to sit comfy. My opponent was still not there and of course, ‘the brain’ had to start the speculations… “Maybe he partied too hard last night and he’s still sleeping. Maybe he will not come at all!” I was trying not to pay attention to ‘the voice’, adjusting calmly the pieces on the board.

   The game started. My opponent came 5 min late and played ‘1.c4’. My preparation was useless from move 1. “How could you be so naive? Of course he would avoid your preparation!” “All is fine, it’s just a game of chess, let’s enjoy it!” “I would rather enjoy the 2k impact on my shopping list…” “All at its time!” 1…e5.

   The opening didn’t go the way I hoped and I had found myself in a position where I had to play precisely in order to equalize. Luckily, ‘the brain’ didn’t disagree with the fact that I have to work a bit if wanting to win any prize at all. I successfully equalized (or maybe I should say ‘we’?). My opponent (a 2500 GM) started to take more time, feeling that his advantage was gone. He was close to getting into time trouble. I on the other hand had more than enough time and had a clear plan of how to start playing for an advantage. He understood that he might get into trouble and found a strong move which forced the exchange of the queens, entering a totally drawish rook endgame. “That’s it, I have done all I could. A draw is a draw.” “But 2k… Let’s play for a bit longer, maybe he’ll blunder something or lose on time!” “Come on, he’s a GM.” “So what? Did you see what Aronian did today? Play on!”. I played for some extra 30 min making no progress at all and finally offered a draw. A draw it was.

Photo from the Closing Ceremony in Gibraltar, 
together with GM Adhiban Baskaran and WGM Aleksandra Dimitrijevic
   I gained 11,5 Elo points, played against 7 GMs in 10 games scoring +1, won a prize- all reasons to be happy. “This is what you call a prize?” “Come on, just be grateful for what you have and the next time it will be even better.” “I hope that not 20 pounds better.”

   I guess that’s the human nature- to never be happy with what you have and always wish for more.

   “So, dear friend, what situation would you prefer? To have a stable salary as a postdoc or to ‘gamble’ for about 10 days- 7h a day, having the possibility to win 15k, 10k, 2k, ‘some prize’ or nothing?” “Of course I would want to ‘gamble’! That’s what this life is about- it’s about taking chances and going all in, having adrenaline rushes and being happy like a kid when you win!”
     The story will always be the same. One wants what he doesn’t have, always finding his friend’s life more attractive…

Sunday, 17 February 2019

The Life of a Chess Player- Part 2

     The game started with my opponent playing the Sicilian, the Rauzer system to be more precise. I remembered having some bad games played quite recently in this variation, so I told myself “Ha! You want to win- great! I do as well!”. I was quite happy with his choice, as the alternatives would be some super solid Ruy Lopez variations. 

In control
      I succeeded not to mess up the opening and got a very pleasant long term advantage. While walking around, eating nuts and alternating sneezing with coughing (why not catch a cold at one of the strongest events of the year, indeed?), I was telling myself “Look- he’s suffering, he can’t find a good continuation, just keep pressing, keep pressing and +2 will be yours!”. So, I continued pressing, with every move I made he looked more and more unhappy. Having left about 5 moves to the time control to be made, I had smth like 8 min on my clock- quite enough for the “dream Rauzer endgame” I had on the board. He made yet another move and I replied quickly, automatically, making a terrible move which let him escape. I saw the relief on his face on second 1, but it was already too late to even try saying “J’adoube”, following the footsteps of a few famous players…

     “Sh**, Sh**!” That was all my brain could produce at that moment. “Why did you hurry? You have spoiled everything. You can’t win a position with decisive advantage with the white pieces, what will you do tomorrow when playing black?” It was a challenge to make some normal moves, making it to the time control with all the stuff going on in my mind… We agreed to a draw eventually.

Treats from 'the' tapas bar
      I decided it was a good time for pretending I missed the bus and took ‘the 45 min walk’. Big mistake- ‘the brain’ just couldn’t stop talking to me… “Like a woman”-came to my mind the usual reply of a friend and I just started laughing. My lonely laugh attracted some strange looks from the people passing by and I thought that I should better find a roommate for my next tournament, as my ‘brain talks’ have started to become dangerously satisfying…

     Decided to go to the tapas bar right across the corner of my building. A glass of wine had to cheer up the “crying brain” who had already started its ‘prep talk’ for the next day’s game with the black pieces against ‘some’ GM. “You will lose tomorrow, not take a prize and then have a long trip home in my company only!”. “Come on, it was just one unlucky bad move- you played very well today, every day you play better and better, you’ll see- tomorrow will be a good day!”. “Of course, as good as it was today!”. 

    The wine finally came and a text from a friend together with it which said she’d be joining me shortly. “Yas!!!”, I thought, with the brain’s replies drowning little by little with every sip of wine.

To be continued...

Saturday, 16 February 2019

The Life of a Chess Player- Part 1

     The idea of this post came to my mind on yet another day when walking to the round from La Linea to Gibraltar.

     I had my headphones on, pretending they were a good alternative to the cap, though the wind didn't necessarily agree with me...
Ready for the game?
     I was staying on the Spanish part, at about 15 min walk from the border. It was possible to take a bus after another 6-7 min of walking or walk the whole way up to the Caleta. I tried it on the first day and it was a 45 min walk all together. Had to repeat it quite a few times on the way back, as some of my games finished too late for catching any bus. The music in the headphones was undoubtedly a good companion. Having this whole time for meditation I was contemplating my life as if it wasn't mine.

     Some people have told me that they envy my lifestyle in a quite recent conversation. I asked "What is there to envy, you're a postdoc at one of the best Universities in the World, having great perspectives, while I basically live a life of a 'gypsy'? " He told me "You make a living out of your passion- the thing you love the most and you're best at in your country, while the most of the people are ok with just being "mediocre" at a few things...".

     How exactly does this life look like?

     Well, back to Gibraltar while walking to the round... There were 2 more rounds to go, I was on +1, which was my goal before the tournament. While actually playing the games I felt I could do better than that, I missed some incredible opportunities, being quite frustrated immediately after. When you're at a tournament, you can't afford negative thinking, as you still have some games left and you must make the best out of them, so I had to trick my brain into being satisfied. "You see how well you can play? You can outplay anyone, it's just a matter of experience you're missing". "Sh**, 'missing'... After so many years I know very well that I can outplay anyone, the 'missing' IS actually the problem." Ok, corky brain... Let's try a different way.
 "You play so well, you were just a bit unlucky, tomorrow will be better!". "'Unlucky' you say- the story of my life."
      I would manage to come to an agreement with 'the brain' eventually...
Still a bit of walking left towards the rock.

     So, 2 more rounds to go, +1. I was playing against a young guy with about 2495, having the white pieces. Being at a tournament like Gibraltar I thought "2495... Pf, what is that, I should 'beat' him!", making abstraction of the fact that this 'Pf' and a few years younger than me is actually better than my 2407. The wind was the only one keeping it real- pulling out my headphones from time to time. "I will win today making it to +2, then I get 'some' 2550+ with black, he'll want to win- risk it all and I will suddenly be on +3". "Shh, keep it real, brain, just play well today, please."

     I got to the playing hall 30 min early. Decided to go for a tea on the terrace. Met a friend there and finally got to talk to someone else but my brain! Felt quite confident when sitting at the board afterwards.

To be continued...