Thursday 3 June 2021

Inside Out

(Photo by David Llada)
Two weeks have passed in no time… Do you know that feeling when it seems that 13 days passed in a heartbeat but, at the same time, it feels that the breath taken to the next heartbeat took years away from you…?

Last month, it seemed that all I could only wish for was coming true! I finally got a so much desired invitation to a Women’s FIDE Grand Prix tournament- it meant I would compete against the strongest ladies in the World! It meant a lot to me- I saw it as sign of recognition for all my efforts of the last years, of my whole life actually… The pandemic was the one to make this happen- some players in the circuit could not make it to Gibraltar and I was asked to replace one of them. The night after I found out about this possibility, I was so excited I could no sleep at all! I remembered reading some months ago that the Gibraltar Festival wouldn’t be taking place because of the pandemic and instead, they would host the last leg of the Women’s Grand Prix and I was thinking to myself “How lucky those players are! How I would wish to be amongst them!”. I didn’t even dare to share this thought with anyone else, so imagine my surprise and excitement when learning I could actually be a part of that!

Even though my participation was under question for quite a long time, I started to prepare for the event. I knew most of the opponents I’d have to play against, with some of them I had played for many times already. I was the 11th rated player in a field of twelve- I knew it would be a tough run, as much was at stake- 2 spots at the Women’s Candidates were to be disputed among the ‘regulars’ of the circuit. That meant that I could expect big, long fights only. I was fine with that, after all- that was all I wished for too…

(Photo by David Llada)

Looking back to those few weeks which preceded the tournament, I can’t help thinking- what did I do wrong? Of course, I didn’t have the experience of competing in such events and one could expect a so-so performance from me after a quite long, forced break from competing, but why that bad? I mean- if checking my games- I had 3 decisive advantages- one +8, one -13 and one mate in 3 out of which I scored just 0,5p…  It was nothing less than a disaster.

There are a few things I think contributed to this result the most.

One- I had some previous engagements I could not postpone, so I had to try finding a balance between preparing for the tournament and completing those other things so I ended up quite busy those weeks before Gibraltar. I didn’t see it as a problem at the time, as it felt really good to have many things to do after a year of ‘hibernation’ but I might have got to that burnout point without being aware of that…

Two- after having lost the first two rounds- both of them in completely winning positions, I was disappointed and I got into a vicious circle of having bad mood thus bad sleep and prepared too much, worrying and questioning myself on every occasion, unnecessarily tiring my brain even more. It wasn’t something I realized then, because maybe I could do something to change that, but looking back at it- I couldn’t even watch a movie during the whole tournament- all I could think was chess. Who would have thought that’d be a bad thing, right?

(Photo by David Llada)

I am not trying to find excuses, I felt physically fine- I enjoyed a lot the venue and the organization but it seems to me that I just completely lacked the experience of how to deal with these kind of tournaments- all the things which could go wrong chess wise and psychologically, all unfortunately did.

I can’t help feeling disappointed but I also think there’s a bright side to this story- I was brutally pointed out to the things I do wrong, I got to experience this kind of tournament which I dreamed of for years and when there’ll be a next time- I will know what to expect. I also hope that this will be the needed wakeup call before a season full of tournaments- a call to remind me what is really important for me in life and what makes me happy- playing chess!