Last night's game at the Reno Chess Club marked an important turning point in my chess career.
I was originally scheduled to play Eric Shoemaker (aka Green Hornet) in the 7th and final round of the Club Ch. Swiss Qualifier. However, when I was all set up (score sheet even filled out and sitting across from him) the Director asked if I would consider dropping out of the round; several people who didn't have a shot at qualifying had not shown up, and the bye might have to go to Vern Young, possibly affecting his chances. I really wanted to get a game but I could see the logic of it, so I said I'd consider it, especially if someone else would play me a rated game. After a bit more delay they found me an opponent, Hadi Soltani, for a "rated side game." Okay, fine.
Now instead of having White as originally against Shoemaker, I drew Black and we played into a King's Indian as he and I have before, this time a sort of Gligoric Variation. I got a bind on the queenside and played some pretty artistic positional chess, which culminated in my coming out two pawns ahead in a rook ending. He had been ahead on the clock quite a bit, but now of course he started playing slower trying to find chances, and the game dragged on; everyone reading this knows how it can take many moves to make progress in this kind of position (rook and far back g- and h-pawns vs. rook). And the game dragged on; by now we each had 7 or 8 minutes left to sudden death, and due to the late start it was well after midnight, it looked like it would still take many moves to win the position, I had been enjoying the process, mostly, but at some point it occurred to me that "man, I'm still sitting here and I've got to get up and get ready for work in less than 5 and 1/2 hours!" and that just struck me as ridiculous, you know?
And a few minutes later I just hung the effing rook, just moved it to a square where he could take it, there went the game, it was effing embarrassing, there were some other players still there, by now almost all the other games were finished, people were calculating tie breaks for the qualifiers out loud nearby and which kind of says where this game fell in the grand scheme of things, he snatched the rook off with a decisive motion, I resigned and I had a moment of acute embarrassment, a few players had been watching and of course I had been exposed as an idiot, a patzer, a pretender and a fool, a clown, a dolt/dope/dumbkopf, a fish, a guppie who had made a mistake that the average 8-year-old rated 1000 wouldn't make. All the ratings gains I'd painfully made since last summer were now up in smoke, all the tactical books and the chess blogging and the study had produced this.
And then the clouds, so to speak, parted.
Before I walked out of the club I realized that this was the last five-hour game of chess I would play, ever. No more bleary Fridays at work on a few hours sleep after unwinding from the intensities of the Thursday evening death-struggle; no more worries about rating points. Screw rating points, the game was probably a lot more fun and less stressful when no one cared, they just played to win.
AS far as I'm concerned, I'm never playing another game of chess longer than three hours, max (G/90). A lot of clubs (Kenilworth, for example) play all their championship games at this time control. Seems about right for me, and I'm only talking about me here. The Reno Chess Club has a lot of nice people and a lot of good players; apparently there is a long-term tradition and consensus that 30/90, G/60 is what the most people want for rated tournaments, which is what most club nights are devoted to. Unlike some clubs there aren't many quickplays, blitz nights or other types of events. That's cool, but at this point I'm opting out.
What I really like are games that last 1-2 hours, with some increment so there's no sudden death. The first Tournament of the LEPers used 15 +30, fast but fun and most games take about an hour. For blitz I like 2 5, you need never lose on time and a few really quick moves can buy some decent thinking time when needed.
One more thing, on this post a few days ago Francis W. Porretto (Eternity Road) commented:
Robert, are you sure that elevating your rating is that important to you?
I think at 56 I'm a little older than you are, so our positions in life aren't exactly parallel. But maybe this perspective will be worth it to you anyway.
As you move into the second half of your life, you'll find that it's more important to preserve your pleasures than to maximize your achievements.
I teach chess to young folks. I don't get anything for it other than the pleasure of having conveyed a bit of knowledge to someone who wants it. Those kids are delighted to learn, and eager to make use of their knowledge in combat, just as I was when my uncle Karl (an international master in his day) deigned to teach me something about the game.
It took a while, but I learned soon enough that tournament results and USCF ratings are less enduring than the sense of heightened understanding. The results and ratings are ephemeral; the sense of understanding is something you can enjoy forever.
These days, I don't enjoy playing the game nearly as much as I enjoy introducing new players to its mysteries. Not many of them ask to see my tournament results, or ask what my rating was when I stopped playing competitively. They're just happy to have the attention of a "gray head" who has some knowledge to impart.
Whatever you decide to do, stay with it only as long as it makes you happy.
Yeah, I've found these words of wisdom bouncing around inside my thick skull from time to time ever since I read them. Everyone has different wants, needs and goals in an endeavor like chess; for the last two years I've been trying to get back to my "glory days" in the 1800s USCF, I've enjoyed playing and analyzing and blogging, I've especially enjoyed reading about others' chess experiences and triumphs and struggles, I still enjoy all of that, but I'm officially out of the grind-my-way-to-A-player business, I'm gonna quit formal studying with all the weekly goals, timetables and problem sets, I'm gonna play me some chess, especially at FICS, definitely in the next Tournament of the LEPers (YOU, get over there and sign up), and maybe someone wants to play a rated match at the Club at a fairly quick time control eventually, I'm up for it.
I'm gonna keep playing with my three-year-old, he's already learned quite a bit thanks to the Windows built-in chess game that shows all the legal moves, he has a tendency to move his king right up the board but hey, there's still time to get him playing the Catalan...
Chess ain't supposed to be work. It's a game. Chessloser knows this, even when he's at a tournament. I'd forgotten for awhile. If it took a "most embarrassing moment" in chess and the loss of some rating points, so be it.