Notes from my first chess tournament (incomplete, but already a wall of text):
1. Chess games in tournaments are very long. Each player in a game is given 90 minutes, with 30 seconds added with each move. Most of my games were at least 3 hours long.
I was skeptical about being able to handle it, but it turns out that you spend all of that time thinking about the game. This is the type of time that just evaporates, leaving you wanting more.
2. I can tell that I'm hooked on something when I need to piss really badly but I still want to do the thing I'm doing. That day, I had a wonderful attacking position, my pieces preventing my opponent from mobilizing his own troops, the possibilities for a successful checkmate seeming endless.
I eventually rushed to the bathroom, but I was so lost in thought that I accidentally entered the women's restroom first.
3. The game of chess, in my mind (and at my level), is a three step war with yourself of figuring out when you're done calculating a line of moves, when you're done exploring new lines, and when you're done figuring out which move to ultimately make. This process is couched in your ultimate knowledge of the game, i.e. should I use the opening I'm more familiar with?, should I play for the tactics or for the position?, what is my plan right now?, etc.
The way I play chess mirrors the creative process I have when it comes to design- my first instinct is to do the cool stuff- sacrifices, tactics, ways to break the rules. I start by convincing myself out of these things until I get to moves that would be more reasonable for the position. But if I do find something that shows a glimmer of promise, I'll defend the hell out of it against my better judgement.
4. Because of how much time you're given, my strategy coming into the tournament was to come up with rules of thumb at the beginning of each game.
For my round 1, my rules were:
- Don't get distracted by the fact that you're playing against a 9 year old.
- Don't get distracted by the fact that you're playing in a tournament.
- Play so that you can learn something critical for round 2.
For round 2, my rules were:
- Take 10 seconds to breath before you confirm each move.
- Play the style of chess that you feel the most comfortable with.
- Don't get distracted by the fact that you're playing against a 9 year old girl.
5. Do not underestimate the aptitude of youth combined with scheduled practice. Children have an accellerated understanding of the language of chess- calculations, principles, tactical and positional ideas. You are simply a plaything in the maelstrom of their creative expression.
But don't forget- children are human. If they make funny faces at you, you are obligated to make funny faces back at them.
6. Sleep deprivation has a equalizing effect on my mind. Ideas, instincts, and doubts are all dampened so that they all feel similar. This has been helpful for me since high school for getting certain types of work done, especially creative efforts where I'm not sure where to start.
Being sleep deprived in a tournament game was a complete fiasco for me. Those instincts and doubts need to stay sharp in a long game, because I kept experiencing the dillenma where certain moves felt good even though I had already deduced that they were terrible. Make sure you get a good night's sleep.
7. I went 1.5 / 4, in an under 1800 rated bracket. I won my first game against a 1290, lost 3 games, and drew my last game after being offered a draw, against a 1190. There was only 1 game a day, I have no idea how people do 2 games a day, my mental stamina felt withered to the bone by day 5. I couldn't think straight by day 4, like I was in a cloud. The tournament was a lot of fun, and I did so much better than I thought I would do. I highly recommend entering a chess tournament if you get the chance.
Devac I'll show the games at request, I'm a little embarrassed/too lazy to put them in lichess after already going over the board with them
I have less than one month left in Montreal. I don't really have a plan for afterwards, but I secured a really comfy contract, so I can travel. I'm applying to an internship for my favorite podcast, (in the same spirit as applying for Chessbrah), but I can't put all my eggs into this basket. Thinking about going to Brooklyn anyways. Or maybe giving Portland a shot.