Wednesday, December 31, 2014

A Return to Playing the Game

Its been well over 5 years since I last played the game of chess at a competitive level.  When I left the game, I was on the rise to higher class levels; class A being a goal I had set out for myself a long time ago.  In 2009, I climbed over 250 rating points in a 6 month span and was still climbing. 

My understanding of the game was becoming clearer, and seeing the board; analyzing tactics were improving tremendously. I had mastered most of my endgame principles that both class C and B players should know.  In reality, I was loving the game that much more, just before I pulled the plug and went on hiatus. When I left, my rating was just short of 1700.

Why the hiatus? Well, 2009 was a life changing year for me both professionally and physically. I had undergone major surgery, had an 7 month old boy, recently got married just the year before and was undergoing a change of occupation and focusing on running a new business.  Needless to say, life required me to make some choices and I had to devote my time elsewhere other than chess.

As of September 2014, I have returned to the game I love.  I remember a friend saying to me shortly after I left the game, "You don't play this game anymore", noting that I was intently watching the game he was playing; as I still visited the club at that time. Although his comment was rather slap-stick, it did sort of hit hard at the time, because he was right, I didn't play the game anymore, but I so much wanted to stay involved -- I just couldn't.

Now, coming back to the game 5 years later, I knew that I was going to lose quite a few games before I would start to have a feel for the game again and play with confidence.  My first dozen games were vicious; basically I could be playing against a "door stop" and lose!  I think I managed 2 wins and a draw from the first 12 games I played. I was losing games to 1300 and 1400 rated players; but the good news was I was losing those games in the later stages while having a superior position on the board. Simply put, I was missing moves on the board or hanging a piece that most seasoned chess players would see. Of course, the game that really turned me around was one where I basically got my ass handed to me in under 12 or 14 moves by a 1300+ rated player.  I guess you would call this my "bottom time"; my rating having suffered a loss of over a 130+ points by this time.

After that game, I started to hit the books again, tactics, openings, pawn structures, endgames and re-read Silman's Complete Endgame Course from cover to cover! I updated my chess software, analyzed old games and refined my opening repertoire. I even joined a private chess group -- Vortex Club, which is mostly comprised of higher rated players than myself with quicker time controls. The Vortex offers me the opportunity to see a greater variety of openings and react to them with tighter time constraints and tougher play. The Vortex is the sharpening stone to my blade!

As of this posting, I am currently winning over 70% of my games. My confidence has returned, my endgame technique is closer to where it was when I left the game 5 years ago, and I am no longer confused or finding it hard to evaluate the position at hand. My openings are getting stronger too! As of my last game, I just defeated the #1 seeded player in the U1700 Section.  Things are on the upswing, my rating is once again on the rise and I'm loving the game again. To my friend, yes...I do play the game and I'm back with a vengeance!

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