Sunday, October 21, 2012

Chess on a busy schedule and limited resources

My chess pieces feel so neglected they are about to form their own EMO-punk band singing songs of prolonged neglect and searching for wood chippers. Life has a way of getting real and limiting my ability to enjoy my favorite hobby. My last foray was a debacle with a rating plunge like a daredevil skydiving from 24 miles up.

I am still busy and have “life stuff” front and center demanding all those brain cells I used to waste on chess. Yet, I would like to “get back in the game”.  However, I’ve discovered that I am not that good with balancing things. I like to “fully commit” when I engage in an activity but it means something else has to let go.  How can I keep the rest of things in balance with a demanding hobby like chess? 

I am sure we have all similar struggles. I’d love to hear from you on how you find balance with this hobby and not tip the fragile balance of all the other “life stuff”.

What Shall I do? Reduce scope?  Can I really just do chess for enjoyment instead of trying my damndest to prove that an old dog can learn new tricks?

This is tough since  I tend to be mission driven. I have to set goals.  For instance, I still feel it’s my MISSION to find that great white whale known as Adult chess improvement. I’ve even seen glimpses of  this mythical beast in other “late bloomers” on the net, at the club, and even in my own games.  The real question then becomes, how can I seek improvement with limited time and resources? I think the answer lies in how to recalibrate my goal.

 I love this game, I enjoy playing,  and I really enjoy the learning process. Getting to a USCF rating of 2000 does seem like it’s within reach at least in a short term to midrange goal. Something keeps lifting the stick  with a carrot on it when I reach out my hand.  I peaked over 1800 for the time in my chess career about a year ago but the carrot was yanked rather quickly as life events challenged my ability to even sustain the performance.  I had managed to sustain a solid mid 1700 rating for most of last year, but after the peak, I tumbled pretty fast.

Enjoying what I have:
It is better to conquer yourself than to win a thousand battles. Then the victory is yours. It cannot be taken from you, not by angels or by demons, heaven or hell. --Buddha

Instead of pining for what I  lost or what don’t have, I think my goal for the next few months should  be to focus  on a more efficient approach to sustain a solid Class B rating.  Before, I had a sporadic approach to training between matches. It included various activities around tactics, understanding pawn formations, marginal endgame study before the match and club play.  I never found a good mix for these study areas. I always felt I was deficit driven when I reached the board in competition and felt like I never had enough time to actually prepare.

What I was actually experiencing was the effects of a lack of discipline in my training. Instead, I took a buck shot approach which required more time and I never really got a proper handle on successful training techniques.

That’s not to say I never had some successes. For instance,  I had found a method that helped me get a better positional grasp on  learning openings and variations.  I also know more efficient ways to study tactics that impact my own personal games.

The financial commitment was steep as well, on top of the USCF membership and state memberships that allowed me to play in local and national events, I had club fees, tournament costs and internet memberships.  Here, I need to scale back as well.

In one of my other lives, I’ll call the working-Blunder, we are encouraged to set personal goals for the projects we are assigned.  They use the following mnemonics:

SMART : Specific Measurable Attainable Realistic and Timel

I will make an attempt to use this model in my blunderprone chess life:

Here’s my plan:

      1)      Understand myself
a.       Know where my current deficits are
b.      Chess Exam- scoring  for a baseline ( specific and measurable)
       2)      Focus on Discipline from now until end of year. ( attainable, realistic and timely)
a.       Map out the spare hours I can dedicate to training ( specific and measurable)
b.      Use those dedicated hours specifically on focused aspects of where I need training the most.  ( More specifics after the evaluation)
c.       Blog about my training as way to keep track and motivate
       3)      Target One Tournament between now and end of year
a.       Renew State and National memberships
b.      Renew membership
c.       Club membership on hold until more time is available
d.      Harry Nelson Pillsbury Memorial may be my target on Dec 2 ( time)
       4)      Re-evaluate end of December
a.       Evaluate how well I stayed on track with the disciplined schedule
b.      Re-take a chess exam evaluation
c.       Compare against baseline
d.      Set new training goals.


LinuxGuy said...

Great post!

I think that both you, I, and probably Polly ran into the same thing, "human factors" affecting our chess game. My rating slide has been greater than yours. I've seen this happen to others as well; big slide and then if they don't have a decent floor, they probably end up not playing anymore.

I saw your chess getting better. You were playing new openings, which is good and bad, good but bad for rating usually. You have a perfectionist bent (I do, too), but this can be a ratings-killer at the class-level level, being too hard on one's self during a game can backfire. I've lost a lot of ratings points beating myself, all my opponents had to do was stand there and pull the trigger.

When you last posted tournament games here, your positional understanding was levels above where it was when you were blogging a couple years prior, IMHO. Your higher previous rating was probably due to competitive factors, just as it was for me, and doesn't mean you aren't a stronger player now, it just means that more things are somehow getting in the way than before.

Temposchlucker said...

I am sure we have all similar struggles. I’d love to hear from you on how you find balance with this hobby and not tip the fragile balance of all the other “life stuff”.

I don't think people are able to scheduled passion. Or balance, for that matter. Me not, in any case. Besides that, Caissa doesn't resign herself to a lover for the weekends.

Adam Savage explains how to behave: "I reject reality and substitute my own."