Monday, June 18, 2012

I Play Hope Chess

Last year, on June 18, 2011, after I dropped 3 games in the 45 45 League, I wrote this post.  I let it sit in 'draft' mode the entire year.  I came back to it every so often to read it and feel the burn of those losses.

I'm finally getting around to publishing it.  I'm a bit more a peace with myself.  I think I play less Hope Chess, but there are games where I still play it.  Once (and if) I complete my 52-game quest in August, I'll revist this topic and disect my thoughts and feelings.

JUNE 18, 2011

It's obvious I don't fire on all cylinders.  I have serious, gut-wrenching issues I have to deal with.  It is painful.  Sure it feels good to pull off wins; but the truth is I think there is a significant measure of luck involved in those wins that simply masks the fundamental issues that I have not addressed.  When it all gets boiled, the truth is I play Hope Chess.

Here's the three-punch knockout that has pushed me to this realization ... one; two and three.  Three was a "LOL" moment.  It truly was comical.

So what are my options?
1 - do nothing; just keep playing for the joy of it and not care about playing quality chess.
2 - give it up altogether and spend the time doing something else.
3 - fundamentally confront and deal with my issues.

There's no shame in #1 and #2.  This is chess for crying out loud!  It's a freakin' game.  But that's not all true now, is it.  There is a deep unreachable itch; an unsettling feeling in the bowels of my soul.  I can't let it go.  When not thinking about work or family or our church, all my mind can dwell on are those three losses and why they happened.  As I ponder the last couple of weeks, it feels like there are deeper issues at play here.  It's not just chess - there is a profound psychological aspect to this and I think it is not restricted to just my chess game.  There are macro life elements involved ... this issue seems to spill over into other parts of my life.  And somehow I feel like if I can fix my chess game, the rest of my life will become balanced.  And maybe it's not so much about chess, but rather about not giving up on something I started.

I can't walk away from this until I feel I've done a better job.  I owe it to myself.  When I get to the point that I can consistently say, win or loss "I played Real Chess and did my best" then I can be at peace with myself and if I decide to walk away from it all, I won't have regrets.


  1. Anonymous6:17 PM

    Honest, introspective post. Bravo.

    The reason why I didn't pursue option #3 earlier in my own chess career is probably a mixture of complacency and laziness. Not the couch potato kind of laziness, but the kind where you fool yourself into thinking that the same things you've always done are what's best for you. Facing the truth that inertia will not improve things (in any sphere of life) can be unsettling. Understanding that something should be done about it, then having the will to actually start doing it, is a big step in itself.

  2. First thing I note is your rating. Your tactical level is 1800+. But then I see why you lose that game #1. 12...a6?? This is a positional blunder that virtually turns the game into an openings loss, possibly because you follow up so tactically consequently, instead of just trying to hunker down in some way.

    This is off the top of my head, but 12..c4xb3, followed by 13..Na4 seems more sensible positionally. Forget about the pawn recapture for White because there is so much tactical and development dynamism that protecting a pawn really doesn't matter at this stage. You should _want_ to give up a pawn for some other type of advantage here as Black, and not say "Oh gee, I am losing a pawn, let's play out both of our attacks, trade everything off and see what happens." What happens is that it is a losing endgame which can be sensed a mile away. You were subtracting your chances.

  3. Game 2, 12.Rxf3 looks weird, but then Black plays 12...Bg5?? 14.RxR+ is a blitz win. For example, 14...KxR, 15.Qf3+ Ke7, 16.Qf7+ Ke5, 17.Qf3 and it is basically all over. White threatens Nf7+, doubling on the f-file, and the Black king is just badly placed in any event.

    Game 3 is like "you get what you play for". It isn't wise to play the Sicilian as Black against much higher-rated while also feeling some tactical rust, or not in the mood to play such a sharp opening. Some strong player said to play 1...e5 as Black until reaching 1800, and I think that person has a point (particularly when it comes to the Sicilian as Black, IMHO).

  4. Ah, I was thinking of Tanc at Lousyatchess blog. He is strong tactically. But he is in Australia and you are in Texas, I think it is. I thought your rating had been going up sharply since you played rated chess, or am I once yet again getting my bloggers confused? :-D

  5. Hi Rocky,

    Great post. My own view is that the understanding the difference between playing very good chess and wins/losses is a huge step.

    In my opinion learning to play good chess isn't really that difficult, learn the basic concepts via something like Silman or Evan's "New Idea's In Chess" and then play over annotated master games and work on answering questions that come up from their annotation. By 12 months you'll probably have a pretty good understanding of what's good and bad positions and why they are good and bad based on the earlier concepts. After another 6 months you'll probably be able to explain most GM moves and be well on the way to playing good chess most of the time.

    In the meantime and even after 18 months wins/losses will vary depending on other circumstances but when you start to feel you are playing good chess, wins against average players should become more routine.

    Whichever direction you choose, I hope it goes well!

  6. I feel like there should be a group similar to AA where I can come and admit that very same thing and burst into tears only to be embraced by my fellow hope chess players.

  7. LinuxGuy - thanks for reviewing the games and taking the time to offer some feedback.

    ChessAdmin & ChessClues - it was a big step for me at the time ... both understanding the need to play quality chess win/loss or draw and the realization about what it was I wanted out of chess.

    Tim - amen. It's just a simple observation, but it makes all the difference.