Monday, November 10, 2008

Meet the new rating, just like the old rating

I see my match against Jamin was rated and my rating has dropped to 1787. This is the exact rating that made me quit chess 15 years ago.

A long time ago, as a scrawny teenager, I wandered into the Charlottetown chess club at the YMCA and joined their monthly tournament. I wasn’t used to playing with a clock but over the course of the month I won a couple of games and threw a couple away and I got my first rating. I think it was around 1300, but I knew I could do better. I joined the club and started playing regularly every Tuesday evening. I improved quickly and started winning most of the club tournaments. My rating seemed to climb naturally but I developed some bad habits. I relied mainly on tactics to win games and I didn’t concentrate on my own game. That worked against the other players in the club but when I left the Island to play my first big tournament I found that I wasn’t as good as I thought. The players in Ontario had much more opening knowledge than me, and I had no tactical advantage. When I got back home I started studying a bit more and concentrating on just a few openings. My rating continued to climb to a peak of just over 1900 but then fell back and settled in the 1800’s and stalled there. I needed more games against higher rated opponents to improve, but there was no internet then and I couldn’t afford to travel to far off tournaments. As other things in life took over my time, I stopped playing regular weekly games and when I did play a tournament my rating started to tumble. I remember my last tournament falling into the Blackbourne Gambit trap to a young kid and and seeing my rating drop below 1787. I decided then that I wasn’t going to play another tournament unless I was prepared and studied my openings.

Years passed, I moved to Alberta, I got married and had children and had not thought about chess much until my kids started playing. After re-entering tournament chess, I have now played ten events and though I think I have improved over the last two years, my rating has now dropped back below 1800 again. Some of my bad habits have changed and some are the same. On the positive side, I do concentrate on my own game now and I don’t have the same desire to wander around the room to try to find a more interesting game. On the negative side, I find I can sometimes have very little enthusiasm when I’m playing a game especially if it is against a lower rated player or if I think I should be doing something else that day. I’m missing a lot when looking at tactics now compared to before. These may be things that go along with getting older, but my weak openings are just a result of my lack of useful studying. The question is now, what to do about my chess?

Option 1. Quit again. I f I do this it will probably not be a conscious decision, but rather a gradual lowering of interest until I find I haven’t played for a long, long, time.
Option 2. Play less regularly probably at a 1700 level. Maybe play in one out of town tournament a year plus the Battle at the Border. The question is, would I get enough enjoyment out of this to continue playing without falling into option 1.
Option 3. Really start studying and see if I can improve to 2000. The problem with this is that there is not enough time in the day to balance work, family, and an obsessive hobby like chess.

I hope I don’t end up choosing option 1, as I still get enjoyment out of playing a good game whether it’s a win or a loss. Plus I haven’t really played a complete tournament yet and I feel there is one inside me waiting to come out. Right now I have no definitive plans to play in an upcoming event. Maybe in the new year.


Jamin said...

Hey Terry,

As we've talked about before, I really think you should give studying chess one more try before dropping it altogether. If you devoted only 30 minutes per day to tactics (during lunch at work?), and studied one opening per week (go over games, play matches against your computer, read opening books), you'd be over 2000 in a year.

Once you saw some return for your hard work (ie: rating going up), you'd enjoy chess a lot more, and that would propel you to study even harder to achieve your goal.

Speaking of upcoming tournaments, why not join the WBX tournament in Edmonton? First, it's a team tournament, which as anyone who has played in one will tell you, it's a lot more fun than just a regular swiss. Second, I know that Tyler is looking for a teammate, and you two together would be able to have a 2350 player on board 1, without exceeding the rating cap! This would make you guys a very competitive team, and a very attractive one for loner masters looking for someone to play with. And trust me, there are more of these players around than you'd expect.

Give it some thought, and contact Vlad Rekhson to sign up for the tourney. He'll hook you guys up with a board 1 player as well.


TerryC said...

Thanks for the input. While I'm sure there was a time when I could have achieved a expert rating I was beginning to wonder if that time had passed. Getting to over 2000 in a year though may require more effort and more tournament games than I have time for. As you probably know, now that you are basically married, leaving town for a weekend requires some skilful negotiations.

On the bright side, Marilou has been talking about going into Edmonton for a weekend in December. I have suggested Dec 13-14 so maybe the WBX tourney might work out for me. Is Tyler still looking for teammates. I can't imagine there would be too many 2300+ players available for board 1.

Jamin said...

Tyler is still looking for a team, as far as I know.

Jeff Reeve (2334), Vladimir Pechenkin (2297), Robert Gardner (2237), Micah Hughey (2226), Nicolas Haynes (2224). All of these people are active within the Edmonton Chess Club, and none of them have teams yet for the WBX.