What Bad Tournaments Make You Think

I’ve been to countless tournaments in the past few months, covering everything from the World Chess Championship to Chess in the Schools weekly tournaments. However, I haven’t played a rated tournament game in a long time. I played in the Eastern Class Championships in Sturbridge, Massachusetts this past weekend after not playing since Millionaire Chess (October 2016).

As you may or may not know from my bio or previous articles, I am the oddball of the authors because I consider myself to be an amateur chess player. I had been playing in U1400, U1600, and U1700 tournaments at the Marshall Chess Club for a few months and held up alright, usually with 1300s.

My correct class at the Eastern Class Championships would have been the Under 1200 section, but I decided to challenge myself in playing in the 1200-1399 section. At a rating of 1152, I figured the skill level would not vary as much and I wanted to play “up,” as many players do to become stronger.

I scored a whopping 1/5, which would not have made the tournament SO horrible… but the 1 point was from the 1 point free bye I got. I lost the rated house game that did not count for my tournament score.

After this horrific tournament, I was asked to write an article, to which I wondered, “What the heck do people want to know from my new 5 game losing streak?” Then I realized that everyone can probably relate to this experience so I wanted to model those Buzzfeed relatable lists…


7 Thoughts You Have After

Bad Tournaments

(I chose 7 because it is my lucky number)

1) “Wow, I suck at chess.”

Come on. Everyone’s said it many, many, many times to themselves before. It’s often a joke, a dark sort of self-deprecating humor. Even though it is not true, losing so many games lowers the morale to that thought first and foremost. I find this deprecating comment is so common, yet most likely extremely detrimental. It connotes giving up or even brushing off lack of prep, sleep, or even just luck as factors in the game.

 

2) “What if I just change my ____? This ____ is bad luck.”

Fill the blank with “pen,” “shirt,” “drink,” etc.

Ah, the classic blame game! I play it with my pens quite often, thinking if I just changed a miniscule part of my routine that has absolutely nothing to do with the quality of my play, I’ll have different luck. Chess player superstition everyone seems to have, I suppose. The only type of chess luck to have only happens OTB (Over The Board).

 

3) “Is it normal to lose this much?”

The first huge, despairing moment hits with this thought. You try to calculate if it’s statistically possible to lose so much. After all, you couldn’t have lost this many games in a tournament before, right? If Wesley So can go on large winning streaks, surely you can’t go on such large losing streaks…

 

4) “Why did I come play this tournament?”

This one relates to the luck in the 2nd point. If you hadn’t taken the gamble to play in this tournament, but maybe the next one, you could have done so much better. It is useless to follow this train of thought, as you never could have predicted such a disastrous result. Yet everyone does.

 

5) “Why did I waste so many years on this game?”

This is the next and perhaps close to the last stage of giving up. It suggests that every effort made to improve was not worth it and was a waste of time, that every game played in history was not necessary. It does not give much hope for the future.

 

6) “At least the ____ was good. But ______ sucked.”

Fill the blank with “food,” “drinks,” “company,” or “hotel”/”venue” (rare).

This thought is an attempt to stay positive, as there is usually at least one good aspect of a tournament. Often, I find that it is the company due to the “social” aspect I gain from chess, but that is not always the case. Sometimes it is only the food that can be delicious. Maybe it’s none, but it’s always fun to joke!

 

7) “I have to improve and do better next time.”

The inevitable conclusion: sometimes the only way to cheer up is to vow to improve. That is how you overcome the defeat, how you justify having lost so much. Every game is a lesson and losing is just part of the game. There will be good tournaments and terrible ones. Remember: it cannot get much worse, so it can only get better! 🙂

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One thought on “What Bad Tournaments Make You Think

  1. I’ve been rated around 1800 for the last ten years or so, so I can relate to what just happened for you at that tournament.

    First, anyone over 1200 is already a strong chessplayer, just not over as many moves as a Class A player, for example. Under 1200, many players can still spot deep threats, but they often overlook some threat that is right there in front of them. Making it to 1200 is mostly about threat recognition and tactical patterns. If a player has developed an adequate method for recognizing threats on each move, and they know the basics of the game, then they should make 1200.

    In your situation, playing up, your result doesn’t surprise me. Mostly because the U1400 crowd are going to have a much stronger sense of where they are going with their opening, and have won that way before. A lot of 1300’s have drawn or won against 1700’s before, so there is a sense of seriousness that that would give them when playing, while still not being adequately reflected in their rating. They may not play enough non-scholastic tournaments for their rating to rise to their natural level. So, you may have walked into that by deciding to “play up.” 😉

    A lot of times when people mess up it’s in an equal position. In equal positions it’s easy to be confronted by many choices and not sure or over-sure of what to think about. Keep your guard up in equal positions because once a position goes south, it’s often hard to save it, if your opponent doesn’t blunder back, and at higher levels you can never count on blunders.

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