It was last week when I found myself on the wrong end of a bad blitz session online. Going full tilt (its a poker term for those who haven’t heard this before) meant I kept playing and playing and playing, losing more and more rating points and perhaps most importantly of all playing worse and worse chess. Having lost over 200 points in ELO I did the right thing and shut down the browser window.
How could this happen? I know my opening repertoire inside out. Some of them I’ve been playing for years. Ive been studying tactics and endgames yet I’m hanging pieces for fun.
I was in a bad mood.
I had a bad taste in my mouth.
Back to basics
The next day was the Second Chess Patzer Blitz Arena Tournament on Lichess (do check out the ChessPatzer movement here – Ill be doing a future piece on these crazy streamers). I had a trip to IKEA planned and knew I couldn’t take part but could probably squeeze a few games in. Remembering my disastrous play the day before I approached it with a kind of “f*** it” attitude and decided I would simply toss pieces up the board and play. Enough with the systems Ive studied endlessly and the memorised lines. Still smarting from the day before and with half an eye glaring at my new 200pt lower rating I clicked enter.
My first opponent in the Chesspatzer Tournament popped up.
An FM with a 2389 rating.
He opened with c4. In true care free fashion I played something novel and burned a pawn just because I could and I didn’t know what I was doing anyway.
I won in 19 moves!
Ok it was a crazy game of online blitz so we can’t put to much weight behind the result but it is still my largest victory by a country mile. At the time my opponent being almost 700 ELO above my rating.
My point is that for the first time in a while I stopped thinking about the ratings and the openings and the sidelines and all the other stuff and just played.
I felt free and liberated. From move three I was having to actively think and check lines. the autonomy of bashing out the first 15 moves of theory that I know off by heart had gone and I was actually playing chess.
By move 16 he was going to win the exchange. I didn’t even blink. I didn’t care. I would just attack his king where previously I would have been racked with guilt searching for the right move.
By the time I delivered the killer blow on move 19 I was probably just as surprised as my opponent. Suddenly reality returned and I was left staring at the screen wondering what I had just done.
“Im back” I confidently declared as i moved onto my next game and promptly lost to a 1500 rated player as I resorted to my established repertoire and habits.
Cleansing the palete
Somehow I achieved one of my best results in all my years of chess by playing an opening I didn’t know, sacrificing material I didn’t know I could afford and ignoring the fact that my opponent was titled.
As amateur chess players we often spend an age defining ourselves and the way we want to play. Whilst this can be great and is part of the joy of establishing your chess persona, sometimes you do just need to swill your mouth out.
Just once every now and then.
Try playing a game that really pushes your comfort zone. That really challenges everything that you have defined about yourself and the game. Most importantly, don’t give a damn when you do so.
Apart from my immediate loss to ChessPatzerWAL straight after this game (Well done BTW), I clawed back 150pts of the 200 I had lost almost immediately. I am convinced that a lot of those subsequent victories were because of my “system reboot” game where I stopped caring, cleansed the pallet and remembered how to play chess.
Regular readers can see this post as the unofficial third article in my summer series on assessing your chess, in particular your opening repertoire. The earlier articles can be found here:
- Reviewing my opening repertoire: Is the Scandinavian holding me back?
- A useful technique for assessing your chess opening repertoire
Summer is a great time to seek changes and improvements in your game. It would also appear to be an especially a great time of year to stop caring.
Until next time.
Jon is the Editor of The Bristol Chess Times and Publicity and Recruitment Officer for The Bristol & District Chess League. He plays for Horfield Chess Club and has been known to play 1. b3 on occasion.