Monday, 19 March 2012

Decisions, decisions

I'm about to enter a weekend chess tournament, the Bournemouth Chess Congress. Now, chess tournaments usually have at least three levels of entry, so you don't end up playing and (most likely) losing miserably to people who are far better at the game than you are. For tournaments in England it's all done based on your English Chess Federation grade. My grade is currently 118, which means for the Bournemouth Congress I can enter the lower level of the competition. But do I want to...?
In my last tournament I deliberately played in the middle section, hoping to pit my wits against really strong players and maybe learn a bit from them. They say that's how you improve at any game or sport; find the strongest opponents you can and try to learn from how they play (i.e. how they thrash you!) as long as your ego can withstand the inevitable battering. I did take a bit of punishment but I really felt that playing tough opponents sharpened my game up, and I'm tempted to do the same again in Bournemouth.

What's giving me pause for thought is that the lower level in the Bournemouth Congress is for people whose grade is below 125, meaning that I'd be one of the favourites. I've never won a chess tournament (although I've had a handful of second and third places) so I'm tempted to give this one a go and enter the lower tier of the competition. There's no way I'll finish anywhere near the top of the intermediate competition; an even score would be fantastic.

So do I man up and put in my entry form for the intermediate tournament or do I go for glory in the lower level? Place your bets now! Or give me advice in the comments, as you wish...


  1. He who sit on cushion never move... He who sit on stone always look for something more...

  2. I'd go for the 125 section. You'll be playing against players around your level, and if you win your first couple of games you'll be pitted against the best in the section with the pressure on (if you don't win those first games, it would definitely be optimistic to be in the higher section). If you enter the higher section (under 155 is a big leap), you could expect to lose a couple of games before possibly getting a fair match with only pride at stake.

    Personally, I generally used to find that I'd learn more from a close, evenly-matched game (especially under pressure) than being totally outclassed, but your experience may be different.

    Best of luck.

  3. You can do the masochistic thing any time. Nothing manly or character building about taking the tough route for no real reason. There's ample opportunity in life to get your keister handed to you on a platter, and not so many for the triumphs. So I'd advise going for glory on this one.

    Besides, there's more than one way to learn. The only reason people talk about how much they learn when they go through a rough patch is because they don't want to admit they went through that rough patch in vain, so they say, "I learned so much" overlooking one or more things such as; 1) what they learned wasn't anything they couldn't have learned an easier way, 2) they didn't learn nearly as much as the suffering entailed (poor returns on the investment), 3) they didn't learn anything or 4) they learned all the wrong lessons thus setting themselves up for future rough patches.

    Attempt to tell them that and they get right defensive. Get them to tell you what they learned and they can't articulate it, and become more defensive. :-) One thing I learned from rough patches, such as having friends get defensive and annoyed with me, is that I'm really good at unintentionally provoking people. "You just bring out the worst in me", they say. When I point out that the "worst" is really a reflection of their true self and what most people see on a day to day basis is the polite façade they project, they get very defensive. You'd think they'd be happy I'd pointed out that they've been fooling themselves into thinking the worse was not their normal self and the façade was the true self--can't improve if you don't know you're a twit--but quite surprisingly you'd think quite wrong. ;-))))

  4. Thank you all! My last 14 games have now been against people with a higher grade than mine so I'm tempted to go for the lower level. I should still get a few games against people around my grade, especially if I start with a win or two.