Home Sweet Home

I got back from Israel a few days ago after being out of the country for almost a month. After such a long absence, it’s comforting to get back home. I guess an important part of it is just being able to relax and regain some of the energy that has been lost over that time.

The last month has been intense. After Corsica, I headed straight to Israel for a coaching session with GM Huzman. The session was very productive. We worked almost every day from about 10am to 10pm with breaks. The breaks would be for food, short relaxation and sports. We played a lot of tennis while I was there, as well as a bit of soccer, basketball and table tennis. Each of the last 10 days we also went to the outdoor gym to work out for a bit. As I look out of my Toronto window, the snow falling on the city certainly makes the sun and the 30 degree weather I witnessed there seem long gone.

With so many hours of hard work every day it’s important to stay fresh (and sane) by staying fit. The sports always increase general endurance and help clear the mind for however short the period of time it is before the next part of the session. To say the least, I was exhausted in the end of every working day.

I will not get into any session details for obvious reasons. I took in a lot of information. There was always a lot of fresh analysis that needed to be done and in those cases my coach really showed as to why he is known to be a world-class coach. His positional understanding and general feel for typical positions is exceptional. It’s always interesting to work with him because his strengths are my weaknesses, so all the analysis helps strengthen those parts of my game.

While doing the work I was staying at my coach’s home. It is a great atmosphere and I felt like a part of the family. Of course, feeling comfortable during the session allows for better productivity throughout. It allows for the only focus to be chess. I’d like to thank the Huzman family for accepting me with open arms into their home.

On a completely different front, I did have a day to go and see my grandmother, aunt, uncle and baby cousins while I was there. It was a nice break and overall heartwarming to see family members that I haven’t seen in years.

It would be great if I could say that after this session I feel “so much stronger as a chess player”. But I can’t. Unfortunately, that’s not how chess works. Playing strength is playing strength. The only thing that matters is the practical playing strength. Due to this, whatever a chess player looks at in no way guarantees actual improvement. This is a huge difference from academics (which by this point feels like my past life).

Working on chess is done with the hope of improving, but with no guarantee of it. Everybody tries to find a the best possible formula, but there is nothing fixed and results are purely individualistic. It might sound like I am being pessimistic, which I don’t think I am. I am just stating the often non-linear relationship between studying and improving in chess. And the higher one goes in chess, the harder it is to improve. Overall, the last 3.5 months have been the most chess intense part of my life. I feel like I have a lot of reason to be optimistic.

Looking at so much chess can get tough. There is such a thing as chess fatigue. A fresh outlook on the game can go missing. This is why I decided to take it easy on chess for a week before going back to full strength training. All that means is that for a week (from the point at which I got back) I will be looking at less chess. It’s a good way to get that hunger back.

I will be in Toronto for a month and then play in Groningen at the end of December. You can see the list of players here.

My next article will be a summary report of the first third of my year of professional chess.


3 Responses to Home Sweet Home

  1. FM Seth H says:

    I can relate to “chess fatigue.” I normally work hard on chess before a tournament (maybe taking a day or two off before the event). After three bad tournaments in a row and feeling like I lost my liking for chess, I said “Scew this” and cut back on my workload to almost nothing except looking at my games a little. The result: Feeling fresh, calm, and hungry, I scored +7-2=1 in my next 2 tournaments, with those 2 losses coming against strong GMs. I’ve almost regained all the ratings points I lost during my bad stretch.

    Not an endorsement for slacking off in any way, but it does make one remember to back off and freshen up sometimes.

  2. I find that phrase “whatever a chess player looks at in no way guarantees actual improvement” very interesting, it’s truth and kind of explains some things. There are probably more plateaus in dependency between rating and studying than between rating and time. Only love to the game supports us sometimes until we finally see some improvement.

  3. Chris Guthrie says:

    Hello Mark!

    do you have time to give a lesson in Toronto c St Clair and Spadina in January?

    This would be a Christmas present for my 16 year old son.

    It would mean a lot to him to meet you.



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