The Decision

The decision was not last-minute. It was an easy one for me to make. The decision was made in April after winning the Pan-American Championships in Mexico. I knew it would only be a year of professional chess. The World Cup is a perfect final stop.
I have met a lot of professional chess players over the years and have always tried to absorb as much information as possible. This year did not throw any curve balls. It was just as advertised and the way I saw it before.
It would have been a shame to not have any results that stand out during this year. My results in Mexico and Cuba are certainly something to be proud of.
An important thing was the “last tournament”. Qualifying to the World Cup was big because it seems like the best way to end the year: with a big international event.
So why leave the world of chess? A much harder questions would be: “why stay in it?” Before this year, it was clear to me that I did not want to be a professional chess player. This year was, in part, about not having regrets and getting my chess fix. A big part of my early life was spent playing chess and it just made sense to do it full time for a year before starting a career elsewhere.
The world of chess is not a thriving one for the chess professionals. The situation in certainly not getting any better. The top 20 in the world make a good living, with the top five making a very good living. It pays to be a chess professional in India, China and Cuba due to government support. Eastern European countries also offer different opportunities. But this is Canada, where career opportunities are endless. It never made sense to be a professional chess player.
While young, the life style could be exciting. If there is a family to support, excitement turns into a desire to make ends meet and see the family more. There is no stability.
The more logical way to make a living in chess while living in North America is by giving lessons or starting a chess school. But that turns into a completely different ball game.
I will not be leaving chess completely. Not yet sure to what extent. The game has benefited me in many ways. At the age of 23, I have traveled the world and have been fortunate enough to experience things that only few get a chance to. Chess has taken me to 10 countries, outside of Canada, this last year alone. It is time to move on and think about the future.
I will change gears after the World Cup and pursue a career in investment banking. Until then, there is still work to be done…
Next is a post on the World Cup.


13 Responses to The Decision

  1. It takes a lot of strength and great vision to arrive at the point to make such decision! I am very happy for you and have no doubt you will be as successful in any direction you decide to move forward with your life, as you have been in chess. Meantime have fun preparing for the World Cup and enjoying summer 🙂

  2. Henry says:

    Investment banking? Dear god…surely you can make a good living doing something more socially productive than that!

  3. Josh says:

    Congrats on the decision.

    You owe me a beer for missing my wedding.

  4. Leo Song says:


    I believed you made right choice on your career, and I hope the benefits from playing chess will help you success in your profession.


  5. Thanks for the support!

    That beer is coming when I see you again Josh.

    • Denton Cockburn says:

      I don’t know if it’ll make sense for you time/finance wise, but I’d love to see you do lectures. There are those websites with GM lectures. You have a very instructive style of explaining what’s going on in a position.

  6. dave Ross says:

    Sound choice and best of luck .Maybe after you make your first million if you miss it play in a decent international and see if you enjoy it…..

  7. Josh says:

    BTW. Read the book “Bank” before you become an investment banker. Because after you become a banker, you’ll never have time to read it….

  8. katar says:

    Best wishes, Mark. As a chess professional you have contributed much to the enjoyment of chess by amateurs around the world who have followed your tournaments, studied the annotations on your blog, or even just stumbled upon some of your games in a database. Now you will be able to enjoy chess on the other side of the coin, as an amateur yourself!

    I agree with Denton that I would love to see you do a couple chess lectures per month for one of the chess-video websites.

    Anyway, the value of having “Professional Chess Grandmaster” on your professional resume should not be underestimated! In that way your tenure as a pro chessplayer can also be justified from a career-building point of view insofar as it has put a sharper point on your critical thinking skills and marketability.

    • Thanks!

      I have always enjoyed doing lectures but I plan to stay away from video lectures (I have had offers). I like to involve the audience and get some dialogue going. Video lectures can be dry for the lecturer, and the audience.

  9. Michael Sutton says:

    Courageous decision, but one I understand fully. Even though I love the game, I made the same choice in the 70’s and went on to a pretty good career in Computing. After being able to talk with Zvonko Vranesic at length last year, he doesn’t regret his decision either. I hope I speak for the other Toronto event organizers when I thank you for a great ride, super support for the Olympiad program and for Chess in general in both Canada and the Toronto area especially. Much appreciated. It has been an absolute pleasure to follow your trials and tribulations with your year of professional chess. Great insight into top level Chess. I’m sure you will excel at your next endeavour. As you said, you learn from your mistakes, and you don’t take losing well! I hope you do hang around the game, we could certainly use your advice, thoughts and support for future Toronto events. Dinner and margaritas always on me!

  10. Thanks Michael! I don’t plan on leaving the chess world completely:)

  11. Pingback: Mark Bluvshtein Closes the Curtains | Annex Chess Club | Toronto

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