August 11th

Things got more intense. My last post was almost a week ago. I have studied every day since. I have managed to also combine the sessions with daily exercise, mainly tennis and basketball. The focus has been on openings. I am feeling much more comfortable with what I am preparing, the new and the old.

I was sessioning on my own Thursday to Monday. That’s 5 days of studying chess on my own. Well, ok, not completely true. Rybka was there all along. But in reality, it gets a bit dull after a while. I believe that most players feel that way. The problem for me is also the lack of practice. It’s very hard to get back into it after such a long break without the fire of playing. In the end of the day, I am a competitor, and I love competing. But it has been getting better, and easier. I know I will be playing soon. In exactly a week, I will be leaving for Barcelona.

To get things more “exciting”, most top players work with other players. This type of a partnership may sound easier than it really is. This needs to be structured and well thought out. Most importantly, there needs to be an understanding between the players. Mutual respect might be the most important thing. I have IM Igor Zugic for that. I have known Igor for a very long time, and have actually roomed with him in the last three Olympiads. How do I feel about him not playing at the 2010 Olympiad? He is a bum for not playing the required number of games to be eligible for the team. If he would have, he would have made it. He promises that he will “eventually” play again.

I have a lot of respect for Igor, and we really understand how the other one plays. During analysis, we are always able to have a constructive dialogue. What makes the sessions great is that it gives a fresh perspective on positions. This certainly makes positions more interesting to analyze. The problem with this, is that it’s still very hard to breakthrough in openings, since it’s hard to say which line has promise until the very end.

Yesterday, Igor and I had one of these sessions. I went over to his nice condo in the evening. I told him what I wanted to look at beforehand, and he came prepared. The session is really for me, but even when Igor is hibernating (chess wise), he is still very much on top of whatever is happening in the chess world.

Some opening analysis was followed by some of his cooking. Some good spinach and meat pies. Haven’t seen this side of him before! My guess is that moving out 2 years ago has forced this side of him to flourish. Complements to the chef. Now, doing 5 hours of chess in a row is a bit too much. So we took advantage, as we usually do when I am around, of the facilities available there. In specific, we went to play some billiards.

After pool came the best part of the session. We played blitz games in the openings that I am planning to play. This may have actually been the more useful part of the session because we analyzed the games after wards. This allowed me to realize new ideas in the openings as well as some difficulties that can arise. I felt much better about the openings after playing those games. The competitive spirit that we both possess also made the battles more intense, preparing me for the tournaments coming up.

By the end of it all, fatigue definitely kicked in. The session definitely gave me an energy boost, making the study sessions more lively. Below is the setup at Igor’s place.

To show a game on Igor’s resume, you should check out how he beat Hikaru Nakamura in 2008.

A few days ago, I decided that I needed to get away. I planned the trip and went to Waterloo this morning to do a 2 days study session at my friend’s home. I also needed to take care of some business here. It’s a very relaxed but work oriented setup, with just the two of us for a 4 bedroom house at the moment. The idea is simple: clear the mind with no distractions. I am not saying that distractions are bad, they are often great.

Today’s session went pretty well. We took a break to play some tennis. Tomorrow should be more intense, since I will be able to start earlier in the morning. All that I can say about the actual preparation is that you will have to be patient. The games will show some of it.


PS. If you see the mustache growing on me in the pictures, you are pretty observant. It’s the girlfriend’s orders.