Farewell, My Lovely

If you heard my ChessFM interview with IM John Watson in early September (the blog entry is here), you’d have heard that I was close to shutting the door on being a professional chess player. That door is pretty much closed right now as I have no tournaments planned, and I’m applying for more regular jobs.

Rest assured though – I do not plan to shut the blog down. However, when (if?!) I get a job, I might have to come up with a new title …

Thank you to the late Frank P. Samford for setting up the Fellowship, without which a number of American players would not have even had the opportunity to try their hand at professional chess. I know I wouldn’t have been able to do what I did the past two years without that financial support.

While I did improve over the Fellowship, I didn’t make as much progress as I had hoped (I was about 2536 at the end of June 2010, after starting July 2008 at 2483), it was still a good experience overall.

One of the surprising things that came out of the two years was how few thought it was a good idea to be a professional player if you had other options. These people weren’t on the sidelines looking in, they were GMs ranging from about 2530 to 2640 FIDE!

I’d say that response is mostly because it’s so hard to make a steady living playing tournaments (see the paper I talked about in this blog). However, there are other factors that came up as well. One was the travel, especially if you’re not living in Europe and playing just within a few neighboring countries. Another was the stress and strain of mental competition. Amongst a few, there was also a sense of dissatisfaction with the current state of chess, especially with regards to an explosion of opening theory and the primacy of memorization.

(As an aside, I can definitely sympathize with that last feeling. I can probably only remember about 10 full games of mine, while guys like Carlsen knew every county and corresponding population in Norway at the age of 5. There’s a reason Fischer said a strong memory was the most important asset for a chess player.)

That said, it’s not easy to let go and it feels weird not to have any tournaments coming up. For a little over the past two years, I always had that. Even when I had a two-month break last fall, I knew that I would be back at some tournament in the winter.

So what will this blog become? I’m not quite sure – probably it’ll still be chess-related. After all, it’s not like the rest of the chess world is stopping. Still, I might post about a few other things too, and I have a number of ideas for future posts that might pop up over the next few weeks.


9 responses to “Farewell, My Lovely

  1. Vinay,

    This is a shocker – from how much I observed about Ur love for the game, it’s hard to believe that U R gonna quit serious Chess. Your blog will be missed a lot – suggest U continue writing on Chess, as Ur level of objectivity makes interesting reading

  2. Mr. Patrick Fahey

    Dear Vinay,
    I remember the 9 year old Vinay with his mom and dad at chess tournaments early on. You were the cutest little fella with black hair–but did you ever disguise a tiger behind a calm smile! Remember the Cadet National Championship in Washington, D.C.? You were by far the youngest, playing against, Dimitry, eventual winner Igor Shliperman, and the other 7 top young chess players in the U.S. D.C. is my hometown. It was an amazing time.
    Now, you are all grown up now. It’s so amazing to see a young man with beard nubs! I am so very proud of the way you turned out, not just as a great chess player, but as a person of great depth, insight, and heart. Don’t worry about giving up chess for a time. You have other worlds to make better. You are at the beginning of a great journey. You will be back to chess, but just go make something happen big time elsewhere for a while. Feel free to write me at my email address. Let’s have lunch sometime. Please say hello to your parents and older brother for me. Pat Fahey

  3. Another sad loss for American chess!

    What is it with young Americans giving up on further chess aspirations? Pruess, Shankland, etc.

    Is it the failure of our pathetic domestic chess infrastructure and support system (hello…USCF?)

    Best wishes to your future endeavors. Thanks for all the great chess you’ve shared with the world. I hope you’ll continue to share more chess wisdom in your blog in the future even if chess is only a hobby instead of a profession for you.

    You can always pull a Kamsky and just take a few years hiatus… :)

  4. Thanks for the kind words. I have completely stopped playing tournaments before, like from summer 2002 to summer 2004, and it seemed somewhat final back then too. So, on a much lower level than Jordan, I might make another reappearance at some point. We’ll see …

    I haven’t paid that much attention to USCF politics, although in general, I doubt they are doing all that much for strong players in the US and they haven’t for quite some time. At least I haven’t seen anything (note that the Samford Fellowship is not from the USCF). For example, the AF4C was doing big things in the non-scholastic realm (they still do scholastic stuff), but the USCF’s policies essentially caused them back out.

    That said, it’s not easy to bring a more mainstream appreciation in the US. The St Louis Chess Club is definitely the main mover in that arena now, I’d say. Chess-wise, the US isn’t going to turn into Russia, India, or China anytime soon, but baby steps would be fine by me.

  5. Your chess blog is up there with the very best in terms of its pure chess content and its faithful reflection of the psychological realities of over the board play. Please keep it going!

    And keep playing, as and when you can, given the harsh realities of earning a living. I’m sure the game has been too big a part of your life so far for you to sever the connection completely.

  6. Hi Vinay,

    I remember I saw you in Palma de Mallorca last year, where you defended a very bad looking position against Gelashvili.
    Wish you all the best in your new life off the chess board!


  7. Hi Vinay,
    Difficult decision it must be to quit chess .
    The day job poses a different set of challenges – though there will always be a steady source of income!
    In my opinion, your blog must be one of the best chess sites on the internet – for the high quality of analysis and the insights that you share. It would be sad if this were to end too.
    Whatever decisions you make, wishing you the best in your future course…

  8. The chess world might lose an Unemployed fellow for now (do we ever stop playing chess?), the non-chess world wins a guy who can write well, who can run R, and who’s humility and soberness might inspire many.

    All will be well,

    Please don’t stop writing,


  9. I think Phil Adams said it best.

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