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.