Breaking out of E Class and Breaking Down: Part II

Only the 26th of December I put on the warm coat and the scarf and sweater and headed off to the CCSCSL for the Christmas Open, my last tournament of the year.  I had accomplished my goal of breaking a 1200 USCF rating and was looking to relax during my holidays and have some fun playing chess.  I wasn’t quite ill but I wasn’t feeling that great. Register, coffee, first round and I get crushed by a 2000. No problem. That’s what happens, stupid move on my part pushing the wrong pawn. Bad game. Oh well. It happens.

 So I went down stairs. I analyzed the game a little bit a saw the stupid move. I knew it was a terrible move. I knew it! Oh well. That’s the first round eh?

 One of the great problems I’ve had over the last year regarding chess is only what I could describe as a psychological deficit. In 2009 I played solid games against much higher rated opponents.  Wasted won games against C and B class players above my rating and just blundering away to the U1200 crowd. 2009 was brutal and this “psychological deficit” was always a problem. I found it much easier to concentrate when playing up and much harder to stay focused and calculate when playing younger kids and average rated players.

It would be very honest to say sometimes I’d just get really pissed while playing and say “to Hell with this.” In 2009 I just calmed down a bit. I tried to focus on the game as a game. It wasn’t about who I was playing or how I’d faired so far on a given tournament day. It was about showing up and challenging myself to focus. Smoke less during games, ponder more, try to get my notation right.

 I think I did well at that. It’s hard to lose as much as I did and keep coming back.

 I started studying using’s chess mentor. I learned a bit. I set up the board in the house and worked through tactics and played in a great many thematic tournaments.

Anyway. My second game of the day was against a young unrated player. Ok. No problem, don’t underestimate anyone, I will just play the game. I did just that. Up a pawn, better pawn structure, trade down, slowly I dismantled the youngster and was on my way to victory as I sat with passed pawn, Queen and King all his pieces gone.

Then the one move I couldn’t make, the one move that put the game into a stalemate, and I made it. I totally failed. A years worth of study, improvement, a blunder of epic blundering proportions. I felt at that moment like I had FOOL stamped across my forehead. The youngster in question had just that morning learned about stalemate, I found that out from the TD who had been coaching him.

I couldn’t believe it. I withdrew from the tournament.  I was totally crushed. In a terrible mood, I felt absolutely awful. I didn’t look at a chess piece for 2 weeks. I didn’t move one until this afternoon, over 3 weeks later. I would load up and take one look at a game awaiting my move and I couldn’t even begin to calculate. I was totally chess-broke.

I knew the moment I started learning about chess this was going to be a life thing. It was a very weird experience to be so suddenly distant from the chess board. Encountering a lesson or a game is how I relax during the day when I get work stress. The tournament experience and long format OTB were an absolutely refuge from the hectic day to day things. I loved it! Yet I couldn’t even take the chess set out of the car!

So I still haven’t looked at my games online but the more I thought about it the more I knew I would return and I had to just get over it and start playing.

Today I returned to the CCSSCSL and entered the weekly blitz tournament which has returned to Tuesday nights in 2010. Paid, coffee, cigarette, chess! No warm up games. First game back….BLUNDER! Queen trapped in a corner! Oops! 2nd game….BLUNDER! Lose knight in the 6th move of the game….3rd game…VICTORY! 4th game…VICTORY! Fith game? BLUNDER! Loss. Oh well. I lost to the guys I was supposed to lose to and I beat the guys at my level. 2 points + 12 rating points to my quick rating and I won $7.50 of prize money tying up the U1300 group. 

It felt good to move some chess pieces. I will be thinking about my goal for 2010 and I’m excited to start playing again.




  • 7 years ago


    hmm.  it seems you're really deeply smitten.

  • 7 years ago


    keep your chin up dude

  • 7 years ago


    I was stuck in class D for a year. I wasn't happen. I don't know how it happened by I purchased a chess master in lessons. He told me what I was doing wrong. Taking unreasonable risks, uncalculated sacrifices, and crappy openings. I stopped doing it and became a class c player in a matter of a month! Then I started beating masters and experts in blitzes onces in a while. I still play "all chips in" in a way as it is my style. Maybe a psychological thing happens by knowing I have a master on my side.


    Who knows.

  • 7 years ago


    if you bring your parents then you can win some trophies. what my dad does is follows my game and then rocks back on his feet for a pawn move, or folds his arms for a piece move. if the play is at the end row he'll look to that side, but if its in the center he'll look up and then down. if he looks at one of his legs its a center play on that side but if he just stares at the floor its totally in the middle. you don't do it every move, just sometimes. my dad says everyone does it. it's just to help you have more fun! maybe that's why kasparov used to bring his mom to his games?

  • 7 years ago


    keep working on your game you'll get better.....

  • 7 years ago


    I stalemated a guy while up a rook and a passed pawn that had already beat his king to the queening square... but then he didn't realize it (I didn't either), so I ended up winning the game as he resigned from a stalemated position... Laughing

  • 7 years ago


    I have the same problem breaking 1800+.

    I need to study openings and prepare for games, which I simply cannot do, because the chess is not a job for me, but a game. So I am stuck with playing  on floating 1500-1800 rating crushing some players in 20 moves and loosing to others, because I go with much worse position to the middlegame and they manage to keep it simple enough from there.

    At certain point I just stopped trying, as destroying tactically players much weaker than me is fun only the first 10 times, while on the higher level I cannot compete because it requires a lot of preparation/devotion.

  • 7 years ago


    Reading your article was like Deja Vu. I played in a 5 day tournament in November and because of a couple of blunders I have yet to psychologically get back into the game. My online ratings have plummeted and my mind is still out to lunch.

  • 7 years ago


    wait, under 1200??
    In Israel the minimum rating is 1200, and the class for this is "unrated"..
    it's interesting to know what that means, is a USCF 1200 is an ICF 1500? or does it just mean much more weak players playing in the US rated tournaments?

  • 7 years ago


    Careyfan, I used to write down the move beforehand as well. Unfortunately it's now against tournament rules in both FIDE and USCF to do so (it's interpreted as making notes during the game which is illegal).  In practice most opponents won't object and Tournament Directors probably have bigger fish to fry but they will tell you to stop if your opponent draws their attention to it.

  • 7 years ago


    As a Class E player myself, I haven't yet struggled with total chess burnout, although knowing me, I can see that as a distinct future possibility. 

    But I do struggle with mid-game burnout...especially when I'm faced with a potentially long and complex endgame.  My brain is basically fried just getting through the middlegame, and the prospect of another 10 minutes of pain is sometimes too much for me.  It is so tempting at those times to simply resign, buy a cup of coffee, sit by the window, and watch the rain.  Hi-lili Hi-lili Hi-lo.


  • 7 years ago


    I recall reading a recent article about Vassily Ivanchuk, who said, after a loss, that he will stop playing chess professionally.

    Thanks for saying out loud what we all go through.

  • 7 years ago


    Interesting article!  I like how features articles that are written from the struggling amateurs' perspectives. 

    One other suggestion I have in order to avoid blunders.  It's something I've been practicing for a long time, and I'm sure some other OTB players do the same thing:

    WRITE DOWN THE MOVE before you actually touch and move the piece.  Often times, the act of writing down the move will force you to look at the board one more time.

    I can't count how many times I have decided on a move, written it down, only to find out at the last second that I had made a serious blunder.  Writing the move down has saved me from myself many times!

  • 7 years ago


    Advice for beginners: the greatest way to avoid blunders is to analyze the consequences of your move, as well as to find any pieces undefended or badly defended on the position. Find the consequences of your opponent's moves as well and finding tactics will be MUCH easier.

  • 7 years ago


    Great article thanks.  You are certainly not alone and that's why we are members of this great site - our chess will improve - in time.

    Three suggestions I've found useful:

    1. After you have decided what your move will be, before you touch the piece, do a blunder check.  Just double check that you're not hanging a piece or overlooking something major.  In my last tournament I forgot to do a blunder check just once in five long games.  That one oversight had me lose to the person who went on to win the tournament.  So I need to take my own advice here, not just occasionally but for every single move of every single game.  Not so easy in blitz of course, but should be possible most of the time in other otb games.
    2. Every now and again run your eyes around the edge of the board a few times.  Right around the edge.  Then get back to calculating and concentrating.  This is great for not overlooking long diagonals etc.  This tip is from IM Andrew Martin.
    3. The last tip is from IM David Pruess (best trainer in the universe).  Do 10 minutes Tactics Trainer every day.  Problems that you fail, run back over them twice before moving on.  To this I would add, later on in the day or when you go to bed, try and recall as many of the problems you did as you can.  It really reinforces ideas into your head.

    These three points have improved my play no end.  I'm now looking forward to taking things to the next stage.

  • 7 years ago

    IM dpruess

    thanks for sharing, Sean. it was an interesting read.

    "It felt good to move some chess pieces"

    happy to hear that :)

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