Being An Adult Improver in Chess Is Hard.

Passion has gotten me here, but it’s gonna be willpower and perseverance that’s going to pull me through.

The Good

Last week, I wrote about how chess is a mental game, but both body and mind need to be ready to play, and to endure. You can find that here. Here’s how that went.

This week I started Couch 2 5k for the…umpteenth time. At first, I didn’t actually like running, but it’s hard to argue with it when it’s the only time my brain is quiet. I’ve talked a bit with my therapist about running as a form of mindfulness, because when you run, you’re focusing inwards — on the breath, on your pace. I definitely think that’s true. I listen to Perpetual Chess Podcast on my run. It’s really motivating.

C25k — I got week 1, days 1 & 2 done this week.

I went for a walk yesterday at Huntington Gardens for 1.5 hours.


I did 4 days of mindfulness this week. Mindfulness practice has been on and off for me, I’ve written about how I’m using it with chess here. I’m finding it really helpful as a way to center myself. I’m using the Ten Percent Happier app, and really enjoying how there’s a small learning portion in the Basics section and then you put it into practice with mindfulness.

What a difference the running + mindfulness makes in my life!

  • I finished up a client job this week, got my guest blog post for Chessable done. I did a talk this week for Virtual Coffee on chess and usability, which I loved! My talk is based on this piece I wrote.
  • I also had a meeting and an interview this week on doing some more chess-related work! I’m really excited to start moving into this industry. I didn’t think this blog was going to get me into the chess industry as a UX designer, but it’s been so cool seeing what’s possible by being vocal about my passion for chess.
  • On Monday, I did my neuropsych testing for potential ADHD. My psych thinks it’s likely, I agree. I’m either a frazzled mess moving from thing to thing, or I’m so hyperfocused on something that I forget the rest of my life exists. It was a 3 hour long test where my memory, focus, and problem solving was put to the test. I’ll find out this coming week what my test results are.
  • I submitted another talk proposal to Virtual Coffee to do a talk on chess & AI. Super excited for that!

The Bad

Last week, I mentioned that my chess coach and I worked together to set up a study plan. Let’s talk a bit about that.

50% puzzles (from my understanding, that’s really about tactics)

25% game analysis

25% playing chess

Ex: 1 hour of time should be 30mins doing puzzles, 15mins analyzing my games, 15mins playing chess.

I like the structure and flexibility of this set up, but wow was it difficult to actually implement into my life. P started a new job recently, and that’s been an adjustment in the house as well. I fully admit this was a busy week, but still. Time management is definitely an issue for me, probably related to the attention issues.

This week, I spent an hour being social and playing with Alex via voice chat (I lost both games).

By Friday, I actually got around to doing some puzzles. I didn’t do too bad, but I know I could have done better.

Got rejected for a scholarship for a cohort-based public speaking program for women in design. Hopefully I can get in for the next round.

I’ve been working through Bobby Fischer Teaches Chess (off and on), and it’s been tough for me to make the time to keep working through it.

I joined the Marshall Chess Club a little while ago, and signed myself up for the beginners chess. It was at 7am my time today (Sunday), and…I woke up at 7:15am to a bunch of notifications that I was being challenged. I’m normally up at 6am, and that didn’t happen today.

I knew adding in chess study time was going to be a challenge, but I didn’t realize just how much of a hurdle it is. It’s an interesting mindset to switch into, and because I’m in my 30s, I didn’t realize how much I was set in my ways.

I don’t have children, so I have more free time than others my age, but the hyperfocus makes it a struggle to switch from chess-related work and actually studying the game and becoming a better player as well.

Since I’ve been listening to more Perpetual Chess (especially the adult improver episodes), I’m starting to understand that I need to block off my chess study time as a separate aspect. I have to have more definition about what’s when. There’s now multiple facets of chess in my life. Really inspired by Neal Bruce, who specifically took a longer train commute into work to carve out his studying time.

Now that P has a regular 9–5 job, I should be using the hours before he goes to work to study. I’m not a night owl, and while he’s at work, I’m working at home. I’ve successfully managed to add in workouts and mindfulness, time to work on waking up early to study chess next week.

If I can find time to do 30mins of running and 5mins of mindfulness, I can find the time to study chess. Even if it’s just small increments for now.

And wake up early enough to do the Sunday beginners chess at the Marshall.

Fun Chess Things Next Week:

  • I’m getting involved with the US Chess Federation’s women’s chess. Monday is my first time going to the women’s beginner’s class. I’m also starting Disordered Cosmos by Chanda Prescod-Weinstein for the Madwoman’s Book Club towards the end of the month.
  • I was inspired by a recent New In Chess article about a forgotten female chess champion named LaVieve Hines. I posted on twitter if anyone was interested in me doing a blog series about other women in chess history, and it was a big hit. So I’m going to start working on my list of women.

I’m specifically going to be looking for women in chess before WW2, preferably. Bruce Monson did a great job on that article. However, LaVieve was a San Gabriel Valley local like me, and I’d love to cover her journey for the blog from a local’s perspective as well.

  • It’s time to start thinking about my chess & design book. I haven’t looked at the outline in a month. I need to start on a sample chapter to submit to publishers. This book is about to get real!
  • I’m working on a talk proposal for a big conference about women in chess (particularly around the esports/chess twitch streamers)! I’m very excited about this possibility! This is a 2 for 1 — I want to cover the issue of gender and chess from the user experience angle for my book, and I’d need to do the research and user interviews anyways. Hopefully this conference will let me share my findings with the industry.

So, yeah! Lots of fun and exciting things, but also a lot to juggle. If you got this far, thanks for reading. These Sunday blogs are keeping me accountable.

Jessi is a junior UX Designer at DIA Design Guild. She lives in Los Angeles and can be found on twitter @jessishakarian.