My Week in Chess: Learning How To Be Consistent.

Gotta show up to do the work, to make those changes.

Person walking up the stairs

This week was busy, chess-wise (and life-wise). I actually started this blog last Sunday, but got distracted and completely forgot to finish it. A fitting example for this week’s topic.

Last Week In Chess

This week I had a mentally tough week with chess. I’m making beginner’s mistakes even though I know better in theory (hanging pieces, stupid blunders, that kind of thing). I make dumb moves without stopping to think about it. I get frustrated and upset with myself. I know that I know better, why do I keep doing this?

This is not the first time I’ve had a coach (or teacher, or my mom) tell me that I’m making little mistakes, that I need to slow down and think. I’ve heard this my whole life, and now I understand why, with my inattentive ADHD.

This week, I played sporadically. I went hard one day, with my reading, playing. Then the next day, or even the day after, I would excuse myself from practicing. I was busy that day, my hyper fixation on other things was better than playing a game. My coach was definitely not super pleased about it. This is the story of my life — I operate on 0 or 100, with nothing in between.

I am realizing there are some things I can’t escape, these are definitely weaknesses in myself. I can hear my therapist in my ear about being mindful, being aware of what’s happening and not being judgemental. Just slightly nudge ourselves in the direction we want to go in, not the path we are currently on.

Chess is ultimately a game about decision making. I am impulsive, and get hyperfixated on small details a lot. Not dealing with these things is going to hamper me as a player. Working on chess has also brought up my weak points to the surface. The only way out is through.

It is impossible to study chess without playing, and vice versa — you cannot play games and not analyze them afterwards. Understanding what you did right or wrong in your games helps you become a better player for the next one.

To me, all of that is is being mindful.

In chess, mindfulness has completely fallen off. I know I’ve written about this before for Chessable, mindfulness isn’t a new concept for me, but here we are, learning this lesson again.

That is as far as I made it last Sunday before I closed the laptop and completely forgot about it until I opened it up again on Monday morning.

I know I was probably being a bit hard on myself, but between my coach’s comments on needing to up my efforts as a player, and recently binging Ted Lasso where he gives the speech about practice — I am overdue to up the ante.

The Los Angeles Open is in 3 months, and I got a good coach who’s really working with me to prep. This is where my all or nothing mindset has caught up with me. I have to meet in the middle with consistency and mindfulness.

This Week

My coach set up some hard line goals for August, including playing 60 games. This was initially a pretty hard pill to swallow, but it meant getting serious about my chess time each day. Not every other day, or two times a week — every day.

Whiteboard with tracking for chess games.
Whiteboard with tracking for chess games.
Using my whiteboard to keep track of how many games I play. “Polgar book” = How To Learn Chess The Right Way for tactics.

The lichess games count is at 13 as of writing this, the picture is from a few days ago. I’m only 3 games behind today. Each game, I work on the impulsiveness. I don’t engage with the first thought that comes to mind, even if it is a good idea. I’m working on using my time better with each game and being mindful of all my options.

This week I also brought home a pair of kittens so things have been a more crazy than normal. It’s just the right kind of chaos to shake things up and rebuild my daily routine from scratch.

Cat standing on chessboard.
Cat standing on chessboard.
Cat tax — This is Oliver. He is interested in chess.

This time around, I just focused on playing and implementing what I’ve been learning with my coach. If I made a mistake, I did my best to be mindful of it, make a note that it happened and move on. I didn’t want to get too caught up in my head like I did last week.

You know what? I’m already seeing some progress. Instead of losing 100% of all my games like I usually do, I got 2 draws this week!

I know that doesn’t sound like much but it’s huge! This is working!

The thing I really like about chess is that every game is different. It’s a chance to try something different, or new. If I can come into each game with a mentally clean slate, then that’s a new chance to begin again. Honestly, I’m playing so many games, it just doesn’t matter anymore. Last month, I’d be happy with playing 15–20 games in a month. Now we’re going to surpass this really quickly.

I give myself a daily deadline of 7pm. I have to do something, play my required 2 games by then. If 7pm rolls around and I haven’t done it yet, then it’s time to get to work. That seems to really help because once I’m done with my chess, I post it to my 100 days of chess (we’re at day 71!). Next week, I am adding in daily tactics practice.

So that’s been my 2 weeks in chess. Hoping that next week I’ll be posting about even more draws at a minimum.

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