My Week In Chess: Time To See The Forest For the Trees.

forest with the sun shining through

Hi. It’s been 3 weeks since my last one of these blogs. Had some family stuff going on, a big work project. Chess fell down my list of priorities. It happens.

In mindfulness, there’s an adage — once you recognize that your mind had wandered, you return to your breath and begin again.

I begin again with chess, this time with a little more awareness. I feel like I’ve been stuck as a beginner, I’m having trouble breaking out of those beginner issues. Up until I took my break, I was feeling frustrated with that. I guess my break was a necessary one.

I admit a bit of ego played into it. If kids can pick this up so quickly, why can’t I? I follow chess streamers online, they make it look so easy. They make it look easy because they’ve dedicated their lives to it, it’s second nature to them. I’m in my 30s with a job and a life, learning this game for the first time.

Really, to expect myself to be anything more than a beginner (which is what I am), is ridiculous. I’ve been playing for 6 months. It’s much more important to focus on the journey.

However, on my break I found some inspiration from this:

Gabby Thomas is an athlete who is gearing up for the Olympics, but she also is getting her master’s and continuing on with her own interests outside of her sport.

It’s passion, certainly, but it is also work. Seeing that Gabby has put in the work to every part of her life is an important reminder to me as someone often times gets tunnel vision (on pretty much everything). Chess, my career, my other interests, it’s a balance. However, the honeymoon phase for me where I fell down a well of curiosity and passion for chess is over. It doesn’t mean the passion is not there, it just also has to be discipline and motivation to pull me through that journey.

It’s really interesting to me, as someone who did not grow up playing a musical instrument or anything like that, to have an evolving relationship with something inanimate.

chess set
chess set

When I look at my chess set, I look at it differently than when I first started playing. The board holds lots of information I don’t have access to yet.

Sometimes it feels like a secret door, if I just use the right code, it’ll let me in. But the code isn’t really a code, it’s a question. Is this a safe square? What’s my (or my opponent’s) threats, checks, or captures?

I admit I have been too impatient to ask these questions. Beginner’s mistakes. As I played games this week, I did notice an important win — my board vision is much stronger. I’m building the muscle memory, chess notation is coming to me more intuitively. A good reminder that progress doesn’t show itself immediately.

Half the battle for me has been trying to figure out how to understand chess in a way that makes sense to my brain. Things don’t click for me right away, I have to have things repeated to me multiple times before it cements in my head. I wish I understood it quickly, like a kid does. But I won’t. I have to just go at my own pace.

This week Nate Solon asked on twitter what our biggest blocker to chess improvement is. Here was my response:

The fact that 21 other people liked that because they are going through that themselves, or maybe have at some point, that helped me feel better. This is a normal beginner problem. I also got some great advice from a chess coach that I’m going to begin implementing this week. I’ll share more next week.

This week is just going to be about getting back into the groove of daily chess and returning to my version of normal — going back to regularly scheduled chess chat on Friday, if you follow me on twitter. Planning to attend the next club match on Saturday. Implement the visualization techniques I got from David.

That’s been my week in chess!

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