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  • Writer's pictureDillan Taylor

I almost quit chess

January was a rough month for my chess career.

It was the first time since getting into the game in 2020 where I just didn’t feel like playing. It wasn’t fun. That scared me.

Was this all just a phase? Was my fling with chess over?

I trudged through my chess workbooks and daily puzzles. But I wasn’t enjoying it.

Then I got my ass beat in a classical tournament. I lost three out of three games. Coming off of a tournament in December where I got third place…it was crushing.

I went from thinking I was hot shit to wondering if I should ever play again.

But it wasn’t the awful tournament that made me unmotivated. I felt that way before the event. Why then? I spent over a year consistently amped to log on to chess.com and play every single day. And now I didn’t even want to look at my board.

What changed?

Then it hit me.

In chess, each player has an ELO rating. It’s a number that basically tells you how good you are.

When I started playing over quarantine, I was around a 900. Now, I’m around 1650. Grandmasters, the best players in the world, are close to 2800.

Dillan Taylor's chess rating over the year of 2021

Thanks, Queen’s Gambit.

From December 2020 to November 2021, my ELO steadily increased. Every few months, I’d be another 100 rating points higher.

Now, I’ve hit a ceiling.

My rating hasn’t increased at all in three months. It’s the heaviest plateau I’ve experienced.

My insight was: Most of my fulfillment in chess has come from my increasing rating. That’s not sustainable.

It’s well-known in the chess world that once you hit 1600, you’re considered an advanced player. At that stage, it takes much more serious studying and practice to improve.

I felt silly. If I expected my rating to continue climbing the way it had been, I’d be a grandmaster in the next five years. That’s actually impossible.

So if my unsustainable, ego-driven path landed me in a rut, what can I do now?

Well, I decided to change what I wanted out of the game. It sounds corny, but I made the decision to just have as much fun as I can when I play.

I changed my style entirely. I began playing a different opening. Before, I focused on slower positional play. Now, I go for more open and exciting tactical play.

It has led to more losses. But it’s also led to more dynamic and flashy wins.

My passion for chess feels immediately revitalized. In the coaching world, we say: What got me to this level is what will keep me from getting to the next level.

What got me to this level: Caring deeply about how good I was.

What will get me to the next level: Having as much fun as I possibly can whenever I play. (And studying and analyzing and blah blah blah.)

My buddy and I have another tournament coming up next weekend. I’m pumped. 😎

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