Sunday, July 13, 2008

I Hate Myself

(207) Vicary,Elizabeth - Hua,David [B52]
Marshall July Open (4), 13.07.2008
1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.Bb5+ Bd7 4.Bxd7+ Qxd7 5.0–0 Nc6 6.c3 Nf6 7.d4 Nxe4 8.d5 Nd8 9.Re1 Nf6 10.Bg5 e5



Now I know what the choice is. I can take on f6 and have a nice, pleasant positional edge, space, a better structure, development, everything. For the pawn, yes, but it's nice for me.

Or.... I can take on e5 like a HUGE F&^*ING STUPID ASSHOLE. I'm sorry about that.


11.Nxe5 [11.Bxf6 gxf6 12. Nh4] 11...dxe5 12.Rxe5+

Now of course I have missed that after 12... Ne6 13.Na3 0–0–0 my pawn will in fact still be pinned. Why did I miss that? Because I was only interested in the black king, and I didn't even stop to think about where the black rook would be. I am a stupid stupid ridiculous excuse for a human being. I love chess most of the time; why do I have to be so awful?

12... Be7 13.Qe2 Kf8

Of course I forgot he could unravel like this also...

14.Nd2 Bd6 15.Bxf6 Bxe5 16.Bxe5 Qxd5

17.Nc4 Ne6 18.Rd1 Qc6 19.Qg4 Re8

Still, despite huge retardation, I seem to have some tactical possibilities.

20.Bd6+ Kg8 21.Ne5 Qc8 22.Qh5 g6 23.Qh6? [23.Qf3 f5 24.h4] 23...Qd8 24.f4

24...Nd4 25.Bxc5 Ne2+ 26.Kf2 Qxd1 27.Ng4 Qg1+ 28.Kf3 Qf1+ 29.Bf2 Ng1+ 30.Kg3 Qd3+ 31.Kh4 Qd8+ 32.Kg3 Ne2+ 33.Kh3 f5 34.Ne5 Qd2 35.Bc5 Nxf4+ 36.Kh4 Nxg2+ 0–1

I don't mind losing, it's just the feeling of being such a f&*ing stupid dumbass. I feel like punching myself in the face. I'm just so dumb, all the time. And you know what occured to me last night that I was going to tell you about? I realized that I play chess because it's pretty much the only time I ever feel anything. The rest of the time, with just a couple exceptions, I am almost completely numb. Somewhere along the way I turned into zombie.

Chess is the only time I have more than an absolutely nominal interest in anything or anyone. And I study all the time, and dozens of good players help and have helped me, and I am still absolutely awful.

don't leave me some stupid cheer up message.

51 comments:

Anonymous said...

Sounds like you're channeling chessloser! Frustrated writing style too. Cheer up anyway.

the chess player said...

I know the feeling. Both about chess making you feel stuff and about still making stupid moves even though you put so much work in in terms of study. And yet we keep at it anyway.

Amanda said...

ME TOO.
times, like, a million.
it feels like we inevitably just suck. a lot.

Anonymous said...

It's not easy being green...

Glenn Wilson said...

If you have self-talk like this *during* the game you need to learn not to.

If you are making simple tactical errors (relative to your level) practice tactics.

Losing due to a mistake or two happens to all of us at every level of chess. I'm not saying cheer up, but instead, get real. You make mistakes. Study your mistakes and learn from them.

Look at the postition in this post and consider how much you could hate yourself if you were the player of the white piece.

Anonymous said...

Chess is the eternal struggle against your own stupidity - so said IM Robert Jamieson many years ago.
The real question is why stupidity wins so often.

Anonymous said...

Jeez, I hope you're either kidding about all this or you simply didn't wait long enough until after the game to post. Frustration is one thing but self loathing is another altogether. My (unsolicited) advice; get over yourself. From what little I can gather from your writings here and elsewhere you're an impressive woman with lots going for you. If you've created a situation where your self esteem is so fragile that it's a slave to individual chess outcomes then maybe it's time to find another hobby. (you could always try Go but that probably wouldn't help). Anyway, I assume you're just letting off steam and you've recovered by now so good luck in your next tournament. If, on the other hand, you're still brooding over this then my advice is to stay away from chess for a while.

Doug.

Anonymous said...

Liz, please see my extended comment and practical advice in your previous "I Suck" thread, just a couple posts prior to this one. Guess I posted it at a bad time (although it was the first comment on that thread), since everyone else unaccountably seems to have ignored it too. (More likely, it got ignored because I failed to insult anybody. I'll remember to do that next time I'm looking for attention.)

My prescription won't directly help your self-esteem, but it should help your chess performance...which, based on your current post (which for the sake of argument I'm assuming wasn't written tongue-in-cheek - or should I say mouse-in-cheek?), should redound favorably to your self-esteem.

katar said...

Substitute a few words here and there and this could have been written by a heroin addict.

i agree with Doug, but i would suggest a fitness club/class like yoga or some kind of cardio exercise like aerobics or spin-- the less like chess, the better!! Diversify your life, else a drop in one stock (chess) can bring down the whole portfolio.

Elizabeth Vicary said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
es_trick said...

I’m haunted by the words in the Simon & Garfunkel song “Homeward Bound,” specifically the verse that goes:

“I'll play the game and
pretend hm ...
But all my words come back to me
in shades of mediocrity
like emptiness in harmony
I need someone to comfort me.”

I’m a “mediocre” chess player,
and probably just a “Class D” piano player, despite thousands of hours of practice,
a “2+” in my best foreign language (on a scale of 0 – 5) after 2000 hours of classroom instruction, countless hours of homework, conversation practice, watching TV & movies, . . .
In my unwitting profession (EFL teacher for 20 years) I often felt like “a hack”
And now as an EFL training consultant, still don’t feel like I really know what I’m doing, though my clients pay tens of thousands of dollars for my services, (only a fraction of which I pocket) . . .

It’s somewhat consoling to me when I see that players like you, with an Expert rating (there are other Expert level bloggers I’ve been reading, as well), who still feel like they “suck” at chess. I wonder if NM’s, FM’s, and IM’s feel the same way? Is it possible that even ‘lower tier’ GM’s feel that way, too?

I’ve given so much of my life to this “mistress” of a game. But I’ll never be an Expert, let alone Master. And I haven’t found a cure for cancer, or solved world poverty, either. Sigh.

Anonymous said...

Hi I'm not criticising you just providing some of my thoughts. Perhaps you are being way too hard on yourself. Another thing you might be putting too much weight on results alone other than quality. I was actually watching part of your game against Figler and Hua. Granted you lost a few games where you played poorly, these things happen. The part about feeling numb and like a zombie is concerning. Before playing great chess, you must feel good about yourself and deal with the underlying issues. I would recommend focusing less on what other people think and care about. I'm sure you can improve your results after you lose some of the emotional baggage, good luck.

Anonymous said...

Geez, lighten up, everybody! This post was written - what, a couple hours? minutes? - after a loss. Don't we all feel this way?

Elizabeth: I could have written this post myself. I feel this way minutes/hours after every loss. I can't imagine anyone doesn't. And I know that after a night or two of sleep and something else to do you'll be fine. You may already be fine. It's not like you've never lost a game before.

After an absence of some years and a couple more years of sporadic play, I started playing regularly again last September. I play at a Tuesday-night club, which I picked partially because my girlfriend is out of town at her teaching job on Tuesdays.
Well, she's home Tuesday nights for the summer, and now that she sees me after a loss she can't stand how I get. Because I get exactly the way you've described. I don't throw things or break things; I just hate myself with such a passion that I can barely bring myself to say anything for an hour or so.

"I don't mind losing, it's just the feeling of being such a f&*ing stupid dumbass." Which is brought about by losing! I laughed out loud at this. It's perfect. It's precisely right. It's beautiful. I will remember it tomorrow night after I've lost, which I inevitably will because I haven't beaten anyone rated higher than 400 points below me since March because I am such a f&*ing stupid dumbass.

Thanks again. I won't tell you to cheer up because I don't have to and it wouldn't work anyway. Just thanks.

Rick Massimo

Anonymous said...

I differ with Rick, and with Liz (and with most chess players I've seen write about this topic, for that matter - including more than one GM).

I don't mind losing. Really I don't - at least, not in the way that most of you here are expressing.

In fact, I enjoy losing. Not to the extent Jeremy Silman views as desirable - he once said "You should get an erotic thrill each time you lay down your king" (as an antidote to playing too timidly due to fear of losing). But I can think of at least a half dozen losses, that I'm more proud of than any of my wins.

I'm older, which adds perspective. But on the other hand, since coming back to organized chess several years ago, competing has grown steadily in its importance to my life.

Despite this, losing - even losing because I played like an idiot - almost never puts me through the kind of wrenching emotions that Liz and many commenters relate here. (Yeah I'm human: I can think of 1 or 2 exceptions, over a number of years.)

Indeed, I never felt that way even after losing to a GM because I played like an idiot after achieving a trivially won (or trivially drawn) position - an experience I've had at least 4 times in the last two months.

I used to get depressed when I played poorly. But even then, the depression mainly took the form of an over-intense desire to play again, right away, as if to prove myself; it never made me hate myself.

Nowadays I don't even get that feeling. Instead, when I lose I think of it - and more important, feel it - primarily as an opportunity to learn.

Since my rating has gained 90 points (that's equivalent to 180 points for you K=16 types - translation, you're rated below 2100) in the past six months, and more than 150 points (equivalent to gaining 300 points for most of you) in the 5-plus years since I resumed serious chess play... if any of you are serious about improving your chess, you should pay attention.

I should add that I'm not a chess professional - in fact I hold a full-time job unrelated to chess, plus engage in a consulting business and (usually) a full-time job search. And I'm over 50, to boot.

Ed said...

"There are no sorrows like the sorrows of Chess".

It bothers me that I can't remember who wrote that. Anyone know?

Anonymous said...

Anon at 3:35:

Oh, don't get me wrong; I wish I were like you. (I also wish I were rated anywhere near you.) But I'm just not.

"But I can think of at least a half dozen losses, that I'm more proud of than any of my wins."

ANY? Really?

"Instead, when I lose I think of it - and more important, feel it - primarily as an opportunity to learn."

Some games are like that, and I do feel that way about them. If I lose because I'm caught out in a type of position I don't know very well, sure, I treat it as a lesson. (Absent extraneous circumstances, like the game I lost in 17 moves with White with the club championship on the line, but we've all been there, right?) Far too many of my losses, however, are due to mistakes I know are mistakes almost as I am playing them - the same old mistakes in the same old positions. Cf. Elizabeth's first diagram, where she knows full well what the proper plan(s) are, and executes exactly none of them.

Also, what I said to Elizabeth goes for myself: This self-hatred lasts for a few hours, that's all. Sometimes if it's a real heartbreaker I'm sighing for most of the next day (while still taking care of the responsibilities of life). But even that's rare.

Rick Massimo

es_trick said...

Ed,


Here's a compilation of a whole bunch of quotes about chess.

http://chessville.com/Quotes/misc_trivia_quotes_chess_is.htm

Couldn't find the one you cited on it, but here a couple of other good ones:




If drink is the curse of the working classes and work is the curse of the drinking classes then chess is the curse of the thinking classes. – J. Ross

Chess is a kind of mental alcohol… unless a man has supreme self-control. It is better that he should not learn to play chess. I have never allowed my children to learn it, for I have seen too much of its evil results. – Henry Blackburne

Anonymous said...

Rick, you just said, "Far too many of my losses, however, are due to mistakes I know are mistakes almost as I am playing them - the same old mistakes in the same old positions. Cf. Elizabeth's first diagram, where she knows full well what the proper plan(s) are, and executes exactly none of them."

This is exactly what I had in mind when I posted a detailed, instructional comment on Liz's previous "I Suck" thread (the one with Sveshnikov in the title). Which everyone ignored.

The whole crux of the realization I came to a few years ago, and which underlies much of what I've published about chess since then, starts from exactly what you stated: that the majority of our losses result not from lack of chess knowledge, but from failing to utilize things that we already know (and often know quite well - like, don't give away pieces without at least getting some compensation).

That's why I've been arguing that most amateurs rated higher than 1400 or so would do better to study themselves - their own minds and emotions they experience while playing serious chess - than study the latest opening (or even endgame) theory, or solve thousands of tactical puzzles.

-Jon Jacobs

Anonymous said...

Jon, I did not ignore your post; I was very interested in it. I was wondering whether you had a Web site or some collection of your writings on this subject.

Because the thought has certainly occurred to me: "Hey, I've been playing longer than some GMs have been alive; I've scored 2.5 points lifetime against experts; I rarely but occasionally find a move in a post-mortem that makes my 2500 friend say, 'Nice - I didn't see that!'; so why have I just slipped back under 1700?"

So I'm interested in more specifics about what you're saying.

Rick

Ben Bentrup said...

Try to find God if you can (if you can't/won't, I still recommend loving yourself for who you are, not for your chess ability - if you had won the game, how would that make yourself more lovable?). God doesn't care if you suck at chess - I know from vast experience. Just enjoy the game for what it's worth, try your hardest with the free time you are given, and leave the rest up to his will. Cheers, Ben

Anonymous said...

yes lizzy find god

es_trick said...

Rick,

I'm totally convinced that half of being a strong player is having the will to win, wanting it more than the other guy, and also believing that you will win. The other half, of course, is acquired knowledge and skill.

I think that the mental /emotional aspect of the game may be worth as much as 1000 points in my case. I might play 200 - 300 points above my rating on a really good day, or play 700-800 points below my rating on a really bad day. (Fortunately, those "really bad day" performances are usually confined to skittles games against commensuratly weak players, where I'm playing down to their level; not deliberately of course, I just can't get motivated to play any better against players who are much weaker.)

Anonymous said...

Rick,

I don't have a chess blog or Web site (other than the anti-cheating site, which I stopped maintaining after the conference I organized inn December '06).

I've got a book idea in the works, built around the concepts I've outlined here. Unfortunately, other life demands permit me to do little more than write down notes and flesh out the idea. So even though I could easily and quickly produce a table of contents and full sample chapter - the basic elements of a proposal to send a publisher - I haven't gotten to the point of approaching publisher...Because if my proposal were accepted, I fear I'd lack time to actually deliver the book.

-Jon

Anonymous said...

Rick, for a start, read my Chess Life series on "The Sense of Danger" - parts 1 and 2 appeared in 2005, in October and December (?), and part 3 much later, in December 2006. Part 2 in particular is all about recognizing "emotional danger signals" and fending off "emotional threats" at the board.

And for a detailed dissection of my own emotional reaction to one devastating loss (that cost me a share of 1st place in a World Open class section), see the concluding portion of my April 2005 article, "Chess is a Game of Inches".

Two authors I'd recommend who have written about emotional influences in chess - from a practical, self-improvement focused point of view - are Amatzia Avni and GM Jonathan Rowson.

Rowson's "The Seven Deadly Chess Sins" delves very, very deep - from both a chess standpoint and a psychology standpoint.

While I could never come close to matching Rowson's erudition in either sphere, he's perhaps a bit too erudite for most readers. So I see my eventual market niche as providing more practical, accessible advice along similar lines.

-Jon

Alexander said...

I guess this is why you left so quickly last night. I wanted to say goodbye and how cool it was to meet you over the weekend at the tournament. Was hoping to even buy you dinner or a drink. Get in touch if you want--soissons on ICC

Tom Panelas said...

Wow. That's what makes this such a great blog -- drama!

Elizabeth Vicary said...

Wow, everyone, thank you so much.

Some great advice... I'm sure exercise is a good idea-- probably the best for me. I used to go running a lot and it always helped my mood a great deal, I'm just stuck in a fit of laziness. (except I call it "summer")

I'm not sure finding god is the answer... I mean, I have to be ok with my own failure in the end, right? It's not enough if I just imagine a god and assume he is.

I was surprised by the comment that said I should focus less on what other people think (2:21). Why do you think that's my problem? I know it probably is the problem for a lot of depressed women /people, but I would have thought my problem is that I care too much what I think?

Thanks, Rick!

About trying to care less about losing... first of all, I do not think it's about losing; I stand by my earlier statement that it's more about being dumb. For example, I was not upset about losing to Figler, because I thought I played aggressively and creatively, and my mistake was not stupid. In the secodn round game where I slimed the kid, ok, this example suggests the value of winning, but I would not have been happy if he simply hung his queen-- it was in some large part because I redeemed myself by playing well at the end.

While having high standards for my mental performance definitely makes me less happy, I like to think it has some good points also.

Alexander-- thank you. Is that your real name?

Tom Panelas said...

I've tried to teach my son to respond to chess losses in a mature fashion.

Tom Panelas said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
anjiaoshi said...

Please allow me to recommend the book Feeling Good by Dr. David Burns. I found it helpful during a recent crisis. It sounds like it would help you a lot.

Don't go looking for God. Being omniscient, he will clobber you every game, which won't make you feel any smarter.

Anonymous said...

Applying "high standards" to yourself is one thing; hating yourself when you fail to live up to them is something entirely different.

How about this: View yourself as your own coach. That shouldn't be hard for you, Liz, since you make your living coaching others. You don't "hate" your kids when they screw up and fail to follow your guidance - do you? Even your best, most promising student - I'm guessing this would be someone around 1900 strength, perhaps even higher...If she screwed up and played a series of moves worthy of an 1100-player in an important game...obviously you wouldn't TELL her she "sucked"....But I think you wouldn't even THINK it - right???? The criticism you'd give her would be tinged with sympathy (for her trauma of losing) plus respect (for what you know she's capable of and will probably achieve in her next outing) - wouldn't it?

So, how about leavening your self-criticism with the same sympathy and respect when YOU screw up?

And, as I've repeatedly suggested, when you do post-mortems of your losses, don't stop with chess analysis. Make some effort to discern what you were feeling, what you were thinking about (both chess-wise and independent of chess - like, maybe you momentarily worried about something else in your life, or looked forward to an upcoming trip with a boyfriend or whatever) at the moment your play began to go off the track. That way, you'll begin to gain insight into your specific, personal emotional cues that can derail your game. Once you know what those cues are for yourself, you can train yourself to recognize them when they begin to appear, and banish the distracting thoughts before they do serious damage.

(An entirely different thought, which I hesitate to voice because it's less pleasant and less politically correct: Did your own instances of poor play strike at your self-esteem this way, even BEFORE you were dating very strong players?)

katar said...

Leave it to a chess Master to suggest more analysis, a variation tree, solitary introspection, and contemplation.... Or you can play frisbee at the park and forget about CHESS for a bit. As the Joker says on movie posters, "Why so serious?" Do something silly or at least anti-chess. Exercise/yoga is a great one. As for chess, remember that you strike emasculating terror in the hearts of Class-B players everywhere. Class C is not worthy to wash your feet.

Elizabeth Vicary said...

Anon 7:58 am-- It's unpleasant and not politically correct to suggest my self-esteem problems might stem from something other than "dating strong chessplayers"?

I think that's kinda funny, isn't it?

Anonymous said...

Liz, I may have worded it poorly, but I meant to probe whether your perhaps progressively deepening personal relationship(s) with professional chess player(s) might have subtly magnified your emotional investment in your own chess strength/performance. That is why I asked whether you were having similar emotional ups and downs surrounding your chess competition, before you were dating chess professionals.

Katar, my recommendation of more "introspection and analysis" was clearly aimed at fostering chess improvement - not (at least, not directly) at improving self-esteem nor coping with the trauma of loss.

I'm in full agreement with your view that, if the SOLE objective is to cheer up, gain more perspective, gain some distance from chess, and the like, then yoga, frisbee, etc., represent a good approach. The last two paragraphs of my comment, which you focused on, address a different goal. It's up to each individual how they want to balance those goals (chess improvement versus emotional freedom from chess); and if someone decides they've had enough of chess, and would be best off just dropping it either for awhile or permanently, of course that's a legitimate choice. (As is accepting one's limitations and giving up once and for all the inevitably frustrating quest to "improve.")

-Jon

es_trick said...

". . . accepting one's limitations and giving up once and for all the inevitably frustrating quest to "improve."

Jon, I see that you recently had a reasonably good result at the World Open and appear to have raised your rating to its highest level ever (unless you were once rated higher pre 2002).

Assuming you're past the age of 30, how do you keep doing it?

Eric Strickland

Anonymous said...

Keep losing like that! I think you're doing great!

Anonymous said...

Eric, keep an eye on future issues of Chess Life for your answer.

A few months ago I exacted a promise from CL editor Daniel Lucas that he will assign someone to interview me (it might well end up being Liz - how about that!) if I manage to make a new lifetime rating peak, as a strapping lad of 54. Btw, Korchnoi was 56 when he won the 1987 Interzonal.

Actually, my latest unofficial rating, 2323, is 5 points shy of my peak. My highest published rating was 2328, from my college days in the mid-70s. With a little luck (no, a LOT of luck - especially now that I've provoked G-d or the gods, by daring to say it here), I might surpass it a few hours from now, when I play in this month's St. John's Masters.

Here's a preview of one of my secrets:

GM Alex Shabalov once famously told Jennifer Shahade that he spends between 50% and 90% of his total at-the-board thinking time in each game, thinking not about chess but about sex. When the proportion hovers near 50%, he says he's nearly invincible. But above 80%, sex tends to crowd out his chess thoughts to a point where he can no longer calculate well. (This was in Jennifer's book, Chess Bitch.)

Well, that's never been MY problem. I may get "distracted" now and then at a chess tournament...but never once have I drifted into thinking about sex while engrossed in a game.

In fact, I not only don't think about sex when I'm playing chess; I think about chess when I'm having sex!

(Long have I dreamed about uncorking that line to Jennifer Shahade in a CL interview! It's unprintable, of course, given Chess Life's 80%-underage audience. So I don't think I lose much by leaking it on this blog.)

Anonymous said...

Oh, my.

Elizabeth, you may 'hate' yourself but you certainly have admirers. Reading through these responses what jumps out at me is the extent to which a bunch of horn-dog chess guys will go to get a hot chess babe to notice them. Keep this up and this modest blog will become the most visited site this side of The Drudge Report. You'll be able to sell advertising.

Carry on...

Elizabeth Vicary said...

Why so cynical, last anon?

These posters aren't even signing their names for the most part... what chance do you think they think they have of being noticed? Maybe they are just being kind or are bored out of their minds at work?

And I'm neither selling advertising, nor posting glamour shots of myself in a bikini. I'm annotating chess games and chatting about my state of mind / weird news stories.

So maybe it's a real conversation among people with a mutual interest, and actually *not* about sex or money or consumerism?

But thanks for comparing me to the Drudge Report!!

Anonymous said...

Sorry, I was trying to be funny, not to offend. And, yes, I am cynical by nature (though, IMHO cynicism= realism) and so I more or less stand by what I wrote. But I do apologize if I offended.

es_trick said...

Good luck at the St. John's Master's tonight, Jon.

Or should I say "break a leg"

or perhaps more apropos, "sac a piece!"

Elizabeth Vicary said...

Oh, no offense taken!

Anonymous said...

Eric, better not advise me to "sac a piece."

That's been my bane - trying too hard for a "brilliancy" in positions where I ought to just hunker down. Based on my World Open and other recent experiences, I need to make that the focus of my own emotional self-coaching efforts. That is, I must coach myself to cool down my engines and not think about mate all the time. (Hey, this problem might be familiar to some of you A, B and C players out there!)

-Jon

Anonymous said...

Remember what I said Monday (2:56) about losing at the club?

(Does the "I was right about how much I suck" dance)(just kidding; I don't actually know what that looks like)(probably not so good)

Is there a special category of sucking that encompasses losing to someone you beat in 20 moves last time you played them and he plays the same opening he did then?

Yes. Yes, I believe there is.

Rick Massimo

es_trick said...

Jon,

Congratulations on 2333!

Regards,

Eric

Glenn Wilson said...

Elizabeth, Jonathon (ftard). Jonathon, Elizabeth (I hate myself).

Greg Shahade said...

At least you are the best scholastic chess coach in the country! Can't be the best at everything all of the time.

Greg Shahade said...

Oh also you are very bad at High Society.

Elizabeth Vicary said...

I am great at High Society. Unbelievable.

Mark Ginsburg said...

I say. Bloody hell.

I believe all the hating was due to the wildly unsound Nxe5 piece sac.

The old adage "sit on your hands" might be effective when you are contemplating such an all-or-nothing "brilliancy". When the hands are immobilized, no move can be made, and you have time to double-check. Some codgery old Soviets made sure to tell me that this was literal - sit on your hands when you think you have espied a coup-de-grace.

It's particularly good advice for ants in their pants juniors.

And if a hand tries to snake out and grab that knight, do a Dr. Strangelove impression and force it back.

gurdonark said...

I read this part:

"I realized that I play chess because it's pretty much the only time I ever feel anything...Chess is the only time I have more than an absolutely nominal interest in anything or anyone".

and I thought that I, on the other hand, am awful in substantial part because I have all sorts of interest outside chess. I do all the "quick fix" things one is not supposed to do, like worrying with formulaic openings and neglecting the endgame. I play 3 0 incessantly when I could be running serious games through Fritz.

Yet the one time I got my rating up a bit, just over 1800, was the time that I just relaxed and didn't worry too much about improving and just focused on what I was doing.

When I went to law school, I was always struck by the way that although hard work was required of anyone to succeed, the ones who excelled worked not only hard but smarter--they figured out the forest, and did not get bogged down in the trees.

I think that for me, as a weak player, this is the most intimidating thing--I have intervals when I perhaps worked "hard", but I am not sure I have had so many intervals in which I worked "smart".

I am not sure which is the worse feeling--making an elementary mistake that costs me a game before I know what hits me--or blowing a won middlegame through a failure to be able to simplify a materially advantageous position.