Grinding Chess

And finally hanging up my gloves (or knocking over the king and resigning)

2-min read

19d 11h 26m 0s spent on lichess.org

This figure does not include time spent on tactics, OTB games, the mobile app, niche YouTube channels, and the 6 hours I spent watching and then further analyzing each game during the World Chess Championship in London in 2018. This was purely the raw information stored on my time-logging apps for one single website I primarily use for playing chess online. So sick.

I honestly don’t regret any of the time I spent learning — well, blitzing — chess. But I have reached a point in my life where the benefit-cost ratio of playing the board game isn’t economically feasible.

My progress since December 2016 has truly been a sight of sore eyes. Numerous tilted games and salty losses, but mostly an upwards trajectory from a miserly 1200 to peaking at ~2100 ELO. Of course, online ratings are massively inflated, but there is a silver lining here - I’m more analytical and attempt to do a breadth-first tree search whenever I have a challenging decision to make. I do spend more time being indecisive, but on average, I’m happier with the outcomes because they come from hopefully well thought out scenarios.

Back to chess — I’m going to have to dump in thousands of hours to move up another 100 rating points: the plateau effect is in full force. As Wikipedia so aptly and hurtfully describes this philosophy —

I’m entering into a period where there is no ‘improvement or a decrease in performance.’

There should also be a prologue in regards to how chess entered into my life and then became an addiction. I’m competitive by nature, and even though I had previous experience, I remember the turning point clearer than ever. I was playing a casual game against a friend of mine in New Delhi, and he started as white.

1. e4 e5 2. Bc4 Nc6 3. Qh5 Nf6?? 4. Qxf7#

And that was all she wrote. I was Scholar’s Mated on the board and didn’t expect it at all. My strategy was simple - Asian players usually fianchetto their bishop and go into a King’s Indian attack (ha), but I never even had the chance to perform the castling maneuver. Completely demoralized, this propelled me into practice, and by the time I got back to NYU for the Spring semester, I had obliterated my opponent and friend. I hopefully never had to encounter Two-Move Checkmate, more commonly known as Fool's Mate, ever again.

I’ve had the most fun playing with the chess hustlers in Washington Square Park and Union Square - they provide excellent commentary and banter, which is definitely worth the few bucks they end up charging at the end of a session. Finding out about their past lives and previous experiences shines a whole new light on the chess game -- and also gives perspective on their playing style - aggressive, defensive, or positional.

Anyway, ID #16442661 for the US Chess Federation has officially expired, and this player has officially retired.*

*I’m still down for a game, but I would rather keep the websites blacklisted on my laptop for my supposed productivity.