By Maury Ahram, Operations Intern
I’ve been playing chess since I was around five – roughly 13 years. I’ve experienced exhilarating national championship wins with my teams, felt the blows of crushing losses, and was at one point the best middle school chess player in New York City.
But, it wasn’t until recently that I discovered I had been “playing” chess, not playing chess.
What’s the difference you may ask; the difference is that chess is a two-sided game. Yes, that idea would appear to be pretty obvious to most if not all who play chess, be it against a person or computer. However, I’ve found that the difference between “playing” chess and playing chess is that the later forces you to refine your thought process.
Most chess players are instructed early on to ask themselves what their opponent is planning after every move. This question is the dividing force between “playing” chess and playing chess. Over time, as you play more and more and more games, you fall into a routine of openings and moves, and you begin to throw the pieces to their squares without truly understanding what is happening on the board.
When I first began to correct myself of this problem, I was 1800 USCF and had been bouncing around in the 1800s for the last five years, albeit playing roughly a dozen tournaments. Flash forward three months and five tournaments later, I rose 100+ rating points and broke 1900 USCF, but this advancement wasn’t only a mere 100 points. A month after I broke 1900 USCF for the first time, I went to the 12th grade national chess championship event with my team and helped secure a 2nd place team finish. At that seven-round G/90;d5 tournament, I only lost games to a 2100, who placed third, and a 2200, who placed ninth, while drawing a 2150.
Reconnecting with the basics of chess, understanding the ideas behind every single move made, these are the things that are lost to time as one plays the same Queen’s Gambit line or the same Sicilian line every game. Taking a step back and realigning your skills is a simple fix to increase your chess knowledge and understanding.