I know this is Gawain’s website and being a professional player most of our readers will probably just want to hear the insights to a life as a professional but I, as his wife most of the updates and now I’m on a mission to improve myself as a player. I started playing chess when I was 11, which is fairly late by chess standards but after something like 6 months of playing (my memory is a bit hazy) I was selected to play for New Zealand at the Chess Olympiad, after someone pulled out of the team. It was a fantastic experience for me which ignited my passion for travel and combined with my good but selective memory skills I can still remember (parts of) Bled with extreme clarity. I recall walking around the lake and even rowing to the island in the middle where I lost my teammate’s belt. One thing I will never forget was the Krema Rezina: puff pastry, a layer of vanilla and custard, another layer of puff pastry and a dusting of icing sugar. Absolutely delicious! There was also an incident with Garry Kasparov as one of my teammate at the time was originally from Russia and could not believe it was Garry we saw in the streets, I decided to trust our teammates in their assumption but she decided to go up to poor Kaspy surrounded by his bodyguards/minders/friends asking in Russian “Are you Kasparov?” much to his surprise and probably dismay. She didn’t live that down even now 11 years later.
Now, I’m 2055 (February list) and I’ve got an ECF grade of 195. I’m not sure how many of our readers understand the ECF Grade system but there is some strange conversion of ECF x 8 + 650 = FIDE which would make me 2210 which would be great but isn’t where I’m at on the ELO scale right now. Last year, I decided I would make an effort with my chess, join a chess club (Hammersmith) and become a generally more active player. Being around so many chess tournaments visiting Ga, I didn’t realize how many tournaments I just visited rather than played until I had to fill out an application for the NZ Olympiad team and counted just (for 2011-2012) 1 9 round tournament, 3 weekenders and 2 leagues.
Why have I suddenly had the urge to improve? For one, I realize I am not getting any younger and I felt I now have the time and motivation to want to improve my chess so I might as well try and of course with a professional chess playing husband I’ve got the support .Strange things started happening around the start of last year. I was becoming more interested in chess. A vivid memory was watching Mickey (Adams) crushing Nigel (Short) during the Blitz playoff for Bunratty. It was a kings gambit where Mickey marched his king (safely) up the board and there was nothing Nigel could do causing him to resign. It was quite cool to watch such a positionally dominating game. Also, this time last year Gib happened and watching Hou Yifan left a lasting impression. I was glued to the computer and was late to work a couple of time thanks to her games.
So why am I telling you all of this. Well this goes back to the reason for this post, 2 weeks ago I lost a game. Nothing strange so far except I lost it in quite a horrible fashion after a fantastic opening and after a good Hastings tournament (gained 18 points)and my best 4ncl weekend when I drew with a 2232 and beating a 2295 I was on a bit of a high. I was quite dissapointed in myself with my play which is in no way meant to be offensive to my opponent. That night after arriving home, I had to show Gawain, who said I was winning which was a fair assessment But after reading Game of Thrones (he’s on book 4, I’m on book5) he duly fell asleep whereas I tossed and turned. I stayed up until 5am that night for the first time ever . Thinking and thinking and going over the mistakes I had made, it was a really strange feeling and something I assume has happened to most players at some point in their chess career. .To normally fall asleep, I count to 10 in mandarin which failed so this time I thought about the days of the week xīngqí yī, xīngqí èr e.t.c pretty easy, so then I started thinking about the days in French and got stuck on Friday (Vendredi) and I spent the rest of the night on the iPad which probably did not help. I did sleep very peacefully the night after thank goodness . I annotated my game without the aid of an engine and it was very cleansing for my chess brain with your own thoughts about your game. After that you can of course look at it with an engine and see whether your evaluations are correct. In this day and age, it’s very easy to get a computer assessment but what is the point . I found myself over relying on the engine during Gibraltar, see the position below. Here Ga played 49…Kd7
very quickly but my computer showed Bb3 to be winning only to play out the top moves to reach a draw!