Reflecting On My Chess Career

Dec 31, 2020

Reflecting On My Chess Career

By GM Max Illingworth

(written July 12, 2019)

What was the last chess tournament I played?

I played, and won, the 2019 Oceania Zonal in Guam. Through this victory, I qualified for the second stage of the 2019-20 World Chess Championship: The 2019 FIDE World Cup, in Khanty-Mansiysk, Russia.

It was a very pleasant event, for sure! I expected that this would be a nice ‘holiday’, where I would relax and enjoy myself after spending nearly a month with my fiancée and her family in Vietnam. Indeed, that proved to be the case! The organisers did a wonderful job of running the tournament, and were very hospitable. Who could forget the amazing traditional dance performances, and the sumptuous buffets?

As for my play, my results show that I have plateaued as a chess player in the last 4 years, despite some gigantic individual successes.

What might be the reasons for that?

It is much easier to be wise when you are not emotionally involved in the situation! There are a few reasons, but I would say the main ones are:

  • Not investing in enough private chess coaching for myself from when I was 2450+ FIDE;
  • Not balancing chess and non-chess training for peak performance;
  • Getting bored with playing chess (especially after winning the 2018 Australian Chess Championship);
  • And never learning how to calculate properly.

Why is my blitz level much higher than my standard level?

Well, my blitz improved substantially in 2016-17, as a result of solving over 100000 puzzles. However, I lacked the consistency, fitness and understanding to become a world-class blitz player.

What was the main reason for deciding to retire from tournament chess?

My main reason for retiring from competitive chess is that I had felt very bored in all the games I played since winning the Australian Chess Championship in 2018. The passion just wasn’t there anymore.

I love the social atmosphere of tournaments, and helping others with their chess, but the games were becoming even painful for me to play. I think this is one reason I often played quite fast in the last few years of my career – I instinctively yearned to be elsewhere!

Could we see a comeback to tournament chess in the future?

My decision to retire is not necessarily a permanent one. I was enjoying blitz a bit after announcing my retirement, although lately there are many other things I enjoy more. If I did regain my youthful hunger to play a classical tournament, I would probably play! I doubt that will happen for at least 10 years, but you never know.

I still like to visit chess tournaments and events every now and then, to catch up with my chess friends.

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