I wonder how many chess players have pre game rituals? Personally I don't. I don't play warm up games, or solve puzzles. I don't arrive at the same time each week, go to dinner beforehand every week....I don't have a mascot, lucky pen or any clothing that makes me feel better or worse. Likewise, I believe that there is no luck in chess. I take a very simplistic view that the player who plays the better chess over the whole game wins. This means that when I win I can accept that I was the better player, but when I lose I can't make excuses.
I say this for a couple of reasons. I have heard a few players talking about how lucky they were (or unlucky). And last night I played Jim Papadinis, who had a game I guess he would rather forget, but when we finished the game, we had a look through the opening and both seemed to get stuff from the post mortem. Jim made no excuses for his play, which was below his usual standard, and even admitted to missing some moves and threats that he would normally have spotted immediately.
It was as if Jim wasn't really focussed for the game and this seems to be a major difference between those stronger players and the rest of us. It is something that I've tried to remedy in my own game. After looking at players such as Johansen, Goldenberg, and younger starts such as Stojic and Wallis, you realise that it's important to play your best and your hardest from move 1 for as long as you can. And you have to do it every game....that's the hard thing, doing it week in week out at the same high level.
I've been training hard at chess, studying opening lines and analysing positions and tactical puzzles and it seems as if the hard work is beginning to pay off. I can start the game at a high level of intensity and maintain focus throughout the session and I seem to be doing it for every game. It's been tough going, but I'm finally happy with my play and my work ethic at the board and in study.
It seems I'm not the only player who is improving in this respect. While I moved on to 3/3, I was joined by Ari Dale and David Beaumont. All 3 of us are decent enough players, but all lack a consistency in our play to really break into the top echelon of players in the state. Yet looking at Ari's play, I'm seeing a new level of high intensity and focus at the board (he is less fidgety, and sits at the board longer through a game). And David has speeded his game up taking a more pragmatic approach and avoiding time pressure. We find ourselves half a point clear of Malcolm Pyke and Laurent Michaille with the rest of the field packed closely behind. Next Monday is round 4 and hopefully the high level of intensity will continue. If it does and we are all focussed from the start, there should be some truly great games next week.