Never lose focus

Today is the first time I played a different sport other than chess with one of my students. I always try to emphasize to them how important physical exercise is when it comes to playing good chess. The biggest names in athlete training have always stressed on the important connection between the mind and the body and any competitor will tell you that if you don’t have a balanced mind, full potential of the body is impossible to achieve. Likewise, without a fit and optimized body, mental awareness and better cognitive abilities will not be possible . Having a good physical condition will not only make you healthier, happier, and stress free, but it will also improve your chess or any other activity that requires long mental sharpness.

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One very important aspect when going through a physical training program for a competition is to incorporate competitive sports into your routine, lifting weights or running countless miles is not enough. Recently I’ve enjoyed watching and playing basketball, and since I am soon going to compete in an important tournament (Philadelphia Open, starting April 1st), I decided to challenged my student to a one on one basketball game. He is a well versed sports fanatic so he immediately accepted my provocation and promised to kick my ass. We went back and forth for a little bit with the trash talking, and in the end had our little encounter. Unfortunately it didn’t go very well for me, my student managed to outperform me in clutch situations and ended up victorious 16-14 (we were playing to 15, win by two).

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This match revealed one important weaknesses that I hope to address before the championship: my tendency to relax when I feel I have the advantage and can’t lose the control of the game, a very dangerous feeling. This happened to me two times during our match, when the score was 12-8 in my favor, and towards the end when I had an almost decisive advantage of 14-12. During both these stretches I considered myself already victorious and stopped defending my opponent correctly. It didn’t take much for my students to capitalize on that and hit some good shots, which soon put me out of my misery. Despite the fact that I lost, I’m happy that I got a great workout and a good test for my competitive spirit before the event. My student and I decided to incorporate a match after each of our chess sessions and I’m definitely looking forward to have him shed some sweat and tears when I’ll kick his ass in our next encounter.

As a final I will leave you with an example of what can happen when becoming too self-assured during a game.

Gibraltar 2015