Chess: Chasing 50%

When I started playing chess recently, I had a very promising start, winning almost all of my first ten rapid chess games. Then I ran into a depressing realization; I was barely playing.

Several months into my new hobby and my number of games played was in the teens. So I made a decision: I would try squeezing in games here and there, whenever I had an opportunity.

It was ugly. I lost something like 80% of my next 30 games. Half my games featured huge blunders on my 3rd or 4th move, and a quarter more I had to resign when I got interrupted by life. At one point I lost seven games in a row.

Realizing this was not a winning strategy, I started playing only at times when I knew I could finish the game (a maximum of 20 minutes). I started paying close attention to the games, and little by little, I started creeping up the rankings again.

So here I sit, just shy of the 50-50 mark. Trying to climb to a specific mark means I’m celebrating every win and lamenting every loss.

Nearly every online competitor at my level is opening with the Italian game, a common set of opening moves that doesn’t require too much thought to build a solid board. When this happens, the first six moves tend to come like machine gun fire. White pawn, black pawn, white knight, black knight, white bishop…

As I’ve been paying attention and seeing the same moves over and over, I’m getting a hang of what works well next. Some players heavily prioritize performing the special “castle” move quickly to move the king to safety. That’s probably the smartest goal overall, but it fits my personality better to press the attack with every move rather than a defensive play early. Maybe I’ll learn better at some point.

I’ve been really enjoying picking up chess, though. I’m a little sad I didn’t spend more time playing this while growing up; when I think of the time I sank into games like Harvest Moon or Final Fantasy, I realize I would have been much better served playing a timeless game like chess.

As for right now, I’m focusing on working my way up to mediocrity in rapid chess!

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