Monday, July 28, 2014

Food and drinks

I switch on the computer. A few moments later I am playing blitz on Playches with a long expired account (sorry for the players willing to chat because I don't want to pay for that). Almost every 5 minutes I get another opponent. German, Spanish, French, American, Russian ,.... are the nationalities of my opponents. After some time I log off and I quickly review the most interesting games with an engine. The web-server automatically saves all the played games in a personal database on my PC which I can consult with a few clicks afterwards.

This is how I regularly have fun while at the same time also practice my chess. What a big difference with the 90-ties when one was obliged to go to a chessclub to play blitz. In my student-years I often played blitz on Friday-evenings in the KGSRL. I looked around in the club and challenged the strongest player(s). At that time quite some strong players hang around: Schalkx, Abolianin, Deleyn, Goormachtigh, Van der Stricht,... All players of 2300 elo or more and also capable to put up a serious fight in blitz as many (all?) names pop up in the hall of fame of the disappeared 24 hours blitz-tournament the Kameleon.

In the first encounters I got beaten up and had to be happy when scoring an occasional point. Now I am not the person to give up easily. At home I checked the systems of my opponents with my very first PC and slowly the tide turned. After some time I surely was a match for the strongest players. During playing blitz a lot of alcohol was consumed by most of the players so regularly those blitz-evenings transformed in exuberant parties till the early morning hours. I remember a lovely anecdote.

Very late in the evening Geert Van der Stricht arrived in the club when there was already a lot of ambiance. Geert wanted to play a few games so we organized a small blitz all-round tournament with 4 players. Last place would mean that you had to treat the others some drink. Easy free drink must have thought Geert as he was the only one still sober but it went pretty differently. In our mutual game my hyper-aggression was initially well thwarted as I was quickly 3 pawns down. However with the missing pawns also a lot of tactics were popping up in the position. Geert missed something and suddenly was mated spectacularly. Schalkx managed to trick him in a similar fashion so the final round wasn't important anymore and Geert had very reluctantly to treat us drinks.

Afterwards I started to believe that maybe it is good to consume some alcohol (moderately of course) for some blitz-games. I experimented with this in the also disappeared international blitz-tournament of Blankenberge. In the middle of the tournament i had 1,5 points more than my closest pursuers but after having some beers in the break, I still managed to not win the tournament. I still got the winning positions with the hyper-aggressive chess but the finishing touch was lacking. The crucial last round of that tournament can be replayed below which I afterwards published as a curiosity on 1 of the very first forums.

So we can state that it is dubious if drinking a bit alcohol is favorable for playing good blitz. I did however in the past regularly drink 1 beer before an official game to become more relaxed. In my article the sadistic exam I earlier already recorded that I have often quite some stress and alcohol helps to calm down. Today I normally try to avoid alcohol during a tournament. I can more easily relativize which decreases the stress and I also feel quicker the negative effects of alcohol compared with 20 years ago when I was still a student. Alcohol quicker tires, it makes the calculations slower and it also influences the much needed night's rest + important game-preparations. In a foreign tournament in which one is often isolated, the temptation is big as beer and/or wine lover but Strong Jan managed to stoically concentrate on the chess, see schaakfabriek. Also our world-champion Magnus Carlsen considers alcohol even a day before a game completely irresponsible, see the guardian.

Not drinking any alcohol doesn't mean drinking nothing at all. Surely when games last more than 3 hours, it is very important to drink. It is something which I dare sometimes to neglect if I only have an eye for the position. Terrible headache after a game is something which I experienced already a few times even in such a degree that I was forced to take a painkiller like 'dafalgan'. Bringing a bottle of water to the tournament-hall is surely not redundant but some organizers don't permit this.

Also paying attention to nutrition becomes more and more important when becoming older. I sometimes hear teams eating copiously in a restaurant just before an interclub-match but I am pretty sure this influences the results. The concentration fades and also the toilet must be visited more regularly during the game. By the way with the prevailing mistrust to cheating I almost don't dare anymore to go to the toilet. This fear is not completely unfair as recently was proven, see schaaksite. Currently I only eat lightly before a game which does mean that I need to eat when a game lasts long.

An interclub-game can last in Belgium maximally 6 hours so I always take some sandwiches and fruit in case the game drags beyond 18h or 4 hours play. At the beginning some of my team-mates were surprised when I unpacked my food but today I see more and more team-mates following my example as often locally there is little or nothing to buy. Marcel I once gave a sandwich when he was looking very hungry.

For the last round of the interclubs I had a dilemma. The club organized the same evening of the playing-round a feast at which everybody was strongly insisted to participate. Normally I am the first one to subscribe to such parties but I smelled a rat. To bring food myself and eat this at 18h would spoil my appetite. Besides the menu was already fixed and you had to pay in advance so barely eating anything would be really pity. Finally the party would start already at 18h so what if you as only player had to continue till 20h. In the end I let myself persuade to participate and hoped for the best but it went of course very wrong.

The position evaluated at home as equal, to stumble after playing for a win in our previous mutual gamethe fresh grandmaster-title for Bart, lacking any food, the starting festivities,... will surely all have played a role in my behavior of forcing at all costs the draw. A draw was of course much easier to achieve without haste. That young players make such mistake is easier to understand as recently happened in the open championship of Asia.

Again an easy avoidable defeat  in which the less experienced player was too eager to draw.

Finally I want to share that I was in the end also the only player having to continue playing till almost 8h. That is not a big surprise as with my average of almost 53 moves per game, I was also by far the most active player. This is fully aligned with my article sofia rules. When I eventually went to the dinner my team-mates already finished and left home. In the French interclub we also had regularly dinners but we always waited till the last player finished with his game. Some members of the board realized that the situation was not correct and sacrificed themselves so I did not have to eat alone which I very much appreciate but I will anyway make some conclusions for the future.

At home I also got support from my wife, cheering me up by telling that I have again a special story for my blog. Yes if you look at it in that way then every disadvantage has an advantage.



  1. Nice blog..I think some dark chocolate can help to boost while playing long games.

  2. Thanks for the interesting article. I enjoy beer but I would not dream of drinking beer the day of tournament play or even the day before. AFTER the tournament? For sure...