USATE is just around the corner – the gigantic US Amateur Team East, wherein 1200 chessplayers divide into teams of four and stink up the Parsippany Hilton.
It’s the high point of the chess year as far as I’m concerned. Question for the typical Amateur is, given normal family and work demands, how do you allot your very limited preparation time?
This year I’ll try to squeeze in some brush-up time on my critical openings as Black. As White, I can only look at what I consider to be the biggest repertoire holes and try to fill what I can. I’ll also do a little work on the online chess tactics server. And I’ll take a quick spin through the key points of Aagard’s Excelling at Technical Chess as a reminder.
But I’m actually counting on something different to make up for what I lack in chess-specific preparation: Exercise. It’s well established that physical conditioning is very important – if you’re not a tournament chessplayer, imagine concentrating hard for two games, each lasting as much as four or even six hours, on each of three consecutive days. It’s a grind.
Some years back I played a gentleman named Curtis who was rated three or four hundred points lower than I was. After about 25 moves I had pressure but he still had some interesting and tricky ideas. He resigned abruptly and explained that essentially, it was more important for him to go hit the gym, get his heart rate up, and stay tuned up for the rest of the tournament than it was to spend another hour trying to grind out some swindle against a heavily favored opponent.
At the time, I found that baffling. Now that I am 40, it suddenly makes a lot of sense.