Online chess hiatus
I have a few friends who play a bunch of chess. A while back we were doing some of the puzzles over on chess.com and playing a few games over-the-board.
When I was younger I played a lot of chess, at age 13 I'd probably have been around 2000 rating. As an adult however I've not played much as I've had more important things to do with my mental energy. If you've ever played chess seriously you will know what I mean when I say it's a real commitment if you want to get very good at the game.
Earlier in the year I was watching some of the online streamers playing and I found this quite entertaining, I wondered if I too could play some games where I could "take the juicer". I also had some discussions with people about the advancements in chess engines. This led me to wonder what it would be like to play again in this newer era where chess engines are readily available and to see if I still had some ability at the game. Particularly of interest was getting some first hand experience with how engine analysis has changed things. I ended up playing far too much online chess lass month. This was more than just playing casually, I was doing post match analysis using the Stockfish engine to check various different lines and analyse various situations. I was fairly quickly regaining playing strength, many of the habits from playing seriously as a junior came back to me and made some improvements especially in the middle game, an area I previously was weaker in. Annoyingly I was making a lot of very rudimentary blunders, in the games where I didn't blunder I was crushing players but that said due to my rating online I wasn't playing anyone at a high level.
The difficulty was the mental load, it's very mentally tiring doing this sort of play+analysis routine, I eventually came to the conclusion that the many other things I have going on in my life were more important but more importantly chess was detracting from those more important things due to the amount of mental energy it was consuming. This was noticeably different to other hobbies where I feel like I'm taking a mental break when I engage in them.
There's a quote from Andy Grove's book High Performance Management that I think really applies to this situation:
The single most important resource that we allocate from one day to the next is our own time.
I just couldn't help but shake the feeling I wasn't spending my time in the best way. There came a point where I just didn't feel like I was enjoying playing, in part because I really knew that there were better things I could be doing.
I had one last binge where I did a lot of puzzles on chess.com in one day
I ended up doing 352 of them in the course of a day and thankfully got most of this out of my system.
Going forward I'm not going to be playing online, I'm up for the occasional over-the-board game but I know that I have to be more mature with what I spend my mental energies on.