January 31, 2011

Tata Steel Chess - Closing ceremony

Tata Steel Chess has come to an end, like all good things - cannot last forever...yesterday we had the closing ceremony and now I am already writing to you from my Dutch home, from Woerden.

January 29, 2011

Interview with

Tania Sachdev

Whoever says beauty and brains are unlikely to be found in one place, has to take one look at this 24-year old chess prodigy. Holding titles like Woman Grandmaster and International Master, Tania's talent is obvious when she is playing this brain sport, which doesn't make her boring at all!
Known as a simple, funloving girl by her friends from Modern School, Vasant Vihar, she continues to be like any other girl her age. Success hasn't gone to her head, making modesty one of her biggest virtues.

After defeating many of the successful business men from Tata Steel company, in the simul organized during the management evening, and having a great score at the moment in the C-group" - 6.5 out of 12 games, Tania shows her class once again, making the correct moves, not only on the board, but also in life. One more thing: she has a contagious smile and a particular charm, both making her a great company and a "terrible" opponent when playing against men:)

January 27, 2011

Tata Steel Chess - The last free day


The weather was not on our side today, it was windy, cold, although kind of sunny, but on the beach: simply freezing! And still...nothing stopped the adventurous chess players:)
What exactly is blokarting?

January 26, 2011

Tata Steel Chess - Interview with the tournament director

 Jeroen van den Berg

Wijk aan Zee is now the center of the chess world, with the Tata Steel Chess Tournament being its heart. Why is this event so respected and who are the people behind it, making sure everything is perfectly arranged?
An insight into the tough scene of organizing a strong chess event will be kindly given as follows, by the tournament director: Jeroen van den Berg.
A few days ago, while the games were still in progress, he made time for me and my questions, which is clearly not an easy task and I thank him for that!

Jeroen van den Berg
Picture from: www.chessbase.com

January 25, 2011

Tata Steel Chess - Free Day!


Yesterday was a quiet day in Wijk aan Zee: free day! For those who wanted to take their mind off chess, a trip to Haarlem was organized.
17 people were present at 10 o'clock, when our journey started...
The city is located on the river Spaarne, about 20 km west of Amsterdam and near the coastal dunes. It has been the historical center of the tulip bulb-growing district for centuries and bears the nickname 'Bloemenstad' (flower city), for this reason.
The historical city centre of Haarlem is a treasure trove full of exceptional monuments. In our tour we passed by magnificent monumental architecture, we visited surprising "hidden green oases" - known as the "almshouses", enjoyed a lot the beer tasting of the famous local beer, called "Jopen", brewed in a former church, and, after so many efforts, ended our day with a delicious dinner in the restaurant of Hotel Carlton. 
Here are the pictures:

January 23, 2011

Tata Steel Chess - 8th round

A few days ago I was asking you:
Do you recognize the position on the board?

We can see the poster everywhere in Wijk aan Zee, it's part of the entire image change. The position was not randomly chosen. It is a beautiful game from 1999

January 22, 2011

News: Cheating in chess

The French Chess Federation has seized the Disciplinary Committee against some of their national team players for "cheating".

The French Chess Federation (FFE) announced that on 22nd of December, a disciplinary action has been initiated against the International Grandmasters Sebastien Feller and Arnaud Hauchard, as well as against the International Master Cyril Marzolo, following the suspicions of "organized cheating, a serious breach of ethics in sport, undermining the image of the Olympic National Team during the World Team Chess Championship, which took place in Khany-Mansyisk (Russia), September 21 to October 3, 2010."

Information on this procedure has also been sent to the International Chess Federation (FIDE) and Ministry of Sports, as the administrative supervision of the FFE.

The press release can be read in French language on the official website of the French Chess Federation.

January 21, 2011

Tata Steel Chess - Black day

Tigran Petrosian
Having a bad day?!

Today was not a great day for the Dutch players. In all groups: A, B and C everyhting went wrong, even if they all had White.

  • In the A-Group: Erwin l'Ami, Jan Smeets, Anish Giri - they all lost
  • In the B-Group: Friso Nijboer and Wouter Spoelman - both a zero
  • In the C-Group: Benjamin Bok also lost; luckily Roeland Pruijssers and Robin van Kampen were playing each other and finally a draw was agreed...
There is not so much to be said in these kind of circumstances...maybe just one thing: when you win, you don't know what you might lose, and when you lose, you never know what you get in return.

For those who need a little bit of optimism in their lives:

January 20, 2011

Portrait: David Navara

Picture from: www.soloscacchi.altervista.org


Present for the fourth time in Wijk aan Zee, playing in the B-Group this year, with a prestigious chess career and a diploma in Logic at Charles University in Prague, David doesn't need any further introductions.

January 19, 2011

Tata Steel - Chess and Business!

Management evening:

Always on the evening before the first free day, chess players and Tatasteel-managers gather together for a traditional dinner. After desert, difficult times followed for both: managers and Tania Sachdev, who challenged them in a simul. The successful business people had to face a beautiful and strong woman player, while Tania was supposed to stand against all Grandmasters together!:) That's right, tricks were being used:

January 18, 2011

Past & Present merge beautifully in Tata Steel Chess!

Welcome back! While we are waiting for the games to finish, I invite you for a short photo visit in the tournament's archive. I am very happy that I took 3 books from Erwin's chess library, to make myself busy when he's playing:) This is how I discovered the following beautiful pictures, taken from the anniversary books of the tournament, when it was called: Hoogovens.

January 17, 2011

Tata Steel Chess - Third Round

The third round is almost gone, days are simply running away here! And of course, surprising results, as some people would say: Anish won with the Black pieces against Magnus, while Erwin drew with Anand, in a game which looked promising for White.
But let's see more photos from today!

By Pia Sprong

Interview with:

Tania against Kateryna: encounter seen
through the eyes of an artist!
Picture courtesy: Pia Sprong 
Kateryna Lahno

Country: Ukraine
Born: 27 December 1989
Title: GM
Current Fide Rating: 2518
Peak Rating: 2539 (September 2010)

  • WGM at the age of 12
  • now a full GM
  • a child prodigy with a tremendous chess career
  • mother since last year

How is it possible to achieve so much by the age of 21?!

January 16, 2011

Tata Steel Chess - Second Round

Welcome back! The second round is being played right now, with many interesting games in progress. I will upload a short video from the playing hall, to make you feel like you are a part of this event, even if you are not here. Please excuse my filming skills and my camera, but I hope you will be able to make an idea about how it looks like:)
We are going to enter through the same door as all the Grandmasters do before their games:

January 15, 2011

Tata Steel Chess - First round

We were all waiting for this moment: the first round has started! While many games are still in progress, two games have already been decided in the A-Group:
1. Jan Smeets won very fast, surprising his opponent, Alexei Shirov, right from the very beginning. The opening preparation went very well and Jan is now the happy owner of a full point!
2. Carlsen - Aronian was a quick draw, many players seeing this result as a wise decision to keep your energy on a high level for the rest of the tournament.

As mentioned in my previous article, there has been a big image change with the tournament, the sea blue colour having a calming effect for the players and the audience...I guess:)

Pictures from the playing hall:

B-Group and the audience

January 14, 2011

Tata Steel - Opening Ceremony for the A and B groups

The tent seen from outside; commentaries
will be given here later on.
Today, at 16 o'clock, the drawing of lots for the A and B groups took place in the same tent as usual. But this time, the red colour from Corus was replaced with the blue theme of Tata Steel Company.
You are here, in Wijk aan Zee, a seaside village, kind of windy and rainy but than you enter this big chess house: you are immediately surrounded by the blue colour, suggesting the sea and the peace before the storm. The peace before the tournament starts!

Tata Steel Chess - Photo Report

Wijk aan Zee! A small town on the coast of the North Sea, in the municipality of Beverwijk, with the broadest beach of the North-Holland, Wijk is once again the heart of the chess world! The prestigious chess tournament Tata Steel Chess, formerly called Corus or Hoogovens, takes place here at the beginning of every year!

January 13, 2011

Tata Steel Chess - A Group poll

The closing date of our Tata Steel A -Group poll has come. Which means: the first round is almost there! Exciting for all chess lovers, as well as for me: Erwin is playing in the A-Group this year. No matter what will happen, it is a wonderful experience for both of us, even if he has to play against all these "scary" guys:)
But let's see who is your favourite in the race for the first place...

January 10, 2011

Chess in Paintings

  • "Chess, like love, like music, has the power to make people happy." (Siegbert Tarrasch)
  • "Alekhine is a poet who creates a work of art out of something that would hardly inspire another man to send home a picture postcard." (Max Euwe)
  • "Not all artists are chess players, but all chess players are artists." (Marcel Duchamp)
  • "I am still a victim of chess. It has all the beauty of art - and much more. It cannot be commercialised. Chess is much purer than art in its social position." (Marcel Duchamp)

The game of chess found itself closely connected to arts in general since immemorial times. Ages ago, the first representations of people playing this game were done by artists. Ever since, the game and its complex designs was used as a motif in many artistic productions (paintings, engravings, drawings, photography, motion pictures, musical tracks, advertisements, etc).
Surprisingly or not, there are so many paintings using chess as a main theme -  over 500! Which give us the permission to even say that chess is the favourite game illustrated by painters in their works of art. What could have possibly intrigued so much all these artists? Maybe the power of symbolism, the mysticism, the richness of imagination?! Maybe because chess is an image of life? Or because the game, as we know, has several conventional connotations, including high-class status, intellectual virtuosity, political struggle, and artistic resourcefulness? Probably a little bit of all...

I loved writing this article, even if it became kind of difficult at some point because of my modest knowledge on art and painting styles. But now I know much more than before, I feel intellectually richer and happy to bring together a scattered material.
Artists used many styles in their paintings and underneath you will find some of the more common styles of art, with an example of a painting where chess was illustrated.

CUBISM:  In cubist artworks, objects are broken up, analyzed, and re-assembled in an abstracted form - instead of depicting objects from one viewpoint, the artist depicts the subject from a multitude of viewpoints to represent the subject in a greater context. Often the surfaces intersect at seemingly random angles, removing a coherent sense of depth. The background and object planes interpenetrate one another to create the shallow ambiguous space, one of cubism's distinct characteristics. Cubism was the beginning of the Abstract and Non-objective art styles.

Juan Gris:"Chess Pieces", 1917
Gris's late-Cubist painting connects the ideas of chess and art by stressing how the abstract handling of lines (vertical, horizontal, and diagonal) across a two-dimensional field (the canvas) evokes not so much the concrete form of his chess pieces, but rather the spatial vectors of their movements across a chessboard. Thus, Gris deploys this iconography to evoke a sense of the way Cubist art can consolidate different spatial orientations into a single image.

I would like to share with you one more painting of the same cubist style, which I like very much.
Marcel Duchamp (1887-1968), the 'father' of Dadaism, was a french chessplayer and renowned artist. A competitor in the world amateur championship of 1924, four French championships from 1924 to 1928, and four Olympiads from 1928 to 1933.
His obsession for the game intensified as he grew older. Of his marriage in 1927 Man Ray writes: "Duchamp spent most of the one week they lived together studying chess problems, and his bride, in desperate retaliation, got up one night when he was asleep and glued the chess pieces to the board. They were divorced three months later."
Duchamp used chess themes in several of his paintings and collages.

Marcel Duchamp:"Portrait of chess players", 1911
Title in French:"Portrait de joueurs d'echecs"
Location: Philadelphia Museum of Art, USA

On the painting there is the Cubist overlapping frames and multiple perspectives of his two brothers playing chess, but to that Duchamp added elements conveying the unseen mental activity of the players. (Notably, "échec" is French for "failure".)

ABSTRACT:  Abstract art uses a visual language of form, color and line to create a composition which may exist with a degree of independence from visual references in the world.Abstract artists felt that paintings did not have to show only things that were recognizable. In their paintings they did not try to show people, animals, or places exactly as they appeared in the real world. They mainly used color and shape in their paintings to show emotions.

Mark Webster:"The Chess Player"
The painting can be bought online, for 225$

IMPRESSIONISM: Characteristics of Impressionist paintings include relatively small, thin, yet visible brush strokes, open composition, emphasis on the accurate depiction of light in its changing qualities (often accentuating the effects of the passage of time), ordinary subject matter, the inclusion of movement as a crucial element of human perception and experience, and unusual visual angles.

John Singer Sargent:"Dolce far niente", 1907
Location: Brooklyn Museum, New York, USA

POST-IMPRESSIONISM: Postimpressionism began in the 19th century. It was mainly still lifes and landscapes. The postimpressionists liked to use lots of colors and shadows.

Marcel Duchamp:"The chess game", 1910
Location: Philadelphia Museum of Art, USA

The painting is a large canvas depicting Duchamp's brothers intently engaged in a game of chess, while their wives are relaxing in the lush garden. This picture clearly derives its inspiration from the brushstrokes of Cezanne (Postimpressionism) and the bright palette of Fauvism.

FAUVISM: Fauvism was an art style that lasted only four years, beginning in 1905. The leader of this movement was Henri Matisse. The word Fauvism is french for "wild beasts". It got this name because the paintings had bright and unusual colors. The subjects in the paintings were shown in a simple way, and the colors and patterns were bright and wild.

Henri Matisse:"The Painter's Family", 1911
Location: The Hermitage Museum, St.Petersburg, Russia

As most artists have depicted it, Matisse presents chess as an intellectual struggle between two opponents who have been locked together by an invisible force and are now held firm together, bent over a small table which is their own personal field of battle.

EXPRESSIONSIM: Its typical trait is to present the world in an utterly subjective perspective, radically distorting it for emotional effect, to evoke moods or ideas. Expressionist artists sought to express the meaning of "being alive" and emotional experience rather than physical reality.

Paul Klee:"The great chess game", 1937
Location: Kunsthaus, Zurich, Switzerland

Klee's painting, rendered in the German Expressionist style, arranges the canvas into a kind of pattern or code of colored squares that take the form of a chessboard. This compositional system of squares recalls Kandinsky's notion of a codified language of abstraction, especially when we consider how the runic pieces are cryptographically evocative of hidden meaning. These pieces seem to spell out an abstract game position that makes no real sense in terms of actual chess, but plenty of sense in terms of artistic pattern and compositional arrangement.

ROMANTICISM: Romanticism is a complex artistic, literary, and intellectual movement that originated in the second half of the 18th century in Western Europe, and gained strength during the Industrial Revolution. The movement stressed strong emotion as a source of aesthetic experience, placing new emphasis on such emotions as trepidation, horror and awe.

Hummel Johann Erdmann:"Chess Players", 1818-1819
Location: Neue Nationalgalerie, Berlin, Germany

ACADEMICISM: academic art was an art movement and a style of painting that was in fashion in Europe from the 17th to the 19th century. Academicism laid great emphasis on the strict and formal technical aesthetic rules set out by the academies of art; influenced by the movements of Neoclassicism and Romanticism, attempting to synthesize both of their styles.

Jean Leon Gerome:"Arnauts playing chess", 1859
Location: Wallace Collection, London

RENAISSANCE: One of the distinguishing features of Renaissance art was its development of highly realistic linear perspective, treating a painting as a window into space. 

Lucas van Leyden:"The game of chess", 1508
Location: Staatliche Museum, Berlin, Germany

In Northern Europe the important and innovative school of Early Nederlandish painting is in an essentially Gothic style, but can also be regarded as part of the Northern Renaissance, as there was a long delay before the Italian revival of interest in classicism had a great impact in the north.

NATURALISM: in art refers to the depiction of realistic objects in a natural setting, in reaction to the stylized and idealized depictions of subjects in Romanticism. Naturalism began in the early Renaissance as a type of art that pays attention to very accurate and precise details, and portrays things as they are.

Honore Daumier:"The chess players", 1863
Location: Musee du Petit-Palais, Paris, France

REALISM: Realism in the visual arts refers to the general attempt to depict subjects "in accordance with secular, empirical rules", as they are considered to exist in third person ob without embellishment or interpretation.

Thomas Eakins:"The chess players", 1876
Location: Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, USA

The painting is a small oil on wood panel depicting Eakins' father Benjamin observing chess match. Author Martin Berger has analyzed the content of the painting in detail, finding it an evocation of the passage of time and ascribing it a highly personal meaning in Eakins' life. The younger chess player's attempt to kill the older player's king is analogous to the Oedipal complex. In the way that his father Benjamin is placed in opposition to Eakins the painter, the two may be envisioned as playing out a psychological "conflict" across the other axis of the chess board. In this light it is not coincidental that the painting was made on wood panel rather than canvas. While Eakins has humbled himself before his father in signing the painting only by reference to being Benjamin's son, he also presents his father ambivalently. Elevating his father's status, he places Benjamin centrally, with the vanishing point behind Benjamin's head. Yet Eakins has obscured his father's face by shadow and by the angle at which he looks down upon the game. Although the painting was dedicated to Benjamin, the title "The Chess Players" curiously leaves Eakins' father out of the narrative of the picture.

SYMBOLISM: The symbolist painters mined mythology and dream imagery for a visual language of the soul, seeking evocative paintings that brought to mind a static world of silence. The symbols used in symbolism are not the familiar emblems of mainstream iconography but intensely personal, private, obscure and ambiguous references. More a philosophy than an actual style of art, symbolism in painting influenced the contemporary Art Nouveau movement. In their exploration of dreamlike subjects, symbolist painters are found across centuries and cultures, as they are still today.

Georges Braque:"La Patience", 1942
Location: Goulandris Collection, Lausanne, Switzerland

This painting shown in 1943 at the Salon d'Automne, is rife with symbolism. A woman with an anguished mien appears to be seeking an answer in the cards. It is at once a message of hope— it seems to encourage "patience in times of trouble"— and a card game by the same name, patience being another name for solitaire. The chess board suggest the same patience which is needed in a chess game.

SURREALISM: Surrealists paintings were generally based on dreams. Their paintings were filled with familiar objects which were painted to look strange or mysterious. They hoped their odd paintings would make people look at things in a different way and change the way they felt about things. They thought that their paintings might stir up feelings in the back of peoples minds. Bernard Delvaille has described surrealism as "Symbolism plus Freud", well illustrated in Dali's painting:

Salvador Dali:"Metamorphosis of Narcisus", 1937
Location: Tate Modern, London

The painting Metamorphosis of Narcissus was created in 1937 by oil on canvas by Salvador Dali. This painting uses a lot of images to say what it means, for example, a person, a hand, water, a starving dog, a chess board, a canyon or cliff, and people. This is not to fill the paper or distract the viewer from the suggested meaning or point, but to support the idea that hope and despair are reflections of one another; on opposite sides of a coin, spinning in mid-air, waiting to land and fix or destroy everything.
The first thing that one thinks upon first seeing it, from far away, is that Dali just painted the same thing twice. From afar, it appears as if he simply cut the canvas down the middle and made one side brown and the other blue, but on closer inspection, one sees that the two sides, although very similar, are nothing alike.
On one side, there sits a limp body staring at the reflection of herself in the water that she sinks in. The setting sun glistens off the back of her head, but she just wallows in grim depression and boredom. The canyons trap her in the barren wasteland as she sits motionless, without movement, struggle, or life. This mysterious figure looks so vacant that it might as well be dead. Nothing is happening on this side, so one’s attention is directed to the other.
On the other side, a blue decaying hand emerges from the ground with ants crawling on it, possibly making their homes in it or finding food on it. Atop this pedestal, rests an egg with a flower sprouting from it. This display of life emerging from the dead is a symbol of hope and beauty. To the left of the hand, a very unhealthy malnourished dog feasts on fresh meat; his salvation is handed to him and he survives. Behind the dog is a chess board with a young man in the middle of it, proudly surveying the battlefield as though it were his kingdom. To his left are people on a road that leads off into the horizon. All these things symbolize new beginnings out of old life and hope from death.
The message that Salvador Dali was trying to get across is that hope and despair, failure and victory, and life and death are all equal forces, each one pulling the other in an eternal war to balance everything. It’s all a cycle, and like all cycles, it repeats itself forever and ever, and there’s no way of having one without the other.

POSTMODERNISM: The traits associated with the use of the term postmodern in art include bricolage, use of words prominently as the central artistic element, collage, simplification, appropriation, a return to traditional themes and techniques.

Ilija Penusliski:"Homage to Lasker"

Homage to Lasker is a painting painted directly on a real chessboard. One day, the artist was inspired and in a split second the normally horizontal board was suddenly turned vertically on his easel. The rigidly divided space of the board has now been altered and the divisions between the squares are now blurred.
But one thing is certain: there are no players, no clock, no captured pieces and no kibitzers whispering better moves in one’s ear. All the normal décor of a painting depicting a chess scene is gone. Only the bare essentials are left. And those essentials are the ones that every chess player looking at the board during a game would see. My pieces, his pieces, I take, he takes, equilibrium, advantage, lack of advantage and complexes of weak and strong squares.
The dynamics of the position have been brought down to the bare fundamentals. The position of the individual pieces on the board together with the use of colour are what express the inner relationship between the figures, objects and squares.
The world does not exist any more; the world is the chessboard.

POP ART: Pop art can be any every day item that is drawn in a brash and colorful way. Pop Art is short for Popular Art. It is inspired by comic strips, advertising, and popular entertainment.

Andy Warhol:"Chess Player", 1954
Location: Artist Rooms National Galleries
of Scotland and Tate

This early drawing has a surreal quality created by the larger-than-life chess pieces and study of a face, surrounding the young man playing chess. In his later work Warhol would continue to play with scale, enlarging objects and people to increase their iconic status. The colour in this image was possibly completed at one of Warhol’s colouring parties, hosted at the fashionable Serendipity 3 café after it opened in 1954. He would encourage his friends – some of whom would have helped him create the original illustrations - to colour the works with an inventiveness that adds to their whimsical nature. This process looks forward to the production methods of Warhol’s legendary studio, the Factory, in the 1960s.

Chess, as we have seen, is a particularly versatile image in terms of its iconographic significance. As an iconographic trait, the image of chess serves to evoke one or more of the predetermined themes that have been traditionally associated with the game throughout the history of art. By studying the iconography of particular images as they have been incorporated into various works at various times, we can sometimes give ourselves a useful head-start in the difficult task of interpreting the meaning of a given piece of art.

January 7, 2011

Goal Setting

2011! A new year, new beginning, new ideas, time to think about what we want to achieve in our chess career and make it happen.
Many people associate goal-setting with new year resolutions, and are quick to dismiss goal-setting as ineffective, since most well-intentioned, if vague, resolutions have failed before the end of January. Let's get one thing clear straight away: most such resolutions are perfect examples of how not to set goals!

Goal setting is a powerful process for thinking about your ideal future, and for motivating yourself to turn this vision of the future into reality.
Of course many of us dream about becoming world champion, but one should be aware of the fact that high and unreasonable expectations make impossible even the possible results. Also vague resolutions, unclear, unrealistic, difficult to measure, will make our task a hell.
Here is how I used to think: "Oh...it would be so nice to be number one of Roumania! Qualifying for the World Championship would be a dream come true!" and so on. But how exactly to do that was a mistery for me.
I knew I had to work hard but I was inconstant in my preparation, I was taking every single game with a very high pressure and that I must win in order to achieve my dreams...in other words: chaos in my head and in my results.
It became clear to me now that, while goal-setting is an easy concept to understand, its application needs more thought and planning than most people realise. One of the main problems is that not all coaches are aware of the principles of goal-setting and how to apply them effectively. So a key purpose of this article is to give coaches and chess players a better understanding of how to use goal-setting to enhance performance and avoid disappointments. But even if you are not a professional chess player, the following advices and techniques will help you to organize your time and your resources so that you can make the very most of your life.

Goal setting is a mental training technique that can be used to increase an individual's commitment towards achieving a personal goal. Having a short or long term goal can encourage an individual to work harder, to be more focused on the task and to overcome setbacks more easily.
Goal setting is a technique pioneered by Dr. Edwin Locke, not in sport but industrial psychology. According to Locke, setting goals effect performance in four ways:
  • focuses attention
  • mobilises effort in proportion to the demands of the task
  • enhances persistence
  • encourages the individual to develop strategies for achieving their goals
Reference: Dr Edwin Locke, 1968, "Toward a Theory of Task Motivation and Incentives"

Dream goals:
Dream goals inspire us and give us a target to aim for, but in order to deliver the goods they must be specific and realistic. Most new year resolutions are dream goals that will never be realised because people fail to plan realistically the day-to-day process required to make such dreams into reality.
If you only focus on your dream goal, you can easily become overwhelmed when you think about what it's going to take to achieve it. Research suggests that focusing only on long-term dream goals does not lead to enhanced performances.

Short-term goals - the key to success:
Top Grandmasters like Magnus Carlsen and Viswanathan Anand have understood that although dream goals, such as  becoming World Champion, are important in helping to direct our efforts, it is the day-to-day 'short-term' goals that provide the key to success. I like to classify goals into three types:

  • Dream goals are the ones that seem a long way off and difficult to achieve. In time terms, they may be anything from six months to several years away;
  • Intermediate goals are markers of where you want to be at a specific time. For example, if your dream goal was to lower your 400m PB by one second over 10 months, an intermediate goal could be a half second improvement after five months;
  • Short-term or daily goals are the most important because they provide a focus for our training in each and every session. Past research on Olympic athletes found that setting daily training goals was one factor that distinguished successful performers from their less successful counterparts.

For every week and each training session you should decide what you need to do in order to take another small step towards the next intermediate goal, and ultimately towards your dream goal. Don't just set goals for competition: we all spend more time practising and training, so set targets for these periods too.

Goal-setting is a smart move for the chess players who want to develop their self-confidence, increase their levels of motivation and achieve higher standards of performance. Remember that time spent in preparation is worth it and can prevent disappointments. To help remember the key principles of goal-setting you need to think SMARTER. That is, your goals should be:

Indicate precisely what is to be done. Avoid vague alternatives;
You should be able to quantify your goal;
Goals must be accepted as worthwhile, realistic and attainable;
Write your goals down. This is the basis of a contract with yourself;
Set specific time-limits;
Monitor your progress regularly;
In the event of injury, or failure to achieve over-difficult goals, reset your goals accordingly.

In the planning stages of a goal-setting programme, you should think carefully about factors that may hinder your progress. For example, most people set goals that are too difficult rather than too easy, which commonly leads to the rejection of those goals. Once rejected, the goals no longer direct our efforts or our focus. It is also important to avoid setting too many goals. Instead, focus on one dream goal, perhaps two or three intermediate targets and two short-term goals for today’s session. That’s enough to start with, but be sure to give your short-term goals the highest priority. Through achieving these you will naturally progress towards the intermediate targets.

Goal Setting Advices:
The following broad guidelines will help you to set effective goals:

  • State each goal as a positive statement: Express your goals positively – 'Check this line well enough' is a much better goal than 'Don't make this stupid mistake.'
  • Be precise: Set a precise goal, putting in dates, times and amounts so that you can measure achievement. If you do this, you will know exactly when you have achieved the goal, and can take complete satisfaction from having achieved it.

  • Set priorities: When you have several goals, give each a priority. This helps you to avoid feeling overwhelmed by having too many goals, and helps to direct your attention to the most important ones.

  • Write goals down: This crystallizes them and gives them more force.

  • Keep operational goals small: Keep the low-level goals you are working towards small and achievable. If a goal is too large, then it can seem that you are not making progress towards it. Keeping goals small and incremental gives more opportunities for reward.
  • Set performance goals, rather than outcome goals: You should take care to set goals over which you have as much control as possible. It can be quite dispiriting to fail to achieve a personal goal for reasons beyond your control! In chess, these reasons could include poor judging, bad playing conditions, injury, or just plain bad luck. If you base your goals on personal performance, then you can keep control over the achievement of your goals and draw satisfaction from them.
  • Set realistic goals: It is important to set goals that you can achieve. All sorts of people (employers, parents, media, society) can set unrealistic goals for you. They will often do this in ignorance of your own desires and ambitions. Alternatively you may set goals that are too high, because you may not appreciate either the obstacles in the way or understand quite how much skill you need to develop to achieve a particular level of performance.
Goal setting is not just about identifying what you want to achieve but also how you will achieve it (process goals) and measure that achievement (performance goals). Goals must be set according to the age, stage of development, confidence, ability and motivation of the individual. Beginners require very short term, easily achieved goals to boost their self-confidence, whereas the experienced individual need more challenging, yet realistic goals.

If you don't already set goals, do so, starting now. As you make this technique part of your life, you'll find your career accelerating, and you'll wonder how you did without it!

For the Dutch version of this article, visit Schaaksite.nl! 


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