Sunday, November 4, 2012

Competitive Spirit

I came to chess when I stopped playing competitive sport. From 16-21 I played football semi-professionally and there was no question of the game being a recreation that I just happened to compete in (like chess). I was aiming to become professional; training or competing twice a day 7 times a week, but when I gave up on the idea I stopped exercise altogether. Chess is a peculiar animal as it's something I do for fun, but in the format I play in, it really requires the same competitive integrity that I gave to football as a teenager.

I have always been an extremely goal-directed person: without a clear end I am usually unmotivated to take much action. In chess then, as a club player, how does one achieve the same competitive integrity when there is such a mix between recreation and competition?

There is pride, ego, there is respect for the integrity that two honest competitors bring to the board, but I've realised recently that I have trouble bringing competitive spirit to something I see as a hobby. I'm sure a lot of people simply think, "well, I'm here putting in my time I might as well give 100%"

Chess tournaments are strange though when you think about it. Cup Weekender for example offers $3000 in prizes to the elite players, and to pay for the event requires 40+ 'club players' to play in a highly competitive atmosphere with no financial incentive in a tournament they have zero chance of winning despite a high entry fee: it's in situations like these that I wonder what the incentive is for the club players.

Personally, I need more than "I'm here so might as well", but on the other hand I love that people play chess tournaments and are motivated enough by playing a beautiful game.

I actually think my problem is with competitive sport at lower levels; the worst for me is "social" indoor football. When one competes in something it should be done with professionalism and a goal, or it should remain a hobby: mixing the two, for me personally, has rarely worked.

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