Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Chess and Physical Wellbeing

Submitted by WGM Natalia_Pogonina on
When I tell people who are not into chess that physical training is very important, they often don’t take it seriously, or are deeply surprised. At first sight, it seems that chess is purely a brain game which has nothing to do with endurance or physical strength. Nonetheless, this is not the case. Mental work often requires more energy than physical toils. After having played for a few hours a player is sometimes as exhausted as after completing a marathon. On top of that, if all the games in a standard 9-rounds tournament are tense, most players crumble under the pressure (both physically and psychologically) and start making inexplicable blunders.
For example, quite recently at the Women’s World Chess Championship tie-breaks were held on the same day as game two of the matches. Some participants had to play all day, with some of the games finishing as late as 2 a.m. Naturally, most players admit that it is more of a test of endurance and willpower than of chess skills. All this reminds us that all chess players should pay special attention to their physical shape and general wellbeing if they want to succeed.
It’s up to you what sport to choose. Try to avoid risky and traumatic ones though. It’s quite common for chess pros to get injured during soccer matches and suffer all tournament long afterwards. Among the most popular sports practiced by chess players are jogging, swimming and working out in the gym. Alexandra Kosteniuk is addicted to running, Vladimir Kramnik loves swimming, while Anand is very serious about his workouts. By regular physical training you both increase your endurance, and, according to some studies, boost your brain power. Also, don’t look down at the good old morning exercises and stretches. It is well-known that a good way of calming down after a tough game is to practice some sports. For example, go to the swimming pool after the game, or run a few circles at the stadium. Once again, it is a matter of personal preferences.
Leaving psychological and health issues aside for the moment, I would still like to remind you about proper nutrition and good habits. Eating healthy food is critical for a person’s success (World Championship contenders usually hire special personal cooks to make sure the nutrition will be perfect during the match). As you probably know, there are products that improve your memory and brain power: fish, nuts, broccoli, spinach, honey, milk, etc. During the game it makes sense to eat some snacks full of energy (banana, chocolate), but don’t overdo coffee and sweets. People who try to shake off the tension and finally fall asleep by smoking or drinking alcohol usually end up nowhere both in chess and in life.   
In top-level sports there are no minor factors. To excel, one should constantly and responsibly strive for perfection by all means possible. The same is true for other challenging activities.
The game I would like to present to you was played at the Gibraltar Masters tournament. The time control at that event was quite classical, so some matches kept going for 7 hours or even more.  At some point I understood that I’m too tired to put up with it on a regular basis and started playing more aggressively to speed things up (not a very good idea).

Pogonina, N. (2472) vs. Chapman, T. (2250)
Gibraltar Masters | Caleta ENG | Round 8.44| 1 Feb 2011 | ECO: B07 | 1/2-1/2
1. e4 d6 2. d4 Nf6 3. Nc3c6 4. Be3 Qb6 5. a3 Ng46. Bc1 e5 7. Nf3 Nd78. h3 Ngf6 9. Be3 Qc710. g3 10. g4!? )10... Be7 11. Bg2 O-O12. O-O b5 13. Nh4 g614. Bh6 14. Qd2 a515. Bh6 Re8 16. Nf5 )14... Re8 15. d5?! (15. Qd2 15... Rb8 (15... cxd5 16. exd5 (16. Nxd5 Nxd5 17. Qxd5a6 18. Qxa8 Nb6 )16... a6 16. dxc6 Qxc617. Qd2 Kh8 17... Nb618. Nf5 Bxf5 19. exf5 d520. Be3 Bc5 18. Rad1a5 18... Nb6 19. Nd5Nfxd5 20. exd5 Qc721. Nf3 19. Nd5 Nxd520. exd5 Qc7 21. Nf3 Bf821... Kg8 22. Be3 (22. Ng5 Kg8 23. Bxf8Rxf8 24. Ne4 22... Bg723. Ng5 Rf8 23... Nf6 )24. f4 h6 24... exf425. Bd4 25. Rxf4 Kg826. Rdf1 Ne5 27. b3 h628. Ne4 f5 29. Nc3 Bd7 )25... h6 25... fxg3??26. Bxg7+ Kxg7 27. Rxf7+Rxf7 28. Ne6+ 26. Nf3Ne5 26... fxg3??27. Qxh6+ 27. Qxf4 Kg825. Nf3 exf4?! (25... Re8 26. Bxf4 g5 (26... Kh7 27. Nd4 )27. Bxg5? 27. Be3 Bxb228. Bd4+ Bxd4+ 29. Nxd427... hxg5 28. Nxg5 (28. Qxg5? Qxc2 )28... Ne5? 28... Nf629. Rf4 29. Qd3 Qc4 (29. Qf4 Kg8 30. Qh4 Re829... Kg8 30. Rdf1 Qe731. Qd3 Bh6 32. h4 Bxg533. hxg5 Ng4 29. Rf4? (29. Qf4 Kg8 30. Qh4 Re831. Be4 29... Ng6 (29... Qe7 30. Rf2 f6?31. Ne6 Bxe6 32. dxe6 f533. Qg5? 33. c3 )33... Ne7 34. g4 Qa735. Qh4+? 35. Rxd6fxg4 36. Qh4+ Kg837. Rd7 Qb6 (37... Qxf2+ 38. Qxf2 Rxf239. Kxf2 gxh3 40. Bxh3Kf8 41. c3 38. Rxe7Rxf2 39. Rxg7+ Kxg740. Qxf2 Qxf2+ 41. Kxf2gxh3 42. Bxh3 35... Kg836. g5?! Ng6 37. Qh5 Nf438. Qh4 Ng6? 38... Nxg239. Kxg2 Qe7 39. Qh5Nf4 40. Qh4
I didn’t get any advantage our of the opening, but my opponent made a mistake, and I could get nice attacking chances for a pawn. Instead I decided to gamble and sacrifice a piece. That day my head wasn’t operating well enough, so I misevaluated the position and miscalculated some lines. When you are feeling well, the brain is functioning much better as compared to cases when you haven’t slept well enough, or are in bad physical shape. My opponent seems to have shown too much respect and went for a repetition in a winning position.

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