At the beginning of 2020, we created a thread in the ChessMood forum where we encouraged our members to post their goals for the upcoming year.
99% of my goals were related to ChessMood and not to my chess career.
However, I still wanted to be part of the journey, so this is what I wrote in the forum...
I knew it would be extremely hard to get to 2.900.
While most of my own time was spent growing ChessMood, I would face professionals who devote most of their time to chess. Still, I thought it would be cool if I could achieve it.
And so the journey began…
In this article, I’ll share some of the key moments, and lessons I learned along the way that you can apply to improve your own chess.
I’ll share with you:
• The key to setting the right goals
• The importance of having a strong WHY
• The lessons I learned from Daniel Naroditsky
• What to do when your hand starts shaking
• What I did right and what I did wrong during the journey
• Lots of other things you can apply and use in your career
The key to setting the right goals
From my experience, I know that setting a goal is always the first step you should take.
It’s also important that your goal is both hard to achieve, but equally, not overly unrealistic.
As achieving 2.800 in 1 year would be easy, but achieving 3.000 seemed unrealistic, 2.900 felt like a golden medium.
The journey began
During the first month, it didn't go well.
I couldn’t perform my best.
So, before grinding further, I decided to dig deeper into myself and answer a very important question. The one, which I always recommend our students to ask before going ahead.
In my article about starting with WHY, I shared the story of how Buster Douglas beat Mike Tyson.
The key was that he had a strong WHY. (If you didn’t read that article yet, I highly recommend going there first.)
So I also needed a strong WHY – Why do I want to achieve 2.900?
Without having a strong answer, my mindset would be weak, and I wouldn’t be able to dig deep and get help from my inner and reserved power during difficult moments.
Luckily, when I thought about it, I found not just one WHY, but two!
1. In ChessMood we’re not just selling courses, and we’re not just streaming. We’re teaching our students how to achieve their goals. The courses, streams, and all the other educational resources we provide are just the means to help them succeed.
Therefore, it made sense to lead our students with my own personal example and provide inspiration to them.
After all, if you talk the talk, you should walk the walk
2. Unfortunately, many chess players create courses with tricky openings and sneaky traps, and then market them with texts like “Beat Grandmasters with this Abra-Kadabra Opening”.
But in their heart, they know their traps might only work against beginners and have no chance of beating even strong amateurs.
And of course, they never play what they teach
In my case, I thought it would be very cool, if I get 2.900 on chess.com playing ONLY with ChessMood openings and showing how strong and practical they are not only at lower levels but even against Grandmasters with 2.600-2.700 FIDE ratings.
Now, I was good with my WHYs.
The results came fast.
I not only crossed 2.800 but got to 2.850!
Then I started floating between 2.800 and 2.850 instead of 2.750 and 2.800.
So I asked myself:
What do I need to do to hit 2.900?
The answer came in 1 second.
Analyze and find out what’s stopping me!
I downloaded all my games after each session, checked the openings, and with the engine checked the blunders and tactics I missed (this is very important, as mistakes have a habit to be repeated, as do blunders).
Now it was time for a comprehensive analysis of my play.
Not just game by game, but finding the common mistakes and places where I was underperforming.
Doing a deep analysis
I checked the last 100 games and found something interesting.
Most of the time, I gained an advantage out of the openings, especially when playing with the white pieces. I had winning positions very often, but in the end, I was screwing up.
That I knew on an intuitive level.
But what I found after analyzing, was that most of my mistakes came when I had just 30 seconds on my clock.
Additionally, I was losing almost all the games, where my opponent and I had under 10 seconds left on our clocks
I thought that buying a good mouse should help here
Two weeks later, under my right hand, was this fast guy:
It helped. The results got better. But not by much
Whenever it was a time scramble, I was no longer losing every game, but I was still losing 8 out of 10 of them
Playing 3+2 would be a good solution, as I recommended in the article about which time control to choose.
The problem was that at a 2.800+ level it’s tough to find people playing with increment.
So, I said to myself
Okay, let’s move on. Sooner or later, I’ll become better at having very little time left on the clock.
Lessons from Daniel Naroditsky
One day I got a challenge from Daniel Naroditsky, a guy whom I admire.
While most YouTubers and streamers create stuff to gain more subscribers, Daniel shares value. Real value!
When I got the challenge, next to his name I also saw his scary rating, which was around 200 points more than mine.
Of course, I accepted the challenge, it’s great to play against people that are stronger than you.
Did he beat me?
It didn’t matter that I had an advantage in most games after the opening. Also, it didn’t matter that I had many winning positions.
Like a wizard, he was always tricking me somewhere
Also, during the match, I felt a pressure I never had.
He was playing very-very fast and very-very strong.
I was paying a huge price for getting good positions, as I was finding myself in time trouble in almost all of my games.
During the match, I won the following game using our Grand Prix Attack: http://bit.ly/37UzJ07
Only a few of the moves I did myself, almost all of it was in the course. And it was my mistake
He stopped going into theoretical battles and started beating me badly. I couldn’t do much.
I was either playing slow, getting good positions, and losing at the end due to time trouble. Or when I was trying to play as fast as him, I was failing, because I couldn’t play as strong as him.
He beat me 10-5, but I learned a lot from him…
How he was handling lost positions, how he was creating problems for me when I was low on time, and how he didn’t give me any chances when he was winning.
Most importantly, after the pressure I was feeling when playing against Daniel, it became so-so easy playing against others!
Soon I started to float between 2.800 to 2.880 instead of 2.850.
The importance of practice
My mood was not a problem. But because of lots of work in ChessMood, I was rarely playing when my mind was fresh. As a result, I was playing not much.
However, I understood the importance of practice...so what did I do? I started just to play without caring about my results and my rating.
I needed to be linked with my mouse and stop my mouse slips which were happening too much.
I needed to see the board better, needed to improve my skill of “flagging opponents”, as they were doing to me, and many other skills, which I could learn only with practice and experience.
As a result, I dropped my rating to 2.800 and came back to 2.828 on December 24.
NOTE: If you feel uncomfortable, when you lose rating, you can create a second nickname, as I recommended in the article about cutting your losses.
1 week left
With just 1 week left to hit my goal, there was no time remaining to practice. I needed to get to 2.900 in a very short deadline.
I’ll play only when I’m fresh, have energy, and in the right mood!
Despite being super busy on ChessMood, I decided to take 3 days away and invest in my goal I rested on Christmas day, and didn’t play any games!
On the weekend of December 26th and 27th, I was going to make it to 2.900!
The last shot
The 26th went well – I managed to get from 2.832 to 2.862.
On the 27th I woke up pumped and energized. After breakfast, I performed my ritual before starting the session and screamed: “Let’s go!!!”
(We’ll speak about rituals, and how to come to your game in the right mood later in a future article.)
I won 3-0 against GM Yuniesky Quesada getting to 2.885!
Having the momentum on my side, unfortunately, he stopped playing.
There were just 15 points between me and my goal...
Of course, I was excited. 2.885 was the highest I’d ever achieved.
But I couldn’t take a rest. I had to keep the momentum. (The previous day I won 3-0 against Maze Sebastian, so now I was 6 out of 6!).
And then when nobody was accepting my challenges, I got one.
The first thing I saw was the rating – 3083! Looking a little bit to the left I saw – GM Daniel Naroditsky!
I thought this is it!
I learned so much from Daniel, and now it would be poetic to hit 2.900 playing against him – given he was the strongest opponent I had during my journey.
Before accepting the challenge, what did I?
Yeah, I screamed “Leeeeet’s goooo!!!”
In the first game, while playing with Black, the game went back and forth.
I had the advantage from the opening, then he fought back, then he was winning, then I was winning until eventually, we arrived at this endgame:
There were 2 pieces of good news, and 1 piece of bad news.
The good news was that I was a pawn up and had 9 seconds against 5 – too big a difference.
The bad news was that I was playing against Daniel Naroditsky, who’s one of the best in the world at bullet chess. He has 3.300+ on chess.com and was even 3.500 at some point.
He even created a nice video series on how to flag opponents
Luckily, what I found soon, was, that there were not 2 pieces of good news, but 3! God was on my side!
I managed to checkmate him with 0.5 seconds on my clock.
I got to 2.897! Just 3 points far from the goal.
The rematch was accepted, but before doing the first 1.e4, now this time I screamed not “Let’s go” but “Let’s do it!”
He played the Sicilian, to which of course I responded with 2.Nc3! - the move we teach in our courses.
On move 21, I had a strategically winning position.
… But I was short on time, having spent almost 1/3rd of my time already.
Something which Daniel had punished me for doing in our earlier matches.
The good news was the position was very winning. He had three weaknesses: the a5,c6,e6 Pawns, plus I had a monster Knight on c5, against his bad Bishop on a6.
But I had one more problem. Not just time pressure and playing against Daniel, but my hand started to shake from nerves.
How to control your nerves when your hands start shaking
Have you ever experienced this?
When you have an important game, or it’s a very complex position and you have little time on the clock, often your hand can start to shake because you feel nervous.
This is something many chess players experience. If you haven’t yet, you will
Often I was asked, what to do in such situations, to which I answered “Just relax, take a few deep breaths...”
I wanted to try it, but Daniel was playing very fast, giving me a choice: to think about my moves or to breathe
I was trying to do both, and luckily, with a shaking hand I got here:
The last move I played was Qc7, defending the f4 Pawn and preparing a7, Qb8, a8Q!
For the first time, Daniel was thinking for a while, after doing most of his moves very fast (a smart technique in lost positions, trying not to let your opponent think).
Suddenly I realized, there is no defense against my plan!
I had just 16 seconds without increment, but it was a lot.
After a few moves, I checkmated him, seeing on my monitor my new rating... 2.909!
(Here is the full game: http://bit.ly/3ptCMT9)
My heart had never pumped so hard while playing a chess game. Not even during the most important games of my professional chess career, had I felt like this.
Not when I was playing a game for my first GM norm, not for the last, and not for the game when I was fighting for the title “Champion of Armenia.”
The reason was clear. I was fighting for this goal for a whole year! And I managed to do it when I had just 5 days left.
I didn’t speak, I didn’t scream anything.
I just left the room…
My wife approached and asked what happened??? You did it?? Really you did it? I just nodded my head
Definitely, I wouldn’t manage to do it, without her support, especially during the last week. She doesn't play chess herself, but she understood the importance of my goal, and I always had her hugs before the sessions, and my favorite tea next to me, during the games.
Coming back to the monitor, I saw the rematch challenge from Daniel, which I had to decline, explaining in the chat the reason.
It was no time for chess, it was time to celebrate and enjoy that feeling.
In the end, I want to share with you what I did right and what I did wrong during the journey, what were the essential things for getting the goal, and what you can do even better than me.
What I did right
The first key moment was to understand WHY I had to get 2.900. Without it would be much tougher.
The second key moment was not to play for the rating alone but to focus on becoming better.
As my father said:
Learning how to deal with time pressure, and how to flag opponents was a skill I could only improve through practice – not something I could do if I was just thinking about my rating.
The third key moment, honestly, I believe was playing with ChessMood openings.
They were working very very well.
I knew them very well because I’ve analyzed them a lot, before making the courses. But also with practice, I understood the positions better and better.
Additionally, I won many-many games, without doing moves myself. Or I was getting to such absolute winning positions, that it didn’t require me to be a Grandmaster to convert those games.
What I did wrong
First, I asked the question of WHY, but I did it after 1 month. I lost 1 month. Somehow I forgot it Don’t repeat my mistake. Start with WHY.
Second, I was too focused on getting 2.900, instead of becoming better and deserving to be 2.900.
Forget about the rating, become better, and deserve your goal.
Third, I didn’t have time to solve tactics. Barely I was finding time to play.
But if you have more time than me, I would recommend spending 15 minutes a day solving tactics. Don’t fall for the myth about tactics, but don’t ignore them as well.
There are many other things you can take away from this article, and adopt in your career. I just mentioned the three most important ones.
Will I set a new goal for 2021, to get 3.000?
No For that, I’d need to spend lots of time on myself, studying and practicing.
I wanted to show from my own example how to achieve goals, I wanted to inspire our students and I wanted to show in practice, how amazingly our ChessMood openings work. I don’t need to prove anything anymore.
Instead of spending time improving my own chess skills and reaching 3.000, I’ll spend it producing more courses, and providing more value for our students.
In other words, I’ll switch fully to ChessMood and devote all my time there.
In 2021, my goal will be to see our students doing what I did myself and what GM Gabuzyan did earlier – to see them achieving their goals and having that great feeling when you set a hard goal and you achieve it.
Was it cool?
If you think, it was a cool story – yeah, maybe
But if you think it was cool to get 2.900, it means you didn’t read the article of GM Gabuzyan, who reached 3.000 on chess.com, playing like me, only ChessMood openings.
Additionally, he didn’t stop and got 3.050 later and was in the top 10 on Chess.com!
Check out his article. Combining the information of those two articles should provide good inspiration for setting your own smart goals for 2021 and achieving them.
P.S. As always, you can share your thoughts in our forum about what you have learned, and what you’ll achieve in 2021.
And as this is the last article of 2020, I hope you enjoy the holidays and meet the new year with enthusiasm!
See you next year.