On Chess: Living the Dream and Reality of a Professional Chess Player
Imagine waking up in the morning, having your favorite breakfast with fried eggs or an omelet with a piece of toast, drinking orange juice and sipping aromatic coffee or tea, being able to read the news , check Instagram on the 10th floor of your hotel room and then watch the sun rise. Taking the time to plan your day to go for a long walk, visit museums, play chess… that’s where your thoughts end.
“I’m here to win!” you tell yourself giving up the idea of reading a good book, going to a museum or a concert, and having so much more fun than you can imagine. This is when chess becomes your job.
Learning to play chess at a young age was a blessing, but it came with many personal challenges. Many consider the life of a chess player to be glamorous and fun if they have seen the popular Netflix show, The Queen’s Bet. However, the life of a chess player includes serious training, study, time and dedication. The amount of energy and man-hours spent preparing for the event sometimes exceeds the number of hours of actual daily play.
Although a chess player can enjoy sipping their morning coffee in different places around the world, the focus and nervousness put into this event can be overwhelming at times. Every half point counts, and every opening pick or bad strategy can make or break an event for a player.
Even though chess players like to travel to different places, there are a lot of challenges and reservations they need to make to make this event run smoothly. Sleeping hours are all the more important when playing in a prestigious event as everything, even food and water, can affect your game.
As a professional chess player, you must be prepared to face challenges and lose as part of the improvement process. But to maintain a good ranking and compete in high-level events, you can’t just play for fun. When it comes to competing; so winning is everything.
Chess players enter this competitive atmosphere and have little time to visit and experience the places they go. The routine is usually something like: waking up early in the morning, having a really good breakfast, maybe going for a short walk or exercising, depending on the location. Followed by finding pairings and studying the opponent’s plays from that round. Next comes thinking about how my style is different from my opponent’s and what would be the best strategy to respond to my opponent’s style of play. What he/she might not like so I can try to get into that kind of position. Deciding what to focus on in preparation is never easy given that the opposition are doing the same thing. This preparation often lasts a few hours after which it is time for lunch, perhaps a little rest and then comes time to play.
Once your turn begins, your focus and attention are all in the game. The pressure is gone and it’s you against the opponent. A game can last up to six hours. Then you’re probably exhausted, but you make time for dinner and maybe a walk. Then you need to review the game you just played and finally mentally prepare for the next day and go to bed. Then you wake up and repeat the routine from the night before.
The greatest victory is to discover the beauty of learning, to become stronger, psychologically, mentally and to gain the experience necessary to move on to the next event.
Overall, chess is a beautiful game that I am constantly learning and developing. Although it allows traveling abroad and experiencing new cultures, it takes serious dedication and hard work, but ultimately the result of continuing to learn and grow is what makes it my passion to always.
Female Grandmaster Sabina Foisor is a Romanian-American chess player and was a member of the United States Women’s Olympic Chess Team at five consecutive Olympiads (2010-2018) and four World Championships by female team. Her greatest achievement to date is winning the 2017 U.S. Women’s Championship. Along with her fiancé, Grandmaster Elshan Moradiabadi, Sabina co-wrote a book, Sherlock’s Method, which is intended as a working tool for club players who are looking for a holistic way to train before the tournament.