In 4 days, I'll be boarding a flight to Tromso to attend what may very well be my last Chess Olympiad and this is possibly the last time that I'll wear the Singapore colors. This is not meant to be some melodramatic post but is simply a reflection of what has been going through my mind (chesswise) for the past 1 year.
July has always been my favourite month (Birthday, anniversaries, promotion/increment, leave etc) but for some reason, I am not the least excited this year. Perhaps, its because I just completed what had been an incredibly torrid year at work. Or perhaps at 31, I have to acknowledge that there is only so much I can do for my personal chess development going forward. Or perhaps, it is time to seriously consider quitting high level competitive chess?
For some reason, there are many who like to categorise me as an "active" player but having played only 1 serious tournament in the last 12 months (the Nationals, in December), I am very much dormant although I have done whatever I could to stay up to date in the game. The reason for my inactivity is pretty obvious - as much as I love the game, I am inherently an extremely competitive person and I will never take part in an event if I cannot find the time to prepare and train professionally. And being an audit manager, there is only this amount of time and this amount of energy that I can play around with everyday.
It has been 11 years since I re-entered the chess fraternity and it had been an incredible journey so far. I've made 2 (legit! These days, this is not a given.) GM norms, won some Bronze medals at the Sea Games, played in 4 and about to play in my 5th Chess Olympiad, written a chess book, and went through an entire year as a professional chess player with my own limited resources. I am extremely proud to be given the opportunities to represent the Singapore flag and the responsibilities that are attached to these.
I have also made loads of friends, long lasting ones, many of whom are much older than me but yet, are generous enough to share sufficient knowledge for me to know just how immature I was on many occasions. Yet, I'll like to know that lessons have been learnt and I've also grown to accept certain things that are beyond my control.
It was never smooth sailing though - I have my fair share of unpleasant experiences which have forced me to consider quitting the game altogether. My stubborness and competitive streak has pulled me through on each of these occasions and I am probably more proud of this fact than any other accomplishment.
I still love the game and I still harbour hopes of becoming a GM. I will probably continue to play in random tournaments that pop up here and there but it is no longer a guarantee and a lot is more down to chance than anything else. I will also have to adopt a more relaxed approach to the game which may or may not mean a substantial change to my playing style.
Whatever happens, the Tromso Olympiad promises to be the most memorable and emotionally charged tournament on a personal front. There is a lot of pressure but I will enjoy it and hopefully, be able to use this to my advantage and put up a show for the local chess community.