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I am wondering if anyone else has faced chess burnout. Do you have advice? I am a novice enthusiast (~1400) but, with a wife, child, and job, do not have the opportunity to dedicate as much time to it as I would have in my youth. Because of this I have mostly been playing correspondence chess online, which I am sure is contributing to burnout. Being tied to 50+ games at once against fairly faceless opponents is not conducive to passion for the game I am sure.

Some ideas I have had:

Play more OTB and find better live opponents. I always enjoy the game more and play better when it is personal, like a dance or a good conversation. I have found clubs intimidating but I think at this point I need to bite the bullet and go for it... at my level I am by no means good but I definitely have trouble finding challenges against casual players.

Teach (what little I know). Generally speaking, pouring into others helps motivate and inspire the teacher as well. Maybe I should start a chess club at the local library? (Just to be clear, I have no delusions of grandeur with my measly 1400 but one can always teach basics or facilitate, right?)

Have any of you successfully dealt with burnout? What were your experiences and what would your advice be?

  • Take up Go? If you no longer like chess -- don't play it. It is just a game and not a requirement of life. – John Coleman Sep 8 at 13:18
  • Haha... Go scares me. Way to open. No, chess is the perfect game in my opinion and even when burned out I will still come back to it. Shogi maybe, but Go is just far too expansive for me. – David Blackburn Sep 8 at 16:23
  • The main problem with Go is that it is boring. Nothing ever happens. It's only interesting for some nerds who think being hard for a computer is somehow a merit – David Sep 9 at 13:17
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I experienced burnout once from too many correspondence games and I chose to limit my correspondence games to only 10 games, 5 per server that I play on as the max that I would start. I only play on 2 servers. For me, it really helped.

I have a growing family, a full time job and like we all have, the realities of life going. Not a lot of time to really dedicate to developing my game as much as I would like or get to the chess clubs as much as I would like.

Keeping my expectations to be based on the input that I can realistically give to developing my game helped me out mentally as well. I can't expect monumental results in my development in chess when my top priorities are not chess. I also plan on trying to get to the chess clubs and just keep track of local tournaments so if the opportunity for me comes that I can play I know where and when the tournaments are.

Also for me, some of my hobbies help. I'm a programmer enthusiast(novice-beginner) and I'm making my own database, data processing program for pgn files so if I'm feeling a little burnt out I can redirect my attention to the programming stuff for a bit. Seems to help me so maybe if you have a hobby, chess related or not, you can throttle time between them.

Hope however you chose to deal with your issue works out the best!

  • Yes! I am definitely going to limit my quantity of concurrent games from now on. (Honestly at this point I have been resigning at the slightest provocation and am down to 20. 10-20 sounds like a manageable amount. – David Blackburn Sep 8 at 18:00
  • A wise suggestion concerning expectations. Being content with the improvement I can invest in is very important, and family, job, physical health and other responsibilities take priority. This has also affected other passions of mine as well. My wife and I met swing dancing and we rarely get out to dance anymore. Life balance takes practice for sure. I feel it will take a lot of intentionality to invest in the responsibilities and passions at the same time but it is so important. – David Blackburn Sep 8 at 18:06
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It sounds like you simply crave some human contact in chess, and that is understandable, oh, and much more fun.

Starting a club, or getting involved in state chess "politics" is certainly one way, but it is a much bigger undertaking with more responsibility. Think hard about this commitment before you do this.

Helping kids at a school, possibly your child's school, is another. If you do attempt to teach, focus on the rules and basic tactics, which you can get straight out of a book. Give them a few puzzles each week, but go through them yourself first before you go over them with the kids. If you have any questions about certain avenues of defense for a particular problem, then you can go over it with Stockfish first so you are ready to answer their questions. You can also see if some local Master would come in and give a talk, play a few games, or give a simul. I have done this quite a few times over the years just because I like kids, and thus, did it for free.

Another think that came to my mind first, and that is go to a club, and make friends with someone, who is close in rating, and invite each other over to your homes, and play for a few hours (or all night...I did that a lot when I was first learning) every week, or couple of weeks.

I would finish the correspondence games, and get away from that. When i started playing in 1980, correspondence was still chess. Now, it is who is better with a computer program. I can see why you do not find much fun in that.

Playing tournaments is also a way to meet up with people, who you will see many times over the years.

Good luck, and let us know what you decide to do.

P.S. You could also take lessons yourself as that would also fit the bill.

  • Thank you for your mention of politics... I hadn't really considered it, but I might be intruding on other people's "turf" if I go starting a local club, whether for children or adults. There isn't anything in my town now, but there is an established scholastic club and a uscf sanctioned chapter in our county. I should touch base/network/build a relationship with them and ask them for 'advice' in starting something local if I decide to go down that route. Not only would that promote community and perhaps save me some drama later on but I could also learn from them and avoid potential pitfalls. – David Blackburn Sep 8 at 17:26
  • Regarding machine use in correspondence chess, i play on chess.com and while cheating is occasionally an issue once in about a hundred games or so they do an outstanding job at sniffing out fair play violations. – David Blackburn Sep 8 at 17:29
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    Thanks for the encouragement to get involved with a club. Last time I visited was a while ago before I got serious about improving and the weakest player there mopped the floor with me. I feel like I am better equipped now and even if I am still the weakest there I feel like I have enough of a foundation to build on and profit from losses. Time to swallow my intimidation and do hard things :). I will definitely let you know how it goes. – David Blackburn Sep 8 at 17:33
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1) Get away from correspondence and play more blitz. I realize blitz may not be the healthiest for your long term development but it is fun and correspondence (esp that many games) can be stressful and demand a lot. I know sometimes I avoid analyzing correspondence positions because I know they'll take hours to figure out. It become this stressful thing that dominates my thinking. If you're playing 50 correspondence games at a time you're either analyzing in a superficial way (which leads to frustration) or you're neglecting other areas of your life. At that point it starts to feel like work. A blitz game is over in ten minutes at most and then you can think about something else.

2) Take a look at your opening rep. Play some fun openings. The Englund gambit is very simple to learn and perfectly playable in blitz or even in classical up to about 1800. Evans gambit, scotch gambit, king's gambit, vienna gambit. Anything with the word "gambit" in it is probably good.

One thing I've noticed is that players around your level tend to play defensive openings and play for material pretty much exclusively. 9 times out of 10 learning to play for the initiative over material is what takes a 1400 to a 1600.

3) Take a break if you need to. When you come back spend some time on what interests you- Maybe a particular player or opening or concept or whatever. If it were me I'd play through Fischer's 60 memorable games or maybe take up a new opening. Maybe a biography of a player. Whatever interests you.

4) Lastly, I agree with the person who said you crave some human contact in chess. It sounds like you're looking for some other way to enjoy chess beyond solitary study. I wouldn't be afraid of a club. At 1400, you'll be better than some of the players and the stronger players will help you improve. There are plenty of other avenues to explore also like teaching.

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50+ correspondence games is a lot of them. If you don't have time for chess you are either dedicating time you don't have or not even thinking most of the moves you are playing.

Correspondence games are supposed to give you a spot where you can think your moves for almost as much time as you want. If, instead, you are rushing through them in order to play all 50+ games, then what's the difference between that and playing Blitz?

Sure, human contact is also a key factor in staying motivated. Go to a local club and play some games. If they make a tournament on a day you are free, give it a try! You may even also find your chance to teach there once you are trusted!

  • Blitz is definitely the popular suggestion. Ironically, I always feel I don't have the time for blitz. Blitz requires (insert time parameters here) of commitment, while with correspondence I can pick up my phone during a bathroom break and play a move or two, or if I can't make up my mind, my wife needs help with something, or my brave toddler daughter has decided to take up stunt work involving dining room furniture I can put the phone down and come back later without worrying about time trouble. Obviously 50+ games (registered for/advanced in too many tournaments) was not sustainable. – David Blackburn Sep 9 at 9:53

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