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The Road to GM Continues Print E-mail
By IM Daniel Rensch   
June 1, 2010
IM Daniel Rensch
I wrote in my last “Road to GM” article that perspective is everything, what exactly did that mean? I guess that depends on your perspective... At the time I felt that my self-imposed mindset of being a “failed child chess prodigy” was hurting my play, and I wasn’t going to improve if I continued to hold onto the past.

I’ve learned that chess players as a species have a hard time letting go of the past, even when it consumes our lives and makes us miserable. Is this because we play a game that promotes constant self “analysis and critique” of our previous mistakes? Is it because we have to think ahead and “calculate” every possible outcome before we feel secure enough to move forward? Or do we already have these overcritical tendencies, and the royal game simply amplifies what was there to begin with? 

Although I can’t speak for everyone, I can definitely say that those personality traits existed, and perhaps dominated my thoughts for a long time. Letting go of the past was the best decision I ever made, and a lot has changed since the last time I wrote about my journey towards the highest title in chess.

I performed decently at several tournaments over the summer of 2009: Starting with the Copper State International, presented by Abstrax Inc in my own backyard (a tournament I organized and played in.); moving onto the World Open; and ending with the U.S. Open in August. I missed out on one of the five U.S. Championship Qualifying slots when I lost to IM Jacek Stopa on Board 3 in the final round of the U.S. Open. This was very disappointing. I found myself on the verge of my old “failure complex” mindset.

However I decided to see the Summer of 2009 as a stepping stone, rather than a climax. I really didn’t have any other choice. When I did finally manage to let it go, I refocused my energy on the good news: I had been invited to play at the SPICE Cup in Lubbock, Texas. There I would have the opportunity to earn my “final” IM-Norm. Obviously, I couldn’t pass up this tournament, despite my failed U.S. Open performance. So, in late September I made the journey to the heart of Texas and had a great tournament! I earned my norm, and so after all this time, the IM-title was finally mine.

Then came the kicker: Upon submitting my application for the IM-title to FIDE, I learned that I had earned not one, but two International Master Norms!? One at the SPICE Cup, and one over 7 years ago at a tournament in Moscow, Russia, when I was just 15 years old. The organizers of the Moscow event informed me that I had fallen just short of the Norm, and I never checked myself. Upon applying for the title, we learned that my performance in Lubbock was actually my fourth Norm. Of course it didn’t really matter, but it did mean that I was already an IM when I wrote my last article for CLO in 2009 … The irony of life huh???

So where did I go from there? Since playing in Lubbock, I have only competed locally. My anxiety nearly got the best of me again, and I almost rushed out the door with the mindset of “forget IM, I knew that was coming, now onto world travels and GM." If I had however, I would have missed the holiday season for probably the 10th time during my chess career. I figured I had at least “one-title-monkey” off of my back, and I made the decision to stay home with my family.

 I think in my insecurity I was afraid that my current “playing well streak” would be over soon, never to return. My wife made me realize that IM was a big deal, and that it was ok to admit that to myself -- maybe admitting that would help me regain some perspective. I cancelled a trip to Edmonton for a GM-Norm event (felt terrible about doing it to the organizer, but I had to), and I haven’t played a “high level” chess tournament since January of this year.
Shauna and Daniel Rensch at last year's Copper State International

As it generally does during this time of year (Spring semester of 2010), my focus has shifted towards coaching, scholastics, and prepping for the 2nd Annual Copper State International (Details here) , presented by Abstrax Inc. Making the commitment to bring International GM Chess to Arizona by starting the Copper State International was a huge and risky (financially) decision for my business. However, the incredible support of the local community, and my sponsors has helped this event grow beyond what I could have expected for a tournament of this caliber only in its second year; furthermore, I believe we took a huge step in the right direction by creating this event, and I hope to see it contribute only good things to the American chess scene for years to come.

With two growing boys, the drive to build my business and stay at home has naturally taken on just as much precedence as my “own personal chess goals”. With that said, when I was also offered a dream job to become the co-managing Director of Content (with partner David Pruess) for the world‘s #1 chess site, Chess.com, I accepted the position and haven’t looked back. With a lot on my plate, I try hard to stay patient on my long road ahead to GM.

Nash and I have moved on from “Kung-Fu Panda” to “Avatar: The Last Airbender” cartoon. Eng’s teacher reminds him that, “time is an illusion, and all things are connected”. I hope he’s right… If I have indeed already achieved my goals somewhere down the road of time, then maybe I don’t really need to improve my black opening repertoire against 1.d4 after all??!! 

As a competitive human being, it can still be gut-dropping to watch friends and peers compete at U.S. Championships and other elite tournaments, while I stay home and watch. Perhaps accepting that everyone’s road is different is what I have needed to learn most of all. “It isn’t the destination, but how you get there!” Seeing so many young, exciting, and generally great people rising in American chess is something I take pride in, even if I am not competing in every tournament.

Still learning from mistakes, but striving for excellence in Arizona -- that is my perspective!

Find out more about the 2nd annual Copper State International, set for June 3-9 at Americanchess.net  Also stay tuned to CLO for updates on the event. Daniel Rensch's 2009 article on his "Road to GM" earned him CLO article of the year honors.


June - Chess Life Online 2010

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